How to Choose: Folding Bikes

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Folding bikes are a specialist take on a city bike, opening up a range of transport opportunities in towns and cities where a full-size bike is either not permitted or not practical to take on public transport. This means that for certain routes, having access to a folding bike will help you to achieve the fastest time door-to-door, plus it’s environmentally friendly and provides you with exercise too. Here’s our guide to folding bikes.

Folding bikes – just for commuters?

Commuters are the primary market for folding bikes, but they can offer benefits for people who are looking just for a bike to ride recreationally too. The fact that the bike folds can make it easier to carry upstairs/in lifts and easier to store too, so if storing a non-folding bike is difficult for you at home, a folding bike can be a good solution to allow you to enjoy cycling. Whilst they cannot match the performance of a road bike or mountain bike, you can still have lots of fun riding a folding bike, especially on those where the design offers a bit of extra performance.

Folded size

There are two aspects to consider in terms of the folded size. The first is distinctly practical – different railways have different rules about how small the folded size of the bike must be in order to classify as a folding bike, and if the bike fails to pass these restrictions it can be subjected to the same rules as all other types of bikes. You can discover more about the restrictions for all major U.K. railways on the A to B website, though obviously the smaller the folded size of the bike, the more likely it will be to pass any restrictions you may encounter.

The second aspect of the folded size to consider it that how small a bike folds will to a certain extent influence the performance the bike will be able to offer, and so in some instances you will be forced to decide what balance between performance and folded size best meets your needs.

Folding Mechanism

Any bike can be made smaller and easier to store or carry on public transport. You take the wheels off, drop the handlebars and seat post and put the bike inside a specialist bike carrier bag. However, given how inconvenient this process is, it is something that is only really an option for transporting the bike occasionally, perhaps for a cycling holiday or when moving house. It’s not a practical option for commuting or for home storage if you want to use the bike regularly.

Therefore the ease and convenience of the folding mechanism is a key factor for any folding bike. You don’t want a folding mechanism that takes too long, or indeed one that will leave you covered in oil or dirt trying to execute. This is where a bike such as the B’TWIN Tilt really comes into its own. With a simple mechanism that allows you to fold or unfold the bike in just 1 second, it is incredibly convenient for your commute. Check out the video to see just how quick and easy the folding mechanism is!

Wheel Size

In terms of wheel size, there is always a compromise between acceleration and top speed. Smaller wheels improve acceleration, hence why the wheels on a BMX bike are relatively small, but larger wheels offer higher top speeds. Therefore from a strictly performance perspective, your regular route will determine which wheel size is most suitable for you. If you are regularly stopping due to traffic, smaller wheels may be more suitable, where as if you can enjoy a few open stretches of road, you might prefer a larger wheel.

However, one of the other factors to consider is the wheel size is one of the factors that most greatly influences the folded size of the bike. Whatever the folding mechanism, the size of the wheels is fixed, and so bikes with smaller wheels often offer the smallest folded size. Therefore if you are looking for the smallest folded size, smaller wheels will be necessary, whether this offers performance benefits or negatives for your commute.

Tyres

As with any bike, there are a range of factors to consider in terms of tyres – do you prefer a slick tyre for greater speed, or a tredded tyre for extra grip? Are you looking for a tyre that offers extra puncture protection? Do the tyres offer a comfortable or a firm ride? They are the same choices you would make for any bike, but the options in terms of fitting different tyres onto the bike post-purchase are not as wide as for road bikes or mountain bikes, and so becomes more of a consideration when choosing the bike itself.

Gears

Some folded bikes offer a single speed only, whilst others provide multiple gears, albeit generally less than many road or mountain bikes. The key is to be familiar with your potential route and the terrain it offers before you purchase the bike. If you have to take large detours to avoid hills, you won’t actually end up saving much if any time, so you want a bike that can cope with pretty much the shortest possible route. If this is mostly flat, a single speed may be sufficient, but if there are a few small hills on the route a choice of gears will be beneficial.

Weight

There are a few factors to be considered in terms of the weight. Extra weight impacts on performance, but makes the bike more stable too. The other factor to consider in terms of the weight is how regularly and how far you will need to carry your bike on a daily basis. If you can cycle or wheel your bike for the majority of your route, the weight of the bike will be less important than if you regularly have to carry the bike up and down stairs, where lighter bikes will be more convenient.

Summary

By choosing the right balance between performance, comfort and practicality for your needs, you can find a folding bike that is not only a great way to save time on your commute but can help you to have fun and enjoy some exercise at the same time.

To discover the B’TWIN range available exclusively at Decathlon, please visit our website.

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