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Folding bikes are a relatively new concept, first coming to prominence during the early 1960s. However, in recent years, more people have started cycling to work. This has spurred renewed interest in the concept.
In theory, it will be the ideal option for making the morning ride easier. But how does it perform in reality? Keep reading to learn more about folding bike pros and cons, so you can find out if it’s the right approach for you.
Folding Bike Pros And Cons
Here’s my summary of the advantages and disadvantages of folding bikes:
|Requires a smaller storage space||Can be difficult to assemble|
|Lightweight||Lack of suspension|
|Built to last||Smaller wheels can be harder to control|
|Enhanced security||Going uphill can be trickier|
|Many styles to choose from||Can be more expensive than traditional bikes|
|Suitable for longer sides||Tend to have a lower weight limit|
|Hold their value for years to come||Poor handlebar feel|
|Makes bike riding more accessible||Going off-road isn’t recommended|
|A few extra maintenance steps|
What Are The Advantages Of A Folding Bike?
1. Requires A Smaller Storage Space
The most significant selling point of the folding bike is how easy it is to store. You can simply fold your bicycle up when you reach your final destination. How big it will be when folded will vary. In most cases, the folded bike will be the same size as a small suitcase.
Some models will fold into a smaller space. For example, the Dahon K3 can fold down into an area of 2’ by 2’ by 1’. You should be able to carry it with one hand.
There are a few reasons why being able to fold your bike down can be so valuable:
- Storing in apartments. Many people who live in apartments have a limited amount of space available. Because of this, storing a full-sized bike often isn’t an option. But a folding bike can be stuffed into a cupboard or slid under your bed.
- You can use public transport. Trying to bring a full-size bike onto a bus or a train is a nightmare. It might even be banned because it takes up too much space. On the other hand, a folding bike won’t get in the way. If you want, you can also take it as carry-on luggage when flying.
- Take it into the office. As we’ll discuss a little later, you can take your bike into the office rather than having to leave it on the street where it can be stolen.
Folding the bike is important. But you may also need to carry it. Because of this, these tend to be lightweight. Most will weigh between 25 to 30 pounds (11 to 13 kilograms). This should be light enough to lift with one hand.
Light bikes present another clear advantage. They will be faster. This is why many professional cyclists will choose models that are made from carbon fiber.
3. Built To Last
Foldable bikes can be a significant investment, so you want to ensure that you get one that will last for a long time. Fortunately, there is a range of high-quality folding bike brands for you to choose from. They will build strong frames that will last for many years.
All bikes have been manufactured to meet the highest possible safety standards.
It’s not uncommon to see foldable bikes with an extended warranty period. If any damage occurs during this period, the manufacturer will be able to fix it for you.
4. Enhanced Security
One of the main advantages of owning a foldable bike is knowing that your bike will be secure. You don’t need to leave it on the street when you go to work.
You can take it into the building and securely store it under your desk or in a locker.
5. Many Styles To Choose From
Increasingly, foldable bikes are gaining popularity. Because of this, they are becoming available in a broader range of styles, giving people more options to choose from:
- Bikes that are designed to go off-road
- Multiple heights and tire sizes
- Many high-quality brands
- Like scooters, folding bikes offer electric options
Many bikes will allow you to adjust the seat height. This will ensure that the ride is comfortable. You might even want to choose a bike that has been tailor-made to suit your needs.
Even better, as this niche grows in popularity, more models are being brought to the market. These are usually an improvement on a previous design. Plus, new technology is consistently being integrated. It’s not uncommon to find electric folding bikes.
6. Might Be Suitable For Longer Rides
It’s common for people to use a folding bike for their daily commute to and from work: don’t let this fool you into thinking folding bicycles aren’t capable of longer rides. Over a long distance, you can get a similar ride experience to a traditional bicycle.
On a multi-day trip, the ability to fold the bike can be helpful.
After each day’s ride, you’ll be able to store it in your hotel room so it won’t be stolen. You might even want to take the folding bike onto a plane with you. It should be able to fit in the overhead luggage compartments.
Plus, if obstacles block your path, you can just fold up your bike and carry it around the blockage.
Though you will need to be careful about the type of bike you are using. Some things to look out for include:
- Getting something that has larger 20-inch wheels
- Choose something that comes with panniers so that you can take luggage with you
- If possible, choose an electric model. This will come in useful when going over rough terrain.
- Pick a six-speed geared model to make hill climbs easier
- You might want to get a mudflap, so you’ll be protected in bad weather
7. Hold Their Value For Years To Come
As we’ll discuss a little later, folding bikes can be pretty expensive, especially when compared to traditional bikes. That said, it is an investment that will likely reap dividends for years to come.
These bikes are reliable, so you can use them to ride to work, saving you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs. Plus, when you have finished with the bike, it will typically have a firm sale value on the second-hand market. There are a few reasons for this:
- Increased demand. People are increasingly looking to prioritize their health and protect the environment. Because of this, more people are willing to give foldable bikes a chance.
- It can be challenging to find the stock. Some cyclists visit their local bike store only to find that they don’t stock foldable bikes. If they did, the range might have been limited. Because of this, local second-hand sellers might be one of the only people offering folding bikes in the area.
- Higher price tag. Buying a new foldable bike can be a little expensive. Because of this, more people will be willing to turn to the second-hand market.
Of course, the value of your second-hand bike will largely depend on how you take care of it. To get the best price, you’ll need regular maintenance, keeping it in good condition.
8. Makes Bike Riding More Accessible
Finally, folding bikes make riding possible for people of all ages and backgrounds. They are ideal for taking on the morning commute. For example, you might want to take public transport part of the way, then bike the rest of the route. This lets you get your daily fitness in while still maintaining flexibility.
