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Gadgets

Three wheels bad, two wheels good

Today's commute has been brought to you by Sir Clive Sinclair and the letter A -- the ride of your life on a collapsible bike the size of a large umbrella

Most famous for his electric bathchair, the ill-fated battery powered C5 tricycle, Sir Clive Sinclair refuses to be beaten. Instead, he's come up with the A-bike, so named because when you ride it, you look like an escapee from Sesame Street. Imagine an 'A' with a saddle sprouting out of one side, handlebars on the other, and baby buggy wheels on the bottom. Now imagine going around Hyde Park Corner on one -- that's what we call moving your vowels.

The reason for this unconventional design is that the thing is designed to collapse to the size of a rather chunky umbrella, with a hinge at the top of the A and everything else telescoping in on itself. At 6Kg, it's light enough to carry like a laptop: the idea is you pootle down to the station or airport on it, pop it in its bag and forget it's there until you get to the other end.

Great idea -- and like most bike inventions, folding the frame is far from original. As per usual, though, Sir Clive's made it smaller and lighter -- it's half the weight of the popular Brompton -- and he's painted it black. Also as per, it's got a few compromises: just one gear, tiny handlebars and even tinier wheels. Those look as if they'll throw you like a tenderfoot on a bronco the moment you hit anything on the road thicker than white paint, but we are assured that their special high pressure will smooth the ride.

Is it worth £200? It could be -- it'll pay for itself in a year if it replaces a car for five miles a working day, to say nothing of the extra enviro-smug points you can award yourself. Don't expect to get much fitter, though. Especially if there's a good pub on the way home, and the Tour de France is out of the question.

Still, if you do come across a mountain high enough to defeat the A-bike's single gear -- we reckon a particularly portly sleeping policeman should do it -- you'll be able to pick the thing up and give it a lift to the top. Which is such a perverse idea it proves one thing beyond doubt -- Sir Clive is back. -RG