Folding bikes. If you have done a double-take at those funny-looking bikes with the little wheels while on your daily commute, you are probably familiar with them, or at least know how to distinguish them from other types of bikes. But are they any good for commuting?
Folding bikes can be excellent commuters, especially if you are a multi-model commuter or if your commute is relatively short! They are compact, light, and great for places where you don’t have an abundance of space to store a bike. As an added bonus, if you like to ride to work in style, you’ll be able to ride it in your work clothes and still look great!
As you can already imagine, folding bikes are not suitable for everyone and for all types of commutes. Let’s consider their pros and cons so you get a better understanding of whether they would be a good choice for your commuting needs.
Convenient and quick to fold
Folding bikes are great for small apartments or if there is no parking at the office. Obviously sizes can vary from bike to bike, but once folded, they have dimensions of around 20” x 10” x 20”, which makes it really convenient. You could store it in a wardrobe, under a staircase, and even under some beds.
You can also fold your bike very quickly. While the way of folding will vary from bike to bike, most folding bikes can be folded in 30 seconds or less.
Easy to keep safe at destination
Once you get to work, you can safely put it next to or even under your desk. If you are away from your desk often and feel like you need to put a lock on it, there are a number of good locks out there that will keep your bike safe around your working space, but also some that don’t work so well. Check out our bike-locking guide to help you find the right one.
Too far from the office, yet just a short cycle from the underground, bus, train, or tram that will get you there? Multi-modal commuting is a great way to get to and from work quickly and without the hassle. Because of its small size (and ability to fold it if needed), your folding bike is the perfect option for getting on and off other means of transportation without worrying about hitting fellow commuters in the shins or smushing them up against the glass. In larger cities, this can be a huge plus, as public transport can tend to be quite crowded.
You can also keep a folding bike in the trunk of a car and have it ready to go whenever you want to avoid being stuck in city traffic.
Ride in style
You’ll look good on it even wearing working clothes. Many a celebrity have been spotted riding folding bikes from Jennifer Aniston, to Prince Harry to Owen Wilson. Wear suits to work or have to wear an overcoat to keep you warm? Since the tires are quite a bit lower than more traditional bikes with large wheels, you won’t have to worry about your coat getting caught.
Usually commuter ready
One of the great things about folding bikes is that they are ready to ride without too much prep. You will need to obviously do the basic things, like checking your tire pressure, but that is pretty much it! Most folding bikes come equipped with fenders / mudguards, a bell, and many of them have integrated lights, as well as a rear rack to conveniently attach panniers to.
You will need to work harder
Because it has smaller tires than the typical road bike, gravel bike, or hybrid bike, you will get less distance per pedal, so you will need to work harder to get going fast, although the smaller wheels are compensated for by a large chainring. Still, folding bikes have a somewhat limited gear range, which means that if you have a stretch of uphill on your commute, climbing it could prove challenging.
Hard to carry anything heavy
Since you have to put in extra work in your pedaling, the more heavy things you have, the more difficult it is going to be to do so. Also, most folding bikes have lower weight limits in general than other types of bikes. Folding bikes can generally support anywhere between 200 and 250 lbs, whereas most other bikes can support about 50 lbs more than that. What’s more, with small tires, if you use panniers, they are going to be closer to the ground, so you would be severely limited when rounding corners. Smaller panniers = less weight you can carry around.
While quite stylish and practical in many ways, most folding bikes are less comfortable than other bikes. If you are biking on uneven roads, this is exacerbated as you will feel the road underneath you much more than you would with other bikes.
Not ideal for long rides
Because you need to work harder and because folding bikes are less comfortable than other bikes, folding bikes are generally not ideal for long commutes. The longer the commute, the more you will need to pedal with respect to other bikes with larger tires.
Folding bikes can be an excellent choice for commuting if your commute is not too far, or if you are able (and want to) to access other means of transport such as trams, buses and trains to shorten the distance you will need to cycle. As an added bonus, you can sport it in style like Jennifer Aniston or Prince Harry.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the best folding bike brands out there, and what can I expect to pay for one?
While there are many brands out there, three of the best in order of price from low to high are Zizzo (around $350-$700), Dahon (around $500-$900), and Brompton (around $1000-$2800). If you are looking for something on the higher end, Tern offers great folding bikes, although the price tag can be quite hefty ($2500+).
How many speeds should I get on my folding bike?
If your commute is relatively flat, 1-3 speeds is probably enough, and there are many great bikes out there with these characteristics. The hillier your commute, the more speeds you will need, but you shouldn’t need any more than 7. If you feel that the ups and downs of your commute merit a few extra speeds, the Dahon Vybe D7 is a great 7-speed bike that is quite accessible at just $529.
How long of a commute can I do with a folding bike?
This is going to depend on many factors such as incline/decline, evenness of roads, the gear range of the bike itself, how much weight you need to bear, and whether or not you have the possibility of doing part of your commute with other means of transport. If your commute is quite flat (which means that you don’t get too much uphill on the way or on the way back), and you don’t mind taking it easy to get to work.
For most people, up to 6 miles are feasible on a folding bike.
What type of folding mechanism should I look for in a folding bike?
If you stick with a solid brand, the folding mechanisms may vary slightly, but in general, they all work pretty well. As we said above, most folding bikes can be folded in 30 seconds or less. Some are a little bit faster, but the difference in speed is really a question of seconds. Here it is a matter of taste or practicality depending on your storage space, so the best thing to do is try out the various bikes you like to see which suits your needs best.
How much does a folding bike weigh?
Most bikes weigh between 20 and 30 lbs depending on the material used and the accessories it comes with. Folding bikes with 16” wheels are usually lighter, while those with 20” wheels tend to be heavier. The lighter the weight, the more it will most likely cost.