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Folding Bikes Discuss the unique features and issues of folding bikes. Also a great place to learn what folding bike will work best for your needs.

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Old 05-23-12, 12:09 AM   #1
emanuel_v19
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New to Folding Bicycles!

Guy/Gals,

So ive decided that i want to buy a folding bike. My only issue is the wheel size. Is it a huge difference btwn the 16" and 20". I only want it for the city. I prefer 16 cause its smaller. LIke i said, its only for the city. Nothing more. The longest commute could be 15miles but again through the city. Please let me know. Thank You.

Jose Manuel
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Old 05-23-12, 12:24 AM   #2
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I don't know much about it, but I think the larger the diameter of the wheel, the easier it will roll over imperfections in the road. I.e., less rolling resistance.

IMO, 15 miles is a pretty long ride.

Why do you prefer smaller wheels? Do you have a storage requirement? Carrying it onto a crowded subway where 2" of additional radius might make a difference?
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Old 05-23-12, 02:49 AM   #3
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I've had both. There is a difference, but it's not huge. At least not for the start - stop of city riding.

However, there is a much greater range of tires available in 20" size. IMHO, one of the easiest ways to change the way a bike rides is the swap the tires out.

I guess my advice would be that unless you want / need the smaller fold that a 16" wheel bikes provides, a 20 incher is a safer bet.
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Old 05-23-12, 02:58 AM   #4
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You don't need to stay in the city with a 16" bike:
http://www.dekter.net/lakesentr2008/lakesentr2008.html
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Old 05-23-12, 03:34 AM   #5
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I was just thinking since its smaller it will be more convenient when dealing with space. Like I said 15mi but in city. Stop and go and so forth. I'm just trying to see if this will be a problem with what wheels I choose.
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Old 05-23-12, 06:00 AM   #6
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I think you should list/rank what features are most important because no one bike does everything well.

Physical space vs. riding ability vs. folding speed are the tradeoffs I've faced.
I had a tiny Dahon Curve (16") in the trunk of the car and it rode OK, but it was flexy and for occasional short trips only.
I have a Dahon Silvertip which rides like a real road bike with no flex. I use it for suitcase travelling and riding around town but it is too complex to fold and too big to take onto a crowded train.
Since I use skytrains and subways, I am now looking at a Strida. It seems the fastest to fold/trolley through a station, has a small footprint, but it is a slow cruiser style bike.
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Old 05-23-12, 07:37 AM   #7
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Good 16" bikes that will make a 15 miles trip comfy are not that common. 20" gives you a lot more to choose between. With that said, I wouldn't enjoy having a 20" Dahon folding type of bike with me on the bus, for example.
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Old 05-23-12, 08:01 AM   #8
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You don't need to stay in the city with a 16" bike:
http://www.dekter.net/lakesentr2008/lakesentr2008.html
Indeed not. My 16" incher has been all over the Scottish countryside without issue.

I'm really starting to think that all this frame material / wheel size / saddle type & position / IGH vs derailer / etc. stuff is only relevant when you get to the last 10 % of the cycling experience. As long as the bike is comfy, safe, doesn't break down every 15 miles, and the rider likes it you're 90% there.

I can't remember the last time I rode a bike (in good mechanical condition) that I didn't like.

I guess with folders making sure it folds small enough for your needs is essential too.

The last 10% can't really be decided until you've been around the block enough times to know what you really want, and is entirely individual.
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Old 05-23-12, 08:39 AM   #9
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The last 10% can't really be decided until you've been around the block enough times to know what you really want, and is entirely individual.
I agree totally with bendembroski!

The only thing I would add is that the 16" wheel bikes smaller fold is an advantage only if you ride the train/bus/subway/tube where a smaller fold is desireable/necessary. I ride a 16" wheel DaHon (since 11 mi. of my commute are on the Metro train) and really appreciate the smaller fold.

The ride quality is adequate if not exceptional and no doubt would be better with a larger (20" wheel) folder. So, basically, if you need a small fold, go 16" and if not go 20".

Rick / OCRR
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Old 05-23-12, 08:40 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by emanuel_v19 View Post
Guy/Gals,

So ive decided that i want to buy a folding bike. My only issue is the wheel size. Is it a huge difference btwn the 16" and 20". I only want it for the city. I prefer 16 cause its smaller. LIke i said, its only for the city. Nothing more. The longest commute could be 15miles but again through the city. Please let me know. Thank You.

