Folding Bikes Q&A: Are They Safe?


There are so many benefits to using a folding bicycle in your daily commute, whether you ride the entire way or go part of the way by bus, train, car, boat or plane your folding bicycle can go everywhere with you. Additionally due to the practical design and compactness of folding bicycles, you can easily store it indoors, and is safe against potential theft or vandalism

Folding bicycles are also a great option in specific circumstances, for instance if at work or home there is no space for a conventional bicycle or If you are going to commute to work and sometimes you won’t be able to go back home on it, you can fold it and go back home with it in the car

However one of the most frequently asked questions regarding folding bicycles is “Are folding bikes safe?”, well in this article I will answer any doubts about if folding bikes are safe to use and address any worries you might have

Are Folding Bikes Safe?

Folding bikes are as safe as any other type of bicycle (road or mountain bikes), like every type of bicycle on the market folding bicycles have to go through virgous safety checks by safety regulators to make sure that folding bicycles are safe for human and road use. Folding bicycles are used by millions of cyclists everyday as a popular way to commute in a busy city and are a safe to use as any other type of bicycle

One of the main concerns for cyclists regarding the safety of folding bicycles is the weaker structure of folding bikes, the folding and compactness of folding bikes inherently make the hinges, joints and structure of the frame weaker than a fully assembled mountain or road bike

This fact that folding bicycles have a weaker structural frame leads to many misconceptions that folding bikes are very flimsy or structurally weak compared to other bicycles if in an accident on the road. However there are many structurally strong and safe folding bikes on the market that are as a safe and stable (structurally) as some fully assembled mountain or road bikes

It is important to be aware that the bicycle frame on folding bicycles have higher stress points when you are cycling, when sitting in a natural position the frame of the folding bike is in its least amount of stress (center of gravity). When you are riding on an irregular and bumpy road, road irregularities will be greater felt by you and the folding bicycle due to the smaller wheels and frame. When leaning forward while braking, this puts greater stress on the folding bikes frame as your body weight is of centre

There is more to increasing the safety when riding your folding bicycles, below I will go into greater details on how you can increase your own personal safety when riding your folding bicycles, this includes personal safety equipment and evaluating riding conditions

Is It Safe To Commute On A Folding Bike?

In regards to commuting with a folding bicycle, you are as safe as any other type of bicycle when commuting on a folding bicycle, having said that there are always risks to commuting with any type of bicycle. Colliding with a car, falling of your bicycle when cycling at speed (from hitting a pothole in the road surface) etc, there are always some risks associated with cycling in your daily commute regardless of what type of bicycle that you cycle on

There is a common misconception that folding bicycles are not as efficient as a full sized bicycle when it comes to commuting, however this is not true. Folding bicycles are equally as efficient, safe and durable as any type of full sized bicycle on the market

It is worth mentioning that if you are considering buying a folding bicycle for your daily commute (to work and back for example) then you are best considering the quality of folding bicycle you’re going to buy. The quality of folding bicycles will inevitably affect the ride quality and comfort level you will experience, so choose a folding bicycle that is comfortable and long lasting (durable). We have all heard the saying “you get what you pay for”

Which Safety Regulator Tests Folding Bicycles To See If They Are Safe?

There are a number of bicycle safety regulators that rigorously test the durability and safety of folding bicycles,  one of the bicycle safety regulators is called The Pedal Bicycles Safety Regulations (PBSR), who state they “comply with product design and safety requirements as set out in the General Product Safety Regulations, the Road Vehicle Safety Regulations, the Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations and any other applicable legal requirements”

Which Are The Safest & Most Trusted Brands Of Folding Bicycles On The Market?

Generally as a rule of thumb when shopping for a safe and well designed folding bicycle, the longest and most trusted brands of folding bicycles are always the best to choose from. Folding bicycle brands that have lasted for hundreds of years and stood the test of time are always recommended when it comes to purchasing a safe 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 standards

What Safety Equipment Should I Wear When Riding A Folding Bike To Be Safer?

