According to this research, the global folding bike market was worth $790.90 million in 2019 and is expected to be worth $1,260.98 million by 2027, growing at an 8.7 per cent CAGR from 2020 to 2027.
The rise in global carbon emissions caused by fuel combustion has been a major source of concern for governments and environmentalists over the last few decades. This, in turn, fuels global demand for electric vehicles, contributing to the growth of the folding bike market. Furthermore, the popularity of electric bicycles has grown rapidly across all continents as a result of design and performance improvements, as well as economic or environmental concerns.
The best folding bikes are designed to avoid or minimize all of the space issues that plague other types of bikes, resulting in increased versatility. Ultimately, the design and function of a folding bike change its core characteristics, resulting in a slightly different riding experience than you might be used to with other bikes.
Still, for folding bike users, the trade-off is more than worth it, with more and more people now preferring the more compact version over their other bikes in most situations. This article will talk you through the common types of folding bikes available in the market and how to choose the best one for you.
History of folding bikes
The origins of folding bikes can be traced back to the late 1890s when European military units were interested in developing a type of folding bike for their bike infantry. A man named Mikael Pederson designed a folding version of his own ‘Pedersen bicycle’ for the British army circa 1900. It weighed 15 pounds (around 6.8kg) and had a wheel diameter of 24 inches, as well as a rifle rack, and it was used in a few minor wars at the time.
During WWII, the British War Office commissioned the development of a folding bike that could withstand the impact on the ground when dropped from a parachute. This bike was built by Birmingham Small Arms Company, weighed 32 pounds (around 14.5kg) and was capable of taking gliders and parachute jumps. The handlebars and seat were rigged so that they were the first parts to hit the ground when coming down in a parachute, preventing the wheels from bending.
During the design process, the company avoided the traditional diamond bicycle design by creating an elliptical frame of twin parallel tubes, one for the top tube and seat stays and the other for the chainstay and downtube. The hinges were installed in front of the bottom bracket and in front of the saddle and were secured with wing nuts. The peg pedals could be pushed in, to avoid snagging, while also assisting in reducing the amount of space the bike takes up when compacted.
After that, the bike was used for the majority of the war, including the D-Day landings. For many years after the war, the folding bike was largely forgotten.
Types of folding bikes
Now that you have learned more about the history of folding bikes, let’s look at the main types of folding bikes out there:
Electric folding bikes
Some folding bikes are equipped with small engines that can be turned on and off as needed. Surprisingly, these engines don't add much weight or size to the bike and are frequently as large as the engine found on a gas-powered weedeater.
Commuter bikes with folding frames are the most likely to have an engine. This allows the rider to save energy by letting the bike do the work for them. These engines aren't particularly powerful, but they have enough power to get the rider to and from at a reasonable speed. If they can afford it, some electric folding bike users will even purchase engine kits to mount to their bikes, though this is not as common.
Compact folding bikes
This is the most common folding bike size, and it refers to anything smaller than a standard road or mountain bike. Compact folding bikes almost always have 20-inch wheels, which are the same size as most BMX bikes.
While this makes the bike appear smaller, if you compare it to a standard-sized bike, you will notice that the rider's positioning is very similar, including aspects such as the height of the handlebars, the saddle, and the distance from the pedals to the saddle. Nonetheless, the smaller wheels and simplified frame design make the bike much smaller overall, allowing it to be even more compact when folded.
The frame sizes of folding bikes are generally one-size-fits-all, but the seat posts and handlebar stems have a lot of adjustabilities to allow the rider to fine-tune the fit for a better riding experience.
Full-sized folding bikes
Full-size folding bikes are becoming increasingly popular as riders begin to demand full-size bike functionality in a compatible form. These bikes have nearly identical frame sizes to their non-folding counterparts and use standard wheel sizes as well.
Full-size folding bikes typically have 700c road bike wheels and 26-inch mountain bike tyres. Despite the fact that these bikes are standard sizes, they can be compacted in the same way as other folding bikes and have the same collapsible components.
Portable-sized folding bikes
Portable sizes with wheel sizes under 16 inches are available for those who want to save as much space as possible while not sacrificing ride quality. These are primarily for commuters who must fit their bike into a briefcase or backpack and thus require a very small size. These bikes are much less efficient than their larger counterparts, and they usually have few components. Users, on the other hand, are unconcerned about the trade-off.
Types of folding bikes based on folding methods
As you might expect, depending on the model and manufacturer, there are several different ways to fold the bikes. Here are the most common folding techniques you'll encounter while shopping.
This is most likely the folding method you'll encounter. The bike's frame is designed to fold in at about the halfway point using a solid hinge in this configuration. The hinge will have reinforced quick-release clamps that allow the user to break down or assemble the hinge in a relatively short period of time.
When the clamp is released, the bike can swing into itself, aligning the tyres. Other components on the bike, such as the handlebars and seat post, will frequently use quick release clamps as well. On some models, the steering column will also have a swing hinge.
This bike-folding method is similar to the mid-fold, but instead of folding horizontally, the bike will have one or two hinges on the main tube, chain, and seat stays that allow it to fold vertically. This method is typically slightly more compact than the mid-fold method.
Triangle hinge-folding bikes
The rear triangle and wheel can be folded down and flipped forward under the main frame tube using a triangle hinge in the frame. This is occasionally used in conjunction with a folding front fork. On occasion, both swing and flip hinges will be present on the frame. This method is intended to speed up the breakdown and setup.
This method is a little more difficult as the folding mechanism is made up of a magnet and a rear shock absorber. The magnet is responsible for connecting and locking the back wheel section to the frame. The magnet then pulls the rear wheel forward, causing the bike to fold vertically. This allows the user to roll the folded bike on its back wheel rather than carrying it.
Some folding bikes have a diamond frame, which necessitates a ‘breakaway’ folding method. The pivot point on these bikes is typically the seat post, which hinges, thus, allowing the frame to separate before folding the frame pieces into each other.
Choosing the right type for you
Weight has a significant impact on the overall quality of the folding bike, as well as its price. These bikes are made of the same popular materials as other bikes, which contributes significantly to their overall weight.
Ideally, the weight should be kept under 30 pounds (around 13.6kg), but this is not always possible with cheaper folding bikes. More expensive folding bikes made with better materials can weigh as little as 20 pounds, which is incredibly light considering the price.
Because of the compact nature of a folding bike, it can sometimes feel like an exercise weight when fully disassembled. This is why some models will have smaller wheels on which you can pull the bike when it's compacted, or where the rear wheel can be placed instead.
If you have any questions on how to select the right folding bike to suit your lifestyle, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.