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Why do we see so few large folding bikes?

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Why do we see so few large folding bikes?

Old 09-03-20, 02:16 AM
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Air1955
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Why do we see so few large folding bikes?

Hi guys!

I'm very new here! I've recently re-discovered the joys of riding, and I now want to get a folding bike so that I can easily take it around in the subway and on other means of public transportations. Like any newbie, I immediately thought of Brompton bikes and fortunately had a friend who let me try his. I was impressed by the folding mechanism, overall fashionable look and great build quality, but I felt like the smallish wheels made it somewhat uncomfortable to ride. The state of roads in Paris is terrible (potholes, bad maintenance job, uneven surfaces, etc.) and quite a few streets are actually paved... Hence, I'm now thinking about getting a folding bike with larger wheels, but I am seeing so few of them! I noticed that Tern is/was producing the Joe C21, but unfortunately it seems to have gone off-radar (and anyway I wasn't a big fan of its look)...

Why do you think there are so few large folding bikes? I thought lots of people in large cities would be facing the same issues as mine... Is it that there is no actual need for such bikes (maybe people do only very short rides in cities and therefore can tolerate the lack of comfort)? Or are they just too heavy/bulky compared to their smaller counterparts (but comparing the Tern C21 with tinier models, the difference is not hugely significant)? Are they too expensive? Is it due to the folding mechanism (though, once again, the one on the Tern seems super straightforward)? Or a matter of look/fashion? Please enlighten me, as I really don't get why those larger folding bikes are not flooding cities!

Thank you so much guys!
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Old 09-03-20, 03:37 AM
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20 inch wheels- lots of choices
26 inch wheels- montague, change bike
27.5 inch wheels- montague, change bike
700c wheels- montague, change bike

Last edited by BikeLite; 09-03-20 at 03:41 AM.
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Old 09-03-20, 03:49 AM
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The reason is that big wheels do not have a major advantage for a folder (and even a non folder).

What makes the comfort is the wider tires and suspension.

The lack of comfort of the Brompton (probably its biggest drawback) comes from its high pressure, relatively narrow (35mm max) tires and lack of suspension (the rear suspension is very poor and there is no front suspension, actually the front suspension is the most important for comfort).

If you are looking for a compact and comfortable folder look at the Riese & Müller Birdy: it is a full suspension bike (front and rear) and accepts 50mm wide balloon tires (Schwalbe Big Apple).

You can try it at "Les vélos Parisiens" they sell both the Brompton and the Birdy.

I have both a Brompton and a Birdy, the difference on bad road and cobbles is as big as between night and day !

If you are looking for a lightweight less expensive Birdy, Pacific Cycles has other variations of the Birdy with other components than Riese & Müller and it now should be possible to buy it online from the Pacific Cycles online store with shipment to France.

For the wheel size, there is no real difference between ETRTO 349 (Brompton), ETRTO 355 (Birdy) and ETRTO 406 = 20" wheels. BTW, Pacific Cycles has a sport 20" wheels Birdy (the Birdy frame accepts 20" wheels with tires up to about 30mm).

Montague are much bigger folded and relatively heavy.

Last edited by Jipe; 09-03-20 at 03:54 AM.
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Old 09-03-20, 12:12 PM
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An alternative cycling enthusiasts in Japan have done , to use the train to get away from Tokyo ,
is have the required bag the bike can fit into, after removing the wheels and rotating the bars ,
and then having a really big shoulder bag..

then when they get off at that more rural station they put the bike back together & fold up the bag.
It's called Rinko bikes ..

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Old 09-03-20, 12:44 PM
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Dahon has one:
https://dahon.com/bikes/gb1/

My reason for not wanting a 700c folding bicycle is the size when folded. I'd like a drop-bar folding bicycle with wheels of 20" or 24".

I don't own any bicycles with suspension devices. I rely on chromoly instead of aluminum for frame/fork (big difference in smoothness right there) and tires with enough width to run at lower pressure.
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Old 09-03-20, 01:57 PM
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Bike Friday Pocket Rocket is a 451 20" wheel bike set up to be fitting just like your favorite road bike..

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Old 09-03-20, 01:59 PM
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Old 09-03-20, 02:03 PM
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Helix (search this forum) is the only bike I have seen that really successfully marries larger wheels with a compact fold. If you can afford one, and can wait a bit for it, that might solve your problems.
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Old 09-03-20, 02:56 PM
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I have major doubt about the comfort of Helix: tire width is limited and tire are relatively high pressure, ETRTO 507 wheels aren't real big wheels, Helix has no suspension at all and the fork is a very rigid lefty single arm fork !

About the ETRTO 451 wheeled Pocket Rocket : there are only (few) narrow, road, high pressure tires in ETRTO 451 and it has no suspension: definitely not a bike for somebody looking for comfort on bad roads and cobbles !
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Old 09-03-20, 03:16 PM
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then you get their 406 wheel bikes .. I have one of those ..

its an order menu JIT, individual build, not a bike in a box pulled from a warehouse.. .



