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If you’re thinking of buying a folding bike, one of the key features to ponder is the way it folds.
The method of folding affects the final folded size. It’s also a factor in how quickly you can fold or unfold your bike.
A bike that folds quickly and easily is especially useful for commutes or any mixed-mode travel.
This article tells you how to fold a folding bike and how the folding method differs between big brands and bike types.
Times When You Should Fold Away Your Folding Bike
There are various times or places when you’ll want to fold away your folding bike.
- Commuting – ideally, you need a bike to fold quickly to a compact size when you’re catching a train or bus on an intermodal commute. You don’t want it to get in the way of other travelers on busy modes of transport.
- Travel – if you’re contemplating some adventure travel using various modes of transport, the bike fold is important. It’ll make the bike more or less versatile depending on where you take it. Some folding bikes fit into a suitcase.
- Road Trips – on many driving vacations or journeys, the way a bike folds may not be crucial. Perhaps it’s enough that you can carry it in a trunk without putting the car seats down. But a compact fold may be useful in some instances.
- Small Living Space – you’ll always want to fold away your folding bike if you live in a small apartment or other confined space like a boat. The exact nature of the fold makes a difference in how or where it will be stored.
- Work – related to commuting, but you’ll often want to fold a bike inside your workplace. More compact folding bikes (e.g., Bromptons) can be stored under a desk while you work, which is a common aim.
- Shopping – the ability to fold a bike and preferably wheel it about on rollers is ideal for shopping trips. Folding bikes eliminate the need to lock your bike outside shops, so there’s no worrying about theft.
Video: Taking A Folding Bike On London Public Transport
Do All Folding Bikes Fold The Same?
Folding bikes most definitely do not all fold the same. Alongside other key elements like wheel size, the folding method has a great influence on the folded size.
A classic example of this is the Brompton bike. All Brompton models fold the same way and achieve the same folded size (23″ x 22.2″ x 10.6″). Other brands do not offer this consistency across their ranges.
The size of the bike’s wheel plays a big part in the way it folds. If you’re choosing a folding bike with larger wheels for purposes of comfort and handling, the fold is likely to be simpler because you’re not prioritizing compactness.
Taken to extremes, foldable bikes with full-sized 26” or 700c wheels just fold in half, but you’ll need to remove the front wheel. The smaller the wheels are, and the more bikes cost, the more sophisticated the folding method is likely to be.
Canadian folding bike company Helix bucks the trend a bit in what it offers. This is a manufacturer that uses large 24” wheels on its luxury titanium bikes, and yet the bike still folds smaller than many competing bikes with 20” or even 16” wheels.
The wheel diameter is ultimately the limiting factor in the fold, as is the thickness of the frame and components when talking about the width. Titanium and steel frames fold slimmer on average than chunky aluminum frames.
In summary, the target market, materials used, and wheel diameter are all factors that inevitably influence the way a bike folds. The cost of the bike plays a part – clever design and thinner materials are not usually cheap.
How To Fold A Folding Bicycle
So, how do you fold a folding bike? There is plenty of variation, but we’ll give you some typical examples.
Full-Size Folding Bike
Full-sized folding bikes are relatively rare, but they’re out there. Look at Change or Montague bikes if you’re interested.
1. Remove The Front Wheel
You’ll typically remove the front wheel of a folding full-sized bike to reduce its length. Thus, the wheel is usually the quick-release type.
2. Remove Or Fold The Pedals
You’ll probably need to rotate the cranks as per the bike instructions so they don’t interfere with the fold. Remove or fold the pedals.
3. Disengage The Locking Mechanism
Whether it’s teeth or a hinge, you need to disengage the locking mechanisms. These bikes do not usually have a hinged crossbar but instead, fold at the seat tube.
4. Fold The Bike
Turn the handlebars in so they’re facing the rear wheel as you fold the bike. At this point, the height and length of the bike are almost squared.
5. Attach The Front Wheel To The Bike
You may be able to attach the front wheel to the folded bike via a catch.
6. Reverse & Lower The Saddle
The nose of the saddle will be sticking out at this point, so you need to reverse and lower it ready for transportation.
Classic 20” Folding Bike (Dahon Mariner D8)
The Dahon Mariner D8 is the most popular model from the biggest folding bike manufacturer in the world.
1. Lower The Seat & Adjust Handlebar
Lower the seat to its lowest height. Then, rotate the handlebar forward so the brake levers are pointing downward.
2. Position The Handle Post
The “handle post” is the long post extending from the Fusion stem to the handlebar. You need to release this and adjust it upward until you reach the marker on the post.
3. Release The Post And Fold Handlebar Down
Release the handlebar post (at the Dahon Fusion stem in this case) and fold the handlebar down alongside the front wheel.
4. Release The Crossbar Hinge & Fold
On the Dahon, the main fold is at the lattice forged hinge on the crossbar. You’ll need to release the hinge mechanism on any similar bike, then fold it in half.
Magnets keep the bike held together.
Note the drivetrain is facing outward with this folding method.
5. Fold The Pedals In
Pedals tend to stick out once a bike is folded, so they too need to be folded or removed. On the Dahon, you fold both pedals in.
Brompton bikes all have 16” (ISO 349mm) wheels and a distinctive way of folding that takes about 15 seconds for a seasoned Brompton rider.
1. Pull Lever & Swing Rear Wheel Under Bike
Beneath the seatpost of a Brompton, there’s a lever. Pulling on that releases the rear wheel and triangle so it can swing below the main frame of the bike.
2. Loosen Frame Hinge & Swing Front Of Bike Backwards
Near the front of a Brompton is the frame hinge. Unwind the lever just enough that the bracket clears the frame.
Swing the front wheel backward and secure the integral hook to its receiver on the Brompton.
3. Undo Handlebar Hinge And Swing Handlebar Down
There’s another lever to unwind at the handlebar hinge.
With this loosened, you can swing the post and handlebar downwards until it clicks into place on the frame. Some users allow the handlebar to fall into place.
4. Release Seatpost & Lower
Release the seatpost lever and move the saddle to its lowest position. The seatpost will reach the floor. Secure it again with the cam lever.
5. Adjust Cranks & Pedals
Turn the exposed left-hand pedal anti-clockwise until the other pedal rests on the rear tire. Then, fold the left-hand pedal inward (the right Brompton pedal does not fold).
One thing to note about the Brompton fold is that it conceals the drivetrain. This is a desirable feature. On most folding bikes, this vulnerable area faces outwards.
Read more: Best pedals for folding bicycles
As we’ve seen, folding bikes don’t all fold the same way. Most will fold in half like the Dahon Mariner, whereas the Brompton and similar bikes (e.g., Dahon Curl i8) have a more sophisticated and compact fold.
The nature of the fold is related to other bike features, like wheel size and frame materials.
Helix bikes borrow a little from Bromptons in that the wheels swing beneath the main frame. A downside is that the drivetrain is left exposed, but these bikes are a different proposition to begin with.
If you want the smallest fold possible, look for that extra elegance in the folding method, which shouldn’t have any negative effect on folding speed. The world record for folding a Brompton is in the region of 5 seconds.
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