Are Folding Bikes Difficult To Ride On?

No one can deny the convenience a folding bike can bring – as they are perfect for short rides and barely take up space when you need to put them away. Positive as that may seem, the folding bike poses several problems. As we found out bikers complain primarily about the folding bike’s speed and overall rideability issues, we tried to get to the bottom of their woes. Luckily enough, we managed to find some credible answers.

So, are folding bikes difficult to ride on? I would have to say it’s a resounding yes. The portability of the bike sacrifices its overall rideability. This predicament can clearly be verified just by looking at how the build of the folding bike is relatively smaller and more awkward than other bike models. Also, the wheels are quite smaller if put up against other bike models of the same standard size – making it hard for long-distance riding. This predicament quickly highlights what’s often overlooked by folding bike makers to their consumers in the long run, as they’re mainly offering a bike that serves a gateway to the hobby rather than something that can be used for a lifetime. 

What Makes A Folding Bike Difficult to Ride?

To pinpoint what makes it more difficult to ride a folding bike than a standard mountain bike or BMX, we have to focus on its build. There were several fundamental changes made to the folding bike when you compare it to a standard bike, and this mostly makes up for most of the difficulty in riding. 

1.The Handle Post

First on the list is the folding bike’s handle post and fork. Upon taking a quick glance and comparison, you’d easily notice how the folding bike has a far longer handle post and a shorter fork (well, of course, the wheel itself is also tiny). If you were to give it some level of scientific analysis, you’d easily figure how the physics of it doesn’t add up in this set-up. Yes it is functional and workable, but it definitely doesn’t give out the most comfortable steering experience, and it makes holding onto the handlebars really awkward. The fulcrum on the handlebar vis-a-vis the handle post is placed quite badly, and the fact that the wheels are too small makes it feel as if it’s a load of work just to make a simple turn. But that’s not the only problem, as it also takes a bit of a learning curve to figure out how much to turn if you’re transitioning into the folding bike from a regular standard bike. 

2. The Wheels 

The other problem with the bike’s build is its super small wheels. A size 20 (the size of a BMX) folding bike would have the wheels of a size 16 (a kid’s bike), while a size 26 (the size of a mountain bike) would have the wheels of a size 24 (a kid’s big bike). This would mean that it would take more cycles to propel the bike and the rider forward, not to mention the fact that the wheels are specifically road-spiked. They’re also not that wide (measuring around 1.38cm instead of the standard 2.125cm), making them hold less pneumatic pressure and overall harder to power through roads, especially ones that aren’t as smooth and well asphalted. Overall, these smaller wheels are not only harder to pedal on but also takes more cycles for you to be propelled forward.

3. The Handlebars

Ironically enough, folding bikes usually have flat handlebars (like fixies or racers) instead of bent ( like mountain bikes) or elevated (like that of the BMX). This ultimately makes for quite an awkward resting position for the arms, as it feels as if you’re pushing the bike apart in half, and both the joints from the mid-frame and the handle post don’t help alleviate the flex of the metal pieces.

4. The Seat Post

The seat post is in such a position wherein it’s tilted to the back, and it’s far too elongated to feel as if you’re safe. Truth be told, if you’re a bit on the heavy side, the seat post actually feels as if it would either 1) fold over or 2) make the frame give in enough for you to sit further back. It’s not the most ergonomic, nor is it the most comfortable, but somehow it manages to keep you upright despite being installed at such a slanted position.

5. The Cycling Mechanism

When you pedal on a standard-issue, non-folding bike, it feels as if you’re stepping onto the crankset to propel yourself forward. Think of it as if you’re kicking yourself away from the ground as you try to pedal, and that the more you kick would mean that you’d also go forward at a much faster rate. Make the folding bike different, as the crankset is positioned in such a way that it feels as if you’re kicking against the ground to propel yourself forward (just like those Japanese bicycles). This is mainly due to the fact that you’re sitting on the bike upright more than you’d be leaning in, making the entire cycling mechanism feel different. 

This means that in pedalling faster on a folding bike, it’s your calf and hips that would take up most of the work, whereas, on a normal bike, it’s the thighs that actually exude power for you to go faster. After a ride, a folding bike would definitely give off a different sensation of tiredness than that of riding a normal bike. This pushes the rider to take a bit of getting used to this new mechanism, but it only proves that the bike is more for quick trips rather than long rides.

Disadvantages Of The Folding Bike – Sacrificing Rideability For Portability 

For the bike to actually be “compact” when folded, most of the parts prove to either be telescopic or jointed. This isn’t usually a good thing, especially since you’re putting extra pressure and tension points on parts of the bicycle where it just needs to be stiff and sturdy. What we’re dealing with here are probable manifestations of problems in the long run, along with overall discomfort when riding the bicycle for the time being. 

