Folding bikes are a great piece of equipment to have. They are compact and can fit into small storage spaces. They are easy to take places with you and can usually be fit into the trunk of a car or strapped onto the roof. Moreover, they are great for long rides where you can get plenty of exercises.
However, the problem arises when we think of the one-size-fits-all aspect of folding bikes. Many people think folding bikes are harder to ride because they can be quite uncomfortable.
Some people also worry that folding bikes are slower than regular bikes. Read ahead to find out if folding bikes are harder to ride, what you can do to make them more comfortable, why they might be slow, and how you can make them faster.
Are Folding Bikes Harder to Ride?
A folding bike is no more or less comfortable than a regular bike. However, the riding experience on folding bikes might not be as enjoyable for several reasons. These include the bike configuration and customizations.
Many cyclists might choose a bike based on them being lightweight and stylish rather than considering the features and customizations.
A folding bike needs to be properly configured to suit the rider. When we say configuration, we talk about the bike being healthy overall and all of its components working to their best ability.
The bike should be well lubricated; its brakes should be working well, the saddle and handlebars should be at the right heights and angles, the brake pads should not be rubbing, etc.
The bike being properly configured is essential to a comfortable and easy ride. It is also essential to ensure that the rider does not get injured or lose control of the bike.
The other reason why a folding bike might be harder to ride is if it is not properly customized for the rider. Certain modifications can be made to folding bikes to make them easier to ride.
Such customizations might include different pedal covers or sizes, handlebar additions, etc. If you choose customizations based on style and look alone and don’t consider your comfort, riding a folding bike would be harder.
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What Factors Affect the Comfort of Riding Folding Bikes?
Now that we know that folding bikes can be a bit uncomfortable to ride sometimes, what are the factors that affect the comfort of riding a folding bike, and can these factors be adjusted accordingly? Let’s take a look:
Frame shape and size
The riding position on the bike will be dictated mainly by the shape and size of the bike’s frame. The height and length of the bike depending on the frame.
If a bike is too tall for the rider or not long enough, it would obviously be a very uncomfortable fit. The rider may even experience back pain, and pain in the wrists and the hips.
The only way to get comfortable with the shape and size of the bike is by understanding how the bike is constructed and ensuring that it is the right size for you.
When you understand the anatomy of a folding bike, you will be able to pick a shape and size that is perfect for you.
Another reason why your bike may be uncomfortable is if the saddle is at the wrong height. If the saddle is too high, your back will be hunched over and uncomfortable as you lean down to reach the handlebars.
If it is too low, your hips and legs will be bent uncomfortably, and you will have to exert extra effort to pedal.
To find the perfect saddle height for yourself, measure the inside of your leg and minus 10cm from that length. The resulting length should be the distance between the center of the bottom bracket and the top of the saddle.
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The saddle angle, or the tilt of the saddle, can also dictate the comfort of your riding experience, especially for longer rides.
Sometimes, the saddle might be titled too upwards or too downwards. The saddle should ideally be in a neutral position but not exactly even. It can be a couple of degrees downwards to reduce pressure on your hips.
The saddle needs to be the correct width to accommodate your pelvis and backside. It shouldn’t be too thin, or that will put extra pressure on your hips.
On the other hand, it should not be too wide or too padded either. Some riders think a very padded saddle would be more comfortable, but that isn’t true.
A too wide saddle would result in the rider having to spread their legs wider than necessary, which can become uncomfortable and painful after some time. Try out a few different saddles to figure out which width suits you best.
If your bike’s handlebars are not the right style, you can experience numbness in your hands, wrist pain, and back pain. Like other folding bike components, the handlebars might be set too high or too low.
Consider buying a different style handlebar, such as a more compact one or a deeper one. You can also buy ergonomic wrist grips or bike gloves to relieve pressure on your wrists and hands.
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While riding your folding bike, you should be able to reach the brake and the brake lever comfortably. If you cannot comfortably reach, you will not have full control over braking or stopping the bike as you ride it. Most folding bikes come with adjustable mechanical and hydraulic levers.
Try changing around the reach and adjusting the levers till you find a position that suits you best. It might take a few tries, but you’ll be much more comfortable once you’ve figured out the perfect positioning.
