Folding bikes have been with us for a while now, but it’s not until recently that they gained prominence, especially with its introduction into the electric biking scene.
Because of their overall versatile construction, electric folding bikes continue to attract a growing number of admirers, with urban commuters and students making up the larger chunk.
As manufacturers try to keep up with the increasing demand for electric folding bikes, the market is slowly getting flooded with options to cater for consumers within a wide budget range.
But not all folding e-bikes are created equal! It takes a great deal of due diligence to find a high-quality model that best works for you.
So, to ensure you don’t succumb to the common pitfalls of first-time buying, here are a couple of folding e-bike specs that a buyer should take note of when searching for the best folding e-bikes.
Let us start with the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “electric folding bike”. You should know that the folding mechanisms in these bikes vary from one model to another, although they all feature a hinge and locking clamp fitted in the middle of the frame.
Typically, the hinge is welded into the frame and will be made out of the same heavy-duty material as the frame. In most cases, manufacturers go for 6061 aluminum alloy or Chromoly steel.
The common misconception about folding bikes is that their frames are usually weak and snap relatively easily. This might have been true for old models, but not the current high-quality designs. Bike makers today use solid materials to create a solid bike that can support up to 300lbs of weight.
The dimensions of the folded e-bike typically differ from one brand to another. Some of the common measurements include 32.5" x 26" x 16", 30" x 22" x 10", and 29.5" x 26.0" x 12.6". Remember that the size of tires influences the size of the e-bike when collapsed. So, be sure to consider when shopping for a size that best works.
The folding e-bike’s clamp is normally made out of high-grade aluminum and this locks in place to result in a stiff frame with no flex or weakness at the hinge point. If you are riding your new folding e-bike and notice that the clamp is weak or loose, be sure to see a technician and get it fixed.
Otherwise, you run the risk of the frame coming apart and compromising your safety in the middle of the ride. Also, it's always good to wipe the clamp clean of any debris after a ride.
Note that the folding process might differ between different brands of folding electric bikes. The important thing is that it should be easy to learn, as well as smooth to operate. Ensure everything is demonstrated to you at the bike store before you decide to buy.
The average electric folding bike generally comes fitted with mechanical disc brakes, but the more premium brands use higher-quality hydraulic discs. Mechanical disc brakes make use of cables to squeeze the brake calipers against the rotor when you press the brake levers. This eventually causes the bike to stop.
Overall, mechanical disc brakes are an upgrade on the older school V-brakes but not as efficient as hydraulics. Speaking of hydraulic disc brakes, these use hydraulic fluid instead of the steel cable in mechanical disc brakes. The hydraulic fluid causes the calipers to close faster and more efficiently when the brake levers are pressed, resulting in greater stopping power.
Furthermore, hydraulic disc brakes don’t need as much effort to engage as mechanical disc brakes. Another feature that you might come across in most folding e-bikes is an automatic motor inhibitor. This is usually triggered whenever you pull the brake levers and causes the motor to stop working.
To keep your brakes working smoothly, remember to perform regular maintenance depending on how often you ride the bike. If you ever notice some lag before the brakes engage, chances are the cable is loose and needs to be tightened for mechanical disc brakes.
But for hydraulic disc brakes, it should prompt you to change the fluid for the brakes to be more responsive when engaged.
The electric motor is the heart of any e-bike; it should be among the first specs you check when shopping for an electric folding bike. Usually, the motor provides power to the bike either by a thumb/twist throttle or by the PAS (Pedal Assist System).
The motor can also be a front hub, rear hub, or mid-drive depending on the manufacturer, although most folding e-bikes use rear hub motors. You can expect a nominal power output of between 250W and 1000W as you move from compact and portable models to heavy-duty motors used on eMTBs.
Using the throttle to ride an electric bike ensures that you don’t need to put any pedaling effort. However, opting for the pedal-assist system requires you to pedal before the motor jumps in to provide the boost. A higher PAS level results in more power from the motor and vise versa.
The motor also produces a torque that helps the bike to accelerate and propels you up hilly ascends with relative ease. This will also come in handy when you are up against a consistent headwind.
Ideally, you want an e-bike motor with at least 50Nm of torque. This should be punchy enough to make light work of steep sections of the road. It will also ensure that you’re not slowed down by headwinds.
The wheels used on folding electric bikes are not too different from the ones you see on conventional bikes. They all feature a metal rim where the tire and inner tube are mounted, with the slight alteration being that e-bikes have their electric motor built into the wheel’s hub. This could either be on the front or rear wheel.
Electric bike wheels spin on the axle just like in conventional bikes, and nothing interferes with this if the motor hasn’t been engaged. Note that the majority of e-bike models in the market don’t use regenerative motors or brakes, meaning you won’t be able to generate power on your e-bike.
Generally, folding electric bikes are fitted with 20” tires, which are relatively smaller than the 26” tires you’d ordinarily find on standard bikes. The width of these tires may start at 1.75” and reach up to 4” in what is referred to as fat tire folding electric bikes.
These huge and chunky tires are meant to float over soft surfaces like snow and sand while providing excellent cushioning on rocky and bumpy trails. Another interesting thing is that the tire can function at different pressure levels. You can adjust the pressure from as high as 30psi to as low as 5psi depending on the surface you’re riding on.
