Since I began riding recumbents, I’ve often dreamt of traveling with one in a suitcase and unfolding it in some remote destination to tour the countryside. While the pandemic put the brakes on traveling for some time, it did allow me to search for my ideal folding recumbent. In the end, I decided to get another Azub: the Origami. Initially, I planned to replace my Azub MINI with the Origami, but the MINI has since transformed into my cushy electric pedal assist bike that I just can’t bear to let go of yet.
The Origami is a short wheelbase (SWB), dual 20″ aluminum frame recumbent with over-seat steering (OSS). The frame is a streamlined monotube design that looks fast even at rest. The rear of the frame has a creatively integrated pannier rack that rotates out of the way when folding the bike. The frame lines allowed Azub to set up a simple chain line with just a couple long chain tubes and no idlers.
I ordered the Origami in the spring of 2021 with basic options (Sora 3×9, BB7 brakes) except for a carbon fiber seat upgrade. As usual, Azub offers a wide array of customization via their online configurator. Having recently converted my MINI to electric, I had a bunch of nice parts for the Origami. While the stock weight of the bike was probably around 40 lbs (still below most airline weight limits), my final build came to ~30lbs in the end— making it a fairly light travel bike as far as folding recumbents go.
Just another Azub?
At first glance, the Origami may look like a slightly (13 cm) longer Azub MINI, but there are some key differences. Namely, the Origami lacks suspension and does not accommodate under-seat steering (USS). Of course, in exchange for losing those features, the Origami gains one biggie: it folds (more on folding below).
The Origami also allows for a more reclined /aerodynamic position compared to Azub’s other bikes, and the position of the bottom bracket is slightly higher to deliver more power. Another difference is the more narrow handlebars on the Origami, presumably to help keep the bike compact when folded. It’s a minor detail, but it will limit your cockpit space for accessories more than other bikes.
I found the Origami, with its rigid frame and sporty seat positioning, to be a quick little bike. The small wheels gave it fast acceleration without any suspension sluggishness. The narrow handlebars tucking your arms/elbows in makes you feel like you’re racing. While this isn’t a racing bike, it’ll just get you across town quickly with a smile on your face.
The ride can be a bit unforgiving, and riders will benefit from the natural suspension of wider tires running at low pressure. I replaced the stock 1.5” Marathon Racers with 2.15” Big Apples and test rode on some packed dirt/gravel trails. While the Big Apples made the ride tolerable, I yearned to get back onto the cushy full-suspension MINI to protect my sensitive back from the jolts. That said, unless you have a particularly delicate back, I think most riders will find the Origami to be comfortable both on and off the road (with appropriate tires).
As you can see in this video by Azub, it takes just a minute to fold or unfold the Origami. Compared to other folding recumbents, I think this is as easy as it gets.
A few noteworthy details that aren’t so apparent in the video:
- Azub includes a double-legged kickstand to hold the bike up for you while going through the folding/unfolding process.
- They also include clip-on platform pedals you can take off when packing the bike.
- The boom can be easily removed for packing since it is held in place with two quick releases.
Once folded, you can roll the bike by holding the handlebars, or you can place it in a soft carrying bag to sling it over your shoulder. For air travel, you’ll want to put it in a hard-shell suitcase, so note the folded dimensions of the bike down below. I haven’t purchased a suitcase for it yet, but I’ll be sure to write about packing it up when I do.
Folded with seat: 35x35x14 inches (LxHxW)
Folded without seat: 35x30x14 inches (LxHxW)
Other folding recumbents
There are a few other folding recumbents worth considering:
- HPVelotechnik Grasshopper fx – full suspension, dual 20” with OSS and USS steering options.
- Linear Limo/Roadster– LWB and SWB versions. Rigid frame with 26/20 wheels and OSS or USS steering options. Frame folds into a ski tube, but wheels and seat must be packed separately.
- Performer Conquer– a sporty, dual 20” rigid frame SWB bike with OSS steering. The Conquer is a FWD bike, so it may be a steep learning curve for some.
- Toxy-ZR– This German company makes several folding recumbents, but the ZR is by far the most exciting. It’s a dual 20” FWD low racer with rear suspension and OSS steering. Definitely on my wish list to try one day.
- Trident TWIG– an entry-level 26/20 steel frame bike with OSS steering.
- Bike Sat-R-Day– Sadly this folding recumbent is no longer manufactured by the folding bike gurus at Bike Friday, but I couldn’t leave it off the list. It’s a classic with its tiny 16” wheels and compact dimensions.
- Lightning P-38 Voyager– Not technically a folder, but this version of the popular P-38 has S&S couplers that allow you to take the frame apart and fit the entire bike in a suit case.
If I were to change one thing on my Origami, it would be to do away with the rear cassette and derailleur in favor of an internally geared hub. While doing so would add a little weight to the bike, it would simplify the drive train and make it less susceptible to damage during packing and traveling.
The Origami, with its rigid frame and aerodynamic seating position, is a sportier, livelier bike compared to the MINI. You won’t win any races in the Origami, but you’ll have a trustworthy companion for all your worldly travels.