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How to Buy a Folding Bike

By: Lisa Maloney on August 30, 2017

Choosing a Folding Bike

Given that many folding bikes top $1,000 or even $2,000, your budget will be the biggest factor in narrowing your options. After that, you'll want to check with your local bike shop to see whether they carry any folding bikes that have caught your eye; if they don't, they can probably order it for you. Most of the bikes in this report are also available on Amazon.com or exclusively through their manufacturer's website. If you do buy a folding bike online, be sure to take it to your local bike shop for a tune-up before use.

Here are some other folding bike shopping tips:

  • Lighter is better. If you plan to carry your bike on a subway or bus, or up the stairs at home or at work, you'll want a light bike. Some folding bikes are closer to 20 pounds; others can weigh 30 pounds or more. Folding electric bikes may top 50 pounds. Whatever you choose, make sure it's a load you can handle.
  • Stability is also important. Although total weight is important, it shouldn't be your only consideration. Very lightweight bikes can sometimes be unstable and uncomfortable, so you want to find the sweet spot between weight and stability.
  • Check the folded dimensions. Some bikes fold more compactly than others; be sure to check whether the folded bike is too unwieldy or bulky to carry or store, especially if you're planning to use it as part of a mass transit commute.
  • Take a close look at carrying bags. Some officials frown on bikes inside trains or buses because they take up too much room or get grease on the seats. Use a carrying bag to keep your surroundings clean and your bike out of sight.
  • Try out the folding mechanism if you can. If you can, try folding the bike before you buy; owners say folding a bike quickly takes some practice. Also, double-check whether any additional tools are needed to complete the folding process.
  • Be prepared to secure the bike once it's folded. Most high-end folding bikes offer some sort of latch to keep the bike together when it's folded. This may not be the case on budget models, so you might need to bring your own strap or bungee cord.
  • Check how easy the bike is to roll when folded. The point of having a foldable bike is that it's easy to move around and store, so make sure you take it for a test "drive" before you leave the store. Try it out to see how it handles when folded and rolled on stairs, escalators, and any other obstacles you might encounter in your daily commute or travels.
  • Consider whether you need multiple gears. Some folding bikes come with only one gear, while others have many more. If you live in a hilly area, you will probably want a folding bike with multiple gears; that might not be necessary if it's relatively flat.
  • Wheel size determines folded size. Folding bikes typically come with wheels between 16 and 26 inches in diameter. If you're going to use your folding bike for long commutes or pleasure rides, the larger wheels are more comfortable and energy efficient to ride on. But if you're going to be carrying it frequently on public transport, the smaller wheels -- and the resulting smaller folded size -- will be much more convenient.
  • Height and weight limits. Always check a folding bike's height and weight restrictions. Because they have smaller wheels and trickier geometry, many folding bikes can't accommodate taller or heavier riders, although tall riders might be able to install aftermarket parts for a more comfortable reach and riding position.
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