Folding bike

 

Brompton folding bike locked to parking stand in Manchester
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What is a folding bike?

A bike that incorporates a frame hinge, or equivalent hardware, allowing it to be folded so it can be parked in a small space and carried easily on public transport or in a car.

Other names for folding bikes

A folding bike may be referred to as a ‘folder’.

Different types of folding bike

Folding bikes are available in a range of wheel sizes including, 16”, 20”, 24” and 26”. Designers of folding bikes choose small wheels to get a smaller folded package. However, the smaller the wheel size, the less normal the cycling experience. For instance, small wheeled bikes tend to have more responsive steering, which can feel ‘twitchy’ to those not used to it. Also, because full size wheels absorb some of the vibrations from the road, small wheeled bikes can give a harsh ride. Some designs work around this problem by incorporating suspension.

Some frames achieve a portable size by means of couplings rather than hinges, allowing the frame to separate into smaller pieces. Such bikes are known as ‘demountables’.

What kind of journey is a folding bike suited to?

  • A short hop within a longer journey, e.g. the final mile of a train journey.
  • As a replacement for a short journey by bus, tram or underground train in a city.
  • Where cycle parking is unavailable at home or at the destination.
  • For taking on holiday and exploring local attractions.

Advantages

  • can be carried on a train easily
  • can be easily carried in a car easily
  • can be stored in a small space, such as a small apartment
  • creates the opportunity to park inside the workplace

Disadvantages

  • small wheeled bikes give a harsher ride, because the wheel does not absorb as many shocks
  • slightly heavier than a non-folding bike of equivalent quality
  • some parts can be non-standard sizes, meaning replacement parts can be difficult to find
  • tyres for small wheels wear out faster and are more prone to punctures

Examples

  • The Brompton is a 16” wheel bike that folds to a small package.
  • The Dahon MU and the Bike Friday are 20” wheel folding bikes with a ride quality approaching that of a hybrid or city bike with full-sized wheels. The Dahon benefits from adjustable handlebar height.
  • The Reise and Muller Birdy is an aluminium-framed small-wheeled folding bike with front and rear suspension.
  • The Montague is a full size bike that folds.

Typical components

Frame: aluminium or steel
Wheels: 20” or 16”, aluminium rims
Tyres: medium to wide
Handlebar: flat or riser Read about flat handlebars
Brakes: drum or dual pivot caliper Read about dual pivot caliper brakes
Gears: derailleur or hub
Mudguards: factory fitted Read about mudguards
Chainguard: chainring guard Read about chainguards
Lights: not included
Rack: factory fitted Read about racks
Lock: not included

Component upgrades

Some folding bikes come with a rack that’s too small for carrying panniers, and larger racks are available to solve the problem. This is the case with Dahon folding bikes. The folding procedure usually requires you to turn the cranks to a certain position so that the pedals fit neatly within the folded package. This stage can be avoided with detachable pedals. MKS is the best known manufacturer of these.
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Other types of bike