Hummingbird: How the ‘world’s lightest folding bike’ went from idea to reality

Created by a team led by a modelmaker, a graphic designer and a commercials producer, working with a firm of leading motorsport engineers, the bike went into full production last month, with an electric version promised for 2018

Robert Campbell has spent a career making commercials, music videos and short films. He was a producer at Spots when it was one of the UK’s leading production companies and worked with Tony Kaye before setting up his own company, Outsider, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Now he’s making bikes.

At under 7kg, the Hummingbird claims to be the lightest folding bike on the market. It is engineered and made in the UK, by Prodrive, a company that spends most of its time building racing cars for the likes of Aston Martin.

Like many of the best start-ups, the Hummingbird began as a solution to a problem. Romanian bike nut and modelmaker Petre Craciun wanted to encourage his graphic designer girlfriend, Ligia Stan, to take up cycling. He bought her a Brompton but she found it too heavy to cart upstairs to their flat every day. So he set about building a lighter one using carbon fibre.

Stan was working for digital production company Unit 9 at the time – a company that Campbell helped found. “She called me up and said ‘Can my boyfriend come and see you? He’s built a bike’,” Campbell says. “In walked Petre carrying this bike. I thought ‘that looks pretty’. Then I picked it up and I was gobsmacked – it weighed nothing.”

Campbell decided he wanted to be involved and, eventually, with Unit 9 founder Piero Frescobaldi, became a co-founder of the Hummingbird Bike Company along with Craciun and Stan, who now work full-time for the firm. Through Campbell’s contacts in the motorsport world, they were able to show the prototype to David Richards at Prodrive in Banbury, which designs and builds racing cars. After riding the bike around his kitchen, Richards came on board.

A successful Kickstarter campaign begun in 2015 saw the first bikes delivered to customers earlier this year and, in August, Hummingbird announced that it had gone into full production with the bikes being manufactured at Prodrive’s workshop.

“Learning how to take something from an idea to something you can actually sell, that works, that is safe, was kind of fascinating,” says Campbell. His first ambition was merely to “see the thing built” but now hopes “to build a lot of bikes, to develop a brand and have it admired and respected.”

In 2018, Hummingbird will unveil an electric version which, Campbell says, “is going to become a gamechanger. It weighs under 10kg and it puts the pleasure back into urban cycling. The big hassle about riding a bike round a city is that you are constantly stopping at lights and they you have to heave off each time. With this thing, you just put your foot down on the pedal and off we go.” Having test-driven the electric bike around the loading bay at CR’s office and almost wiped out into a skip, I can attest to its remarkable acceleration.