The cmpct, which is a model first seen at the FietsRAI in 1998, is one of the very few folding recumbents available ready built. It was built for Bram Moens's M5 company, one of the pioneers of recumbents in the Netherlands, but it's a bit outside their usual line, and wasn't in production all that long, I think. Unusually for Holland, it is a compact long wheelbase (clwb) design, with the bracket directly over the 16″ front wheel. This makes it look rather long, but seems to give it much less “nervous” steering characteristics than you would expect from the small wheel and long handlebar stalk. After riding swb recumbents like the Wizard, you have to get used to the idea that the bike steers from the front not the middle. The ride is also a lot friskier than the Wizard - the frame is very light and flexible.

I went to the dealer for a test ride, and liked it at once - so much so that they immediately got their spanners out, put a carrier on, changed the gears (an 8 speed cassette with 11–28 should give me enough range for the occasional trip to Yorkshire or the Ardennes, I hope) and fitted spd pedals, and I was able to ride home on it a couple of hours later. Foolishly, I thought I would fit an odometer myself, only to discover that the handlebar stalk is some 20cm longer than the maximum range of the cordless models I tried (70cm). So it was a case of taking an old odometer from another bike and soldering in an extra length of coax cable. Seems to work so far…

I have used the cmpct occasionally for day tours combined with rail travel - I haven’t had any negative reactions from railway staff, unless you count the time when a train was delayed for five minutes because the driver and conductor were busy chatting with me about recumbents. However, it's not the most practical folding bike for everyday use. It is quite a bit bulkier than most, and the oily bits seem to be everywhere at once. It’s too awkward a package in folded state to carry any distance, but it does fold and unfold very quickly.

M5 CMPCT folded

On tours I find that I am able to keep up a reasonable speed and arrive significantly less tired than I would be on the Brompton. I did have some minor problems with the chain - the nylon tube that is supposed to protect it was a bit too long (the ideal length depends on the wheelbase, which is adjustable to suit the length of your legs), and thus it got bent on folding the bike, and subsequently tended to catch in the chain, so that I had to remove it. Since I don’t wear “respectable” clothes for that sort of cycling, it is not very vital anyway.

Another luxury I do without is mudguards - inevitably, my second ride took me over a lot of sandy forest tracks in wet weather. It is amazing just how thoroughly you and the bike can get covered in sand in these conditions…

M5 CMPCT deployed

Extra notes:

(someone emailed me with a few detailed questions)

Folded size - resting on both wheels and the carrier - is h 830 x w 980 x d 350 mm max, as near as I can measure. With the back wheel in the air it’s a bit narrower, about 880 mm. Taking the front wheel off would make it smaller, and for long journeys I think it could probably be dismantled into a suitcase sized package. There’s nothing to hold it together when folded - I’m looking for a convenient strap.

According to Danny Siepman’s article, you can get a front derailleur or a hub gear as options. A cheap & dirty solution if you want extra gears would be to fit an extra chainring or two (the crankset has the mounting holes for them) and use the nylon tube as a front derailleur.

The brakes are Tektro sidepull cantilevers - a type I haven’t seen before, but they seem to work just as well as Maguras so far. However, I notice that the front rim is already scored a little, after 300km mainly in the dunes and over sandy forest tracks. Wonder if there’s anywhere non-sandy to ride around here?

The main frame tube is telescopic - in the folded picture you can see two quick-releases (mine just has bolts) just where the chain passes behind it. When you adjust the bike to your body size, the front wheel moves as well as the pedals. A potential problem with this arrangement is that the front end can twist around if you inadvertently apply a large sideways force for some reason (e.g. when falling off!).

The seat is laminated wood, and has a flat bit ca w 290 x l 250 mm, and a back 480 mm long at about 50 degrees to the horizontal (could be adjusted a little by altering the thickness of the suspension block, according to ds). Seems a bit wider than the standard M5, as far as I can remember from last time I rode one. The cushion is foam with a cloth cover. Fairly sweaty, but not excessively so.

20″ front & back aero wheels are available as an option. I think “aero wielen” must be deep, narrow racing rims, like the ones on the M5 20/20. The front fork is big enough for a 20″ wheel, though you’d have to weld on new brake lugs if you wanted to do a retrofit.

M5 City Mate is a non-folding version, [apparently identical apart from the hinges] distributed by Speedliner for nlg 1399

“Vering” is a rubber block rear suspension, with a bit more give in it than the Brompton. Very necessary on any recumbent, in my experience. Does resonate slightly on some brick-tiled roads, but that shouldn’t be a problem outside Belgium and Holland!.