Bikes have come a long way and have seen transformation than any other human-powered vehicle. They are also popular worldwide since they can get you around even in places considered impassable. The best innovation that has ever happened in the cycling world is the introduction of a folding bike. Cyclists will tell you the feeling of owning this bike is much greater than that of driving a sports car. There is some truth in that considering that this bike can get you to places and fit in spaces no other vehicle can. This post is all about that. After reading this guide, you will have a deeper understanding of what folding bikes are, the different types available, who it is meant for, and what to look for when buying.
What is a Folding Bike?
Just as its name suggests, this is the type of a bicycle designed to fold down into a size that can be carried around, transported or fitted into limited areas. The folding mechanism of these bikes is not the same. Each offers a distinct combination of folding speed, compactness, folding ease, durability, weight, price and ride. The folding complexity also sets each type of bike apart. A quick look into the market and you will notice that the structural requirements, parts and the market appeal make this bike quite costly than your ordinary bicycle. The convenience and features make these machines worth every penny.
Types of Folding Bicycles
Most folding bikes are similar, and even some cycling hobbyists can’t tell the difference. What differentiates them are the folding methods and wheel sizes.
The Wheel Size
Small Wheels: This type is common among city-dwellers and commuters who don’t have the pleasure of space. They are the most common types too for bike enthusiasts who are also collectors of the ‘classics’. The wheel size ranges from 16”-20”. This may sound too small for an adult bike, but you will be shocked that they have the usual and unusual accessories you will find on an ordinary bicycle. This includes mudguards, bells, racks for your luggage, chainguards, and so much more.
This commuter bike is designed to be ultra-compact when folded to fit into the car boot or carry around places you cannot cycle. The only drawback is that this may not be the best folding bike for off-road use considering its wheel size. If you are a long-distance traveller, then you may also need a different folding road bike. However, getting around the city or town can be quite hectic, and that is where smaller-wheeled bikes come in handy. If you are also a user of the public transport that doesn’t permit the regular bicycles, you can discreetly store this ‘pocket-size’ cycle under your train seat.
Full-size Wheels: If you are looking for a folding mountain bike, then this is the category to consider. Several manufacturers have decided to give the conventional small-wheeled a new look for the off-track hobbyists. They come with 26″ or 700c wheels to offer high-performance when cycling on different terrains. Although this type is not as compact as the small-wheeled, it still offers the convenience of storage as compared to the non-folding bike. You will also not incur any extra cost when using public transport as they are compact enough to fit in limited space. Enjoy a whole new mountain biking experience with this type of cycle as it’s easy to carry when crossing the river or climbing mountains.
Mid-Folding: Most models in the market are folded halfway. This means that the frame breaks at the halfway point. As a result, it has a strong hinge that’s reinforced with a clamp. This type usually is easy to fold and assemble. To close the bike, you have to release the clamp and swing it to line up with the wheels. The seat post and handlebars also utilise a quick release clamp that makes your work easier.
Triangle Hinge: These bikes are unique than other folding counterparts as they have a triangle hinge in the frame. Once the wheel folds, the bike is flipped forward under the frame. Other triangle hinge bikes also fold the front fork. This makes the machine easy to fold and set up.
Magnet Folding: This is a sophisticated folding method that combines a magnet with a rear shock absorber. This magnet works by locking the back wheel of the bicycle to the frame. It then brings the rear wheel forward to fold the bike vertically. This means that you can roll the bike on its rear wheel if you don’t want to carry it around.
Breakaway: This method is common among bikes that utilise a diamond frame. The hinges, in this case, can be found around the seat post. The frame separates from the bike before you can fold them together.
Vertical Folding: Bikes that are folded vertically usually come with two hinges on the main tube. However, the seat stays to let you fold effectively. What makes this type common is that it’s more compact than a mid folding road bike.
Who Is This Bike Meant For?
Commuters are the most frequent users of this type of bicycles. So if you live in a large city and need multiple ways to get around the streets or run errands, then this could be what you need. There are train, subway, and buses that don’t allow bikes in. However, the folding concept solves this problem since they can be broken down and compacted for easy storage.
Mountain bikers can now rely on a folding mountain bike to take a higher amount of punishment. The new technology enables manufacturers to create machines that can take on rugged riding, off-roading and lighter trails. Mountaineers and hikers prefer this type as it fits into other climbing gear. Hobbyists mountain bikers can leave these bikes in the car and come back for them when the urge strikes.
Road bikers have also come to enjoy the convenience and style these machines offer. They can now choose from a wide array of bikes designed to function similar to an actual road bike. As a result, they come with accessories such as drop-down handlebars, the same riding stance and many gears. When they first made their entry into the cycling industry, these bikes were not great for road bikers. However, the newer road models offer a simple and stylish way to make your way across long stretches. This means that you can cycle from your house to your place of work without ever stepping in a public transit.
There are riders who don’t have a pressing urge or need to be on their bicycles on a daily basis. Such leisure riders can have casual fun with this machine. Since most of them don’t look for outstanding performances, they will be comfortable with this one.
Choosing the Best Folding Bicycle
The folding market is not what it used to be and finding the best bike may not be a walk in the park. There are more features, improved performance and added convenience in the new versions. But to simplify your search, consider the following factors:
Gear ratios: Regular bikes have more gears than their folding counterparts. However, the gear ratio will vary depending on the usage. The best folding bike should have a gear low enough to ride up the hills. The ideal low gear for motorboat owners going uphill after a long day at the sea should be 25 inches. A top of 70 is perfect for your city life, but you can go higher if you want a road monster.
Performance: High-performing machines are quite sturdy and comfortable. They also last longer than regular bikes. Most of them are 24″ wheeled bicycles. This means that if you are going to step on the paddle for more than 100KM per day, then you need to consider performance. Town dwellers can choose a normal commuter bike with 16″ wheels.
Foldability: Since foldability is the only thing that differentiates this bike from the conventional ones, you have to be keen about this feature. If you are always folding and unfolding your machine, why not choose one that’s fast at that. The slowest bike to disassemble should take 10 minutes, anything slower than that is not a folding bicycle, and you shouldn’t waste your money on it.
Frame size: Average riders will easily find the ideal frame size. However, if you are exceptionally tall or shot, you will need to compromise. The only setback is that not many manufacturers consider the extremely tall or short riders. As a result, you should choose something that will meet your basic needs.
With that in mind, you now understand why there is so much fuss around the cycling world when the word ‘folding’ is uttered. This is the time to dispose of your conventional bike and move with the wave. This guide has answered the common question ‘what is a folding bike’. It is now up to you to choose the shape, size and colour that matches your personality.