Some of the newer models of folding e-bikes come with wheels made out of a magnesium alloy and paired with rigid struts for steel spokes. The advantage here is that you get a lighter wheel that doesn’t fall out easily like the spoked wheel.
The battery is one of the most important features of an electric folding bike. It is also the most expensive electric bike component. For most people, shopping for an e-bike battery can be a tad confusing. Nevertheless, it is not too different from selecting a battery for your smartphone; you always want something that lasts long.
A typical electric bike battery contains cells with principally lithium-ion chemistry. Among the specifications, you’ll notice the voltage (V) and amp-hour (Ah) ratings, which you can use to deduce the watt-hour of the battery.
Most of these bikes will have a battery and motor pairing of 48V or 36V, although a few models will go up to 52V or more. These are mostly used in DIY setups. The battery’s voltage is a representation of the electric potential between two points. The higher the voltage, the more power will be delivered to the motor.
On the other hand, the Amp-hour rating refers to the storage capacity of cells inside the battery. It shows the potential range you can expect from the battery on a full charge cycle. E-bikes will usually have a capacity of between 10.4Ah to 20Ah, which increases the cost of the bike as they go higher.
Aside from the capacity of the battery, the actual range will be influenced by several factors. These will include the weight of the rider, nature of the terrain, weather conditions, riding style, tire pressure, payload, etc. Ideally, you should get the biggest battery possible to maximize your riding time.
The throttle is another option that you might want to select when buying an electric bike, especially since not all e-bikes come with a throttle. This is especially true for riders with knee injuries and hip problems who still want to enjoy the electric biking experience.
The throttle comes in handy when you are trying to climb ascending roads or when you have a deadline to beat. You can leave the powering of the bike solely to the motor so that you don’t move a muscle.
E-bikes will either have a twist throttle or thumb throttle, and this is usually fitted on the handlebars. A thumb throttle is easier to operate than a twist throttle, and you should also check whether it’s mounted on the right or left side of the handlebar.
Gears are another non-electric feature on an e-bike that you still want to pay close attention to. Although most e-bikes are designed with external gears just like their regular counterparts, some models feature internal geared hubs that don’t have a derailleur.
Geras help you to maintain the desired speed during pedaling regardless of the slope of the trail. This is only possible when you have a set of gears on the bike. E-bike gears may be used with electronics in some cases and others independently.
Some bikes come with only 1 gear whereas others have 3, 18, 27, 32, and even 42. Gears are also the same as speed, so a 21-speed e-bike has 21 gears. Presence of gears goes a long way to conserve your battery life, especially on steep climbs.
Adjusting the gears provides you with just the right amount of resistance needed to exert as you pedal more comfortably and keep you from always relying on the throttle.. You don’t have to struggle when the trail you’re riding on suddenly starts to elevate.
Overall, 8 would be a good number for gears on an e-bike!
The e-bike controller is the brains of the whole electrical system. This is typically fitted inside a small box and can be found either outside or inside the bike’s frame. It helps to direct all the electric components on your e-bike, including the throttle, pedal-assist system, and even lights.
E-bikes come with sensors that monitor the speed of the bike and relay the information to the controller. A small LCD mounted on the handlebar is normally used to adjust the settings depending on the rider’s needs.
It displays a range of telemetry data, including the battery level, speed of the bike, distance traveled, pedal-assist level, watts drawn from the battery, etc. With this information, you can always stay ahead of the ride.
So, the more data is displayed on your LCD, the more effective it is. Also, you want to look at features such as color screen and a backlight for clear viewing, especially under low light conditions.
Support and Warranty
A folding e-bike is a very huge investment. Depending on the brand you’re buying, you can easily spend up to $2000 for a high-quality model. As such, you always want to maximize value for your money in such a situation. This is possible when you buy a new bike from a reputable e-bike store as opposed to second-hand rejects.
Alternatively, you can go for an established e-bike brand that guarantees you consistency as far as quality is concerned. This also makes things easier for you in the long when your bike starts to experience part damage and failure. You won’t have to struggle to look for spare parts.
Overall, reliable brands will offer customers incentives such as money-back guarantees and warranties when you buy the bike. A warranty acts as leverage in case of any unexpected product defects and failures that can be blamed on the manufacturer.
It compels the vendor to either replace or repair the bike without charging you a fee. So, remember to ask for these before you decide to spend on a bike. Another important factor to consider is customer support.
A good seller should be able to respond promptly to any customer queries and provide reliable solutions to customer complaints. There should also be multiple avenues provided to access the customer support team, either by phone, e-mail, or text. This will go a long way to enhance the experience of owning a folding e-bike for you.
Lastly, certain extra features on a folding electric bike help to keep you safe when you venture into the city streets and neighborhood roads. Try to look for models with things such as lights, bells, and reflective tires for other motorists to spot you on the road.
Furthermore, don’t forget to get yourself a nice folding bike helmet to fully protect yourself on the road.
Summary of Specs to Consider
So, in a nutshell, try to ensure the folding e-bike you buy comes close to meeting the following specifications for the best performance:
30" x 22" x 10"
Hydraulic disc brakes
Around 20” in diameter
Color screen and backlit
Lights and reflective elements
Overall, electric folding bikes are a convenient mode of transportation that will suit urban commuters naturally. So, if you had doubts about getting a folding e-bike that you’ve been admiring for a while, we hope the post provided you with the specs you should be looking at before buying your folding e-bike.