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As long as it suits your needs, a single speed folding bike has several benefits.
Single speed bikes are cheaper, lighter, and easier to maintain than geared bikes. They look good, too, if you value simplicity.
In this article, we’ll look at some single speed folding bikes you can buy today. Included among them is the remarkable Hummingbird Single Speed Folding Bike. This is the lightest folding bike money can buy and uses top-quality parts.
We’ll also tell you what to look for in 1-speed folding bikes. Are they inferior to geared equivalents? You’ll find out.
- Hummingbird Single Speed Folding Bike (Best Overall)
- Retrospec Judd Single Speed Folding Bike (Best Value)
- Schwinn Hinge Single Speed Folding Bike (Best Budget)
Top 3 Best Single Speed Folding Bikes Reviewed
1. Hummingbird Single Speed Folding Bike (best overall)
- Frame Material: Carbon fiber
- Weight: 15.2 lbs (6.9 kg)
Though it costs a small fortune, the Hummingbird Single Speed Folding Bike is an exceptional machine. It capitalizes on its one speed like no other folding bike on the market. This is a super-lightweight bike.
Unlike any other folding-bike manufacturer, Hummingbird makes bikes with carbon fiber frames. This makes the bikes insanely low in weight. They’re also strong, durable, and comfortable.
The single-speed model is Hummingbird’s lightest bike. Also lightweight is the 19.84 lbs multi-speed model. But a 4.4 lb difference below 20 lbs is considerable. This bike is loaded with lightweight parts, too. The wheels are tri-spoke carbon wheels.
Probably the biggest downside to this bike lies in the way it folds. The frame doesn’t fold. Therefore, the folded size is longer and skinnier than that of most folding bikes (46” x 23” x 8”). Those dimensions might be good or bad, depending on the situation.
The Hummingbird has to win our top award. Its single speed helps create the lightest folding bike in existence. This is a unique bike.
Hummingbird also makes a single-speed electric bike that’s lighter than most regular folding bikes.
What We Like
- Lightweight – absurdly light (the lightest folding bike in the world).
- Durable – carbon has no lifespan, like steel or titanium.
- Quality – high-quality lightweight parts, like Shimano Hollowtech cranks.
- Wheels – tri-spoke carbon wheels.
What We Don’t Like
- Price – not for the faint-hearted or anyone on a budget.
- Proportions – the lengthy folded size may not suit all situations, though the narrow width could be useful.
2. Retrospec Judd Single Speed Folding Bike (best value)
- Frame Material: Aluminum
- Weight: Approx. 21 lbs (9.5 kg)
An example of a weight-saving single speed bike at a good price is the Retrospec Judd Single Speed Folding Bike. A lot of bikes like this exploit the lack of gears with other minimalistic features. For instance, this bike also has a coaster brake.
Because of the coaster brake, there are no cables or rim brakes on this bike. To stop, you have to pedal backward. This makes braking more hazardous at high speed (e.g., downhill), as the wheel can lock up and skid. It’s best to stick to flat roads.
With its 20” wheels, the Retrospec Judd does not fold as small as some bikes with 16” wheels. Nevertheless, it achieves a compact 30” x 22” x 10” folded size. The wheels of this bike are shod with Kenda Kwest Commuter tires.
The Retrospec Judd is an excellent choice for commuting. You can lift it onto public transport with ease.
Like any bike with a single speed and coaster brake, this is a low-maintenance machine.
What We Like
- Lightweight – minimalistic specs and aluminum frame save weight.
- Low maintenance – no brake pads, cables, or gears to take care of.
- Tires – durable Kenda tires.
- Commuter – good commuting bike on flat terrain.
What We Don’t Like
- Brakes – coaster brakes have downsides, including the added risk of skidding during a sudden stop.
3. Schwinn Hinge Single Speed Folding Bike (best budget)
- Frame Material: Steel
- Weight: Approx. 33 lbs (15 kg)
A different bike to the Retrospec Judd is the Schwinn Hinge Single Speed Folding Bike. The Schwinn is some 12 lbs heavier, but it has other things going for it. Part of the reason for the extra weight is a fuller set of specs.
The Schwinn Hinge includes commuter-friendly features like fenders, a chainguard, and a rear rack. These add to the weight, but the biggest reason for that is the steel frame. On the plus side, steel is durable, strong, and easier to repair than aluminum or carbon.
Like the Hummingbird but unlike the Retrospec bike, the Schwinn has rim brakes. In this case, they’re powerful V-brakes.
In terms of folded size, the Schwinn is the least compact on our list. It measures 30” x 32” x 11”. Like the Retrospec, it has 20” alloy wheels.
The Schwinn Hinge is designed as a practical, sturdy bike for commuting or daily tasks. It comes with a carrying bag.
What We Like
- Equipment – fully kitted out for commuting or shopping.
- Brakes – powerful V-brakes.
- Durable – a strong and long-lasting bike made of steel.
What We Don’t Like
- Weight – not lightweight for a single-speed bike.
Features To Look For On Single Speed Folding Bicycles
The benefits of a single-speed folding bike don’t vary, but the bikes do vary a lot. There are relatively few on the market, but it’s a diverse choice.
Even in this article, you’ve seen three completely different bikes made with three different frame materials. Yet they have things in common. What material’s best? Check out this summary:
- Carbon – the lightest folding bikes anywhere are made of carbon, albeit with a different kind of fold. Carbon is lightweight and strong. It’s comfortable, too, if the layup pattern is right. A downside of carbon is its vulnerability to damage by compression. Don’t put a carbon bike anywhere it can get crushed. It’s not easy or cheap to repair.