Scientifically speaking, putting a lot of tension on all the wrong places without suspension (as most standard-issue folding bikes come as is – only folding but never conforming to the humps and bumps on the road) leads to quite an awkwardly riding bike. This overall makes it hard for the rider to determine where to throw their weight towards and how to feel balanced as they ride the folding bike. 

1.The Discomfort With Long Rides

The folding bike forces your body to sit over the vehicle at quite an uncomfortable position, making it quite hard to be on for long distances. Truth be told, it’s perfect and quite comfortable if you’re using it for a 10-minute errand or commute. Anything longer may prove to be quite a pain on the arms and legs, not to mention the fact that it surely would ruin your dapper outfit (if ever that’s the case over why you’re using a folding bike). 

The experience of riding a folding bike for extended periods of time is a far stretch from how you’d comfortably be on a road bike, as you probably wouldn’t enjoy the hip and calf pain as much as you would only feel most of it on your thigh. It’s also not the friendliest for your back, as it would push you to slouch in only a bit, making up for a quite awkward posture. Your arms also wouldn’t be that pleased, especially that the folding bike makes it feel as if you’re reaching for the handlebars more than you’re expected to only hold onto them for ease of riding. Of course, we also take into consideration how hard it is to make turns on the folding bike, adding in some extra brunt of the work to the arms yet again. 

2.The Hinges And Joints Are Bad

The most common locking type frame hinges prove to be quite counter-intuitive when it comes to biking. For one, they’re not the easiest to lock in the first place – as the screw and lock quick-release mechanism, or even the screws, take quite a while before you get used to them. The other thing is that there’s a frame flex occurring because of these joints, and they could easily be solved by option for a bike without hinges in the first place. There’s a little “shake” to the hinges even when folded, overall making up for quite a wobbly feel when riding the bike. You can feel most of the flex or wobble on the handle post and the hinge between the seat post and handle post, and it’s definitely not the best feeling when it feels like it’s about to come loose. Although, some folding bike manufacturers have decided to mitigate the problem by using angled hinges, so they’re not as shaky. But the thing is, it would be cheaper and easier to just opt for a regular road bike.

It’s really hard to shake that weird, awkward feeling when you try to ride a folding bike. It’s a bike that tries really hard in being both ergonomic and space-saving – wherein it succeeds on the latter but fails on the former. Funnily enough, when the folding bike feels right – it’s definitely worth a fortune. But then again, why dare cash out that much when you could save up for a better riding road bike. Of course, the only limiting factor that the folding bike poses would be the fact that it’s easier to store inside the house. But what good does that really do when you can barely ride them through your day-to-day activities? 

3.The Weight Issue

Space-saving as the folding bike may be, it’s not actually all that portable. With folding bikes normally weighing around 32 lbs (14.5 kg) and above, it’s far from something one would try and take up several flights of stairs or carry across a hallway or corridor. The way it folds up also doesn’t make it all that easy when it comes to carrying it around, as an extra wheel sticking out or a better sense of engineering may have helped in having to bring this folding bike around much like you would a trolley.

 Instead, the folding bike developers and engineers insisted that they rather it clumps up into a weird and irregularly shaped hunk of metal that one can put away heavingly in the trunk of the car or under the stairs. Another funny thing to note about how folding bikes “fold” would be the confusion as to how one would proceed to get the folding started. Just by looking at the bike, it’s pretty unclear as to what hinge should go first and how you’d make sure that no accessories or dangling fixtures won’t get broken, overall making it a pretty questionable build that exists. 

4.The Nonsensical Gears

Most folding bikes offer three different speed modes that are supposed to parallel that of the road bikes 6-8 speeds. The reason the folding bike only has 3-speed modes is that the cassette would be too tall and would stick out if it had more gears on it, making it nearly impossible for the folding bike to fold. Also, the three gears on the cassette don’t make up for much ease when riding, especially when getting onto the bike and finding your balance is already difficult, to begin with.

Sadly enough, there are a lot of reasons out there that make it quite clear as to why the folding bike is a difficult vehicle to ride on. It may not seem intimidating just by looking at it, but the stark difference between having a ride on this folding bike and a standard road bike is more or less night and day. If anything, the road bike is still a recommended vehicle for people on the go looking for a bike that’s easy to put away. Otherwise, if you can afford to lock your bike someplace and have it be kept safe, you’re better off to zoom around with a road bike.