Plus, many have been designed to be easy to use for a first-time rider. As a result, they will be suitable for an older person or someone who is at the start of their fitness journey.
This free buyer's guide shows you how to find the best folding bike for your budget.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Folding Bike?
9. Folding Bikes Can Be Difficult To Assemble
Of course, there are drawbacks to choosing a folding bike. You will need to put it together before you can start riding. How long it will take you to do this depends on the bike you select. Some things to consider are:
- Size of the bike
- Whether you need any tools
- Number of steps you have to follow
A fast folding bike, though, can be assembled within 10 seconds. On the other hand, some more complex cycles might take a few minutes to assemble. This can be even more inconvenient if you need to use tools to put the bike together. The good news is that assembling your foldable bicycle will become easier the more often you do it.
Plus, the way the bike folds up is designed to give it a little more protection from the elements. For example, it can help to keep dirt and grime from getting into the chain.
As discussed later, you’ll still need to regularly clean your bike.
10. Lack Of Suspension
A disadvantage of buying a folding bike is the lack of suspension. As a result, you will feel the bumps in the road more acutely than you would on a regular bicycle which may be a problem if you are riding in an area with many potholes.
11. Smaller Wheels Can Be Harder To Control
Typically, folding bikes will have wheel sizes between 16 to 20 inches. This ensures that they can be folded up neatly. But it can come with a downside.
The smaller wheels can be a little harder to control, with some cyclists reporting that the handling can be a little twitchy. This is especially common when you are building up speed downhill.
12. Going Uphill Can Be Trickier
In most circumstances, you won’t notice the difference between a folding bike and a regular bike, making them a good choice for your daily commute. But there is one notable exception. When you are going uphill. This will be because of the gears on your bike and the size of the wheel.
However, not all foldable bikes will face this problem. If you have an uphill section in your daily commute, here are some of the things you should look for when choosing a folding bike:
- Available gears. You’ll need to choose a bike with some low gears when traveling uphill. The technical measurement for this is gear inches.
- Size of the wheels. 20-inch wheels will often be better suited for incline riding than 16-inch ones.
- Whether it’s electric. Some manufacturers, like Brompton, are starting to include electrical elements in their bikes. This can provide valuable assistance when tackling steep inclines or just wanting to give yourself a break on a long trip.
13. Can Be More Expensive Than Traditional Bikes
A foldable bike can be more expensive than a traditional option. Many factors affect the price, like the manufacturer and type of material used.
Generally, though, a basic folding bike will cost about $700. Though a more expensive model can go up to $5,000. On the other hand, if you want a basic bike, you can expect to pay around $500. More expensive options are available, designed to give you a more comfortable ride. These can cost over $1,000.
14. Folding Bikes Tend To Have A Lower Weight Limit
Another critical element to consider is the weight limit that the bike can withstand. Putting more weight than expected on a folding bike will place excess pressure on the hinges resulting in a higher probability that the bike will collapse.
Unfortunately, most foldable bikes will have a lower weight limit than their conventional counterparts. It will usually be between 220 to 245 pounds (100 to 110kg). On the other hand, a traditional bike can carry around 275 to 300 pounds (125 to 135 kg).
If you want a bike capable of handling more weight, you might want to choose an adult tricycle or cargo bike. These are built to carry a person and their heavy equipment on a longer trip.
15. Poor Handlebar Feel
If you like to go fast, many folding bikes can cause problems. Part of the problem is the way that the handlebars have been arranged. Many of these bikes will use straight handlebars. These are selected because they can fold into a neat bundle.
The disadvantage of straight handlebars is that they will make it harder to hunch over comfortably. As a result, you will struggle to get into a more aerodynamic position.
This is a minor problem.
If you are a recreational rider, it’s unlikely that you will notice or care about how the handlebars are positioned. But more experienced riders might grow irritated by the situation.
16. Going Off Road Isn’t Recommended
You might be able to find some foldable bikes that can cope with more demanding conditions. This can be great for riders who like to kick up dust and gravel on the trails. Though you will still need to be careful. Smaller wheels are more likely to get stuck on rocks. Plus, you will feel all the bumps in the road without a sound suspension system.
But you might have some problems with serious off-road riding.
This will place a lot of pressure on the hinges, which can seriously damage the bike. Depending on your riding circumstances, you might even void the warranty and may have to pay out of pocket for any damage to the bike.
That said here are my favorite folding mountain bikes that are specifically designed to go off-road.
17. A Few Extra Maintenance Steps
Maintaining your bike regularly is essential to ensure it will last for a long time. Most of the time, this will be pretty standard procedures. For example, you will need to ensure that the chain is lubricated.
But a few maintenance elements will be unique to folding bikes. These include:
- More regular cleaning. The body of this bike will sit lower on the ground than a traditional bike. Because of this, it will pick up more dirt as you ride. This necessitates a more rigorous cleaning routine. You should aim to clean once a fortnight.
- Checking for cracks. It’s a good idea to get into the practice of checking for cracks near the hinges. These indicate stress in the frame and might be a precursor to a collapse.
- Cleaning wheels can be more problematic. Because of their smaller wheel size, it can be a little harder to clean the wheels of a folding bike.
Consider these folding bike advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether you want to own a folding bike. It will most likely boil down to what you want from your bike. This might not be the best option if you’re looking solely for speed or something that can conquer rough terrain.
But a folding bike is ideal if you want something to make commuting to work easier or take a longer weekend ride. Its convenience is unmatched for those in small spaces, as you can fold it and slide it under the bed or put it into a cupboard.
Mark PlummerMark 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.
This free buyer's guide shows you how to find the best folding bike for your budget.
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