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Now you’ve bought a folding bike, you can take it almost anywhere and ride anywhere. But what stuff can you buy to go with it?
This article looks at folding bike accessories, which will enhance your bike’s functionality and improve safety.
11 Must-Have Folding Bike Accessories
There are many accessories for folding bikes that are invaluable in certain situations.
Not all folding bikes come with fenders, especially cheaper lightweight models that are deliberately minimalistic in their specs.
Of course, not everyone needs fenders on their folding bike, but they’re a must-have for regular bike commuters.
When buying fenders, you need to buy a pair that matches the diameter of your wheels. For instance, the Alta Bicycle 20″ Flared Adjustable Fender Set is designed for use with 20-inch wheels, which are the most common among folding bikes.
Aside from diameter, you also need to pay attention to the width of the fenders before buying. They should be a few millimeters wider than the tires on your bike.
A downside to buying add-on fenders is that they’re less likely to include an integral reflector. These are often present on new folding bikes with fenders.
2. Rear Cargo Rack
Some folding bikes have rear cargo racks, and some don’t. But you can often add one if you need one. Occasionally there may be complications, like if you have a folding e-bike where a battery sits behind the seat tube. This may impede installation.
When buying a rack for a folding bike, you’ll need to factor in whether you have rim brakes or disc brakes on your bike. Many folding bikes have rim brakes because they’re lighter and have a narrower spacing.
A bike rack like the Ibera PakRak Touring Carrier Plus+ Rack is available in either disc-brake or non-disc-brake versions. This rack suits various models of folding bikes.
If you’re a heavy rider, you also need to make sure extra luggage doesn’t push you beyond the bike’s maximum load capacity. Most folding bikes can carry a total load of between 240 to 330 lbs. You must find the exact figure among the specs.
Anyone who owns a bare Brompton bike might fancy the Brompton Complete Rear Rack Kit. This includes a rear fender with mudflap, a reflector, and a rear rack with four rollers that let you wheel the bike along when it’s folded.
3. Spare Tires
One benefit of a folding bike is that you can fold it up and catch a taxi or jump on a bus if you damage a tire or get a puncture. Even so, it’s useful to have a spare tire or two lying around at home so you can change a tire at your leisure.
Folding bike tires vary in their capabilities. Some will be more puncture-resistant or faster than others. With smaller tires for folding bikes, there’s more of an emphasis on durability and low maintenance than speed.
When buying tires for your bike, you need to pay attention to the ISO diameter in millimeters as well as the imperial size. For instance, 20” tires come in 406 and 451 mm sizes. They’re nominally the same size in inches but not interchangeable.
A durable and very puncture-resistant tire for folding bikes is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus, available in 20” sizes. Like most 20” tires, this is an ISO 406 metric size, though you won’t always find this detail among the specs.
A spare tire is also a useful thing to take with you on vacation, so you don’t need to hunt around for bike shops in the event of an emergency.
4. Spare Tubes
If you use a tire like the Marathon Plus mentioned above, you shouldn’t often need to change the tubes in folding-bike wheels. Even so, it makes sense to buy one or two spare tubes.
You may not need to carry out roadside repairs on a folding bike, as you’re less likely to find yourself in the middle of nowhere on one. But still, spare tubes are useful. As well, long-distance touring on folding bikes is not unheard of.
Choose a high-quality tube like the Schwalbe AV4 16” tube for your folding bike. This example is ideal for Brompton bikes, which all have 16” wheels. Go for known brands if you can, as cheap tubes often have defective valves.
Butyl tubes have a shelf life of many years as long as you store them sensibly. Therefore, you can buy spares well before you need them. Also, the tubes included with a new bike may not be of the highest quality.
You always need lights on a bike if you’re riding in low light. Their primary function is to make you visible to other road users, though you may also need them to light your way if you ride on unlit roads.
Even in daylight, a flashing rear light isn’t a bad idea to catch the eye of following motorists. In the modern age of LED technology, batteries last a long time in bike lights. And it’s easy to create a variety of pulsing and flashing light patterns.
A set of front and rear lights like the market leading Bontrager Ion Pro RT and Flare RT Light Set is ideal for a folding bike. The Quick Connect brackets used to attach these lights allows them to easily be removed. You can easily switch them between bikes.
Light output is usually specified in lumens. This is a measure of total output rather than intensity, but the two things are related. You don’t need thousands of lumens to be seen, but you probably want at least 400-500 lumens for lighting dark roads.
6. Front Bag
Although you wouldn’t want to carry too much weight on the handlebars of a folding bike, many foldables have the facility to carry luggage at the front. Indeed, many Brompton bikes come with a front carrier block to fix bags onto.
An example of this kind of product is the Brompton Borough Roll Top Bike Bag. This clips into a Brompton carrier block. The Borough is a durable 1000D Cordura bag that comes in three sizes. The large size has a 28-liter capacity.
