THE CONVENIENT CYCLIST

An update on the CHANGE Century

The CHANGE Century is designed as a true road bike, suitable for fast and easy 100-mile rides, yet convenient enough to fold into a car trunk for transportation. The prototype was first shown at Bike Expo NY in May 2019, and test-ridden in the Five Boro Tour the next day.

This article provides an update on developments since then, including size-testing, component selection, final specifications, and timing of planned availability.

The sizing challenge

There is a good reason for the scarcity of folding road bikes; during folding, drop bars can easily become entangled with the rear wheel. Even if that problem is solved through creative engineering with one size of frame, it can still reappear with other frame sizes. So it’s no wonder that anyone trying to design a folding road bike simply takes the easy shortcut of just combining the drop bars with tiny wheels that don’t get in the way.

At Flatbike, we refuse to make that compromise. The bike would have drop bars and standard 700C wheels, yet need to fold in half at all frame sizes. Between largest and smallest frames, that’s a 10 cm difference in head tube length alone–quite a challenge when trying to fit a drop bar!

CHANGE Century prototype
The original CHANGE Century prototype was built on a 22-inch frame, suitable for riders 6’0″ and up.

When folded, the large size of the CHANGE Century is 35 inches wide and 33 inches tall.

Large CHANGE Century folded
Critical to the folding is how the bars fit. The rear wheel nestles between the bar and the front brake/shifting lever.
Folding close-up
A closer view of the wheel-bar connection. If you’re not familiar with Shimano 105 shifting, the shifting and brakes are both part of the same integrated unit for a clean look and faster access.

With a four-inch difference in frame head-tube sizes, it was essential that we also mocked up a CHANGE Century on the smallest frame size (18″, suitable for riders 4’11” to 5’3″).

Small folded CHANGE Century
This small frame in progress doesn’t yet have the specified fork or bar tape, but it is complete enough to test the bar-wheel fit.
Small folded CHANGE Century close up
At this size, the rear wheel simply fits more snugly in the bar-shifter area.

Ignore the portion of the fork steerer tube sticking up here on the small frame; since this is not yet the right fork, we did not cut it down to size. Instead, this photo is to show what makes the bar-wheel fit possible, in all sizes of frames. The Revelo THINstem, which uses a cam lever to fold your bars 90 degrees, is more than an interesting add-on; it is a component essential to the folding process, providing the flexibility to maneuver the bars around a fixed wheel.

Revelo THINstem close-up
If you prefer your bars lower than this, or simply don’t want a THINstem on your folding road bike, you can still do so, but your bars will need to fold the other direction, increasing the depth of your bike when folded.

Components selected for the CHANGE Century

By far, the biggest challenge has been the fork. The original prototype had a steel fork that rode well–but the frame manufacturer went a different direction, to an aluminum fork, and we did not follow, opting instead for an ISO-4210-tested, one-piece monocoque carbon fork. All we needed to do was find one that met that high a quality bar.

Carbon fork
It took months to source, but this Airwolf 3K carbon fork was exactly what we were looking for.

We were particularly impressed at how it was tested. We want impact-testing to happen successfully here before any Flatbike customers hit a speed bump or curb at high speed.

From there, other selections were easy. The CHANGE Century will have Shimano RS wheels with Continental Gatorskin tires to add some flat-resistance.

wheel and tire
The wheels are 700C and the tires are 28mm.

The entire groupset (derailleurs, shifters, crank) is Shimano 105, with second-generation  pop-off pedals.

crank close-up
The chain rings are 53/39.

On the back, we opted for an 11-34 cassette–wide enough range for high road speeds and some ability to conquer hills.

Shimano 11-speed cassette
Combined with the two chain rings, this cassette offers gear ratios from 4.8 on the flats to 1.14 on the hills.

With the seat, we opted for narrow yet comfortable, combined with an Opera carbon seat post.

seat and seat post
The gap in the seat is especially appreciated late in a long ride.

The handlebars are FMF Sport Aerobars, not as much for the aerodynamic quality as for the ergonomic quality of a widened palm area on a long ride.

aero bars
Aero bars… a great choice for ergonomics, or an awkward choice for clip-on bar accessories? If you’re reading this, we’d like your feedback.

And then everything gets finished off with Salsa blue gel cork tape to match the blue seat.

cork tape
This is comfy stuff.

 Putting it all together.

That’s a lot of pictures, so here’s the spec list in a quickly consumable format.

It also comes with pedals–your choice of flat, or SPD second-generation pop-off pedals–at no extra cost.

For sizing, we have…

On specs alone, that’s a sweet road bike…and it folds down for car or boat travel, as well as urban storage inside and out of the weather. Anticipated cost is $1,780, with free shipping as always in the US and Canada. Colors will be black and white.

So when will it be available?

We expect to be able to build this for sale starting at the end of October. That’s a while since we first introduced the CHANGE Century concept in May, but we still have one more slow step for a proper roll out. We want to limit the first batch to just five bikes, at an early adopter price of $1,480, to get valuable feedback on how well it meets your needs–not just whether I enjoy riding my prototype!

In exchange for a $300 discount, we’re asking for CHANGE Century early adopters to share their experiences, verbally and in pictures, to both validate/improve the bike and provide guidance to other potential buyers. Who is this right for and who needs a different feature set?

If you are interested in CHANGE Century progress, make sure to sign up for the monthly Flatbike newsletter. And if you are interested in being one of our five CHANGE Century early adopters, contact me personally, so we can have a bike built for your size.

Happy riding, and thanks for your patience!

Bob Forgrave's Signature

Bob Forgrave

President, Flatbike.com

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425-985-6219

3 thoughts on “An update on the CHANGE Century

    1. Thanks, Sunny! At this point, we’re just waiting on the second shipment of forks. Everything else is queued up, ready for end-of-October availability for early adopters.

  1. All of my present components I think I would have trouble putting on the Aero bars. I have a mobile phone holder which I use all the time and don’t think would fit on those bars. There might be some out there in the market, but I don’t know. I also have a light, as well as a speedometer, and I know those would not fit on the Aero bars.

    Too bad you’re only offering just two colors! I’d like to have a nice blue bike!

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