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Tips on How to Choose a Folding Bike
Folding bikes come in a variety of designs, each with their own technology and quality. By choosing the right bike, you will maximise its best features and minimise its worst, to get the best performance possible for your needs.
In this article, we talk about how to choose a folding bike, according to the intended use and your personal requirements:
This is the first thing to determine, before deciding on the bike’s features and the budget, as this will help avoid disappointment or a bad purchase.
The most common wheel sizes on folding bikes are de 16” and 20”. But you can also find 22” and 24” wheels and even de 26”, 27,5” and up to 700 wheels, which is the size of road bikes. The larger the wheels, the greater riding comfort, more speed and better absorption of uneven terrain, but they also increase the size of the bike considerably, both folded and unfolded. Depending on the intended use, you can narrow down your search by wheel diameter:
16” - 20”. These wheel sizes offer the best balance between rideability and the folded size. If you want a compact folded size so that you can transport or store the bike easily, narrowing down your search to these wheel sizes is a good start. This wheel size is used by the two most important folding bike brands; Brompton and Dahon.
22” - 24”. This wheel size is a good option if the folded dimensions are not a priority. The larger wheels improve the feel of the ride at the cost of increasing size and weight. However, they are still fairly compact and easy to handle when folded, but they are much less portable than the smaller wheel models.
From 26” up. Suitable for those who want a similar feel and rhythm to a conventional road, hybrid or MTB bike, but only need a basic folding mechanism to facilitate car or public transport (bus, train or plane). However, this option has few of the advantages attributed to more compact bikes. This is not a bad option for travelling, but for regular urban use, there are few benefits to justify choosing this kind of bike, rather than a conventional bike of the same size, and with the penalty of weight, rigidity, reliability and price.
The size of the bike is the most important factor in defining its character and this is certainly influenced by the diameter of the wheel, as we have seen in the previous section. But there are also other factors that determine the size and weight of the bike, such as the quality of the design, the materials and the technology used for construction. With the same wheel size, depending on the brand, you can find big differences in the final dimensions and weight of the bike. Designs by top brands have achieved extraordinary compact folding mechanisms that keep elements such as handlebars, levers or pedals tucked in.
Folding bikes are not particularly light for their size because of the reinforcements required in the folding mechanisms. The lightest by the best brands are between 8.5 and 9 kg, and the usual weight of a mid-range folding bike with 16" or 20" wheels is around 12 kg. From this point on, the heavier the bike, the lower the price. As we mentioned, choosing the right model for your needs will depend on your intended use.
Easy to Fold
If you have to fold the bike frequently, the ease of use is a decisive factor. The folding mechanism is where quality is most noticeable as this has been developed and improved on over the years by brands who have been exclusively building folding bikes for decades. The British brand, Brompton, has become the benchmark in this sector with bikes of extraordinary quality, handmade in London, that fold and unfold in just a few seconds and boast the smallest size folding bikes on the market. It is surprisingly quick and easy to fold and unfold the bike and experienced users are able to fold it in under 10 seconds.
Folding bikes feature numerous gear options that vary from models with no gears, with a single chainring and a single sprocket, to combinations with one, two or three chainrings and several sprockets, which usually go up to six or seven, for this type of bike. There are also models with internal hub gears, usually with three speeds, and combinations of both, which have six speeds with three internal and three external gears. Your choice will depend on the type of terrain and gradient you usually ride on. Bikes with no gears are lighter and cheaper, but they will be very hard to pedal on hilly terrain. On more difficult, steeper terrain, you will have to think about a greater number of gears. And for intense use, we do not recommend skimping on the quality of the drivetrain, as you may regret it in the long run.
Most folding bikes are fitted with V-Brakes because they take up less space and are lighter. V-brakes are sufficient for this kind of bike and are very easy to adjust if they are good quality. Folding bikes with disc brakes also exist, but we do not consider this an important factor for comparing folding bikes. There are also models with back-pedal brakes, but we prefer conventional brakes, as they are more intuitive and more modular for most users.
Frames and Suspension
Frames are usually made of steel or aluminium. Steel frames are usually considered to be heavier and cheaper, while aluminium frames are lighter, but this is not always the case. We advise you to look at the actual weight and features of the frames, because top brands, such as Brompton use steel alloys for their frames, which are very lightweight, especially when they are combined with titanium parts, which have excellent properties for folding frames. Carbon fibre does not yet have a large presence in this type of bike. Suspension systems with forks or shock absorbers are also uncommon, because they increase the weight and price unnecessarily. But this may be an interesting option for those who frequently ride on uneven terrain.
Some accessories are essential if you want to optimise your bike for daily use. But the variety of accessories and how well they fit on the bike when folded and unfolded is another big difference you will appreciate on quality bikes.
Mudguards keep you clean from grease and other debris on the tarmac, as well as water and mud spray on rainy days.
Luggage racks and bags provide good load capacity. Once again we have to mention Brompton, because this brand has achieved the highest level of integration with its bags, and the bike can be folded perfectly. You can see the incredible range of bags by this brand in the video below
This is an interesting option with numerous benefits, although with a significant increase in price. We have listed the main advantages of the folding e-bike below:
Increased average speed of your journey, especially on hilly terrain.
You choose how much power to add to your ride by selecting the riding mode, which is ideal for steep terrain.
Prevents excessive sweating with electric pedal assistance, which is particularly useful when riding in your work clothing.
Inevitably, the price is linked to the quality you choose and this should be consistent with the use you plan to give to the bike. After checking the different features of the bike, we recommend you make a list of your needs and priorities and look for the models that are closest to them. It is important to decide if you will use the bike sporadically on undemanding rides or if you intend to use it every day, on hilly terrain. Think about if you will have to take it on other means of transport, if it will need to be folded frequently, if you need gears, etc... If your needs are few, you can opt for a simple bike in the lower price range, but, as the conditions on your list grow, you will find you will need to increase the quality of the bike and, therefore, the budget.
You can see many options and models of folding bikes at Mammoth, with brands such as Brompton, Dahon, Conor, Megamo, Ossby, Sixbikes and Xiaomi.