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If you want some of the convenience of a folding bike without the small wheels, folding bike handlebars offer a solution.
You can’t usually fold handlebars. That’s the problem. There they sit, occupying over 50% of the bike’s width.
Enter the folding handlebar stem. This enables you to turn your handlebar 90° so the bike can sit flat against a wall or weave its way through a crowd.
In this article, we’ll explain the game-changing benefits of a folding handlebar stem and unlock a whole new level of compactness for your bike. And we’ll see what products are on the market to help you slim your bike.
Why Would You Want To Fold The Handlebar Stem?
There are several viable reasons for wanting to fold the handlebar stem.
Limited Storage Space
If you don’t have a garage or a shed, you may need to store your bike indoors. But if your living space is limited, a full-sized bike is likely to get in your way.
One way to store bikes indoors while saving floor space is by hanging them on a wall rack. But this takes DIY skill and consumes time and money.
By flattening a bike’s handlebar and removing pedals, you make the bike far more practical to store. You just need to lean it against a wall, perhaps in a hallway.
Taking Your Bike Onto Trains
Many trains have designated bicycle carriages. You can wheel your bike onto them, but you’ll often be jostling with foot passengers as you do so.
With a folding handlebar stem, you can move through crowds with greater ease. You won’t be snagging the handlebar on people’s clothes or bags.
Cyclists at train stations undoubtedly irritate a proportion of stressed commuters, so you’ll do yourself and others a favor if you make your bike skinnier in these situations.
Read mire: Commuter biking tips
Have you ever noticed the brutish way some people pull their bikes from a brimming bike rack? If it gets caught on another bike, they pull harder. They may not care about their own bike, much less yours.
If you can flatten your handlebar, your bike won’t be snagging against anyone else’s. And because of that, it’s less likely to sustain damage.
Imagine trying to ride a bike with a handlebar that cannot connect to the steering. When a folding handlebar stem is combined with a lock, it becomes a security feature.
Many thieves ride away on stolen bikes, so an inability to do this is a deterrent. It makes them more likely to be caught.
Video: Use Of A Rotating Handlebar To Deter Theft
Are There Downsides To Using Foldable Handlebars?
Foldable handlebars are very far from being a standard feature, so what are the downsides?
Lack Of Choice
There are few folding handlebar stems on the market, so you may not find the exact product you’d like. For example, the length of a handlebar stem affects “reach” in bike fit terms, which alters your posture on the bike.
Although some folding bike stem models are available in multiple sizes, you won’t always be offered the full range at the point of sale.
You can buy folding handlebars rather than folding handlebar stems, but these are also few in number. And a folding stem lets you retain use of your favorite handlebar.
Not Ideal For Drop Handlebars
To achieve a flat bike with a folding handlebar, the handlebar needs to be flat. Drop handlebars will still stick out a bit if you turn them sideways.
The “hooks” of a drop handlebar are likely to live up to their name if you have to brush past them in a confined space.
Video: Flat Folding Handlebars Work Best
Consumes Wall Space
The market for folding handlebars is kind of usurped by folding bikes. While a folded bike is fatter than a bike with a folded handlebar, the latter is much longer.
A folded bike is more versatile in terms of potential storage spaces.
Do These Work On Folding Bikes As Well?
On Full-Sized Folding Bikes
Most full-sized folding bikes like those made by Change or Montague require you to remove the wheels of the bike so you can turn the handlebar by 90 degrees. This makes them roughly square in their folded dimensions (length x height).
On these bikes, you could add a folding handlebar stem to increase your storage options. You might only need to take the wheels off when you’re putting the bike into a car, for instance.
What About Folding Bikes With Small Wheels?
The design of most folding bikes does not allow scope for adding a different handlebar stem, folding or otherwise. The post, stem, and handlebar are integral to the bike’s design and the way it folds.
Typical foldable bikes have a folding handlebar post which allows the handlebar to both rotate and fold down, so there’d be no need to add a folding stem.
An exception to the above is Revelo 20” folding bikes, which use their own rotating stem (separately available) to flatten the handlebar.
Video: A Folding Handlebar Stem On A 20” Revelo Folding Bike
Folding Handlebar Stems We Like
There are few folding handlebar stems on the market. We’ve sorted five for you below.
1. Revelo THINstem Folding Bike Stem (best overall)
It’s the design of the Revelo THINstem Folding Bike Stem that makes it our top pick. This Canadian-made stem is a signature product of Flatbike, which is also a main dealer for folding Change bikes in the US.
The best feature of this stem is that it perfectly aligns a flat handlebar with the stem and top tube, so it doesn’t only swing the handlebar around. This stem makes the front end of a bike skinnier than any other.
2. byschultz Stem Twist SDS Handlebar Stem (most versatile)
A Gold prize winner in the 2016 Eurobike Awards was the byschultz Stem Twist SDS Handlebar Stem. This stem is available in four different sizes. (The model on Amazon is likely to be the shortest 75mm version.)
This handlebar stem lets you turn the handlebar 90° within seconds and requires no tools to do so. Though a bit expensive, it offers a unique feature with its SDS front cap.
The SDS cap integrates with available SDS links and adapters, which hold accessories like a GPS bike computer or front lamp.
3. n-Lock Lockable Rotating Handlebar Stem (best for security)
This Danish product wins our security category by default because it has no known rivals. The n-Lock Lockable Rotating Handlebar Stem has a keyed “park mode” that detaches the handlebar from the front wheel, making the bike impossible to steer.
Because you can’t re-engage the handlebar without a key, the n-Lock prevents a thief from riding away on your bike.
4. Satori ET2 Quick-Turning Handlebar Stem (best budget)
The cheapest folding stem you’ll find in the US is the Satori ET2 Quick-Turning Handlebar Stem. You can expect the manufacturing quality to be a little less polished than more expensive models, but the ET2 does its job.
This stem has a quick-release lever for fast folding and offers a 12° angle adjustment.
5. Via VT2 Foldable Handlebar Stem
Available in Europe, the Via VT2 Foldable Stem is almost identical to the Satori stem listed above. A supplied shim lets you install it on 31.8mm or 25.4mm handlebars.
Conclusion: Are Foldable Handlebars Worth It?
If you need to make your full-sized bike easier to store, a foldable handlebar is a great solution. Your streamlined bike will move easily through crowds, too.
A folding handlebar stem reduces the width of your bike by over 50% but still leaves it ready to ride within seconds. It’s also much cheaper than a folding bike.
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