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  1. #1
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    Full commuting bike vs folding bike

    I hope this isn't posted in the wrong forum...

    I just wanted to know what "commuters" think about a full commuting bike versus a folding bike (like a Brompton) for commuting around the city. Besides the obvious advantages of space in the Bromptons, is there any reason that people would get a full commuting bike as opposed to a folding one? For example, is durability, strength, ability to carry groceries, etc. ever an issue with a folding bike?

    Thanks in advance...

  2. #2
    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    Do a search. Lots of threads about this topic. I'm a noob and I even know this.
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  3. #3
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    There's a guy with the Seattle Randonneurs who rides a folder on brevets. I think that speaks highly to the reliability/durability of a well built folder.
    Last edited by CliftonGK1; 07-31-09 at 12:04 PM. Reason: typo
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  4. #4
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennisplyr3 View Post
    I hope this isn't posted in the wrong forum...

    I just wanted to know what "commuters" think about a full commuting bike versus a folding bike (like a Brompton) for commuting around the city. Besides the obvious advantages of space in the Bromptons, is there any reason that people would get a full commuting bike as opposed to a folding one? For example, is durability, strength, ability to carry groceries, etc. ever an issue with a folding bike?

    Thanks in advance...
    It all depends. For some peopel a folder is not what they want but I think for most peopel a folder is great, much better than you think. Great for folding and take on the bus if heavy rain or other suprises make you not want to ride.

    Great to take innside a building to avoid theft.

    Two days ago a unexpected event made us sleep in a hotel instead of in a tent (both bikes fit innside the tent). We folded the bikes and could store them innside my small car (that was already "holyday full") since we now had to park in the center of town. Could have brought them innside the hotel (in a bag) as wel, but innside the car was easyer.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by wunderkind View Post
    Do a search. Lots of threads about this topic. I'm a noob and I even know this.
    Could you please copy + paste some links to some threads to this topic? I didn't find any prior to posting when I searched "folding" in the "Commuting" forums and when I searched "full size" in the "Folding" forums.

    Yeah, I understand that size is a huge advantage to a folding bike. My question is this... If a well-built folder bike is reliable and durable, why don't more people ride them?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Crank57's Avatar
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    Maybe some full size people think the little folders look dinky. Or, maybe they think they will look dinky on a folding bike. Either way I bet it's more of a perception thing than any real practical reason.

  7. #7
    Female Member KitN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennisplyr3 View Post
    I hope this isn't posted in the wrong forum...

    I just wanted to know what "commuters" think about a full commuting bike versus a folding bike (like a Brompton) for commuting around the city.For example, is durability, strength, ability to carry groceries, etc. ever an issue with a folding bike?
    I own and commute on both a full-sized bike and a folding bike in the city. Though some of their usage overlaps, they have distinct purposes.

    Both are good for:
    - Commuting to and from work
    - Weekend rides
    - Light errands (light grocery shoppings, etc)


    Full-sized bike is good for:
    - Hardcore errand running
    - Hauling a serious load
    - Longer trips


    Folding bike is good for:
    - Multi-modal transportation
    - Theft-proofing (due to the fact that you take it inside with you)
    - Carrying up flights of steps

    Folding bikes are just as capable as full-sized bikes if configured properly. You can haul as much as a full-sized bike depending on the type of folding bike you buy. My folder has 16" wheels and a very low rack making rear panniers impossible without heel strike. A front rack and panniers would solve this issue. But I choose to go with a large trunk bag and a large front basket. It works great for a normal trip to the store for some groceries or carrying my things for commuting to work, etc.

    Of course, with a full-sized bike, carrying things isn't a problem. You just slap some large panniers on the rear rack or even a front rack too and you're set but you negate the amazing portability that you get with folding bikes as well as "theft proofing".

    There are a bunch of folding bikes that ride just as well as full-sized bikes (some even better) like the Swift and Birdy. Bromptons excel at folding down to a small package. They ride well but YMMV. I would highly suggest you find a LBS that has one in stock so that you can test ride it.