Jose Manuel
You neglected to mention what's your budget and road conditions. If in the city, chances are you will be riding in relatively good roads that a 16" would suffice. If roads aren't so good, then you might want to consider 20" wheels on a bike that will fit wide fat tires like the Big Apple. The folding size of the infamous Brompton is not all that smaller than say compared to a Tern Link -- I had compared both in both at my local bike store as well as just recently at Clever Cycles in Portland. However, the Brompton does fold nicely, neatly and relatively compact than a Dahon or a Tern thus far. If your longest commute is 15 miles, the question is not so much on the wheel size but rather on fit. Some people fit on certain 20" folders, yet some people need shorter or a longer cockpit that a custom Bike Friday can offer or a Dahon/Tern on the upright shorter end. I SUGGEST that you test ride both wheel sizes or even rent it for a few days from your local bike store and have the rental cost put towards your new bike purchase instead. I had the opportunity to do this on several occasions in Portland thru Clever Cycles as they rent Bromptons. As much as I like the "B" fold size, the ride comfort of the 16" Brompton is inferior against my Dahons and the fit isn't to my liking. See.. It's only through days of riding that you'll find this out!!
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Old 05-23-12, 08:30 PM   #11
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Others have far more experience since I've only recently come into folding bikes, but I've hauled my Brompton to a couple of cities in Ontario and over to Atlantic Canada, as well as to work when I can. I have to say that the Brompton's compact fold is very nice. I test rode a Tern (nice ride), but the fold doesn't compare to the Brompton's in terms of actual compactness and "neatness". If compact and as-low-as-possible-hassle travel is even only a partial consideration, heavily factor in how well the bike folds up.

ben's advice is spot on: "I'm really starting to think that all this frame material / wheel size / saddle type & position / IGH vs derailer / etc. stuff is only relevant when you get to the last 10 % of the cycling experience. As long as the bike is comfy, safe, doesn't break down every 15 miles, and the rider likes it you're 90% there."

I think the corollary is also true. When you're not biking and you need to haul it around and even if that non-biking portion is only 10%... if the bike's folded configuration is a pain-in-the-saddle for you to deal with (everybody's different), you'll hate it or regret it. The analogy I use is traveling with only a carry-on or the "one bag" philosophy. When you travel, the actual travel is probably only 10% to 20% of your total time, but if you have the wrong bag, packed too much, or packed the wrong thing, you'll dread the actual travel disproportionately, regardless of how good the rest of the trip is.

I don't have any experience with 20" wheels, but I can see how in some cases having 20" wheels could give me a better ride or at least more options. If you're mostly confined to the city, I suspect 16" wheels would serve you 90% of the time.
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Old 05-23-12, 08:47 PM   #12
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I don't have any experience with 20" wheels, but I can see how in some cases having 20" wheels could give me a better ride or at least more options. If you're mostly confined to the city, I suspect 16" wheels would serve you 90% of the time.
I would go further and say 100% of the time. I can't think of any specific set of conditions where riding a 16" wheel would require you to walk where a 20" wheel would allow you to ride. Or maybe I can - some loose gravel/sand, with a fat 20" tyre, you could conceivably ride through on the 20" wheel but not the 16" one. So except for a very contrived situation, you're OK 100%.
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Old 05-23-12, 09:23 PM   #13
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Or maybe I can - some loose gravel/sand, with a fat 20" tyre, you could conceivably ride through on the 20" wheel but not the 16" one. So except for a very contrived situation, you're OK 100%.
That's pretty much it. I was on the Confederation Trail outside of Charlottetown in PEI and there was a section where the 16" wheels were manageable, but bigger, fatter tires would have made a small but noticeable difference.
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Old 05-23-12, 09:26 PM   #14
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NB there are 2 different 16" wheels 349 and 305
the smaller rim has the bigger tire. more cush , less PSI.

349 tires are offered to be inflated to a higher pressure.

there is a similar 20" sub section..

406, pretty common tires 451.. High pressure, narrow, may be harder to find spares,

I have a 349, Brompton, and a 406, Bike Friday, ... myself.
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Old 05-23-12, 10:21 PM   #15
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Jose, I think that the stock gearing for a 16" folder vs a 20" folder should be more of a concern than the difference in ride quality between the two sizes of wheels. You may find a 16" folder that folds into a small package but will limit your top speed (if you don't replace the chainring and/or cassette/freewheel). For example, on the very inexpensive side of folding bikes a Citizen Tokyo with 16" wheels is geared at 46.1 gear inches at the top whereas the Citizen Miami with 20" wheels is geared at 64 gear inches at top yet it shares the same drivetrain as the Tokyo.

