Bike Forums

Bike Forums (
-   Folding Bikes (
-   -   New to folding bikes, can't choose? Read this FIRST (

jur 07-14-10 07:54 PM

FAQ: New to folding bikes, can't choose? Read this FIRST
Here are threads in which all your questions may be answered:

Do a folding bike forum search for "choose", "decide", "newbie", "choices", "folding" etc. You get the idea. Search only titles, an option to be found in advanced search.[]=221

here are some examples:!!

If after reading all that as well as some of your own search results, THEN please go ahead and post your own particular question. Bear in mind newbies post questions about which folder to buy at the rate of several per week. You are welcome to do this but only after doing some homework. Please pose your question in a new thread, not in this one, as it may not be spotted here. Also, try not to resurrect zombie threads by answering old questions in long-dead threads where the original poster may have moved on. Same for posing questions in ancient threads.


There also web sites to study: (this one contains a comprehensive table of manufacturers and a buyers guide, too.)

When asking for advice, the following info is useful for determining your needs:

* your weight (bikes have weight limits)
* how tall you are (almost all folding bikes are size medium, ie 22" (55cm) equiv. top tube length)
* your budget
* your riding experience
* what you intend to use the bike for (eg touring, commuting, casual park riding, shopping, MTB-ing etc)
* what country you are in, as countries tend to have different choices


Q: Don't 20" wheels suck?
A: It is largely a myth that small wheels are a lot worse than large ones. This is only really relevant if the wheels are going to encounter road irregularities of similar size to the wheels. Eg, if you want the bike to roll well over gnarly roots while off-roading, a 20" wheel isn't the best performer. But for road and path and most gravel riding, small wheels are just fine and on paved roads, there is evidence to suggest that the difference is insignificant. But this is a controversial subject and wars have been fought over this, so there are lots of opinions. Small wheels have other advantages such as packability and importantly, strength. There is also a very wide choice of tyres available.

Q: Won't I pedal like a demented monkey with those small wheels?
A: The small wheels are compensated for by higher gearing so no, you will pedal about the same as for any other bikes. However, small wheels do have the limitation in that gearing systems have been designed around big wheels, so getting high gearing on small-wheeled bikes is not as straightforward as on big-wheelers. But solutions do exist, some of them quite costly though.

Q: Aren't small wheels hard to pedal uphill?
A: No, that depends entirely on the engine and the gears, not the wheel size.

Q: What gearing will I need?
A: That depends. If you are experienced, even a single-speed would do, you would have to get off and push very rarely if ever. But for a beginner, you would like to have gearing ranging from say 30"-90" or lower still. (See for an explanation of gear-inches.)

Q: The steering is twitchy. Will this be a problem?
A: The amount of twitchiness depends a lot on the bike geometry, but yes, by and large, folding bikes have very responsive (ie "twitchy") steering. However, experience shows that you can safely ignore this, since you will get used to it in a very short time, and indeed, after getting back on your big-wheeled bike, it will feel like a truck and you won't want to ride that big-wheeled monster again.

Q: Won't I look like a clown?
A: Yes. Get used to it. People will make comments ranging from "Cool bike!" to "Get a real bike!" with everything in between. But comment they will, and get ready for the question, "How much did it cost?"

Q: Will I look like a circus bear?
A: Only if you are wearing a bear suit.

Q: What bike can I get for $150?
A: New, a pile of junk. Used, some quite nice deals. As always, if you buy cheap, you will get corresponding quality. Known value-for-money inexpensive bikes are the low-end Dahon range, Downtube bikes, Citizen, and some others as well. But that does not mean more expensive bikes are over-priced. On the contrary, folding bikes are just as well-priced as road bikes. Most experienced cyclists wouldn't flinch at $2000 for a road bike, but strangely when a folding bike approaches that sort of price, people start getting very reluctant.