    I've ridden Bromptons on several occasions at length and still love the fold and the bike. I'd buy a Brompton right now if my funds weren't tight.

    If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.
    Last edited by KitN; 07-31-09 at 03:14 PM.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennisplyr3 View Post
    My question is this... If a well-built folder bike is reliable and durable, why don't more people ride them?
    Some reasons I don't ride a folder (all things assumed equal on durability and reliability)
    - 20" and 24" wheels are harsher on bumps, transitions, railroad tracks, sudden road irregularities, etc.
    - larger wheels are more stable at lower speeds. I'm tall, so most of my weight would be WAYYYYY above the axles of a folding bike. Plus, I'd look pretty goofy with my body floating several feet above the rest of the bike. I keeeed, I keeeed.
    - I frankly prefer the aesthetics and utility of conventional "diamond" frames for my needs.
    - My local public transit offers bike carriers on all buses and trains.
    - I can securely lock my regular bicycle in a safe,covered area at my office.
    - I climb 700 feet of steady grade with some steeps pn my ride home, and I am accustomed to how a conventional bike 'feels' on climbs. I test rode a folder and did not like how it felt. I guess I've spent too many hours in the saddle of a regular bicycle.

    Of all these, the wheel size is the biggest single issue for me. Well, that, and I think they are fugly.

  9. #9
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    It's interesting that you mention that. My first bike was a Kent mountain bike, which was really stable because of the wide and heavy tires. My current bike is a road bike, which I remember being really responsive to turn the first time I rode it. When I test rode the Brompton, it was ridiculously responsive, but I adapted quickly by just resting my hands on the bars. Do the tires wear out faster because they're smaller, e.g. smaller tire --> more revolutions for the same distance --> faster wear?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennisplyr3 View Post
    It's interesting that you mention that. My first bike was a Kent mountain bike, which was really stable because of the wide and heavy tires. My current bike is a road bike, which I remember being really responsive to turn the first time I rode it. When I test rode the Brompton, it was ridiculously responsive, but I adapted quickly by just resting my hands on the bars. Do the tires wear out faster because they're smaller, e.g. smaller tire --> more revolutions for the same distance --> faster wear?
    Theoretically, yes, the tires, hub bearings, etc. will all wear out faster, because they're doing a higher RPM for a given speed than a bike with normal sized wheels. A 20" tire will wear out 1.35 times as fast as a 27" tire, even if you don't take into account the effects of the higher RPM, simply because it has 74% as much road contact area as the 27" tire.

    Unless you have a tiny apartment, a tiny office, or some other storage constraint for your bikes...don't get a folder. I have a pretty damn small apartment, and I fit three and a half full-size bikes in it. All about priorities I guess.
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  11. #11
    Goldmember 2wheeldeal's Avatar
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    I own both a full size commuter and a 16" folder, and although I don't ride big commuting miles, I notice that small tires are more costly than 700c tires, and I have read other posts from folder commuters that they go through a lot of tires and rims. My take is if multi-mode commuting works for you, or you have parking problems, get a folder. If you do a lot of grocery hauling, or a lot of mileage, go with a full-size bike.
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  12. #12
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    There are no inherent qualities that make all folders better or worse than all standard bikes (other than folders are more expensive to make correctly). I sold folders and spent about 20 years riding standard bikes. If you need a bike to fold and can afford the additional cost, go for it. I believe you have to spend about 50% more make a folder ride equal to a standard bike.

    That said, I find folders to respond more quickly due to small wheels, but this means they take some getting used to (like a day).

    No amount of advice in this area can equal the power of riding a bike to see if you like it. I can't recommend publically any particular brand. However, be aware that some use parts that only they manufacture.

