Choosing a perfectly suitable folding bike that ideally matches your needs is a challenging and confusing task. And things get more complex when you come across numerous options available in the market. We can relate with you, but do not worry as this guide will simplify the process and empower you with the necessary knowledge. With answering the question of how to choose a folding bike we will discuss folding bike size, purpose, design, wheels size, and budget for folding bikes. After this, you will have a clear idea about the features to look for in folding bikes as a beginner as well as a pro.
How to Choose a Folding Bike
If you are planning on buying a folding bike, there are several things you should consider. Do not make a hasty decision. Take some time to consider these crucial aspects and features to look for in folding bikes before you make your purchase. Doing so could save you time, money, and a lot of headaches in the long run.
This is the first and foremost consideration before buying a folding bike. Smaller and lighter bikes are ideal for short journeys and leisure rides around the city. For long and active rides, bigger bikes with wide large tires and strong frames are suitable. However, if you plan to travel with your folding bike then choose the one that is compact after folding.
If you want to take your bike along with you on public transportation or abroad, you’ll need one that can be packed easily. When choosing a bike, it’s best to pick one that fits your lifestyle rather than just going for a pretty one. Always consider personal preference, but prioritize practicality.
2. Type of Bike
Before buying a folding bike, it is important to determine the purpose for which you want it. Different types of folding bikes serve different purposes. Basically, folding bikes come in 4 types: commuting, electric, off-road, and touring folding bikes.
a. Commuting: This type of folding bike is ideal for riding to work or in urban environments. It is important to consider that folding should take less than 10 seconds and the scooter should have higher top speeds for fast travel in the city.
b. Electric: These folding bikes offer different benefits, and you do not have to rely solely on pedaling. Electric folding bikes have built-in and add-on components for your ease. For example, electric assist, battery meter, and control from mobile applications.
c. Folding Mountain Bikes: This bike is ideal for riding off-road or on gravel tracks. Focus on wheel size as larger wheels and robust frames are preferred for mountain bikes.
d. Touring Bikes: This bike is ideal for touring and the key consideration for them is to be small enough that can fit in a suitcase. But at the same time, it should have robust frame materials like a steel frame, so it can be repaired overseas if required. Otherwise, looking for spare parts in foreign countries can be problematic at times.
Another aspect to consider while learning how to choose a folding bike is gears. Folding bikes have different gear options, usually with 9 speeds or fewer, but they can also have single-speed right through to 27 gears. Your riding plan defines the number of gears and gear inches ranges.
- Commuting folding bikes: 25 to 70 gear inches (or up to 100″ if you are a high-performance rider)
- Folding mountain bikes: 19 to 100 gear inches
- Touring foldable bicycles: 20 to 70 gear inches
Usually, a folding bike with 3–8 gears and a 25-70 gear-inch range is ideal for traveling through various terrains. If you like to ride off-road, then a folding bike with 11 to 27 gears is ideal that can handle all kinds of terrain. On the other hand, if you prefer simplicity or plan to stick to on-road, then a single-speed bike might be the better choice for you.
4. Suspension Mechanism
The mechanism that adds more weight to the bike is known as suspension. Bikes with bigger wheels have smoother rides in comparison to the ones with smaller wheels. A good suspension mechanism in folding bikes with smaller wheels counters the friction and solves this problem.
So, if you want to go for a small bike, choose one with a suspension mechanism. It will add more pressure and weight making your driving experience smooth.
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5. Folding Method
There are three different methods of folding the bikes and the one you choose depends on your preference. Half fold, break away, and triangle fold are the folding methods available in the market.
- The half-fold is easy to dismantle but not sturdy
- Breakaway folding bikes are the easiest to fold and become very compact but hard to reassemble.
- Triangle folds are sturdy and easily foldable but difficult to ride
6. Wheel Size
This is also an important consideration and sometimes a challenging one too while purchasing a folding bike. Opting for a bigger wheel has several benefits, such as increased maximum velocity, improved shock absorption, and a more effortless ability to traverse over obstacles. However, smaller wheels can lead to a more compact fold, quicker acceleration, and a decrease in weight, making it more convenient to carry or transport.
How to choose a folding bike for riding in a city? For riding a folding bike mostly in the city, a wheel size from 16 to 20 inches works well on roads plus occasionally on gravel tracks.
For riding on rough terrains or off-roads, it is better to use a wheel with a minimum size of 24 inches for an improved experience. A folding bike that is ultra-compact when folded, goes for a wheel size smaller than 16 inches in diameter. However, a wheel size of 12″ or 14″ may affect your riding experience.
7. Frame Material
Mostly foldable bikes are made from steel or aluminum. Bikes with aluminum frames are lighter but do not offer a strong frame. Titanium and carbon fiber are considered the most exotic frame materials that improve strength-to-weight ratios, but they are more expensive than others. However, choosing a steel frame is better for touring and travel because it offers strength and can easily be repaired.
8. Frame Size or Bike Size
Before purchasing a bike, the initial step you should take is to determine the frame size. It is important to get the right frame size to ensure optimal comfort and efficiency while cycling. It is common for folding bike manufacturers to provide a single frame size that typically fits most riders quite well.
Some brands offer bicycles in different sizes that fit your height and leg length. The height of the bike is adjustable, so people of different heights can use it. Make sure the bike’s seat and handlebars can be adjusted to match your height.
It is crucial to determine your budget beforehand, depending upon the features you decide for your folding bike.
