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  1. #1
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    16" wheels vs. 20" wheels

    these two sizes are common for most folders.
    Are there advantages to one over the other?
    Which would you recommend?

  2. #2
    Velocommuter Commando Sirrus Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by special_k View Post
    these two sizes are common for most folders.
    Are there advantages to one over the other?
    Which would you recommend?

    Well, 20" tires are easier to find in podunk USA.

  3. #3
    Car free since 1995 pm124's Avatar
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    16" wheels fold smaller and stronger, but require suspension.

    Some folks think fat tires afford adequate suspension, but there is a big weight loss there. There aren't many decent fat tires in this size, either, though the thorn resistant Greenspeed Scorchers might be an option. (The non-TR tires go flat if you look at them funny.)

    I prefer the 349 size, but only on a suspended bike, such as the Birdy or Moulton. There is debate about whether efficiency differs by wheel size (given the same tire and road condition), but there is little doubt that an unsuspended wheel in this size will give a harsh ride.

  4. #4
    Weakling
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    16" wheels fold smaller and stronger, but require suspension.
    May I kindly suggest such is highly subjective? Or dependent on individual taste?

    I have had some 7 bikes.

    Microbike which have 12" wheels. No suspension and
    I guess why you would have liked to have suspension.
    One feel every little thing in the road. So try to find
    a friend or neighbor or a dealer that let you test 16".

    If it feels ok with you, no need what so ever for suspension
    but a need to get used to that it feels rough. All about preferences.

    Your bike maybe don't have that feature so reality set the limit to needs.
    You have to buy a bike with suspension with a the price you don't want to.

    But if price is of no concern then buy the best there is.

    I have 20" and 26" and 28" bikes too. sure they are different in comfort.

    But needs are highly individual. 12" is much more vibration without suspension.
    But it was the only 12" available to me so I had to deal with it. No big deal.

    I'm usually very touchy about comfort. I'm an indoor person. Only goes out
    if I must to buy food or so. So I sure have needs but it is a compromise with price.

    If your priority is comfort when riding then sure buy the best there is. I would.

  5. #5
    Senior Member brommie's Avatar
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    Brompton

    There was not much choice for me, because I wanted a Brompton. No complains about the tyre size. Now I'm testing the Schwalbe Marathon, till now I only used the Yellow (no Kevlar) Brompton tyre.
    I noticed that there is more choice in rims and tyres in 20 inch, and that's a pity because I have seen some very nice wheels on a 20 inch Dahon.
    But we can't have it all ...

  6. #6
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    I have a preference for 16" folders. Maybe it's my road biking background and I'm just used to the road buzz from skinny, high psi 700C tires, but I just don't feel a difference in ride quality between the two sizes when I'm riding on paved roads. The pneumatic tires soak up the road vibration I need.

    The difference comes when you ride off-road or going over potholes. Then the smaller tires get "swallowed up" easier by the holes. Under those conditions, a larger wheel is better, but it's questionable whether 20" is large enough.

    Of course, a large part of this question depends on air pressure, tire width and tire compound. I guess that's why the subject comes up so often and there never seems to be agreement.

  7. #7
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brommie View Post
    There was not much choice for me, because I wanted a Brompton. No complains about the tyre size. Now I'm testing the Schwalbe Marathon, till now I only used the Yellow (no Kevlar) Brompton tyre.
    I noticed that there is more choice in rims and tyres in 20 inch, and that's a pity because I have seen some very nice wheels on a 20 inch Dahon.
    But we can't have it all ...
    +1

    14R

  8. #8
    Velocommuter Commando Sirrus Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by special_k View Post
    these two sizes are common for most folders.
    Are there advantages to one over the other?
    Which would you recommend?
    Oh.. I'm partial to Tiaoga Comp Pool TA's Their not really a street tire per se, but they're fast and they work well. I might experiment with Bell "Walmart Specials" Why? The next Raleigh Twenty I'm going to overhaul needs a lot of work and I can't afford $50 a-pop tires which is what the Comp Pools set me back. After inspecting the Bells they don't look too bad.. I think they may be a little heavier than comparable upscale tires.