Rohloff, disc brakes, thudbuster seat post, ... front hub dynamo ( lights mudguards added after this picture..




...

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-03-20 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 09-03-20, 04:10 PM
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Here's my Tern Joe P24,...I luv this bike.

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Old 09-03-20, 04:59 PM
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You could look into Zizzo. Their spec.s look good for the money. They fold in the middle and their frame is aluminum. Neither of those things are good but if it would take wide supple tires I think that and the price would make up for it. I have a Zootr Swift but they stopped making them. I have 20 inch Schwalbe Big Apples and I don't notice a lack of compliance or comfort. You could ask in forum how wide a tire Zizzo would take. I their best model is Liberte. You may have brands where you are better. Anyway something else to consider.
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Old 09-03-20, 06:11 PM
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Just one hundred years too late! Peugeot produced their 'Captain Gerard' folding bike for a quarter-century or more (~1896~1920) in both consumer and military trim. I believe this was the world's first commercially successful folding bike.



Dahon EU lists their GB-1 model but I have no idea if it is attainable in Paris.

https://eu.dahon.com/bikes/gb1/
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Old 09-04-20, 11:11 AM
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Hmph. Is that French contribution to the world of folding bikes, Mobiky, now out of business?

Mobiky in Paris:

Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
An alternative cycling enthusiasts in Japan have done...It's called Rinko bikes.
To be noted here: According to information @ Bicycle Quarterly, assembling or disassembling a rinko bike takes something on the order of 10 minutes.

Last edited by tcs; 09-04-20 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 09-04-20, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Jipe View Post
...it now should be possible to buy it online from the Pacific Cycles online store with shipment to France.
Pacific Cycles also offers a 'big' wheel folder, the IF Mode.

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Old 09-04-20, 11:33 AM
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There's the Fubi three-speed from Finland.

https://fubifixie.com/product/fubi-folding-bike/
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Old 09-04-20, 11:42 AM
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I think the reason behind there is fewer large wheel folding bikes is because they dont make sense.
you can take any mtb wheels off and it will fit in a car trunk.
the main reason people have folding bikes(at least me) is because how small and nimble it can get in a matter of minutes to comute.
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Old 09-04-20, 11:46 AM
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I bought a used Bike Friday touring bike. I haven't ridden a road bike in many, many years, but I can tell you it's zippier than my hybrid. I'm newly back to riding and just starting to see fitness effects--so, no centuries for me--but I have ridden it 18 miles on hilly terrain with no ill effects. In terms of gearing (its 24 speed) it's better than my new Trek and my old Hybrid. I do not ever plan to fold it, but the compactness makes it easy for me to throw in the car, the cabin of the truck, or my camping trailer.
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Old 09-04-20, 11:58 AM
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This is a common misunderstanding, actually

Originally Posted by Air1955 View Post
the smallish wheels made it somewhat uncomfortable to ride.!
The two slanders on folding bikes is that (1) the small wheels mean that they don't have the same ground-per-pedal stroke* that the larger wheels do; (2) that they're uncomfortable (because they look weird?).

So, on #2, I mentioned below that I find mine perfectly comfortable to ride, except for the cramped handlebars, which I'm going to address.** Gearing, seat, pedals, balance--everything is different than a "regular" bike, but it's no problem. On the uneven pavement--it can't be worse than the Western Front state of our streets. But the Bike Fridays larger tires (1.75", I think) make this a go-anywhere bike.

On #1: this thing about having small wheels so they must make you pedal like you're in a gerbil cage … A great example of "common sense" being wrong. The math of it is pretty simple. To make each pedal stroke equivalent to the pedal stroke of a "regular" bike, all you have to do is adjust the gearing. (Duh.) Maybe this slander came about with the one speeds, which, having no gears, had one revolution of the pedal producing 20" of movement, vs. one pedal of a "normal" bike producing 26" or whatever. But with the properly geared modern folding bikes, that's no longer the case. My cadence is the same on any of my bikes, including my Bike Friday, and my speeds are the same at approximately the same gear combination. So this idea is just wrong.

But … don't just buy one. Try one first. They are different. You'll either like them or you won't. If you don't, you don't need to look further. If you do, then that will help you identify what to look FOR and what to look NOT to get. Good luck with your search.


-------------
*I know this isn't technically correct, but for the life of me I can't think of the right term.
**Because these things have to fold up into a relatively thin package, the only choice with handlebars is make them fold [shudder with fear] and make them horizontally shorter. Mine has shorter handlebars. On the handlebars I have a twist shifter for my front derailleur, and a click shifter for my rear derailleur, and of course two brake levers. It's just too much. And of course my shoulders have to be hunched because there's so little horizontal room. Since I never have and never will fold this thing, I am going to go to longer/wider handlebars as soon as my wife stops squinting when I mention spending money on my bike(s).
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Old 09-04-20, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Jipe View Post
The reason is that big wheels do not have a major advantage for a folder (and even a non folder).

What makes the comfort is the wider tires and suspension.