One benefit to carrying stuff on a handlebar is that you can always see it. That’s obvious, but it means you can make sure it’s always stable and watch over any valuables you put inside it.
Because folding bikes have small wheels, large panniers will often be unsuitable for them. Hence, the ability to carry luggage on the handlebar becomes more useful.
You can buy a generic product like the Vincita Bicycle Handlebar Bag to install on many folding bikes, though you’ll find it easier on bikes with a flat handlebar. A lot of folding bikes do have flat handlebars.
7. Carry & Storage Bag
One way to transport a folding bike when you’re not riding it is in a carry bag. These are ideal if you’re traveling by bus, train, or underground. They’re less suitable for air travel, where the risk of damage to your bike would be significant.
A carry bag is also good for protecting the interior of your car from any bike grime when you put the bike in a trunk or on the back seat. As well, you may feel more inclined to keep the bike inside your home if it’s wrapped up.
The THRLEGBIRD Folding Bicycle Bag is a good example of this type of product. This is suitable for most regular 14” to 20” folding bikes and is made from durable polyester. An exterior pocket is handy for bike tools or small sundry items.
Some folding bikes come with carrying bags, but these are often barely big enough to accommodate the bike. After-market bags may provide a better solution.
Brompton bike owners might like the tear-resistant B&W Foldon Bag. This high-quality polyester bag is designed to closely envelop a Brompton. It has a protective lining, sturdy zipper closure, and convenient carry handles.
8. Suitcase For Folding Bikes
A suitcase is a useful thing to have for carrying folding bikes on planes, though this isn’t entirely straightforward.
Theoretically, most airlines apply a 62” linear size limit on checked suitcases before they’re eligible for surcharges. And cases that accommodate folding bikes usually exceed this by the time the case wheels and handles are considered.
However, many people travel multiple times on airlines without being charged for their slightly oversized cases. Most large 29-31” cases are oversized, after all. Budget airlines are likely to be stricter on this than others.
Suitcases commonly used for Brompton bikes and others include the Samsonite Stryde Long Journey and the Delsey Paris Helium Aero Hardside.
For many folding bikes, a large 31” case will suffice. Of course, you must compare the interior dimensions to the folded size of your bike to make sure of this. You may need to dismantle the bike to varying degrees.
A suitcase may also be useful for carrying your bike on long-distance train or bus journeys. You can then stack it alongside other luggage with less fear of damage. On trains, the length of the case is more likely to be restricted than linear dimensions.
9. Folding Bike Lock
A folding bike lock is not a lock for folding bikes, specifically. It’s a lock that folds into a small size. But that’s a quality that goes hand in hand with a space-saving folding bike.
One reason to buy a folding bike is so you don’t have to leave it standing alone and risk bike theft. You can take it with you. But if you’re popping into a store on your way to work, a bike lock like the Sigtuna folding bike lock deters casual theft.
At 7.5” long, the above lock is easy to keep on the bike or in a deep pocket. It’s made of cut-resistant steel and wrapped in soft plastic to avoid scratching your bike’s paint.
Buy a more expensive folding lock if you plan on leaving a valuable bike alone for a few minutes. A Brompton, for instance, is a desirable target to a thief.
Folding bike locks aren’t lightweight, but they offer greater versatility than a narrow U-lock. You can wrap a folding bike lock around a broad lamppost, and it’s easier to lock two bikes together.
10. Folding Bike Pedals
One way that folding bikes are made more compact is with folding pedals. The pedals and the handlebar are the bits on a bike that stick out the most.
If high quality is a priority, consider the Japanese MKS FD-7 Folding Pedals. MKS has long been one of the best pedal manufacturers in the world and is well known for its traditional cage-style pedals and flat pedals.
Depending on the way a bike folds, you may only need a single folding pedal. That’s because the other pedal is hidden and doesn’t jut out. On a Brompton, for example, the non-folding pedal sits behind the folded front wheel.
An alternative to folding pedals is quick-release pedals. These also reduce the folded size of the bike, or they’ll help you store a full-sized bike flat against a wall. Zizzo quick-release pedals are made for Zizzo folding bikes, for example.
11. Electric Bike Pump
You won’t have to pump up folding-bike tires frequently, but how about an electric bike pump to make this vital task easier? If you ignore tire pressure, you increase the risk of punctures (especially “pinch flats”) and wheel rim damage.
A pump like the AirXwills Electric Bike Pump is a handy thing to keep at home. You just enter the required pressure and press a button to inflate. There’s no need to squint at an analog pressure dial, as it’s all digital and easy to see.
The max pressure of tires is always marked on each tire, so you shouldn’t exceed that.
If you plan to ride long distances on a folding bike, you’ll want to carry a manual pump. But for typical urban riding, that may not be necessary. You can just fold the bike up and catch the bus, fixing any flat tire when you get home.
Enjoy the ride on your folding bike!