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Thinking of getting my first folding bike, but don't know what to expect

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Thinking of getting my first folding bike, but don't know what to expect

Old 05-11-19, 07:21 PM
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Thinking of getting my first folding bike, but don't know what to expect

Hi all,

I've never had a folding bike, but recently I've been tempted to get one, as I see it might have advantages for commuting or traveling with bike.

I've only had regular size road bikes with 700x25c or 700x32c tires.

Are folding bikes with their really small wheels, much slower than regular bikes with 700c wheels? I've heard of Brompton, seems quite famous, and it has tiny wheels. So I'm not sure if a folding bike is going to be much slower.

Also, what other differences are there between a regular road bike with 700c wheels, and a folding bike with small wheels (apart from the obvious visual differences.... like ride quality, speed, etc).
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Old 05-12-19, 12:05 AM
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I have been overtaking people on road bikes while riding a loaded Brompton, so a blanket statement about folding bikes being significantly slower than road does not apply. Given that a folding bike must fold and should be packable, you must go with some compromise regarding other aspects. For sure when you compare bikes costing about the same, the folding bikes will be on the average slower. Also a folding bike behaves differently than a regular bike in riding. The latter is relatively stiff and stable. A folding bike flexes and adjusting your rhythm to the bike becomes a bit more important, so that you get back the energy that you put into the flex. Small wheels are more sensitive to unevenness of the ground than large. People used to riding different type of bikes presumably find folding bikes more acceptable right away. In your case it might be a bit of a shock at first. Maybe you can just start visiting stores in your area and take bike for rides. Bike Friday has a program where you can get in contact with a local Bike Friday owner.
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Old 05-12-19, 12:14 AM
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Consider:

what you need it for (long/short commutes, on/off road)

where you will (need to) store it at home and at your destination

whether you have to lift it a lot

what your budget is.

Your decision will largely be determined by your circumstances.

To to give myself as an example: I donít need to put the bike under a desk, it needed to be pretty big and robust, weight wasnít an issue, Year-round weather protection was a bonus.

I ended up with a 26Ē Dahon Espresso which I used so much I pimped with a new drivetrain. It flies along and the ride is much like any other hybrid. It has 32mm tyres.

Total budget inc. upgrades was about Ä350.

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Old 05-12-19, 09:36 AM
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It will depend in part on the bike. Crappy folding bikes ride like crappy bikes. Quality folding bikes ride pretty well to excellent. Generally, the fewer hinges the stiffer the ride. Bike Friday rides just like a big bike; they can be custom made to fit your big bike measurements. Birdy, Airnimal, Brompton, are some of the other top brands. Small tires accelerate faster, so I find they are actually better than larger wheels for stop and go city traffic. As for overall speed, my adult son rides his Jamis 22-24mmph normally and he had zero problems getting my undersized-for-him Bike Friday up to 20-22mph on rides the week he borrowed it. Depends on the engine mostly. I'm sure if the bike had actually fit him he would have consistently met or exceeded his usual speeds (the Friday climbs better than his Jamis).

My personal suggestion for your first folding bike is to get one with 20" wheels, not 16" I eventually went to 16" because I needed the smaller lighter package for carrying, but I still have a 20" single speed (Dahon Mu Uno) and I enjoy riding it. I would only recommend 16" wheels if you need something super small; 20" wheels are a little better on city streets with potholes and a bit softer ride.
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Old 05-12-19, 10:39 AM
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The advice you've been given is correct. If you don't mind giving up 2 to 4 mph from a full size bike, what you'll get is a bike that turns on a dime. You'll be the first one to the other side of the street at a stop light and find yourself moving around people with ease. If your one of those people who has to go faster than everyone than skip buying a folding bike. Large wheels are for rolling over things thus the changes in mountain bikes. For getting around in the city nothing is better than a small wheeled bike.
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Old 05-12-19, 11:10 AM
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Are there any folding bike shops in your area? You really should go test ride a few.
Test ride on the road; but also fold/unfold, lift it up, etc.