In order to make my Miami more suitable for my commuting/utilitarian needs (~80 GI on top) I laced up a freehub and added an 11-28 cassette... otherwise the stock gearing would have me pedaling like a madman yet not getting up to the speeds I'm accustomed to. The Tokyo, on the other hand, would have called for either fitting a 66 tooth chainring (that's huge and would most likely be a custom order item) or a 53 tooth chainring with a 11-28 cassette and a freehub laced up... or of course an approriate internal hub which would be more expensive than the previous options.
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Old 05-23-12, 11:25 PM   #16
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I would suggest going for 20" tires initially. Like Bendembroski said, there is a wider range of 20" tires. It will make some (though not much) difference in the ride as well. 15 miles is a long enough commute.

I'm going to go ahead and outrightly name a few 20" folders that you can consider:
Columba 20" 7-speed
Schwill Loop 7-speed
Xootr Swift

Since you say you're new to folders and if you don't feel particularly brave, I suggest going with a known and reputed maker like Dahon. The Eco C6, the Boardwalk and the Mariner are all excellent 20 inchers that come with the trustworthiness of a big brand.

If you're set on a 16-inch folder, however, try the Strida. It is ideal for short urban commuting and is virtually maintenance-free. The design may take a little getting used to, there really isn't a better 16-incher for the city IMO.
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Old 05-24-12, 01:10 AM   #17
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I would suggest going for 20" tires initially. Like Bendembroski said, there is a wider range of 20" tires. It will make some (though not much) difference in the ride as well. 15 miles is a long enough commute.

I'm going to go ahead and outrightly name a few 20" folders that you can consider:
Columba 20" 7-speed
Schwill Loop 7-speed
Xootr Swift

Since you say you're new to folders and if you don't feel particularly brave, I suggest going with a known and reputed maker like Dahon. The Eco C6, the Boardwalk and the Mariner are all excellent 20 inchers that come with the trustworthiness of a big brand.

If you're set on a 16-inch folder, however, try the Strida. It is ideal for short urban commuting and is virtually maintenance-free. The design may take a little getting used to, there really isn't a better 16-incher for the city IMO.
I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on a Strida.
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Old 05-24-12, 04:06 AM   #18
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I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on a Strida.
I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on any 16-inch folder, to tell you the truth.

Depends on the usage, really. The Strida is also decently expensive. But according to me, for the average city commute, there really isn't a better 16" alternative. Plus, it's got the neatest fold in its class.
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Old 05-24-12, 04:39 AM   #19
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I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on any 16-inch folder, to tell you the truth.

Depends on the usage, really. The Strida is also decently expensive. But according to me, for the average city commute, there really isn't a better 16" alternative. Plus, it's got the neatest fold in its class.
Horses for courses, but I regularly do 15+ miles on my Brompton without any trouble at all. City, country, hilly, flat, whatever. I suspect I could do much the same on a Dahon Curve. FWIW, I've never found the size of the fold to be a problem either.

Not saying your Strida doesn't meet your particular needs perfectly. Just saying there are other viable alternatives out there too.
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Old 05-24-12, 05:34 AM   #20
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I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on any 16-inch folder, to tell you the truth.

Depends on the usage, really. The Strida is also decently expensive. But according to me, for the average city commute, there really isn't a better 16" alternative. Plus, it's got the neatest fold in its class.
Haven't had mine long, but my 16" Mezzo D9 has been fine for 20+ mile rides. I enjoy the ride and it is smooth, nice pedaling. (I know where you can get a new Mezzo I4 for less than $700-Trail Sports Bicycles in Seminole, FL).

As others have said though, at 16" (the 349 sized rim) there are limited tire options. I just put on Schwalbe Marathons (over the Kenda Kwests) and they made a significant difference in improved ride. I prefer a wider tire, but really not any available in more than 1.5 inch.

I have folded mine a bunch and it fits great on the bus, etc.