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    Quote Originally Posted by special_k View Post
    these two sizes are common for most folders.
    Are there advantages to one over the other?
    Which would you recommend?
    You choose the size not by the advantages but what you are going to do with the folder.

    If you are going to use the bike in multimode commuting using the bus, then the 16' inch folder is the best way to go. If you have an airplane or small boat, the 16' inch folder is the best way to go. Otherwise, you would be better off with a 20' inch folder.

  10. #10
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    You choose the size not by the advantages but what you are going to do with the folder.
    I agree.

    From a performance/comfort perspective, I think that the 20" wheels are the better choice.

    For a compact fold, the 16" wheels are the better choice.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by special_k View Post
    these two sizes are common for most folders.
    Are there advantages to one over the other?
    Which would you recommend?
    There are actually four sizes in common use, but bike wheel size naming is confusing, so two of those sizes are called "20 inch" and two of them are called "16 inch".

    The four sizes are:
    305mm
    349mm
    406mm
    451mm

    Birdy also uses the close to 349mm size of 355mm and called it 18inch.

    406mm has the most tire options by far.

    349mm and 305mm are more compact so they let bikes fold down smaller. 305mm is used by Dahon and Downtube, while 349mm is used by the Bike Friday Tikit and Brompton.

    451mm is mostly used on the performance oriented Bike Fridays, but I've also seen Swift Folder use it (not on the Xootrs) and some Raleigh 20s used it. 451mm is nice because it still fits into 29-30" suitcases but doesn't require chainrings that are quite as large. The downside is that only narrow high pressure tires are available for it.

    I wouldn't get too hung up on wheel/tire size. Pick the right bike for you and let the wheel size follow. I've owned three folding bikes (Swift Folder, Bike Friday NWT, and Bike Friday Tikit). I don't notice any significant differences with the Tikit's 55mm smaller wheels despite my dislike of the stock Schwalbe Marathon tires.

    alex

  12. #12
    Senior Member Fear&Trembling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awetmore View Post
    451mm is mostly used on the performance oriented Bike Fridays, but I've also seen Swift Folder use it (not on the Xootrs) and some Raleigh 20s used it. 451mm is nice because it still fits into 29-30" suitcases but doesn't require chainrings that are quite as large. The downside is that only narrow high pressure tires are available for it.

    The Xootr will also take 451s. The widest tyre in the 451 size is the Primo Comet (37-451 or 20x 1 3/8 85 psi).

  13. #13
    Explorer CaptainSpalding's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awetmore View Post
    I wouldn't get too hung up on wheel/tire size. Pick the right bike for you and let the wheel size follow.
    Often for owners of folders, wheel size is a leading factor, not one that follows. Once you've decided that you need a folding bike, the next question is "how small."
    I came to say I must be folding . . .
    Dahon Jetstream XP
    Dahon Helios SL
    Strida 5.0
    Twenty project


    — or not . . .
    Fisher Mt. Tam (c.1988)
    Merlin Road flat bar project
    Schwinn Twinn Deluxe

  14. #14
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    Hi
    I have had 20” folder and currently have 16” Merc. I like riding better with Merc – due to the better driving position after modifying the bike a little. I can’t say there is any difference in riding between 16 and 20 wheels – the bike geometry is more important.
    But where the size difference may show is gear selection: with 20” you can have wider range of rear-derailleur gears, with 16” it’s easier to stick with hub-gear (+front derailleur combination). So I think.
    Have a nice holiday season you all.

  15. #15
    Hauja
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    Not forgetting!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sirrus Rider View Post
    Well, 20" tires are easier to find in podunk USA.
    There are many great 20 inch Bmx tires available.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    For whatever it may be worth I'll share my first impressions, as I tried three Dahon bikes back to back before deciding to buy. Vitesse D7 (20"), Speed D7 (20"), and Curve D3 (16"). I felt very comfortable on the 20" bikes (other than less than 2 lbs, there is not much difference in the ride, handling or feel between the two 20" bikes). I really did not like the 16". A combination of more bumps transmitted, and a feel of 'bump steer" over the same stretch of pavement made the decision easy for me.