My Brompton has no problem keeping(even passing), "standard" bikes:
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Old 05-12-19, 11:16 AM
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Ps, I've commuted w/ my Brompton in summer heat, light snow, heavy rains.
No problems:
Have travelled with it on boats, trains, cars, planes, buses:
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Old 05-13-19, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by fuji_owner
Are folding bikes with their really small wheels, much slower than regular bikes with 700c wheels? I've heard of Brompton, seems quite famous, and it has tiny wheels. So I'm not sure if a folding bike is going to be much slower.

Also, what other differences are there between a regular road bike with 700c wheels, and a folding bike with small wheels (apart from the obvious visual differences.... like ride quality, speed, etc).
I ride a Birdy (rev 3) and think it's great for riding around the city. A previous poster mentioned that folding bikes flex but my bike is completely rigid outside the suspension. My normal exercise ride is laps around Central Park and I do three laps around the park in a bit over an hour for an average of ~18mph. Since I do enjoy going fairly fast on my bike, I've put some thought into going faster on it.

The main thing that makes folding bikes slower than larger wheeled bikes is body position (drag) and gearing. People get hung up on the wheel size but wheel size is a relatively minor factor in speed. I've seen a variety of numbers online but most commonly 15% higher rolling resistance, which sounds bad but rolling resistance is usually in the 25-50 watt range so we're talking...5 watts out of hundreds. Tires make a bigger difference. If you'd like further evidence, velomobiles run much faster than normal bicycles and most of them run 406mm wheels to keep their cross section compact. The main factor is body position. Folding bikes are usually designed for commuting with a relatively upright riding position but that greatly increases the frontal area and drag. You can improve this the same way you do on a road bike, but getting into a more aerodynamic position but how easy/possible that is varies. Finally, the slower/commuter oriented expected use extends to gearing and most folding bikes come with limited gear ratios, limited gearing range, or both.

My bike has a 52t front ring with a 11-32 rear cassette and 38-355 wheels. I can only do 21-22 mph in the highest gear at 100 rpm and I don't pedal smoothly enough to go faster without causing suspension bob. I have a new and overpriced 9-32 cassette that fixes the problem (spin out is...27 mph?) but I'm missing a part to make the switch. I've also tried a number of handlebar options trying to get some more reach so I can get a more aerodynamic body position than a flat bar without compromising the fold. The most recent was finding out about the jones h-bar late last week, which is ridiculously wide for urban use but the forward loop looked promising. I purchased an obviously inspired Origin8 Strongbow since I wanted the lower sweep for the fold and did the swap yesterday. The loop feels promising and I want to give it a test ride before cutting the bar down and wrapping but it's been raining. The loop sticks out from the side when folded but the size and shape is better than other options (bullhorns, drops) I've tried.

The main drawback to smaller wheels is that they don't roll over obstacles as well as larger wheels. Potholes, expansion joins, going off road and any other situation involving things you roll over don't go that well on smaller wheels.
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Old 05-14-19, 10:27 PM
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Originally Posted by fuji_owner
Hi all,

I've never had a folding bike, but recently I've been tempted to get one, as I see it might have advantages for commuting or traveling with bike.

I've only had regular size road bikes with 700x25c or 700x32c tires.

Are folding bikes with their really small wheels, much slower than regular bikes with 700c wheels? I've heard of Brompton, seems quite famous, and it has tiny wheels. So I'm not sure if a folding bike is going to be much slower.

Also, what other differences are there between a regular road bike with 700c wheels, and a folding bike with small wheels (apart from the obvious visual differences.... like ride quality, speed, etc).
Slower? It depends....a good Dahon, bike Friday, Xootr swift will be about as fast. Ditto for an airnamal.

Bromptons are the evolved British 3 speed utility bikes. Immensely practical, convenient, and upright.


What to expect?

- a bike you can bring inside, or in a car, on a plane, under a desk
- will likely cost more than the equivalent nonfolding bikes
- sometimes have weird compromises on stuff like bells and grips (Brompton)

Who do I recommend folding bikes for?

- People without much room
- people living where bikes are quickly stolen
- people that want to live a greener, less oil dependant life
- people that don't mind weird stares.
- people that don't need spandex to ride a bike.
- people that like flexibility

Largely, I find folding bike people to be a bit quirky, immensely practical, and have a sense of humor.... Sort of like the people that carry multitools (swiss army knives, etc).
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Old 05-16-19, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by fuji_owner
Hi all,

I've never had a folding bike, but recently I've been tempted to get one, as I see it might have advantages for commuting or traveling with bike.