Q: Folding bikes are little more than toys, why are they so expensive?
A: Don't be fooled by the small wheels. Yep, some folders are toys but good quality ones are not - they are used by experienced and some very well-known riders all over the world. They are used for all sorts of things big-wheeled bikes are used for, and a lot of things big-wheeled bikes can't be used for. So folders are actually more versatile than big-wheeled bikes. As such, folders are not expensive per se. As for the fun factor, small-wheeled bikes are more fun to ride than big-wheelers, so in that respect they are closer to toys than big-wheelers.

Q: Can I take it on a plane as carry-on luggage?
A: Maybe... Most may be too large or too recognisable as a bicycle. Most folding bikes will only fit into a large suitcase and you can't take these as carry-on luggage.

However... The Brompton has one of the most compact folds, and when folded is generally not recognised as being a bicycle outside of the UK. There are numerous reports by people who have taken their Brompton into the cabin by gate-checking it. Basically you arrive at the gate with your Brompton and ask staff to gate-check it. They attach a label and carry it into the cabin and store it in a space where wheelchairs and baby strollers go. On disembarking, the bike is waiting at the gate for it to be picked up.

Some people have done this numerous times without a problem on a variety of flights. There are even cases where people have taken it into the cabin themselves and put it in the overhead locker. So it can be done. Gate-checking is meant for people with mobility aids. Doing this procedure with a Brompton, while possible, is perhaps not what it was intended for. Savvy staff may chuck a wobbly and force you to check it in as luggage. There are no cases that I know of where this happened but it still prevents me from doing it.

Q: Can it fit into a airline-legal suitcase?
A: Most do, but you will have to do a certain amount of disassembly. The wheels usually have to be removed and depending on what bike, some other bits will need to be disassembled as well. Some bike such as the Dahons have an optional suitcase that will accommodate the bike just folded, but these are LARGE. Bike Friday is probably the easiest for this since these have been specifically designed for this purpose, so generally the rear wheel of a BF does not need to be removed. Bromptons have one of the most compact folds of all folders but even these won't pop straight into a "legal" suitcase.

Q: Can you recommend a 26" folding bike?
A: There are several on the market such as from Dahon and Montague. Unless you have a immovably compelling reason for needing a 26" folder, consider opening up the options to include 20" and 16" folders as well. There is a very large range to choose from if you do.

Q: I am 6'6" and 300 pounds of sheer muscle. What folding bike should I buy?
A: Not any folding bike, you're out of luck. Folding bikes in general have long stalks (seatpost, steering riser) and 300lbs is above the weight limit for known folding bikes, although Bike Friday do build extra strong frames on request. 6'6 is also a challenge, as almost all folders are size medium, so a 6'6 person would be quite cramped.
You should contact Bike Friday, perhaps they could build something for you. There are no other known choices.
You could consider a Raleigh Twenty, a popular folding bike from the 70s. It is enormously strong, and if you are so inclined, can be modernized and also built up with very strong wheels.

Q: Is folding bike suspension a gimmick?
A: There is poor and good quality suspension, and big travel and small travel suspension. First, let's eliminate poor quality - that is a gimmick. That leaves small vs large travel. For road riding, large travel has to be argued as being not necessary.

The first line of defense against road bumps lies in tyres. Modern hype makes many riders over-inflate tyres leading to unnecessary harsh riding. Every tire has its optimum pressure setting, that should be used. Fat tyres employ lower pressure due to geometry considerations (see sheldonbrown and this), giving a plusher ride. In general, a tyre twice as fat needs half the pressure than a narrow tyre for simular sidewall stress- don't be tempted to jack up the fat tyre pressure! Narrow tyres need higher pressure to prevent pinch flats. This usually also leads to lower rolling resistance as there is less flexing in the casing. A tyre that is pumped even harder actually feels faster but careful testing has shown that to be not a real effect when the tyre is already pumped to a suitable pressure. In fact recent careful testing (here and here) has shown that beyond a certain point, rolling resistance increases sharply even on perfect surfaces. A suitable pressure is one where you can see a small amount of bulging when seated - typically 15% drop.

