Airnimal Black Rhino : review — folding & dismantling
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Folding the Airnimal Black Rhino…
Airnimal Black Rhino Airnimal Black Rhino Airnimal Black Rhino
Airnimal Black Rhino Airnimal Black Rhino Airnimal Black Rhino
Click any photo above to view enlargement.

Almost all folders (the Airnimal range included) have a single oversize downtube connecting the front and back of the bike. In most instances, the designers have marked a vertical line on this downtube at the exact midpoint of the bike… and then reached for their hacksaws!

In these bikes – those that are neither Airnimals nor Birdys – a hinge inserted at the cut in the downtube allows the back and front wheels to swing around – much like bifold patio doors – so that front and rear axles kiss together. Simple, effective, inelegant. It works but is devoid of any scrap of engineering pizzazz.

Airnimal revels in challenges and hinges bikes in the opposite plane so that the rear wheel swings underneath (not around) the bike. Riese & Müller's Birdys fold this way, too.

The Airnimal difference: dismantle before folding…

  • In the first fold – the quick everyday fold – the rear wheel swings underneath the bike and up into the front forks.
  • Note: into the front forks; not next to the front forks. Clearly, you must remove the front wheel before folding.
  • With an Airnimal, you dismantle before each fold.
  • Offsetting the increasing compactness of the folded bike you will have a mounting pile of loose bits (photo centre top).

In the first fold position this is how my Black Rhino stands apart from other folders (including Birdys):

  • handlebar remains in riding position – not folded down or turned 90º to the side;
  • front wheel + saddle & saddle post have been separated from bike.

The first fold for the Black Rhino requires undoing four quick releases – front wheel, saddle post, rear shock and pylon. The quick release skewer for the pylon (the short tube running at around 45º between saddle post and downtube – in enlargemernt of top left photo look for the tube with "Rhino" written on it) has to be unscrewed completely and removed.

With this done, you are able to swing the rear triangle under the bike so that the rear wheel fits into the now-empty front forks. No provision is made for securing the wheel there (it will fall out immediately!) or for stopping the forks from being horribly scratched – an horrendous blunder by Airnimal Designs! Before folding your expensive bike for the first time, get some padding for tubes and forks, plus a roll of velcro strapping – essential items not included in your Rhino's hefty price tag.

The triangular Carradice shoulder bag keeps the dismembered Airnimal under control. There is plenty of room for helmet and bags (Carradice 16 litre SQR saddle bag plus Topeak 5 litre TourGuide shown in bottom centre photo).

60-second fold: forget it!

If you are considering making an Airnimal part of your life, this is where you must pause. If you intend folding/unfolding your bike twice a day – commuting by bike and train, for example – choose an Airnimal Joey rather than the Rhino or Chameleon.

Rhinos and their folding road bike siblings, the Chameleons, are not fast-folding bikes. They are, most definitely, fast folding bikes. What a difference a little hyphen makes!

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