Meet Bastille, a new French company that wants to challenge Brompton, the most emblematic brand for folding bicycles. The main difference with the British manufacturer is that Bastille wants to design a folding bike with normal wheels instead of the small 16-inch wheels you typically find on folding bikes.
In addition to the bike itself, the team behind Bastille is also an interesting one. Bastille’s main engineer is Gilles Henry, the person who also invented the folding mechanism of the Yoyo strollers from Babyzen. These compact strollers have been particularly successful in major cities in France — they are literally everywhere in Paris.
Henry has teamed up with Quentin Bernard, who spent several years working for Devialet, the French audio engineering company behind high-end speakers, amplifiers and earbuds. He was Devialet’s general manager for Europe when he left the company. Bastille has raised €10 million ($10.5 million) from Eutopia and Ankaa Ventures according to Les Échos.
A low-tech bike on purpose
Interestingly, Bastille isn’t an electric bike. Many recent bike startups have promoted an integrated package with electronics components working hand in hand with the bike itself. Popular e-bike startups include Cowboy, VanMoof and Angell. VanMoof famously declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
With Bastille, you won’t find any motor, there isn’t any built-in display and you can’t connect it to your smartphone using Bluetooth. Bastille’s website says that it’s a “low-tech” product, meaning that it should be easy to maintain and repair over the years.
With 27.5-inch wheels, you may wonder how you can fold this Bastille bike. It turns out that the seat post, the frame and the stem are all moving pieces in this bike. After lifting up the saddle, you can fold the seat post so that it doesn’t stick out.
On the frame itself, there’s a lever on the bottom bar that unlocks the folding mechanism. The front wheel and the rear wheel then go side by side. Finally, you can unlock the stem with a lever and remove it so that the handlebar doesn’t get in the way.
On paper, it sounds like you’ll have to practice a bit before you get used to this folding mechanism. But the result seems quite compact.
When it comes to specifications, the bike weighs 15kg and has a carbon fiber Gates belt, an internal gear hub from Sturmey Archer with three gears, integrated lights, an aluminum frame and a carbon fork. It costs €2,590 (around $2,700 at today’s exchange rate) and will be available in mid-2024.
The company has partnered with Fritsch & Durisotti, Les Cycles Victoire, Expliseat and Cycleurope for the design and manufacturing processes. The frame will be manufactured in Angers, France. The bicycle itself will be assembled in the Eastern region of France.
In Paris and many big European cities, some people don’t feel like buying a bike because they don’t have a proper storage area at home. Old buildings don’t necessarily have a bicycle parking area. And bike theft is one of the main reasons people don’t want to invest in an expensive bike.
At the same time, for people living outside of big cities, cycling infrastructure is still lacking — especially around train stations. While the bike-and-ride model works so well in the Netherlands, many people who work in major French cities end up carrying their bike on the train. And a folding bike can be a great asset during peak times.