Folding Bikes Q&A: Are They Worth It


In this article I am going to address the question that many folding bicycle enthusiasts ask, which is Are Folding Bikes Worth It ? There is a lot of confusion out there about when it is worth it to use a folding bike for a commuting purposes, in this article I am going to address the specific circumstances when folding bikes are absolutely worth considering and all of the other related questions that you may have

Are Folding Bikes Worth It?

Absolutely yes…, folding bicycles are worth it but only in very specific circumstances, their design and functionality is purposely built for cyclists who live in urban commuters, have shorter distanced commutes and have very specific commuting circumstances that listed below:

Folding Bicycle Are Worth It Under These Specific Commuting Circumstances:

  • If you live too far away from the local train or bus station/stop that means walking is not an option
  • If you do not have a car or motorbike and access to the nearest public transportation (train station or bus station/stop) links are too far away for walking
  • If at work or home there is no space for a conventional bicycle to store
  • If you plan to commute to work and you won’t be able to go back home on the folding bike some of the days
  • If you have an interest in cycling to work but your place of work does not facilitate bicycle storage racks for larger mountain or road bikes
  • If you plan to cycle the entire way to work and back cutting out public transport
  • When you plan to use public transport only part of the way on your commute to reduce your monthly public transport expenses and your carbon footprint

Folding bicycles are absolutely worth it when it makes sense practical for your own personal circumstances, if you have a similar situation to the ones listed above then a folding bicycle is a great practical solution when you have limited access to public transport links or when you plan to use public transport part of the way or when you plan to cycle the entire way to work and back

When Are Folding Bikes Not Worth Purchasing?

Folding bicycles are not best suited to longer distanced commutes, for more information on this have a read of my article Are Folding Bikes Good For Long Rides?”, if you plan to commute to work and it is a longer distanced commute then a folding bicycle is not the best suited option, perhaps a mountain bike would be best in this circumstance

Using a folding bike on longer distanced commutes can mean you run into performance issues as folding bikes are designed for shorter commutes. Some of the issues you may encounter is with the smaller sized wheels, the smaller sized wheels on a folding bicycle makes it more difficult to control to the bicycle, especially when riding down a hill at speed or when cycling over rougher terrain (rocky uneven road or when going over potholes, bumps or dents in the road surface)

Other issues that you may encounter with a folding bicycle is that you are limited to the type of terrain you can cycle on, sure a folding bicycle can cycle over rougher terrain but it is not designed for this and not a comfortable ride to do so

It’s worth mentioning as a little side note, cheap and badly designed folding bicycles are not worth purchasing. The headaches and trouble a cheap folding bicycle will give you is not worth the money saved

What Brands Of Folding Bicycles Are Worth Buying From? 

Generally as a rule of thumb the longest and most trusted brands of folding bicycles are always the best to choose from. Folding bicycle brands that have lasted for decades and stood the test of time are always recommended when it comes to purchasing a reliable,  durable and well designed folding bicycle, some of the following brands I would personally recommend:

  1. Brompton bikes are a UK based company who make to order, Brompton folding bikes have been handmade in London since 1975. The Brompton folding bikes make the best commuting bike, due to their durability and tensile strength.
  2. Dahon is the world’s leading manufacturer of folding bikes and have been pioneers and leaders in folding bikes since 1982. All of their frames and folding components are built in their our own ISO 9001 certified factories, and all their bicycles exceed the rigorous U.S. and european strength and safety standard

The Pros & Cons Of Folding Bikes

Below I am going to go into greater detail into all of the pro’s (advantage) and cons (disadvantage) of having a folding bike so that it will make it easy for you to see if buying and owning a folding bike is worth it for you on a personal level  

What Are The Pros Of A Folding Bicycle That Make It Worth It?

Convenience & Compactness

The biggest advantage to owning a folding bicycle is the ability to transform a fully assembled bicycle into a compact, modest sized handheld device in the matter of 30 seconds. Folding bicycles have always had this advantage over every other type of bicycle there is choose from on the market

What is also very convenient is in which the ease and quickness you can fold a well designed folding bicycle, so many of the folding bikes on the market are user friendly and easy to fold and unfold which makes it an absolute breeze to get started using a folding bicycle for your commutes

The advantage in the ability to transform a fully assembled adult sized bicycle into a compact, modest sized handheld device is that it allows you to take your folding bicycle literally everywhere you go, how convenient ahh.  It’s super convenient to unfold and then fold a fully assembled and functional bicycle as it has no real barrier to entry which allows you to take your folding bicycle with you ANYWHERE…

Here are some common activities and places you can take your folding bike with you with no barrier to entry: Shopping, Commuting on a bus, taxi or trains, Going for a day out at the park or beach and meeting friends or work colleagues after work at the pub/restaurant. These are just some of the places you can take along a folding bike where there are literally no real barrier to entry, this is one of the biggest advantages that makes a folding bike worth buying over any other bicycle type

Money Saving

Another advantage in your folding bikes ability to transform from a fully assembled adult sized bicycle into a modest sized handheld device is the choice it gives you in the way in which you commute to work and back

You can decide to half/cut your commute by cycling half of the distance on your folding bike and then get the bus, taxi or train the other half. This can save you a considerable amount of money over the months and years, think of the money you can save from not using public transport for half of the year and the extra money you could put towards a holiday or a savings fund

Security

Another big advantage to owning a folding bicycle is the bicycle security, the ability to unfold and then fold a fully assembled and functional bicycle means you do not have to leave it at a bicycle rack in the street or train station or what’s even more risky is padlocking your bicycle to a railing or lamppost in the street