I have not tried a 20".
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Old 05-24-12, 05:50 AM   #21
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You don't need to stay in the city with a 16" bike:
http://www.dekter.net/lakesentr2008/lakesentr2008.html
Hi-jack - sorry for the slight diversion. Jur, what kickstand do you have on the 16"? PM me if you can - thanks.
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Old 05-24-12, 07:18 AM   #22
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My 16" wheels are fine for asphalt or concrete, but not great on other surfaces, like the packed dirt and gravel on the C&O Canal towpath. My bike is fine for my current 7 mile commute to work, was acceptable for the 10 mile trip from my previous domicile. I've ridden longer pootles, but I wouldn't want a 15 mile commute on it - a pootle is more relaxed, take a break when you want, don't have to ride the whole distance at one go.
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Old 05-24-12, 07:25 AM   #23
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I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on a Strida.
I don't have a Strida, nor have I personally seen one either, but I have to agree with bendembroski... if you're going to go for a 16" folder, I'm not sure you can beat a Brompton for a long commute. (I'm sure a Dahon is pretty decent too.) I haven't pushed my Brompton to 15+ miles yet simply because I haven't had it that long yet, but I've done about half that distance, up and down hills, embankments, into strong headwinds, packed trails, loaded with luggage, at night through the city, over potholes, through lots of people on a congested sidewalk, etc. I have the 6-speed Brompton Wide Range reduced gearing - I figured I would do more climbing, stop and start biking in the city than just out right flat cruising - and it's been really versatile: the earlier comment from BassNotBass about gearing being really important and maybe even more important than just tire size is something to consider heavily in your decision in my opinion.
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Old 05-24-12, 09:02 AM   #24
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I can't imagine happily doing a regular 15 mile commute on any 16-inch folder, to tell you the truth.

Depends on the usage, really. The Strida is also decently expensive. But according to me, for the average city commute, there really isn't a better 16" alternative. Plus, it's got the neatest fold in its class.
Wheelsize alone does not necessarily dictate ride quality. A combination of wheelsize and "wheelbase" make a bike either ride well or ride worst. The problem with the 16" option is that a lot of makers are emphasizing more on the fold rather than on ride quality because that's what people are looking for in a smaller sized wheels. People need to realize that you can't have the cake and eat it too when it comes to folder bikes; but sadly a lot of people want just 1 bike but a bike that does many things. If you are willing to compromise a bit and go 16", I would say the Brompton is the best option thus far in terms of compact folding and ride quality as it has a long wheelbase to begin with, just as long as a full sized touring bike!! And that helps contribute to great handling and good ride quality plus the Brompton comes with a rear suspension elastomer to help smooth out the ride.

Again. In terms of folding, a 20" folder bike isn't any BIGGER in terms of footprint than a 16" Brompton despite what many are trying to say here. They both fit in trains and buses and qualify as carry-ons and the Dahons and Terns will fit in a legal size 62"suitcase with room to spare. You can compress the fold on the Dahon a bit by doing the "N" fold so the 2 magnets don't touch. Tern does N fold, but I've been doing the N fold on my Speed Uno and Mu SL for the longest time and have no problems.

A 15 mile commute is not a problem as long as the bike fits you or any bike really. Laura Crawford and Russ Roca (of PathLessPedaled) tour with their Bromptons and the last time I've talked to them which was this year; they've been riding far more than 15 miles and with heavy backpacks and front Brompton bags doing cycle camping no problem. I couldn't feel at all comfortable with a Brompton for as long as I tried cause it's designed to be super uber upright riding and I prefer less upright. So when you're looking to buy a folding bike, ask yourself this question. Why do you need a 16"? So you can store it in your closet? So you can ride the tube/skytrain in the peak hours where people are packed like sardines? Or your transit service charges increase for 2 to 3 zones fare in your city so you need to evade and save on less zones?
On my daily commutes, the only times I see people riding a Brompton is when they are doing one or all of the above. For example, a Brompton rider I see everyday commutes from Richmond to Vancouver to catch the Vancouver train. If the person takes the train in Richmond, that would be a 2 zone but if the rider simply rides 10km to the Vancouver station which is just across the water, it would be just one zone. That's a saving of $29/month, roughly $350/year which makes the Brompton ownership easier to swallow as it will take roughly 3 years to pay it off plus the savings you can make by reducing the reliance on your car thus lightening the repair loads.
As you can see here, there are a lot of factors that determine why people choose 16" as opposed to 20". If that same rider chooses to ride to work in downtown Vancouver from Richmond every day like I do, then I will forego the 16" and go with 20" as my Dahon Mu SL have way superior V-brakes than the weak weak Brompton brakes especially going down a long steep 18% hill in the rain which is part of my commute plus the Thudbuster ST and Big Apple tires provide the smoothest ride you could ever get with a 20" folder.

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Old 05-24-12, 09:31 AM   #25
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Bike Friday lets you go wild on picking the drivetrain options, handle bars, etc.
from a large menu.
.. others you buy it and tweak things, once you get it home.
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