The lack of comfort of the Brompton (probably its biggest drawback) comes from its high pressure, relatively narrow (35mm max) tires and lack of suspension (the rear suspension is very poor and there is no front suspension, actually the front suspension is the most important for comfort).
I know you can change the stiffness of the shock absorber/spring at the back of the Brompton which may help to soften the ride quality a bit. 35mm on a 700c wheel would be plenty: does the small wheel size and therefore lower air volume contribute to its "hardness/roughness"? Meaning: a 35mm on a Brompton wheel is probably more like a 23mm (or something similarly narrower) on a 700c wheel?
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Old 09-04-20, 12:45 PM
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The difference come also from the pressure: usually, for the same width, a small diameter tire is inflated at a higher pressure than the same width large diameter tire.

Example: the very common Schwalbe Marathon in 35x349 for Brompton should be inflated at 4.5 to 7.5bar while the same Marathon in 37x622 should be inflated at 4 to 6bar.

The 28x622 Marathon should be inflated at 5.5 to 7.5bar.

The 23x622 Marathon should be inflated at 6 to 9bar.

So you could say that the 35mm wide tire in ETRTO 349 is equivalent to a 28mm wide tire in ETRTO 622.
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Old 09-05-20, 06:09 AM
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Folding bikes are a compromise. The only reason to make a folding bike is to increase portability or reduce size for storage. Generally, more portability reduces ride quality. Some folders were built to be more portable at the cost of ride quality, some folders were built for a better ride but reduced portability. And generally larger wheels increases ride quality (I am sure this statement will be contentious).

My Airnimal with 24 inch wheels rides quite nicely, there is some flex in the steerer tube extension and seat tube extension, it took me a lot of riding to get used to that flex but now it does not bother me at all. A couple photos of my Airnimal at:
Folders in the wild - post your photos

The second photo at the above link was a very quick fold to increase portability somewhat, remove the front wheel and swing the rear wheel under the frame into the fork, drop the seatpost extension to lock the rear wheel into place. Only took a couple minutes.

But to pack that bike into a case for airline travel in a case that meets airline criteria to avoid an oversize fee takes a long time and a lot of effort. To do so I have to remove the front fork and both crank arms. My point is that the amount of portability is variable for most bikes. A quick fold makes it easier to carry around a tight bend on a stairway but portability for airline travel is where the smaller wheel folders really shine, and mine with 24 inch wheels is not as easy to take onto a plane as a 16 or 20 inch folder.

Also for airline travel, there are Ritchey Break Away full size bikes that have a frame that can be split for packing into a smaller case. And many different bike manufacturers have some models of full size bikes available with S&S couplers that can be used to split a frame in half for packing the bike into a smaller case. I have also heard of people that will split an S&S bike, simply to make a full size bike pack more easily into a car. You could also split a Ritchey Break Away bike into two to put it into a small car too.

Originally Posted by BikeLite View Post
20 inch wheels- lots of choices
26 inch wheels- montague, change bike
27.5 inch wheels- montague, change bike
700c wheels- montague, change bike
Added 24 inch to your list.

- 20 inch wheels- lots of choices
- 24 inch wheels - Airnimal
- 26 inch wheels- montague, change bike
- 27.5 inch wheels- montague, change bike
- 700c wheels- montague, change bike

Airnimal might also make a 26 inch folder, on that I am unsure as I have never seen one.
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Old 09-05-20, 08:39 AM
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Several brands make small wheels bike that aren't fordable because small wheels also bring advantages.

Two well known of these brands are Moulton and Tyrell.

So small wheels isn't necessarily a compromise to reduce size, it also can be a design choice.

Many small wheel bike are much more pleasant to ride than big wheels bikes.
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Old 09-06-20, 03:47 PM
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Having a bunch of foldies,
I like my Downtube /Dahon 20"s,
Love my Brommie and
Am vaguely amused by the 26" inchers Dahon Matrix and Montague,
which really have no advantage over taking the wheel off a Std 26" MB.
I find the 16" Dahon Curve usable for short hops, pleasant
and the Mobiky Genius horribly heavy and flexy ,
but capable of making even Brompton owners laugh when you fold it.
It was actually given to me by a guy who couldn't figure out how to get it unfolded.
It rides like a neat idea that ran out of money before the designers fixed all the issues.

Last edited by bikebikebike; 09-06-20 at 03:50 PM.
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Old 09-07-20, 04:33 PM
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OK, it's true that there are compromises with a folding bike … but what kind of bike is there not a compromise with? I'd like to point out that everybody doesn't use the same tool the same way. For me, the folding bike is great because it's compact and I can carry it in my car or my truck or the back of an Uber/Lyft easily. I'll never fold it, probably.

But also … when I was looking for a lower bar to accommodate my lack of hip flexibility, the Bike Friday's low crossbar was what was really attractive. There just aren't a lot of other bikes with crossbars low enough for me to step over. (My other bike is a Trek Verve with the low step-over, but other than that form factor, there's nothing.)

I'm just saying that the compromises that people think they're going to suffer--inferior pedal-rotation to ground covered--is just not the case.
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