  17. #17
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    To the OP,
    It's like everyone else said the most important thing about wheel size is whether or not it will fit where you need it to. Other than that, larger wheels are marginally better. However, beware that bikes designed with smaller wheels often also have other design characteristics which might make them less rideable.

    Quote Originally Posted by SesameCrunch View Post
    The difference comes when you ride off-road or going over potholes. Then the smaller tires get "swallowed up" easier by the holes. Under those conditions, a larger wheel is better, but it's questionable whether 20" is large enough.
    Has anyone ever heard of this actually happening?

  18. #18
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu View Post
    Has anyone ever heard of this actually happening?
    Actually flipping over? I don't recall anyone writing that here. Personally, I have had a few close calls with a curb and a larger than normal hole--obscured by grass--off of a well-traveled path in the area.

    But is there really any doubt that if one rides a 16", 20", and 27" wheel bike down the same bumpy road that you will notice a difference in ride? Now most people would make different choices of where to ride--even on that same street/road/etc.--with the different size wheels.

  19. #19
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    Inline skate people feel that wheel diameter changes measured in millimeters affect ride and handling. That is wholly subjective IMO but is it hard to imagine that there is a ride quality difference between a 700C wheel and a 20" one or between a 20" wheel and a 16" one? I have only the comparison between the 700C/20" but it is enough to tell me that I don't want to go any smaller. With quality suspension a small diameter wheel can be made to ride as well as a larger unsuspended one but it should not be a subject of argument as to whether smaller wheels, unsuspended, have a harsher ride, they do. Period.

    I saw in my LBS a 16" Dahon with a 9sp cluster. The rear dropout spacing looked as wide as my tandem! Folded the package is so wide that one cannot pass through a standard doorway without first positioning it so it goes through first. This requires both hands. OTOH my 20" Halfway even though it is just as tall folded as the Dahon but a few inches deeper but only 1/2 as wide can pass through a standard doorway beside me, held in one hand, leaving the other one free to hold my latte.

    IMO one should get very hung up on wheel size, bigger is better ride quality wise unless suspension ($$$) is budgeted in. Full size (26") wheels are probably too big to make a practical folder. I see them in the catalogs but I wonder who buys them. 16" wheels are obviously the way to go if you need to get around a metro area at the other end of a plane trip but if you want to tour the English or French countryside on your folder I think you might be better served figuring out how to make a 20" folder pack into your luggage. It can be done.

    It might be me but I don't see a lot of 16" folders on the road. That in and of itself is a good reason to consider very, very carefully why and if you really need one.

    H

  20. #20
    Señor Mambo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    IMO one should get very hung up on wheel size, bigger is better ride quality wise unless suspension ($$$) is budgeted in. Full size (26") wheels are probably too big to make a practical folder. I see them in the catalogs but I wonder who buys them. 16" wheels are obviously the way to go if you need to get around a metro area at the other end of a plane trip but if you want to tour the English or French countryside on your folder I think you might be better served figuring out how to make a 20" folder pack into your luggage. It can be done.
    Are you saying any of the above based on personal experience?

  21. #21
    Weakling
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    I have both 12" and 20" and have no experience of 16".

    The difference I notice between 12" and 20" is how the small wheel sense every small thing in the street. small gravels that is not noticed on the 20" makes the 12" vibrate. Apart from that I prefer the 12" cause it allows me to use it where the 20" would never be allowed to enter.

    so it is more about what purpose one have.

    But I am skeptical about 6" wheels like the A-bike. Would I really ride well on that one?

    I feel good using my 12" wheel foldable bike.

    The very bad thing is the tires. 20" has so many more different qualities to choose among.
    I bought a bmx version to use in winter for the 20" foldable. Don't know if such exists in
    good quality for 12".

