With so many options available, navigating the world of folding bikes can feel like a minefield. These bikes rarely come cheap, so making sure you pick out the right one for you and your cycling needs is even more important than ever. But how do you know which bike is right for you?
Most common folding bikes are: 14″, 16″, 20″, 24″. Choosing the most practical one comes down to size. Both the rider size and the size of the folded bike. Smaller wheel bikes are lighter more compact, and easier to maneuver, but they ride less smoothly and are less stable than bigger wheel bikes.
Is it even possible to know without test riding them all for a week or two to see which fits? Well, there is another way, and in today’s post, we’ll take you through the different-sized folding bikes available today to explain what they’re best suited to, so you can decide if it’s right for you.
What Size Folding Bike Do I Need?
The folding bike you need depends on what you will use your bike for the most.
Do you just need a folding bike to throw in the trunk of your car at the weekend before trying out new cycling routes nearby? Or will you be using this every day, on busy public transport and navigating large crowds of people?
If one of those scenarios is true for you, then the size of the folding bike you need will be vastly different.
The smaller the wheel of your bike, the more compact it will be and the easier it’ll be for you to navigate a busy inner-city commute.
But larger wheels will mean a much smoother ride, more comfort, and a stronger bike that’s capable of dealing with rougher terrain. Below we’ll explain what each wheel size is best for, to start you thinking about what size folding bike might be best for you.
How To Decide Which Wheel Size Is Right For You
Deciding on the wheel size that’s right for you doesn’t have to involve pros and cons just yet (although we’ll get to that in a moment).
For now, you just need a quick overview of what the different sized folding bikes are best suited to, so you can decide if your planned use of them matches with the info below:
- 14″: Best suited to city commutes with smooth roads and no rough terrain because of the small wheels, but these bikes will be the most lightweight and compact of the lot
- 16″: One of the most popular folding bike. Great commuter bike, but one that can deal with terrain that’s a little less perfect – great handling too
- 20″: The other most popular folding bike. Slightly larger bike that will fold down less compactly, but still a good option for commuters AND weekend riders looking to explore new routes in their area
- 24″: The perfect bike for those with a short commute that doesn’t involve busy buses and trains whilst still being a great bike for general use/leisure riding at the weekends
- Full-size: Although rare and not many manufacturers make it, you can find full size folding bikes. They are the heaviest, but also the most durable and sturdy too.
As you can see, these bikes are all suited to specific situations better than others. A full-size folding bike on a busy weekday commute isn’t a great idea, but neither is a 14-inch bike for exploring new routes at the weekend in case you come across rough terrain.
Deciding what you want to use your folding bike for is a big step in deciding which size is right for you.
Pros and Cons Of Small and Big Wheel Sizes
If you’re still unsure, then perhaps a quick list of the major pros and cons of small and big wheel sizes will help you decide which is better for you.
Small Wheel Sizes
Your small wheel size options are your 14″ and 16″ wheels (20″ wheels have a mix of both small and big wheel size pros and cons).
- Allows for a more compact fold
- Easy to carry on means of transportation
- Easy to fold
- Some of the best quality folding bikes (just look at Bromptons – 16″ wheels)
- Great for commuting
- Easy to handle on crowded streets
- Storage options back home and in the office
- A less smooth ride compared to larger bikes
- Ill-suited to rougher terrain
- Often more expensive because smaller wheels are less common
- Slower ride over longer distances
Big Wheel Sizes
The big wheel sizes are on the 24″ and full-size folding bikes (again, 20″ wheels have a mix of both).
- Smoother ride
- Better handling overall
- Can take any terrain or potholes etc en route
- Familiar to ‘regular’ bike users, so may be preferable to some
- Often cheaper as replacement parts are more readily available
- Quicker ride
- Less maintenance as larger wheels go round less to get where you’re going
- Less suited to commuting
- Larger, bulkier, heavier bikes
- Storage isn’t as easy with these
- Larger when folded
Size: How Small Can They Fold?
This is generally, of course, as every manufacturer creates bikes that fold to different sizes. As a general rule, though, small-wheeled folding bikes can fold much smaller than big-wheeled ones simply because they’re easier to form into smaller packages.
Here’s a general guide on folded size though:
- 14″: 23″ (L) x 14″ (W) x 24″ (H)
- 16″: 29″ (L) x 13″ (W) x 20″ (H)
- 20″: 33″ (L) x 13″ (W) x 24″ (H)
- 24″: 36″ (L) x 18″ (W) x 36″ (H)
- Full-size: 38″(L) x 13″ (W) x 28″ (H)
As you can see, it’s mostly the length that is affected by the larger wheel sizes, making it a much bulkier thing to carry around. The above numbers are just general examples.
You will find each folding bike has different dimensions, but this is a good general guide to start you off.
Can Tall People Use Small Wheel Size Folding Bikes?
If you’re tall and a small wheel folded bike is perfect for your commute, it may seem like the logical option, but you have to think practically, too. Smaller wheel-size bikes are smaller bikes, on the whole, so you need to think about whether you can successfully operate the bike at all.
Generally, tall people can use small wheel size folding bikes, but it certainly won’t be as comfortable.
We’d suggest test riding first to make sure it works for you, and if all else fails, opt for a slightly bigger wheeled folding bike. In folding bikes, as in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry…
First, you need to have a clear idea of what the intended use of the Folding bike will be. You cannot choose the same bike comfortably for short distances on paved roads and for long distances on rough terrains.
So try to be as concrete as possible when forming an idea of what you will use the bike for. Then you will be able to pick the right one for.