It is possible to use narrow high pressure tyres and combine that with small travel suspension to remove the harshness. That can actually lead to lower rolling resistance over uneven ground, as only the wheels have to be lifted over bumps instead of rider+bike. That sort of suspension is no gimmick. It also gives greater comfort than tyres alone.

So, avoid buying a bike with poor quality suspension - it will give you info as to the rest of the bike's quality. The best approach is to start looking at bikes with no suspension - best bang for buck as good suspension costs lots. If the bike as-is is too harsh, the next step is to get some plush tyres, and here Big Apples is the final name. Others also work very well, such as the Greenspeed Scorcher.

Q: Can I do long distance on a folder?
A: Long distance on any bike basically equates to long time in the saddle. To stay for many hours in the saddle of any bike, and folding bikes are no exception, the saddle needs to be comfortable enough, and you need to be comfortable on the bike as a whole, neither cramped nor stretched out. The grips also need to be comfortable, preferably with multiple hand positions on the bars. Once you have these 3 items sorted out, you can do long distance on the folder, any folder.

Q: Why do folders often have a chain guard on the crankset? Why does my bike drop its chain when I shift to a smaller cog at the back?
A: * When chains wear, they become more able to flex sideways.
* When shifting to a smaller cog, the top run of the chain gets a sideways impulse as it drops abruptly on the smaller cog.
* When the chain is worn enough, the sideways impulse travels forwards along the chain and will tend to derail the chain when this sideways snake arrives at the chain wheel.
* This is the most important reason a chain guard is needed when there is no front derailer - to prevent that snake from dropping the chain. Keeping your trousers clean is a secondary benefit. However, I suspect that few folding bike manufacturers know this.
To work best, the guard must be as close as possible to the chain to arrest the chain snake. In most cases imho it is not close enough. You want a few mm at most. My Birdy also dropped its chain, until I fitted custom guards that I spaced as close as possible without chain rub when the extreme gears were engaged.

With wide range gearing cassettes now available for mountain bikes, front derailers are routinely omitted these days; this has put the spotlight on the problem of chain drops. One solution becoming more common is to use a chainring with narrow-wide tooth profiles which limits the chain freedom and therefore unintentional derailings.

hazyphonics 07-14-10 07:59 PM

none of those links worked for me..

brakemeister 07-14-10 08:01 PM

go ahead newbies
ask your questions

as you can see even us old SENIOR members do mak mistakes and put in dead links ....

Couldnt help myself Jur

peace Thor

jur 07-14-10 08:09 PM

Dead links? There must be something I don't understand... they work for me, but perhaps that is why they only work for me?

I'll mod the OP.

folder fanatic 07-15-10 10:29 AM

My World Of Folding Bicycles website series was originally developed for my sister to learn the ropes of using these bike types to the max. It proved to be so successful to others on the original Geocities site, I transfered to and expanded it on Google (see below). It was intended for everyone to enjoy, either the first time possible user inquiring if this bike type is for you to the most advanced even jaded user. Just drop by anytime, in anywhere in the world. No question or inquiry is too small here.

SesameCrunch 07-15-10 12:42 PM

Once we get the kinked links worked out, this should be a sticky...

buck-50 07-15-10 01:44 PM

As a noob who's recently asked a question like this, what you've gotta wrap your head around is that as far as I can tell, test riding a folding bike is nigh-impossible. Most of them aren't sold anywhere near where you live and until you've ridden one, it's hard to understand that, say, 20" wheels are initially darty and unstable, but act like regular full size wheels the second you're up to speed.

For example, when I was looking at a dahon speed pro vs a swift, I tried wading through all 90 pages of the swift thread. I did. Honest. But after about 10 from either end, I didn't see what I was looking for, namely, does it actually feel like a real road bike? I mean, yeah, I get it, they're great for multi-modal commuting in big cities, but there's scant info on how they handle on 50 mile rides out in the country when you're on vacation, without a full set of panniers. And you search online, and you get conflicting info- yes, this one will fit in a suitcase but it's got to be disassembled down to it's component atoms first or no, you don't even have to fold it and you can carry it on your keychain...

