How to Choose the Right Folding Bike
Bikes are affordable, clean and fitness improving methods of transportation which are increasing in popularity, particularly in congested and overcrowded metropolitan cities. But every bike owner knows that finding the right place to lock up your bike can be tricky and many have experienced the worry that someone with bolt cutters or a hacksaw might run off with your prized possession. If you share this concern, a folding bike might be the answer for you as its collapsible capability means you can bring it with you into your work or home while only taking up minimal space.
Check out our OneHowTo.com guide on how to choose the right folding bike to see what considerations you should make when selecting yours.
Reasons for Choosing a Folding Bike
You need to consider what reasons you might have for choosing a folding bike as this will determine what you buy. Many people use their bike as an alternate mode of transport or as part of mixed-mode transport on their commute. This means you will want to choose a bike which is lightweight and folds away easily. You also want to have a comfortable ride, so decent tyres and a comfortable pedalling position are very important. Don't forget to choose one which suits your height as this will make all the difference when trying to manoeuvre your way through traffic.
Many people love to ride bikes purely for recreational fun and a folding bike can work very well, especially if you want to take it out into country in your car. If you use it for leisure then you don't need folding speed as much as a commuter might. You can also choose bikes with extra suspension for mountain biking or with a lighter frame for road racing.
Lastly, if you are an international traveller, you will want to buy something which packs away very small and is as light as possible so that you can stow it in planes without breaking the bank.
Type of Folding Mechanism
The first type of folding mechanism is the split fold which essentially works by folding your bicycle in half, usually from the middle of the crossbar (the main body of the bike frame). It is good for bikes with a large tyre size and is often the easiest method to master. Companies like Tern have improved this method even more by having a second hinge on the handlebars which makes it even more streamlined.
The Brompton model of bike folds was designed by forerunners Brompton bicycles in England and their design is one of the easiest and most effective to use. It doesn't have a hinge in the middle of the frame (which means it can provide more stability), instead working by a series of smaller hinges and clasps which fold away neatly. The biggest downside to this method is that the wheels tend to come in smaller sizes which isn't great if you live in a city with a lot of hills and potholes.
Finally, you have breakaway folding bikes which tend to be used for more professional style road and mountain bikes. They do pack away nice and neat, but the downside is that they tend to be quite complicated to do so, thus taking away one of the folding bike's greatest benefits.
Wheel sizes are particularly important as they will determine speed and durability. Folding bikes tend to come in wheel sizes from 16" to 26", but those ten inches can make all the difference. If you regularly travel on uneven surfaces or up and down steep inclines, a small wheel is inadvisable. They won't protect you from the shocks caused by running over obstacles and you will need to peddle until you sweat when going up big hills. Bigger wheels, however, mean they are harder to store and heavier to carry, so if you want to use a folding bike for ease of travel, small wheels will do the trick well.
Frame size is important, especially if you are of a larger body type. You might also want to buy a bike with a pannier rack. These are the racks which attach to the back wheel and allow you to carry more if your job depends on it. The bigger the wheel the bigger the rack.
For those of us who are worried about bike theft, cost is a big consideration. Some people only buy cheap bikes because the risk of theft is so high that they don't want to buy something expensive only for it to get stolen. The more expensive looking the bike, the more attractive it is to thieves.
Material also affects cost greatly. A lot of folding bikes are made from aluminium or steel which are cheaper materials, but can also be quite heavy causing more strain if you have to lug it up ten flights of stairs to your apartment. Carbon fiber and titanium frames are much lighter, yet still very durable. The cost, however, reflects this and frames made out of these materials can be very expensive.
Not all folding bikes have gears, but if you are using yours in a city with lots of hills you might want to think about getting one which will allow you to tackle those steep inclines one minute and cruise along a straight the next. Gears are also good if you want to use your bike for long distances or mountain biking.
For the design minded commuter, you might want to choose something which has some style. You may choose to buy a folding bike for its functionality, but this doesn't mean you can't look good. Smaller wheels can sometimes make bigger people look a little comical, so perhaps you want to have a larger wheel if you're concerned about appearances.
Once you have taken these points into consideration, you will be better prepared when going into the shop or searching online for the model which suits you the best.
If you want to stick with a regular framed bicycle, check out these articles on How to Convert Your Bicycle into an Electric Bike.
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