With a folding bicycle there is simple no need to ever leave your bike outdoors, no leaving your bicycle outdoors exposed to winter weather conditions and there is no need to purchase expensive anti theft measures like GPS tracker installed on your bicycle, bluetooth activated wheel locks or any traditional heavy duty padlock that are expensive and cumbersome 

Owning a folding bicycle gives you exclusive luxury of bringing a fully sized bicycle (folded up) into your office space at work (even if you work in a small cubicle) or into your flat (even if you live in a small apartment), house or garage. This means a greater chance of your bicycle not getting stolen as it will be locked up in a far securer and public location compared to a mountain or road bicycle would be. That’s the real advantage, is that you can take your folding bike with you literally ANYWHERE… 

Eco-Friendly

Folding bikes are an eco-friendly solution as well, they reduce the exhaust emissions (as your one less person using a car or taxi) and makes reducing your carbon footprint easier than ever. The ability to take your folding bike on the bus, taxi, car or train and cycle the last two miles to work adds up over the months and years to save on a lot of eco miles

What Are The Cons (Disadvantages) Of Having A Folding Bicycle?

Ride Quality

Like most things in life, with all of the benefits of owning a folding bicycle, there are some drawbacks to be aware of with folding bikes. One of the biggest things to be aware of is the ride quality and comfort level you will experience, one of the biggest misconceptions when cyclists are considering a folding bicycle is that they expect folding bikes will perform as well as a mountain or road bike. However this is not the case…

The lower ride quality and comfort level you will experience is ultimately down to the folding bicycles’ smaller sized tyres, most folding bicycle tyre sizes come in the 20 to 24 inches. The smaller sized wheels makes folding bicycles handle rougher terrain less effectively than your typical mountain bike making it a rougher and less smooth cycling experience, also the smaller sized tyres on folding bikes makes it difficult to control especially when riding down a hills

Price

Most folding bicycles are considerably more expensive than your typical mountain and road bike, not all but most high quality brands of folding bikes start in the thousands (££££) and go up from there. Of course there is cheaper folding bikes on the market that start in the hundred (£££) however the quality and enjoyment you will get out those may be even questionable if they were worth the money

The higher price of folding bikes ultimately comes down to the extra design and functionality that’s built in as a standard, the convenience to unfold and then fold a fully functioning bicycle in the matter of seconds is the largest factor contributing to the higher price. You’ll be expected to pay from £800 (minimum) all the way up to £2,000 +, the electric versions of folding bicycle are priced from £2,000 all the the way up to £4,000 due to the electric power capability  

Weight 

The weight can be an issue with folding bikes, this is when the bike is folded up and you are then carrying it with your hand. There is an assumption that all folding bikes are very light to carry however you’ll want to do a little research beforehand to make sure it is at a weight you are comfortable lifting. Some folding bicycles are heavier than others so do a little research beforehand, on average folding bikes weigh between 11kg to 13kg, note that lighter folding bikes are made of titanium and carbon fiber while the heavier folding bikes are aluminum

Speed 

Another consideration is that folding bicycles are not as fast as mountain and road bikes, you simply can not reach the same speeds as you would on a mountain and road bike. If this is not an issue for you then is ok but if you’re a speed freak like me this would be an issue. The fact that you have gears on a mountain bike that can propel you at greater speeds is a big advantage, there are no gears on most folding bikes allowing you to do this 

Mess & Stained Clothes

The ability to fold and unfold your folding bicycle and then take it indoors (work or a flat) with you is a fantastic attritrube, however this comes with a messy problem. If there is any damp/ dry mud, water from the rainfall or any other type mess (dog shite) on your tyres or bike frame then it will get brought into the places you go

This can create all sorts of mess and odors unless you’re careful, also your clothing can get muddy, dirty or stained with grease from the mechanism on the folding bicycle. This is an issue to consider as most folding bike cyclists are using them for commuting to and from work with their work clothing on (suit or a smart clothing)

How Much Do Folding Bikes Cost?

You’ll be expected to pay from £800 (minimum) all the way up to £2,000 + for a high quality standard folding bicycle. The electric versions of folding bicycle are priced from £2,000 all the the way up to £4,000 due to the electric power capability  

Are Folding Bikes Worth the Cost/Expense?

Above I have outlined all of the circumstances, advantages and disadvantages to owning a folding bike, now it is really up to you to justify weather getting a folding bike for your own personal circumstance is actually worth it

You have to look at your own personal circumstance to justify if it is worth the cost, If you tick most or some of the boxes above then definitely, a folding bicycle is a great option and well worth the higher cost price 

  • If you live too far away from the local train or bus station/stop that means walking is not an option
  • If you do not have a car or motorbike and access to the nearest public transportation (train station or bus station/stop) is too far away for walking
  • If at work or home there is no space for a conventional bicycle
  • If you plan to commute to work and you won’t be able to go back home on the folding bike
  • If you have an interest in cycling to work but your place of work does not facilitate bicycle storage racks for larger mountain or road bikes
  • If you plan to cycle the entire way to work and back
  • When you plan to use public transport part of the way on your commute to reduce your monthly public transport expenses

However this decision is entirely up to you, every cyclist is different and has their own personal budget, reasons and options on this matter. I would suggest testing a folding bicycle for a month before fully committing to it, if you can manage to trial a folding bicycle for a couple of weeks or a month then try it out first

I hope you enjoyed this article on “Are folding bikes worth it? ”, All of the information has been thoroughly researched and I have plenty of real world experience on this issue to add as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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