Folders are kind of expensive to just jump in and try, especially if you're trying to replicate the basic feel of a road bike. so you kinda want to get a feel for what other people have used them for.

and that's when you turn to the experts.

thanks, my 2 cents.

vik 07-15-10 01:52 PM


Originally Posted by SesameCrunch (Post 11118170)
Once we get the kinked links worked out, this should be a sticky...

If this isn't made a sticky it will soon languish in obscurity on page 17 and no one will ever see it again.

vik 07-15-10 01:53 PM


Originally Posted by SesameCrunch (Post 11118170)
Once we get the kinked links worked out, this should be a sticky...

If this isn't made a sticky it will soon languish in obscurity on page 17 and no one will ever see it again.

Of course if it's made a sticky it will languish in plain sight and people will still ask the same 20 questions again and again.

I hate to be a downer, but I've never seen that newbie issue successfully resolved on any online forum.

snafu21 07-15-10 02:18 PM

Didn't work for Canute.

SesameCrunch 07-15-10 02:51 PM


Originally Posted by snafu21 (Post 11118780)
Didn't work for Canute.

Hmmmm. Too erudite for me.

What does King Cnut have to do with sticky posts? I must have fallen asleep in history class when that lecture occured. :(

vik 07-15-10 03:14 PM


Originally Posted by SesameCrunch (Post 11118988)
Hmmmm. Too erudite for me.

What does King Cnut have to do with sticky posts? I must have fallen asleep in history class when that lecture occured. :(

Google has your back...

SunnyFlorida 07-15-10 04:01 PM


Originally Posted by folder fanatic (Post 11117262)
My World Of Folding Bicycles website series was originally developed for my sister to learn the ropes of using these bike types to the max. It proved to be so successful to others on the original Geocities site, I transfered to and expanded it on Google (see below). It was intended for everyone to enjoy, either the first time possible user inquiring if this bike type is for you to the most advanced even jaded user. Just drop by anytime, in anywhere in the world. No question or inquiry is too small here.

Wow!!!! I clicked into your website. I'll definitely keep it in mind as I go through my folder journey here.

Love your cat's pics on one of your folders. Reminds me of my own cat Abby who use to love napping in the basket of my trike. I made her cat bed there. She loved it. Yes, she passed away a few years ago.:(

BTW, I've ordered the ECO 3/D7 two days ago. Not quite sure when it will arrive. They seem to be backordered. Anyway I live in Florida so the bike season is practically year round here. I can wait.

Thanks to all for helping me with some basic concerns about my choice before I ordered.

jur 07-15-10 04:54 PM

I have already PM'ed an admin for stickiness when I made this thread but no reply yet. I'll PM another one.

Tom Stormcrowe 07-15-10 06:05 PM

It's stuck. I was away for a bit this afternoon, and my PM from making about this just got to me.

jur, the link takes me to the search page only, though, and you might want to make an index of useful threads and post them here.

lvleph 07-15-10 06:22 PM


Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe (Post 11120011)
It's stuck. I was away for a bit this afternoon, and my PM from making about this just got to me.

jur, the link takes me to the search page only, though, and you might want to make an index of useful threads and post them here.

I thought that was on purpose; you know saying, "if you have questions do a search."

snafu21 07-16-10 12:06 AM

Canute commanded the tide to recede. It didn't.


jur 07-16-10 12:25 AM


Originally Posted by snafu21 (Post 11121594)
Canute commanded the tide to recede. It didn't.


I am a firm supporter of the principle, "If you wait long enough, it will go away."

Also works with tides.

bikervermont 07-20-10 06:58 AM

Thanks for all that helpful info.

I just bought a Brompton at a folder-only shop in NYC. Dude there insists it will meet the 62-inch specs for checked airline baggage; we measured the soft bag I bought with it, and it does come to less than that.

Any thoughts? Suggestions for how to pad it to reduce risk of damage from baggage handlers? My logic in getting the softie is that I can put it over my shoulder and the airport and ride away, unlike with hard case.

