Review: Flatbike Century folding road bike

This road bike goes flat when you want it to

Pro Review Road Bike Urban
The Flatbike Century can be folded for storage in less than a minute.

The Flatbike Century can be folded for storage in less than a minute.

Not every cyclist is lucky enough to have space to house a quiver of bicycles. If you live in a small apartment, frequently travel in an RV, or need a bike that you can store in the trunk of your car, Flatbike may have a solution for you.

Flatbike Century Highlights

  • Folds in half to fit in car trunks and apartments
  • Can transition from folded to rideable in less than a minute
  • Equipped with 2×11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain
  • Weight: 23.4lbs (with pedals)
  • Price: $1,780
  • For more information visit https://flatbike.com/century/

What Is Flatbike?

Flatbike is a folding bike brand that offers hybrid, mountain and road bikes that fold in half for storage. Flatbike founder Bob Forgrave saw a need for a different bike storage system and found most of what he was looking for in a Taiwanese brand called Changebike.

The stem pivots 90-degrees for easy storage.

The stem pivots 90-degrees for easy storage.

Changebike developed a folding mechanism that uses quick-release couplers at the seat tube to fold the bike in half. Forgave imported these frames to North America and sought to make them even more compact by incorporating Revelo’s folding stem and Wellgo’s quick-release pedal system.

Wellgo's quick-release pedal system increases Q-factor but makes it easy to remove the pedals without a pedal wrench.

Wellgo’s quick-release pedal system increases Q-factor but lets riders remove pedals without a wrench.

Flatbike Versus Breakaway Style Frames

Quick-release couplers on the seat tube and under the bottom bracket allow the frame to fold over on itself for storage.

Quick-release couplers on the seat tube and under the bottom bracket allow the frame to fold over on itself for storage.

According to Forgrave, Flatbike’s bicycles fill a different niche than bikes equipped with S & S couplers or Ritchey’s Breakaway frame system.

Ritchey’s Breakaway frames fold down smaller, which is great for flying with a bike. The downside to Breakaway frames is that they take longer to assemble and disassemble—somewhere between 20-30 minutes, depending on the type of bike and the mechanical aptitude of its owner.

In contrast, Flatbike’s frames can transition from folded to functional in under a minute. This makes them a good option for riders who have limited space in their homes or want a bike they can transport in the trunk of their car.

Flatbike also has an edge on price. The Complete Flatbike Century tested here retails for just $81 more than the price of Ritchey’s Breakaway Road frameset. When built, A Ritchey Breakaway will cost approximately 800-$1000 more than the Flatbike Century with a comparable build.

Flatbike Century Review

When assembled, the Century rides like a standard alloy road bike.

When assembled, the Century rides like a standard alloy road bike.

As previously mentioned, Flatbike makes folding mountain, hybrid, and road bikes. I tested the company’s road bike, the Century.

The Century arrived in a box that measured 35x29x15-inches. It was smartly-packed in a tote bag that allows it to be easily transported between rides. After reading through the directions, it took me approximately 10 minutes to unfold the frame, install the pedals, install the handlebar, adjust the brakes and gears. (The last three steps only need to be done during the initial build.) Once I got the hang of turning the handlebar to the side and flipping the frame in half, I found I could transition between folded and rideable in under a minute. With the Wellgo quick-release pedals installed, the Century weighed in at 23.4 pounds.

A carbon guard on the downtube protects the frame from scratches when folded.

A carbon guard on the downtube protects the frame from scratches when folded.

On the road, the Century feels like a standard road bike, albeit a bit heavier than similarly-spec’d machines that don’t fold in half. I didn’t get along well with the folding stem. One of the trade-offs for its ability to rotate 90-degrees is a very high handlebar position. Given that this bike is geared toward recreational riders, some cyclists may appreciate the higher stack height and more upright riding position.

This road bike isn’t going to win any awards for cutting-edge componentry and given the price point and the intended use, that’s perfectly fine. The Century’s components favor practicality over flash. It’s equipped with a Shimano 105 drivetrain, Tektro rim brakes, and Shimano RS-330 wheels—all items that are reliable and easy to work on.

A 53/39-tooth gearing is tall for recreational road riding. Not to mention it also takes up extra space when stored.

A 53/39-tooth gearing is tall for recreational road riding. Not to mention it also takes up extra space when stored.

I think Flatbike missed the mark with the component spec in two places. The 53/39-tooth double crankset is overkill for most riders. (Many high-performance road bikes don’t even come with this combo anymore.) A 50/34-tooth compact crankset would be a more appropriate component spec. According to Forgrave, Flatbike has had requests for lower gearing and is planning to offer compact gearing as an option.

My years of working as a mechanic also led me to question the combination of a carbon seatpost and a quick-release seatpost collar, since most users are unlikely to have a torque wrench on hand when securing the seatpost in place. An alloy seatpost would be a better choice for this application. Once again, this will be an option on future builds.

Aside from these component complaints, the Century does deliver on a being a recreational road bike that quickly transforms into a compact package for storage.

Verdict

If you live in a small apartment, own an RV, are a member of the #VanLife crowd, or if your commute includes multi-modal transport, Flatbike’s folding system could make sense.

About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.



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