  13. #13
    Senior Member aMull's Avatar
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    Handling goes to ****. However the Swift folder is as close as you can get to riding a normal sized bike, and looks nice too.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member alhedges's Avatar
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    Some folders would work quite well as commuters, and there are several that ride like regular bikes. However, they are about twice as expensive, give or take - for $450 you can buy a 24/27 speed hybrid that would work well for most commutes. A $500 folder will only have 7/8 gears, however; to get a folder with 24/27 gears, you need to pay around $800 to $900. Or much more.

    The $900 folder may well have nicer components than the $450 hybrid...but you have to pay that much just to get into the game.

    Note, too, that folder that ride more like regular bikes tend not to fold as small as other folders (tending to have 20" wheels, for example), and once you equip them as a typical commuter - with a rack that will hold full size panniers - the fold is even larger.

    Having said that, I do commute on a folder, and it works very well. But I bought it to take touring, not as a commuter, and I don't fold it as part of my commute, as I typically put it in a bike locker at work or just bring it into my office. On a couple of occasions I have put it in the trunk of a coworker's car when we were going somewhere after work, but this could have been done - with a little more difficulty - with a regular bike.

  15. #15
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    Folders are expensive.
    Smaller wheels makes more turns to keep the same speed, and therefore wears out parts faster.
    Extra mechanical parts means extra failure points - I'm not talking about a crash here, but the folding mechanism wears eventually.
    I look like a goof riding one.

    Why do that when you can score a decent full size road bike on craigslist for cheaper?

  16. #16
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    There is a lot about tire wear, hub wear and prices here. Why not look at what you get and what you save? A folder can be taken "anywhere" and therefor does not get stolen as your big wheeled bike that is left outside.

    If you keep three full sized bikes in a small flat you "get" the extra space.

    Sit down ant think trough how many times you could leave your car at home (since you do not risk using your full size bike that could be stolen) if you had a folder (going places by bike getting a lift or use the bus going back).

    How many folder tires can you buy from the cost of a full tank on a Suv? We tend to find good excuses to do what we want to do, instead of being open minded and look at costs AND savings.

    Some peopel think you can not ride a bike without $40 100 psi tires, and then complain folders is no good becouse of harsh ride. Get wide low preassure tires and maybe a thudbuster or sprung brooks and you get a great ride.

    I find I can stash more stuff on a folder than on a big wheeled bike, one of the reasons is the long seatpost and stem. Small wheels is stronger than big wheels so they are good for carrying weight (if the folding mechanism can take it). Also a bike trailer is god. Get the childcarrier/stroller with a front wheel that you can wheel around innside the shoppingcenter. Throw the bike innsde and you are ready to go.

    This summer we had to sleep in a hotel instead of a tent as intended (bikes easely fits innside the tent). Had to park in town over night. Car was totally "holyday full of stuff". Managed to fold the two bikes we had on the rear rack and lock them innside the car.

    Also a lot od peopel do long distance touring with folders. Especially if you want to travel by train, plane or similar it is much easyer to be accepted. Most of the time you do not pay for folded folders.

  17. #17
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    I accept that folding bikes are smaller, and you can probably dodge surcharge better on transportation, but it seems that your preference is just as rooted in your circumstances as the pro-full size crowd.

    I take my full size bike with me, and if I worry about it getting stolen, then I take a lock with me. I don't take a car, nor could the car take the bike (without a rack) anyways.

    If you're comparing that to saving money from gas, well a folding bike is really no different than a full size bike. It's more of a matter of commitment than which bike you ride. I don't see how a folding bike would make you want to drive a car less, unless i'm missing something.

    I use the $40 tires for puncture resistance, after having a 1" dry-wall screw go through the tire and poke my rim. Getting the equivalent for the folding bikes would probably be equally expensive. The diameter of the wheel will contribute to the ride quality - that's physics. You can deal with it using low pressure tires, but then you get more rolling resistance. Some make that trade off - I've seen people commuting bouncing about on their mountain bike with front shocks - I just didn't.