Brompton does ride nicely -- not much inferior to my $2000 Trek road bike.

jur 07-20-10 08:04 AM

You would have to protect against crushing and movement. For movement, I bought a big bunch of cable ties at a thrift shop and tied everything together. That takes care of movement. Padding and support is not so easy - I don't have a Brommie so can't assess it but I would be concerned about the chainring bending and the frame getting kinked. So that's where I would pad it.

Some duct tape around the whole lot to make it into a tight rigid parcel may help as well.

One chap has taken some baggage handler advice on board and put his bike unpadded in a clear plastic bag! The handler said that parcels are uninteresting and just get tossed to the next stage, but the transparent bag showing the bike plainly got a lot of care.

Urbanis 07-25-10 08:12 AM

I posted this information on another thread in response to someone looking buy their first folding bike. I'm adding it here since it's general (and I hope useful) advice:

The difficult thing in making folding bike recommendations is that there are so many different types of folders out there, with each one engineered to solve a specific set of problems. For example, here are some factors to think about:

(1) Rider height and weight (bikes do have limits)
(2) Compactness of fold (this is critical if you're planning to use the bike for multi-modal commuting; e.g., taking it every day onto a packed rush-hour train or bus that doesn't allow full-size bikes)
(3) Ease and speed of folding (important if you're going to be folding it multiple times daily; if the fold is tedious and time-consuming, you'll resent it pretty quickly)
(4) Gearing (If you're riding in perfectly flat conditions for short distances, a single-speed bike can be more than adequate; if you've got hills, then multiple gears become important. The important specification is not so much number of gears but your *gear range*--30"-90" is decent for regular commuting in varied terrain.)
(5) Riding comfort
(6) Riding performance/speed (important if you've got a lot of distance to cover; say, 7 miles or greater at a stretch).
(7) Bike weight (If you live on the 5th floor of a walk-up, you don't want to be hauling a 30-pound monster upstairs all the time.)
(8) Quality of construction (Is it made well and with decent materials?)
(9) Customizability (Does it use mostly standard bike components that can be replaced and upgraded over time time at your local bike shop or does it use lots of proprietary parts and require servicing by specially trained mechanics?)
(10) Cargo capacity (Do you plan on using your bike to haul groceries, shopping purchases, children?)
(11) Cost (does it fit in your budget?)

As you can guess, there is NO one bicycle that performs equally well in all these areas. For example, a Brompton is a fantastic bike for its quick and compact fold, perfect for that crowded train commute scenario. On the other hand, it's expensive with lots of proprietary parts and not a bike you'd want to ride long distances on. On the other hand, a Xootr Swift is perfect for long-distance commuting (fast!), is highly customizable, and costs much less than a Brompton BUT the folded size is more than twice that of a Brompton.

Probably the best advice I received when starting down the (folding) bicycle path two years ago after years of not riding was, "Don't spend a lot of money on your first bicycle." What you really want is a bike that's just "good enough" so that it's not a total disaster, and that you can ride over several months to gain greater insight into your bicycling needs. Then you can make a more informed purchase down the road when you're ready.

For example, when I started riding folders, I felt that a compact fold was the most important factor and I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I got a Downtube Mini. Over time, I discovered that compactness wasn't so critical for me but road performance was, so now I have a Xootr Swift.

haidivolume 08-01-10 08:28 PM

good posting ,great job,pls continue

Folding-Bikes 08-14-10 05:12 AM

Great post Jur! + 1 on the sticky

downtube42 08-24-10 06:56 PM

A Worksman "vintage" folding bike has come up on a local auction, with current bidding under $20. Looks complete, with a patina of surface rust.

About me, I have a fondness for old, odd, functional items. My commute is under 2 miles, and I sometimes run, sometimes unicycle, sometimes ride my tallbike - so clearly efficiency is not a great concern. I'm 6'2", 195#.

My question is, is this bike serviceable, and ridable by me?


btw, I have no connection to Downtube bikes, other than sharing an internet handle I've used for a long time.

jur 08-24-10 08:16 PM

A picture would help a lot. :)

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:36 AM.