- Aluminum – a cheaper way than carbon to achieve a lightweight bike, though it is heavier. Many lightweight folding bikes are made of aluminum, though some aluminum bikes are also heavy. That’s partly down to the amount of material used and other factors like weight of components. Aluminum is less durable than carbon or steel. But an aluminum folding bike could last many years.
- Steel – when they’re made of steel, nearly all folding bikes are made of inexpensive steel (including Bromptons). The quality and refinement of manufacturing vary. Although steel bikes can be fairly lightweight, the lightest folding bikes are never steel. This is illustrated in this article. However, steel is durable, compliant, and easy to repair.
- Titanium – has the durability of steel but is much more lightweight and even more compliant. It also does not rust. Few folding bikes are made of titanium, however. Canadian company Helix makes Standard and Ultralight single-speed models with titanium frames. The single-speed Ultralight only gives way to the Hummingbird for low weight.
A single-speed bike reduces weight in whatever material it’s made of. But you must pay attention to the material if lightness is a priority.
Video: Steel vs Aluminum Bike Frames
Single speed bikes that try to cut down on weight are quite likely to have a coaster brake. Especially cheaper models. Some bikes may have a coaster brake and a front rim brake.
Expensive single-speed folding bikes usually have a full set of brakes. These might be lightweight caliper brakes or even disc brakes.
Rim brakes are more common on folding bikes than disc brakes. They’re lighter. On a single-speed bike, disc brakes might be viewed as overkill. You’re less likely to be descending steep hills, where powerful braking becomes desirable.
Single Speed vs Fixie?
A single speed folding bike is one with a single gear ratio. No more, no less. A fixie, or fixed-gear bicycle, also has a single gear. But with the fixie, there is no freewheel mechanism, so you can’t coast. As long as the bike is moving, you’re pedaling.
This isn’t a choice you’ll usually have to make with a folding single speed bike. They all have a freewheel, so they’re not fixies. Not long ago, though, you could’ve bought a Fubi fixie. This is a full-sized single speed folding bike with a flip-flop hub.
A flip-flop hub enables you to ride a single-speed bike in fixie or single speed mode. The former is a subset of the latter. You only have to switch the direction of the rear wheel to change modes.
If you’re buying a single speed folding bike to keep the weight down, smaller wheels will help. Also, the folded size of the bike is limited by the wheel size. That being said, bikes that fold efficiently may fold smaller than some bikes with smaller wheels.
Smaller wheels on bikes are also stronger wheels. However, the wheels on folding bikes are so strong that strength differences have less meaning. You want double-wall wheel rims, ideally, though this spec isn’t always provided.
Read more: 16 vs 20 vs 24-inch wheels for folding bikes
An absence of gears helps keep the weight of the bike down, but this isn’t always a priority in design. Some single-speed folding bikes may have fenders, a rack, a chainguard, and other extras. Of course, these bump the weight of the bike up.
Inexpensive bikes that come with a lot of kit probably aren’t that light beneath it. The final bike specs are influenced by the frame and vice versa. A low-budget, lightweight single speed is likely to have an aluminum frame and few extras.
What Weight Should You Aim For?
You should be able to pick up a cheap single-speed folding bike with a weight of around 21-22 lbs. This is a lightweight bike compared to many folding bikes, so you’re benefiting from the lack of gears.
Anything much under 20 lbs in a folding bike is exceptionally light. The way you’ll achieve this is usually with a single-speed model. It may be expensive.
You’ll note the Schwinn Hinge among our reviews weighs 33 lbs. This is not heavy for an adult in rude health, but it’s not lightweight, either. At this point, you’re buying the bike for its mechanical simplicity and practical features.
Are Single Speed Folding Bikes Worse Than Geared Bikes?
Single speed bikes are different from geared bikes rather than worse. The only time they’re worse is if you try to ride them over hilly terrain. They’ll be okay for a few modest hills, but any sustained climb will place a lot of strain on your knees and muscles.
A masochistic cyclist might view a single speed bike as an opportunity for strength training. You won’t be able to “spin” a single speed bike up a hill, usually, so you use brute force instead.
The single gear ratio used on a single-speed bike will be an all-rounder. You’ll be able to ride quickly on the flats and push up the odd hill. If the bike has a coaster brake only, hills are best avoided altogether.
For many cyclists, steeper hills are only possible on a bike with ultra-low gears. A single-speed bike won’t have such a gear. You may end up walking.
On the plus side, a single speed bike is often cheaper, lighter, less likely to develop problems, and has clean looks. It can’t be worse unless it’s unfit for your purposes.
To recap on our reviews, the Hummingbird Single Speed Folding Bike is our top pick for its ultra-lightweight, high-quality frame and parts. Hummingbird carbon bikes are unique on the market, though you need plenty of spare cash to buy one.
A bike that capitalizes on the low-weight, low-cost potential of a single speed bike is the Retrospec Judd. Its minimalistic specs trim it down to 21 lbs, which makes it easy to lift onto trains or carry over stairs. This is a great bike “as is” for fair-weather commuting.
The Schwinn Hinge Single Speed Folding Bike focuses on practicality rather than low weight. It’s loaded with features that make it ideal for year-round commuting. Like most Schwinn bikes, it’s sturdy and durable, too.
Consider a single speed if you need a lightweight or low-maintenance folding bike!