    Here is my flickr.com link and on a ESLA double kickbike there is a BMX looking 12" rear wheels and they are a core to use. I bought in second hand and the owner had put them there and me too lazy to replace them. It is my experiment 4wheeler to see how it deal with snow and ice. It is too big and heavy to use in commuter transportation. people trip and fall to the ground so it is not practical in crowded buses or trains. But works in my food store. They accept it as a bigger Rollator/Walker type of aid for old people.

    The bike vibrate like being mad on the knobs of the BMX patterns. I sound like a chain saw when I use it. People stare at me.

    http://flickr.com/photos/8233858@N05...7600645923733/

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    IMO one should get very hung up on wheel size, bigger is better ride quality wise unless suspension ($$$) is budgeted in. Full size (26") wheels are probably too big to make a practical folder. I see them in the catalogs but I wonder who buys them. 16" wheels are obviously the way to go if you need to get around a metro area at the other end of a plane trip but if you want to tour the English or French countryside on your folder I think you might be better served figuring out how to make a 20" folder pack into your luggage. It can be done.

    It might be me but I don't see a lot of 16" folders on the road. That in and of itself is a good reason to consider very, very carefully why and if you really need one.
    I've done countryside touring on my 349mm (the larger of the 16" sizes) folding bicycle with no problem.

    Tires make a bigger difference than the wheel size. Harsh tires like the Schwable Marathon in 406mm feel worse than supple tires in 349mm.

    I'd really look at other aspects of the bicycle first, then narrow down on wheel size. If you want a compact and fast fold then 406mm isn't a great option.

    Calling it 16" or 20" is silly due to the real sizing that I mentioned above. In reality there are rim sizes at approximately 2" increments.

  23. #23
    Weakling
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    I have no experience doing "Dirt" biking down hill or in muddy country tracks off road? But if we find somebody who have ride this bike they could tell if the very small wheels makes it difficult.
    Look here. http://www.clou.at/clou_datenuk.html

    Technical Data:

    Handlebar: Height 74 to 91 cm
    Seat: 55 to 93 cm
    Brakes: Rear and front drum brake
    Folding pedals
    Internal 3 or 5 gear hub with grip shifter
    Tire: 3.00x4" with inner tube
    Now these wheels are wide but small mini scooter wheels? Maybe Italian Vespa? How does one translate 3.00x4" to ordinary wheel size? somewhere between 12 and 16" maybe.

    The guy who made this folding bike make them in for hand. Welding them together at a workshop as far as I know. He most likely makes "stunts" on them too. I ve seen pics on it. So that could explain why he didn't use ordinary wheels. It is a special made bike for his needs as I get it.

    the folding tech is very similar to the Mobiky way of folding. Try to see any differences and tell me. Both of them are pat pend so that is kind of surprising. I mean what is different about the way they fold?

    ok back to wheels. He use Scooter wheels cause that is the only thing strong enough to allow the jumping down from stones to sharp edgy lower stones of road? Or when they do the stunts they jump up and down with the bike all the time.
    Last edited by Weakling; 12-27-07 at 10:50 AM.

  24. #24
    Bromptonaut 14R's Avatar
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    I've been over my handlebars more than once on my (now deceased) Dahon D3. Once it was in mid-traffic with a near-death experience. That was my turning point into a Brompton (longer wheelbase, same wheel category though, almost same size).

  25. #25
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awetmore View Post
    If you want a compact and fast fold then 406mm isn't a great option.
    Is fast folding really a big distinction between 16" and 20" wheels?

    Dahons and Downtubes fold fast. Not as fast as the tikit; but more than reasonable.

    Quote Originally Posted by awetmore View Post
    Calling it 16" or 20" is silly due to the real sizing that I mentioned above. In reality there are rim sizes at approximately 2" increments.
    Definitely can create some confusion. Related to the comment above, I guess we should be thinking about folders with regards to their purpose versus tire size (commuter/performance/etc.).

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