I've only had regular size road bikes with 700x25c or 700x32c tires.

Are folding bikes with their really small wheels, much slower than regular bikes with 700c wheels? I've heard of Brompton, seems quite famous, and it has tiny wheels. So I'm not sure if a folding bike is going to be much slower.

Also, what other differences are there between a regular road bike with 700c wheels, and a folding bike with small wheels (apart from the obvious visual differences.... like ride quality, speed, etc).
From what I remember over in another bike community, a typical small wheel folder takes ~2x the energy to get from one place to another because each rotation is a shorter distance and your cranks are shorter. So, as long as you gear properly and keep cadence up, you should be fine for speed, though endurance might suffer.

Or that guy was mistaken.

You might not have quite as much cargo space available - though you can get quite a bit when you introduce baskets and whatnot - if that's important.

What you do get is a bike that's way easier to transport - I can put two folders in my car's trunk, which means my wife and I can have a bike available at our destination without fighting with things like a bike carrier. If there's a train, we can likely bring it aboard. Since it's locked in the trunk, no worries about someone screwing with the bike if we take a rest stop somewhere along the way.

There's some inexpensive ones that seem to be alright (I've got the Origami Crane 8 right now) for not a ton of cash. Cheaper ones can be found, such as the Euromini brand - evidently they're not bad. Seat aside, I rather like my wife's "Loop" by Schwinn.

M.
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Old 05-16-19, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII
From what I remember over in another bike community, a typical small wheel folder takes ~2x the energy to get from one place to another because each rotation is a shorter distance and your cranks are shorter.

Or that guy was mistaken.
That guy was mistaken. The impact of crank length on efficiency is minor unless you're doing huge jumps like 170 to 130. I guess it's possible but I've ridden a number of folding bikes and never run across particularly weird cranks (the recumbent community, on the other hand...). The relationship between wheel size and speed has a bunch of factors but generally winds up being a couple watt difference. You don't see them in the peleton for a good reason but most people won't notice much of a difference.
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Old 05-17-19, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by fuji_owner
Hi all,

I've never had a folding bike, but recently I've been tempted to get one, as I see it might have advantages for commuting or traveling with bike.

I've only had regular size road bikes with 700x25c or 700x32c tires.

Are folding bikes with their really small wheels, much slower than regular bikes with 700c wheels? I've heard of Brompton, seems quite famous, and it has tiny wheels. So I'm not sure if a folding bike is going to be much slower.

Also, what other differences are there between a regular road bike with 700c wheels, and a folding bike with small wheels (apart from the obvious visual differences.... like ride quality, speed, etc).

Hey OP,

Have you had a chance to try one?

We can talk all we want, but a ride is worth over a thousand words.
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Old 05-18-19, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by grayrest
That guy was mistaken. The impact of crank length on efficiency is minor unless you're doing huge jumps like 170 to 130. I guess it's possible but I've ridden a number of folding bikes and never run across particularly weird cranks (the recumbent community, on the other hand...). The relationship between wheel size and speed has a bunch of factors but generally winds up being a couple watt difference. You don't see them in the peleton for a good reason but most people won't notice much of a difference.
Oof, I'm more out of shape than I thought, then

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Old 05-18-19, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII
Oof, I'm more out of shape than I thought, then
Note that I'm talking purely in terms of wheel size. Things like running marathons on the folder vs GP4ks on a road bike or running an internal hub vs a cassette make a noticeable difference. I'll further add that shortening the crank length affects the moment arm on the crank but tends to give the rider a better angle on the power stroke so the anecdotes I've heard is that it winds up being maybe a gear down but about the same power output.
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Old 05-18-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by grayrest
Note that I'm talking purely in terms of wheel size. Things like running marathons on the folder vs GP4ks on a road bike or running an internal hub vs a cassette make a noticeable difference. I'll further add that shortening the crank length affects the moment arm on the crank but tends to give the rider a better angle on the power stroke so the anecdotes I've heard is that it winds up being maybe a gear down but about the same power output.
Hah, can't say I have any insight into that really. I am definitely out of shape though so that's the real culprit

I did notice, though, that it is really difficult for me to "climb out of the saddle" on my folding bike. Mind, I have some ankle issues (my Achilles tendons are too short and it forces me to walk on the balls of my feet 100% of the time), but I was able to kinda do it a bit on my old road bike - not this one though. Haven't really scrutinized why, though, since I don't really need to do it much yet.

