If you were an ‘80s kid like me, the brand name “Blaupunkt” was perhaps one of the first German words you learned, because if you knew someone that had a Blaupunkt stereo in their car, it was likely a Porsche, BMW, Benz or one of those fancy new Volkswagen GTI 16V hot hatches that were terrorizing the aging muscle cars on the streets at the time. Of course, there was great consternation about how to correctly SAY the German name, which translates as “blue dot,” “dot blue” or “blue point,” and is pronounced (correctly) as “Blau-poonked.” But we all said “Blau-punkedt” like pretty much everyone else in the U.S., self-assured in our mastery of at least one German audiophile brand, much to the eye rolls of the exchange students from Berlin.
Blaupunkt started out making radios in Germany back in the 1920s as “Ideal,” but then Bosch snapped up the brand and over the decades, they produced stylish and high-performance audio gear with a blue quality inspection dot that led to the now iconic name. But in 2009 things finally went south and the brand/IP was bought up by one company that couldn’t refloat it, and then in 2016 by GIP Development SARL of Luxembourg, a branding and licensing concern that has put the Blaupunkt name on everything from AA batteries to juicers to hair dryers to headphones and more. Also: Folding electric bicycles. When contacted, I had my doubts as “badge slapping” can sometimes result in low-quality products with high-quality brand names on them, but the magnesium frame design, stylish profile and decent specs seemed promising. Also, the company sent me a new model, the Fiene, right about mid-summer as they worked to enter the North American market. I received a Euro-spec bike and it arrived in a very small box – for a bicycle. In fact, the Fiene was inside a carry bag inside the box. Now that’s some good folding.
I got the orange and black Fiene unfolded and assembled literally in three minutes, and aired up the tires while topping up the charge on the 36-Volt, 10.5 Amp-hour battery that sits in the forward frame spar and can be easily removed when the Fiene is folded. It provides 45 miles/70 km of range (likely with a fair bit of help on the pedals) and it recharges from flat in about five hours.
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A small LCD panel with the usual deets and adjustment buttons sits on the left handlebar. Brakes on my bike were cable-operated Tektro discs; Blaupunkt says U.S.-spec versions will feature hydraulic brakes, a motor output bump from 250 to 350 watts, a Class II throttle plus pedal assist to 20mph (my bike was a Class I with no throttle), and a U.S.-spec battery charger (fortunately I have many adapters). U.S.-spec bikes are at a limited but growing number of U.S dealers now for an MSRP of $1,999. A blue/black but feature-identical version called the Fiete is also available.
What initially got me interested in the Fiene was the novel magnesium frame and cast black magnesium wheels, which help shave weight down to just 47 pounds, which I confirmed with my home bike scale. Magnesium is a great material for folding ebikes as it is strong, fairly light and does not corrode. Other features include a bike bell, good-sized (for a foldie) 20-inch tires, a six-speed Shimano SIS gearset, included LED headlight and a seatpost-mountable rechargeable LED tail light. The motor resides in the rear hub, and there are three levels of assist on the Fiene. Stylishly short fenders and tires with reflective striping complete the package. There is no suspension. The bicycle parts are produced in China and Blaupunkt says the bikes are assembled in Paraguay.
Charged and ready to ride, the Fiene was actually roomier than expected for this 6-1 rider. The Fiene does not use a torque sensor, but the speed and cadence bits ease the power on politely across the three assist levels (or four if you count the no-assist Level Zero/PAS Off that keeps the lights and LCD on). Being lightweight, low to the ground and comfortable to ride, it was very easy to pedal the Fiene around in the flat on gears alone, keeping the assist in reserve for hills and distance. On my hill test, the Fiene chugged up the hill at Assist 3 (maximum) and in granny gear, rocking a solid 8 mph or so on the steep sections while I stayed in the seat. Often, I had to shift up to second or third. Light is good.
Going back down the hill, the smaller wheels and lack of suspension make for a taught ride and as the speedo nears 30mph, and things began to feel a bit twitchy (also, it was raining) so I eased on the disc brakes and coasted securely in the high-20s through a series of turns. Plenty fast for a foldie.
And of course, the folding feature is key, and Blaupunkt definitely has the kinks worked out. Releasing the big frame lock lever, handlebar stay and pulling the seatpost takes all of about 30 seconds, and the Fiene is ready to ride – in the trunk or on a commuter train. A strong magnet snaps the front to the back wheel, and since there is “only” one frame fold, the bike is simple to collapse or make ready. The pedals also fold up. A small rubber wheel under the crank allows it to roll on three wheels while using the seat as a handle, a good idea in theory but less so in practice, but I probably need more practice.
My concerns that some opportunistic types had snapped up the beloved Blaupunkt brand and cut every corner possible on the Fiene was quickly dispelled. Clearly, time and effort have gone into the Fiene’s design, and I never had a problem with it. The front fender could stand to be a bit bigger, and I’d like to see an integrated tail/brake light, but otherwise, no complaints. I love the frame’s “lightning bolt” design and the no-muss solid wheels. Plus, it was genuinely fun to ride around the neighborhood and then watch people stare first at the cool design and then stare harder as I quickly ensconced the bike into the trunk of my tiny electric car.
I was certainly satisfied with my experience on the Blaupunkt Fiene, and I think the U.S.-spec upgrades of a bit more motor and better brakes will make the Fiene an even more capable and long-lasting option for commuting, errands or just cruising around and having fun, while the folding option makes it even more capable for travel. I was sad to see it leave in its little box.
Gear Box: Bell Stratus MIPS Helmet