It is always recommended that all cyclists wear safety equipment when cycling their bicycle, whether that be a road bike or a folding bicycle, I stress this point to all cyclists that your safety is the number one concern. If you are looking to increase your safety when riding your folding bicycle then make sure to have the following safety equipment: 

  • Bicycle Helmet

It’s a no brainer, your head has to be protected with a high quality bicycle helmet, I would highly recommend that you choose a bicycle helmet that meets the British Standard BS EN 1078:1997. This will give you the best protection if you happen to be in a road accident,  collision or fall

When choosing a bicycle helmet, also consider that the bicycle helmet fits properly to your head, I have an article on “What Size Bicycle Helmet Will Fit My Head?”, you can read this article to get a more in depth answer however the short answer is to make sure your helmet sits squarely on your head. Make sure it is above your eyebrows and not tilted in any way, make sure the straps are well fastened and test this by making sure only two fingers can fit between strap and chin

  • Reflective Clothing

Making yourself highly visible is always going to increase your safety factor, wearing highly reflective clothing that can easily be seen no matter the time of day. Even in low visibility or in very bad weather conditions, it is always recommended and much safer to have fluorescent clothes to minimise the chance of being struck by a vehicle 

Avoid wearing loose clothing that can get caught up in the chain or wheels, this can also cause a self inflicted accident that you want to avoid. Avoid carrying or wearing heavy bags or backpack however on a folding bicycle there are some storage options available 

Waterproof clothing is always handy to have if the weather turns and make sure not to forget your cycling gloves for extra grip, and knee and elbow pads to give yourself better protection if you happen to be in a road accident, collision or fall

  • Visibility Strips

Another safety precaution is to make sure you have the necessary lights and visibility strips on your folding bicycle (this will allow you to be more visible to other road users and pederains in low visibility or when cycling at night)

Make sure your folding bicycle has a red wide-angle rear reflector, a white or yellow reflectors on both sides of each wheel or tyre, a white wide-angle front reflector, or a front light, a red wide-angle rear reflector, a bell and finally consider attaching a gopro camera to record any road accident or collisions that you may witness or be in  

Is It Safe To Ride A Folding Bike In The Dark Or In Low Visibility, In Heavy Rain Or At Night?

If you decide to cycle your folding bicycle in low visibility conditions which could include heavy rain, fog or at night you’ll want to make sure you have the necessary safety measures in place. The same applies to all cyclists and types of bicycles, when cycling in low visibility conditions which again could include heavy rain, fog or at night, make sure your bicycle has lights and visibility strips that allow all other road users and pedestrians to clearly see you

As mentioned before in this article, make sure to have fluorescent and highly reflective clothing if you are cycling in low visibility conditions, if you have bright and flashing bicycle lights, visibility strips and fluorescent clothing then there should be no reason for road users and pedestrians to not visually see you in low visibility conditions 

What Safety Checks Should I Regularly Do On My Folding Bicycle & How Often? 

There is a plethora of safety checks that you go through for making sure your folding bicycling is safe and in tiptop condition however here I am going to go over the some of the basics safety checks that you can do before setting of on your folding bicycle 

  • Pre-ride Inspection

The goal of a pre-ride inspection is to generally skim over your folding bicycle to find any loose components or potential problems before they potentially develop into safety hazards. If you happen to find any loose components make sure to give them a tighten before you set off  

  • Air – Brakes – Chain Inspection

Next you’ll want to give the tyre air, brakes and bicycle chain a good inspection to make sure they are all ok. Make sure the bicycle tyre has plenty of air in them, test and make sure the brakes are nice and sharp/safe/engage and thirdly make sure the chain is well enough oiled. Make sure the chain is clean as well, you’d be best to remove any dirt with an old rag

These safety checks should not take longer than 15 minutes so they can be easily done before you set off on your folding bicycle. For how often you should do these checks, I would say every third day however this will greatly differ in relation to how often you use your folding bicycle 

At What Speed Is It Safe To Cycle A Folding Bicycle?

For a rule of thumb for all cyclists, cyclists should always cycle at a speed that they feel comfortable with and gives them enough control and time to swerve to avoid an accident or collision with another road user or pedestrian 

Ideally cycling at a speed between 5 – 10 mph is a good enough speed to allow you to comfortably cycle your folding bicycle at a safe speed. Cycling at greater speeds will give you less control and time to swerve to avoid an accident or collision with another road user or pedestrian  

Is It Safe To Cycle Over Speed Bumps On A Folding Bicycle?

Yes, it is safe to cycle over speed bumps on a folding bicycle, as folding bicycles do not have as a complex suspension system that of a mountain bike, cycling over speed bumps at a slower speed will make it smoother 

I hope you enjoyed this article on “Are folding bikes safe?”, 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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