If you’re using the wrong pedal cleats or not positioned correctly, you’ll be putting way more pressure on your legs and feet than is necessary, making for a very uncomfortable ride.
Most riders make the mistake of adjusting the saddle height and do not consider repositioning the pedal cleats.
What you can do to fix any discomfort is adjust the pedal cleats so that they are aligned with the center of your foot. You can also try out a good pair of insoles for your riding shoes.
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The quality of the tires and the amount of air in them can greatly impact the comfort of riding a folding bike. These factors affect your braking, acceleration, friction, and steering.
Sometimes, people pump their tires with too much air and reach the maximum recommended pressure. This can cause an extra bounce in the tires and more vibrations.
It would be good to fill the tires to just a little below the maximum pressure capacity and see if that helps make riding more comfortable.
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Why Are Folding Bikes Slower?
So, now you know all about how you can adjust the various components of your folding bike to make the riding and more comfortable experience. But what about the speed of the bike? Many people wonder if folding bikes are slower than regular bikes.
An average folding bike can go as fast as 12 miles per hour. You could even get to 16 miles per hour if you really push it. However, this might not be the case for all folding bikes. The truth is that while not all folding bikes will be slow, some of them definitely can be.
The main reasons why a folding bike might be slow include the materials the bike is made with, the size of the wheels, the weight of the bike, and the gears on the bike. The most common materials used in folding bikes are aluminum and carbon fiber.
Aluminum is a lighter and cheaper option that is used for most beginner’s bikes. Carbon fiber is more expensive than aluminum but is more shock absorbent. Generally speaking, bikes made with carbon fiber are faster.
Then we have to consider the wheel size. Commonly, folding bikes come with 20-inch wheels. Folding bikes with these wheels are usually able to keep up to speed with regular bikes.
However, to make the bikes more compact and easy to store and transport, some manufacturers use smaller wheels that are 16-inches in size. The smaller the wheels are, the slower the bike becomes.
The next factor affecting the bike’s speed is the weight of the bike and the rider. Folding bikes can be a bit heavier than regular bikes because of the folding mechanisms. This makes the bike slower compared to regular bikes.
Folding bikes can also hold less weight than regular bikes, so the bike will slow down considerably if the rider is heavier.
Lastly, we can consider the gears on the folding bike and how they affect the speed. A bike with ten or eleven teeth on the cassette has enough gear options that you can increase the riding speed.
Any less than that and the speed would be compromised. With the right combination of gears on the front and rear of the bike, you can get a steady efficiency and power, which means a faster bike.
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How to Make a Folding Bike Faster?
If you ride your folding bike and are frustrated with the slower speed, you can do a few things to make the bike faster. Of course, you can’t change the materials it is made of or the weight limits of the bike, but you can make small adjustments to get the bike up to its fastest potential.
Keep the Bike Clean
The first thing you need to do to make your bike faster is to keep it clean and properly maintained. If you have ridden the bike while it was raining or been on muddy roads, then mud, dirt, and debris could have accumulated in the cables and drivetrain.
This buildup can cause the driving mechanisms of the bike to slow down. To avoid this, you should clean the bike thoroughly after every few rides and wipe it down after each ride.
Make Sure It is Sufficiently Lubricated
Your folding bike also needs to be sufficiently lubricated to ensure that it goes as fast as possible. The moving parts of the bike, like the drivetrain and the gears, can become worn over time from friction.
It is important to keep all of these parts properly lubricated to keep that friction at a minimum. You should also oil the pedals, the brake, and the shifter levels every now and then.
Check the Tire Pressure
Lastly, tire pressure also plays a big role in the speed of your folding bike. Before every ride, you should check if there is enough pressure in the tires.
If there isn’t enough pressure, the tires will have higher rolling resistance, and you will have to exert a lot more effort into keeping the bike going at a steady pace.
Tires that are not properly inflated are also at a higher risk of punctures. If you ensure the tires have enough air pressure, you’ll be able to ride much faster.
Our Final Thoughts
Folding bikes are great for easy storage and transport but can pose a number of problems. The most significant problems are that they can sometimes be uncomfortable and are not always as fast as regular bikes.
We have given you some tips on what you can do to make your folding bike more comfortable, as well as how you can make it go faster. Try out these tips, and hopefully, you will have a much better experience riding your folding bike the next time you use it.
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I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.