    I'm not too sure whether smaller wheels is stronger than big wheels, but really, most wheels are plenty strong to begin with, unless you're talking about the ultra-light carbon race wheels with a weight limit. I'm sure you can load up your folding bike with stuff, and I know people who have ridden full size bike across Canada, so they've found ways to lock up their bikes just fine. The friend that ride across Canada came across someone doing the same thing on a carbon bike with a trailer, so they are god-sends. It's just not exclusive to folding bikes.

    When I was about to get a bike, it was suggested to me that I should get a folding bike, for the compactness and ease of travel. I chose to get a full size one (aside from getting it cheap on craigslist) because I'm not too keen on the folding mechanism, and I have friends who know exactly what to do with a full size bike. I'm sure most of the maintenance is similar, but I think I'd need to figure out the stuff on the folding mechanism. I kept mentioning reliability - that's not to say I think it would fall apart easily, but I'm looking at it similar to how knife collectors look at folding blades vs fixed blades. It's very hard to make a mechanism to lock up and behave like it was never there. I wouldn't be concerned with a folding bike mechanism - it's just another moving part.

    It seems like those who prefer folding bikes have similar circumstances - they can't take full size bikes on transit, and they are concerned about having it stolen. Luckily we have full size bike racks, and I haven't run across a situation where I was terribly concerned with my bike being stolen. Personally, to deal with the space and travelling problem, the Ritchey Break Away is quite interesting.

  18. #18
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    You clearly discuss for the sake of discussing and did not read my post properly before replying. Since you do not own or ride a folder I can not see how you can have such strong opinions. I think your situation is not typical. Lack of space, lack of bikeracks and safety problems seems to be what most peopel deal with. http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...30#post9412530

  19. #19
    Female Member KitN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badmother View Post
    You clearly discuss for the sake of discussing and did not read my post properly before replying. Since you do not own or ride a folder I can not see how you can have such strong opinions. I think your situation is not typical. Lack of space, lack of bikeracks and safety problems seems to be what most peopel deal with. http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...30#post9412530
    +1

    Yep. I have daily experience as owner and rider of both full-sized and folding bikes commuting and riding in the bicycle theft capital of North America: NYC.

    As I stated prior, both full-sized and folding bikes have their uses; their pros and cons but if theft, space and/or multi-modal commuting is of concern to you, then you can't beat folding bikes. Again, as a person who owns and rides both, you can't beat a folder for the above mentioned situations.

    Also, as I stated prior, there are indeed folding bikes (and other small wheeled bikes) that ride the same and in some cases BETTER and/or faster than their full-sized brethren. Again, Swifts, Birdies and Moultons are just three.

    I bet you didn't know that a world record for speed was set on a 17" wheeled bike!! A Moulton. This record has YET to be beaten:
    http://members.localnet.com/~milliken/liner/
    http://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/her...#recordsracing

    That 17" Moulton owned full-sized bikes! Yes, people, it's true.

    Anyway, there are a good deal of reasons to own and ride a folder but it's up to the individual to decide which fits their lifestyle and usage best.

    To each his or her own.
    Last edited by KitN; 08-03-09 at 04:59 PM.
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  20. #20
    Female Member KitN's Avatar
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    Note, I met the creator and maker of Swift bicycles in person and rode with him: Peter Reich. He resides right here in NYC. I got to ride and play with his personal Swift. It is indeed an excellent alternative to a full-sized bike if space, theft and/or multi-modal commuting is of issue.

    Swifts: "It's a real bike that just happens to fold". And it is.
    Last edited by KitN; 08-03-09 at 05:00 PM.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyoneagle View Post
    Some reasons I don't ride a folder (all things assumed equal on durability and reliability)
    - 20" and 24" wheels are harsher on bumps, transitions, railroad tracks, sudden road irregularities, etc.
    But they steer a LOT quicker and the best bikes have suspension that more than makes up for this. Even if you can't afford a suspension bike, you can choose one with 38mm tyres. It's 700c wheels with thing tyres that are the problem here.