Fortunately, there are some incredible folding bikes available in the market at lower prices. Interestingly, you can get one brand-new folding bike for you with a budget of as low as $500. Mostly, mid-tier folding bikes cost between $800 and $1,200.
You need to have a budget of around $9,000 if you are planning to buy a premium folding bike. It is true that the bike’s material and features differentiate based on price. But it is not like you would not get a good deal in your budget.
How to Choose a Folding Bike for Beginners
After choosing a folding bike, doing research and test rides, and making the purchase, there are still some other things to consider before riding it for the first time. To understand how to choose a folding bike for beginners, take a look below:
1. Accessories: It is worth investing in accessories like a high-quality water bottle or hydration system. You should also consider getting padded cycling shorts, which not only provide extra comfort but also protect the rider better. If you plan to ride in winter, do not forget to buy appropriate winter gear. Lastly, a saddlebag would come in handy for carrying essential items like keys and spare tubes.
2. Folding Bike Maintenance: For your folding bike to last for years and to make sure it is secure and comfortable to ride, you must maintain it properly and avoid potential issues while cycling. To take care of your bike, you will need a few things like a pump, chain lubricant, Allen keys, spanners, and a cleaning tool.
3. Folding bike suitcase: If you plan on taking your bike on a trip with you, investing in a folding bike suitcase is a wise decision. It not only shields your bike but also simplifies the process of traveling with it.
4. Pedals: While most folding bikes come equipped with pedals, there are some models that might not. Additionally, if your bike uses clipless pedals, and you do not have compatible shoes, you may need to purchase new pedals. Do not worry though, there are plenty of options available to help you find the perfect fit!
5. Personal safety gear: When riding, prioritize your safety by buying a fitting helmet and cycling gloves. If you plan to ride your bike in urban areas, it is essential that you equip yourself with lights and a reflective vest. This will help other drivers and cyclists see you, especially in low-light conditions. Do not overlook these safety precautions when riding in the city.
What is the Best Folding Bike Size for All?
After learning how to choose a folding bike let us understand what is the best folding bike size. Now before you go to get a folding bike it is important to know which size is best suited for your intended use. Here is a brief overview to help you decide if the size options align with your needs.
1. 14 inches: If you are planning to use a bike for your city commutes on smooth roads, then the bikes with small wheels are perfect for you. These bikes may not be suitable for rough terrain, but they are the most lightweight and compact option available.
2. 16 inches: This is one of the most popular folding bikes and is considered a great commuter for its great handling.
3. 20 inches: This is also on the favorite list of bike lovers. If you are a commuter or a weekend rider seeking new routes to explore in your area, a slightly larger bike might just be what you need. This one provides greater flexibility and comfort on the road while still being highly portable.
4. 24 inches: This bike is suitable for short commutes and leisure rides at the weekends, without the hassle of busy buses or trains.
5. Full-size: This size is not commonly manufactured like others but still you can find them easily in the market or in online retail stores. These are the heaviest due to their size but the most durable and sturdy bikes too. It is ideal for rough drives in terrain.
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Each bike size suits specific situations and which one is ideal for you depends on the purpose for which you need them. Size here not only refers to wheel size or the size of the bike but also to the size after you fold them. Indeed, various bike manufacturers create folding bikes that vary in size and design. Here is a general guide on folded size of folding bikes.
- 14″: 23″ L × 14″ W × 24″ H
- 16″: 29″ L × 13″ W × 20″ H
- 20″: 33″ L × 13″ W × 24″ H
- 24″: 36″ L × 18″ W × 36″ H
- Full-size: 38″ L × 13″ W × 28″ H
Note: The sizes mentioned above are based on estimates of sizes that are generally common in most folding bikes.
Mostly the large wheel sizes affect the length of the bike and make it bulkier to carry around. Even though each folding bike has different dimensions, with the above data you now have a general idea of differentiating among them.
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What are the Pros and Cons of Different Wheel Sizes?
Another major thing to learn after how to choose a folding bike is the concept of different wheel sizes. Here is a list of major pros and cons of big and small wheel sizes for your folding bike. Go through it and decide wisely.
1. Big Wheels
These refer to 24 inches and full-size folding bikes.
- Can handle any bumps or rough terrain on the way.
- Familiar to regular cyclists, so it may be preferred by some.
- Improve overall handling.
- Larger wheels require less maintenance because they spin less during travel.
- Offers a smooth and quick ride.
- Replacement parts are often more available and therefore less costly.
- Large even after folding.
- Large, heavy, and bulky.
- Not the best option for commuting.
- Small Wheel sizes refer to 14 and 16 inches wheels.
- Storing them is not easy due to their size.
2. Small Wheels
The sizes refer to 14 and 16 inches of wheels.
- Considered the best quality bikes of the size.
- Easily folded and is more compact after folding.
- Easy to store at home and office.
- Ideal for commuting and easily handled on busy streets.
- Portable on any means of transportation.
- Not suitable for rough terrains.
- Rides are not as smooth as on large bikes.
- Slow ride option for longer distances.
- Smaller wheels are pricier since they are not as widely used.
Well, today you learned how to choose a folding bike through this comprehensive buyer’s guide. I hope you enjoyed this informative journey where we explore the essential factors by determining different aspects. Do not forget to check portability, comfort, and durability during the test drive. I hope you enjoy your adventures with your folding bike.
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