One would think that once a person has decided to purchase a folding bike that the next step, that of actually selecting a model, would be relatively easy. However, with such a large variety of makers, models, sizes, and shapes available, trying to decide which model is the most appropriate for your individual needs can be quite challenging. This article was written to provide some pointers that should help to simplify the selection process.
Before looking at different bikes and getting hooked on something that looks cool (IE a model that folds in two seconds flat!), or that somebody else has recommended based upon their own needs, give some thought to the type of riding that you will be doing. For example:
Where will you be riding (streets only, streets and sidewalks, mixed terrain)?
If you are mostly riding on well maintained streets, you may want to think about a bike that has larger diameter (IE 20”) wheels with relatively thin tires that will allow for a smoother faster ride. However, if you spend a lot of time on sidewalks with cracks and bumps, or other rough terrain, you may want to opt for wider tires that tend to be more stable and can more easily roll over small gravel and rocks.
If you tend to ride on rougher surfaces or go back and forth from the road to the sidewalk a lot, you may want to consider a bike with either front shock or a dual suspension. This will add some weight and cost to your bike, but if you expect to use do a lot of riding, it will be money well invested.
How often will you encounter long or steep inclines?
If you expect to do most of your rides on relatively flat roads and bike paths, you’ll probably be fine with 1-3 gears. However, if you expect your rides to be hilly, you will probably want to have a few more gears. My Tartaruga Sport (see review) comes with nine gears and I find that the range provided allows me to climb any of the hills I encounter in Japan (Japan has a lot of hills!), but also gives me the gearing I need to accelerate on the long down hill runs as well.
How often will you need to fold your bike?
If you are doing a lot of urban riding, say from office to office, and need to fold up your bike at each stop, you will want a bike that folds quickly and easily. The Bromptons and the Bike Friday Tikit are good examples of bikes that quickly fold up into a small footprint. However, if you are just doing a few long rides per week and only need to fold at the end of a ride, you may opt for a more comfortable bike with a larger frame, wheels, and even a suspension, but that might require more time to fold.
How important is riding comfort?
If you don’t mind a fair amount of vibration and enjoy really “feeling the ride,” a more minimalist bike with smaller wheels and no suspension might be best. However, if comfort is important, you will want to consider the riding position, and the ability to adjust seat height and handlebar angle. If comfort and riding position are critically important, you may even want to consider a folding recumbent such as the as the Tartaruga type Folding.
Once you’ve decided the type of bike that would best fit your riding style, you will need to set your budget. Folding bikes are priced from US$200 up to and above US$ 2,500.
Whatever budget level, you will do better to choose a maker that has a track record of producing quality bikes and that has a good warranty policy. Also, check to see if they have local dealers or distributors that can provide warranty and post warranty service.
Last, but not least, it’s important to find a bike that you find visually appealing. It’s always more enjoyable to own and use something that looks “cool.” Some of the more successful folding bike brands have been able to strike a balance between form and functionality by offering highly attractive designs that perform well.