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Old 05-22-19, 01:37 PM
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Test ride them; if you are concerned with performance look at Bike Friday.
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Old 05-22-19, 07:44 PM
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Expect awesomeness and severe addiction.
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Old 05-22-19, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Hinge
Expect awesomeness and severe addiction.
+1

Also, you will instantly be more interesting and approachable
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Old 05-23-19, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by mlau
+1

Also, you will instantly be more interesting and approachable
Tell me about it,...everyone thinks my folders a cool, and the internal gear hub bikes are always asked about the most. People think they're electric bikes,...and it's all me. LOL!!!
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Old 05-23-19, 11:27 AM
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If you`re used to riding a road bike and you want easy speed with your folding bike, I recommend you check out swiftfolders.com

These 20`` bikes deliver a lot of perfornance with the bars low. The frame pivots and clamps together on the seatpost. This system is very simple and it turns a weak point in most folders into a strength as there is absolutely no flex in the frame and the ride is extremely stiff. I own one and it`s beautiful. I prefer my Swift to riding my road bike. There`s multiple threads on this bike on the forums here for a good reason. It`s basically an ideal platform for building a mini-velo.

You`ll find that a 20`` bike has fewer gear inches than your 700c road machine (unless you do something radical like run a 65t front chainring).
However, the handling and control of the bike at speed is better and it will out-climb your road bike. Also, with a long cage derailleur you can run a compact cassette and get a wide gear range with some very good small gears. I live in a mountainous area, so I get a lot of exercise and pleasure from my Swift. I use it just like I do my road bike and I`m constantly racing with the roadies. So I don`t anticipate that you`ll necessarily feel like you`re sacrificing speed if you do some research and get a good well designed folder if speed is important to you. It is to me and I`m very satisfied.

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Old 05-23-19, 01:55 PM
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I don't think you can buy any more Swifts. The company stopped selling whole bikes.
They're still around and keep some frames for warranty. They pop up once in a while
on Craigslist. BFold in NYC might have a used one; or know an owner that's selling.
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Old 05-23-19, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by 1nterceptor
I don't think you can buy any more Swifts. The company stopped selling whole bikes.
They're still around and keep some frames for warranty. They pop up once in a while
on Craigslist. BFold in NYC might have a used one; or know an owner that's selling.
You can still buy a Swift... just not a Xootr Swift.

Try contacting Peter.
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Old 05-24-19, 12:17 PM
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If your looking to do more traveling, montague makes full size folding bikes. They are used by the military and are made out of 7005 aluminum.

I wouldnít recommend them for commuting unless itís very bumpy or long distance. Taking that front tire off is not as easy as it looks. They are also unwieldy to carry long distances.

i currently use one as my commuter since itís really bumpy but I only fold it if I absolutely must.
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Old 05-25-19, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by 2bridges1bike
If your looking to do more traveling, montague makes full size folding bikes. They are used by the military and are made out of 7005 aluminum.

I wouldnít recommend them for commuting unless itís very bumpy or long distance. Taking that front tire off is not as easy as it looks. They are also unwieldy to carry long distances.

i currently use one as my commuter since itís really bumpy but I only fold it if I absolutely must.
Which one? I assume on of the Paratrooper flavors?

That's one I'd considered but now my eye is on the Navigator, once some funds clear up.

M.
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Old 05-25-19, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII
Which one? I assume on of the Paratrooper flavors?

That's one I'd considered but now my eye is on the Navigator, once some funds clear up.

M.
Its actually a Crosstown to which I added the rack stand. I wanted the navigator as well but I found the crosstown for more than 50% off from a lbs that was closing its doors.

If you can try taking the front wheel off both models. Iíve heard the disc brakes can actually be a disadvantage over the cheaper calipers since disc brakes are more prone to lock up.

That said the navigator is definitely the one Iíd look at if I was shopping for one right now, it really hits the value/features sweet spot on their product line
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