Riding Folding Bike Off-Road: Is A Foldable Good on Rough Terrain

By Mark Plummer •  Updated: 03/17/23 •  11 min read

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Folding bikes are widely used on the commute to work. They handle wonderfully on the paved city streets and are compact enough to take onto public transport. But what about those who want to be more adventurous?

Is A Foldable Bike Good For Off-Road?

Is A Foldable Bike Good For Off-Road

Most folding bikes can take on a gravel road or towpath but need help getting through rougher terrain. The smaller wheels and lack of suspension systems offer limited resistance against the harsh bumps. However, folding mountain bikes are built explicitly for off-road conditions.  

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to start off-roading in a folding bike, including finding the best folding mountain bike, getting the right gear, which riding techniques to use, and finding a route that suits your bike. 

Choosing the Best Folding Bike for Off-Roading

Though there is a wide variety, most folding bikes aren’t suitable for off-road use. Here are some characteristics to prioritize when searching for something that can go over rough terrain: 

Best Folding Bike for Off Road
Best Folding Bike for Off-Road (Source: Montague)

Can You Ride a Brompton Off-Road?

Can You Ride a Brompton Off-Road

It’s not advisable to take a Brompton off-road. These bikes have 16-inch wheels, which don’t provide any suspension, so you will feel every bump in the track. Due to the smaller wheels, you will need help to clear obstacles like rocks or tree roots.

The frame of a Brompton will also struggle to absorb the impact forces of a severe bump. This can lead to cracks, particularly around the hinge mechanism. While Brompton bikes have a polyurethane suspension system, it is designed for road use and will struggle to provide a smooth ride off-road.

Essential Gear for Off-Roading on a Folding Bike

Folding Bike Off Road
Folding Bike Off-Road

There are a few pieces of gear that you should take if you want to have a safe and comfortable off-road adventure on your folding bike:

This is just the essential list. The equipment required can be customized to better suit your needs. For example, take a first-aid kit if you are trying a challenging trail. Or if you are in an unfamiliar area, you should take a map. 

Off-Roading Techniques and Safety Considerations

A decent folding mountain bike should be able to take on most trails. But if you want to have a smooth ride, you will need to work on your technique. For example, keeping your body loose as you go over the bumps is a good idea. This will help you deal with the impact forces as you allow the bike more space to move freely. 

You will also need to think about where you are placing your weight.

For example, you must move back in the saddle during a downhill section, putting your center of gravity over the rear wheel. This will ensure you avoid getting flung over the handlebars during a rough section. On the other hand, it will often be easier to climb up a steep incline if you place your weight over the front of the bike. 

Off-Roading Techniques and Safety Considerations
Off-Roading Techniques and Safety Considerations

The next thing to consider is the speed at which you are traveling.

You must maintain your momentum to help you get through challenging terrain. This is especially important when you are going uphill. This is why choosing a folding mountain bike with a wide gear selection is essential, so you can tailor your approach to suit the terrain. 

Unlike conventional folding bikes, folding mountain bike brakes are very sensitive.

So you won’t need to apply much pressure to slow the bike down. This ensures that you will have plenty of control. Generally, it’s best to use the rear brake, especially when you need to slow down before a turn.

The rear brake will allow you to skid the bike, while a sudden deceleration from the front brake risks you being thrown over the handlebars. 

When riding, focus your gaze on the trail in front of you. Keep focused on the path rather than staring at an obstacle. You’ll need to get used to using your peripheral vision to spot potential issues. 

You also need to consider your jumping technique.

You must maintain eye contact with the location you want the bike to land. Try to land both wheels simultaneously and keep your body loose to better absorb the impact forces. 

The most important thing, though, is to practice. At first, you will have accidents and may even fall off your bike. But you will grow more confident on the bike as you develop your off-roading skills.

Tips For Safe Off-Road Riding

Tips For Safe Off-Road Riding
Tips For Safe Off-Road Riding

Here are my favorite tips to help you stay safe when you are riding off-road

Finding Off-Road Routes for Your Folding Bike

Finding Off-Road Routes for Your Folding Bike
Finding Off-Road Routes for Your Folding Bike

There are plenty of off-road trails for you to choose from. To make it easier to select the right one for you, they are often split into color-coded categories: 

Your local area might also have a terrain park. This isn’t a trail but a series of human-made obstacles. This is a chance to practice your skills before taking on the natural obstacles on the track. 

Here are the things I typically consider when choosing an off-road route: 

The best option is getting into local parks and riding the tracks. You’ll often find that more experienced riders are happy to advise you on trails to check out. 

Resources To Find Off-Road Routes

There are plenty of great resources that will help you find a tremendous off-road route; these include: 

Can Folding Bikes Go On Trails? Final Verdict 

Most folding bikes aren’t built to take on off-road trails. But there are plenty of suitable folding mountain bikes. 

Armed with one, you can explore a range of exciting off-road locations. Since they handle similarly to conventional mountain bikes, your skill level is the only limit on where you can ride.  

Mark Plummer

Mark Plummer is an experienced bike mechanic who has built, repaired, and customized thousands of bikes over the years. A former mountain biking athlete, his cycling adventures have taken him all over the globe from the mountains of Scotland to the South Island of New Zealand. These days he enjoys the benefits of commuting to work and touring on his Dahon and Brompton folding bikes.

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