    - larger wheels are more stable at lower speeds. I'm tall, so most of my weight would be WAYYYYY above the axles of a folding bike.
    I don't think physics is on your side here...

    - I climb 700 feet of steady grade with some steeps pn my ride home, and I am accustomed to how a conventional bike 'feels' on climbs. I test rode a folder and did not like how it felt.
    That's one rider with one folder. Designs vary quite a bit, you know. In fact some have 24 or 26 inch wheels.

  22. #22
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KitN View Post

    Also, as I stated prior, there are indeed folding bikes (and other small wheeled bikes) that ride the same and in some cases BETTER and/or faster than their full-sized brethren. Again, Swifts, Birdies and Moultons are just three.

    I bet you didn't know that a world record for speed was set on a 17" wheeled bike!! A Moulton. This record has YET to be beaten:
    http://members.localnet.com/~milliken/liner/
    http://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/her...#recordsracing

    That 17" Moulton owned full-sized bikes! Yes, people, it's true.
    Bikes of this design are banned from racing in the TDF as unfair competition. UCI rule 1.3.018. (Ok, I used google!)

  23. #23
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KitN View Post
    ...

    I bet you didn't know that a world record for speed was set on a 17" wheeled bike!! A Moulton. This record has YET to be beaten:
    http://members.localnet.com/~milliken/liner/
    http://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/her...#recordsracing

    That 17" Moulton owned full-sized bikes! Yes, people, it's true.

    Anyway, there are a good deal of reasons to own and ride a folder but it's up to the individual to decide which fits their lifestyle and usage best.

    To each his or her own.
    It also had fairings ...



    The Moulton that set the record is not something you're going to buy off the showroom floor at an LBS. It's also probably not something you'd want to ride to work, although I'd definitely try it once given the chance.

    It's perfectly OK for a bike not to be all things to all people. I'm not sure why some folks have to insist that a folder is every bit as good or better than a full sized road bike at being a road bike. That's not to say that people wouldn't be surprised at how fast they can be or that many cyclists who ride road bikes today wouldn't be happier with a folder.

  24. #24
    Female Member KitN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    Bikes of this design are banned from racing in the TDF as unfair competition. UCI rule 1.3.018. (Ok, I used google!)
    You smart cookie. I like a man that knows his way around The Googles.

    Yep, smaller wheels were banned after because the TDF felt that small wheels had an "unfair" advantage over full-sized wheels. Haha!

    Can you imagine how fast Lance would be on a Moulton Speed bike? Holy cow! Maybe then he wouldn't need the Dope.
    Ride what you like. Ride in what you like.

  25. #25
    Female Member KitN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
    It also had fairings ...

    The Moulton that set the record is not something you're going to buy off the showroom floor at an LBS. It's also probably not something you'd want to ride to work, although I'd definitely try it once given the chance.

    It's perfectly OK for a bike not to be all things to all people. I'm not sure why some folks have to insist that a folder is every bit as good or better than a full sized road bike at being a road bike. That's not to say that people wouldn't be surprised at how fast they can be or that many cyclists who ride road bikes today wouldn't be happier with a folder.
    Yep, like I said: To each his or her own. But I'm not sure why some folks insist that full-sized bikes are "better" than folders when they've never even owned or ridden a folder at length.

    Have they even seen a Moulton in real life? Have they ever ridden a Swift? Have they ever ridden a Brompton? Have they ever ridden a Bike Friday? Have they ever owned or ridden any folder at any length? Do they own both a folding bike and a full-sized bike?

    I can say "yes" to all the above and then some. Can those the most vocal against folding bikes in this thread say the same? If not, their argument would be supposition, speculation and without merit.

    Both types of bikes are great for their intended purposes. It's up to the individual to decide which suits his/her needs the best.
    Last edited by KitN; 08-03-09 at 06:29 PM.
    Ride what you like. Ride in what you like.

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