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 potential bike owners, 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 that combines with a clamp made for locking. These are usually in the very center of the bike’s frame.
Typically, the manufacturers weld the hinge into the frame, which is why they are built from the same heavy-duty material. In most cases, manufacturers go for precipitation-hardened aluminum alloy (model 6061) or Chromoly steel.
One of the most common misconceptions related to folding bikes is that their frames are usually weak and snap relatively easily. This might have been the case when it comes to old models, but it’s definitely not true for the current premium designs unleashed on the market. Bike makers today use solid materials to create high-quality products that can support even 300lbs of weight.
When researching the dimensions of folded electric bikes, you’ll notice these 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 folded. So, be sure to consider such when shopping.
The folding e-bike clamp is normally made out of high-grade aluminum and you can straighten it by locking it in place. This creates a stiff frame with no flex or weakness at the location where your hinge is built in. If you have a completely new folding bike or your current one has a weak clamp, be sure to see a technician and get it fixed.
If not, you risk the frame coming apart and you are compromising your own safety. If this happens in the middle of the ride, you could potentially get hurt. To keep the mechanism fully functional, you can wipe your clamp after you ride, which removes dust and debris.
Note that the folding process might differ between different brands of folding e-bikes. In the end, the process should not be tough - learning should be easy, and the operation smooth. Ensure that the sales consultant at the bike store demonstrates the process to you, so you know what you’re getting before you make your decision.
The electric motor is pretty much the heart of any e-bike; it is also one of the first things to check when shopping for an electric folding bike. Usually, the motor provides power by a throttle that you press or twist, 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 - we suggest you explore the difference and choose the right motor type for yourself. It’s pretty normal to experience 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 in any pedaling effort. However, if you choose the pedal-assist option, you’ll have to pedal before the motor jumps since you’ll need the initial boost. The more PAS you use, the more power is used through the motor.
The motor also produces a torque that helps the bike to accelerate and propels you up hilly ascents with relative ease. This will also come in handy when battling 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 average e-bike with a folding mechanism usually has a fitted set of mechanical disc brakes. Some of the more premium brands use higher-quality hydraulic discs. Mechanical models make use of cables to squeeze the calipers of the brakes against the rotor when you press the levers. This eventually inhibits the movement.
Overall, getting mechanical brakes with discs is an upgrade when it comes to older school V-brake models, but these are still not as efficient as hydraulic models. Speaking of those, the mechanism they use is quite interesting. They rely on hydraulic fluid instead of a physical connection created by cables made out of steel. When you press the brake levers, the hydraulic fluid brings the calipers closer together, resulting in greater stopping power.
Furthermore, hydraulic disc brakes don’t need as much effort to engage as mechanical ones. Another feature that you might come across in most folding electric bikes is an automated inhibitor of the motor. This is usually triggered whenever you engage with the brake levers and stop the motor.
To keep your brakes working smoothly, remember to perform regular maintenance depending on how often you go for a ride. If you ever notice some lag in when braking, chances are you have a loose cable that needs to be tightened. This is a common occurrence when it comes to mechanical models of brakes.
When it comes to hydraulic disc brakes, you will have to change the fluid to increase the response of the brakes.
The wheels used on electric bike models that fold are much different from the ones you see on mechanical, “normal” 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 motor already fixed into the hub of the wheel - either the front or the rear one.
Wheels on e-bikes spin on the axle the way they usually do 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 have the option of generating power on your e-bike.
Generally, most foldable electric bikes have 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, deep dirt and sand while providing excellent cushioning on rocky and bumpy trails. Another interesting function is the presence of different pressure levels. You can change the pressure from as high as 30psi to as low as 5psi depending on the surface you’re riding on.
There are newer models of folding e-bikes that come with wheels made out of magnesium alloy, but they’re used with rigid struts for steel spokes. The advantage here is getting a lighter wheel that doesn’t fall out easily like the spoked wheel.
One of the crucial parts of each electric bike is the battery. It also tends to be the most expensive electric bike component. For most people, shopping for an e-bike battery can be somewhat confusing. Nevertheless, it is not too different from selecting a battery for your smartphone; you always want something that lasts long.
A typical battery on these bikes contains cells with lithium-ion mechanisms. Among the description of the battery, you’ll notice the voltage (V) and amp-hours (Ah), which you can use to deduce the watt-hour of the model you’re interested in.
Most of these bikes will have a combination of a battery and the adequate motor pairing of 48V or 36V, although a few models will go up to 52V or more. These are mostly used in do-it-yourself types of setups. The battery’s voltage is the difference of the electric potential between two points in the circuit of the battery’s inside mechanism. Higher the voltage means more power can be used in the motor.
On the other hand, the Amp-hour rating refers to the actual capacity of the cells.It’s essentially the “usage potential” you can use 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 riding surface, weather conditions, riding style, tire pressure, payload, etc. Ideally, you should get the battery with the most energy to maximize your riding time.
A throttle is another option that you might want to select when buying an e-bike, especially since not all e-bikes have a throttle. This is especially true for bike enthusiasts 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 are in a hurry. 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 work with external gears the way their regular counterparts do, some of the bikes on the market feature internal geared hubs that do not use a derailleur.
Gears help you to maintain the desired speed during pedaling no matter what the slope of the trail is. This is only possible when you have a set of gears on your bike. E-bike gears may be used with electrical components in some cases and in others, independently.
Some bikes don’t have more than 1 gear whereas others have 3, 18, 27, 32, and even 42. The presence of gears goes a long way when it comes to energy saving, especially on steep climbs.
Mindfully switching the gears provides you with just the right type of resistance and helps you pedal more comfortably and keeps 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!
Electric bike controllers are like TV remotes - they help you direct all the other parts of the machine. It is typically fitted inside a box with small dimensions 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 usually have sensors monitoring the speed of your 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, distance traveled, pedal-assist level, watts drawn from the energy source, 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 a 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. 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 run 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 if you notice any unexpected product defects that are the fault of the manufacturer.
It compels the vendor to either replace or repair your bike without charging you a fee. So, remember to ask for these before you decide to buy 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.
Folding Safety Features
Lastly, certain extra features on a folding electric bike help to keep you safe while venturing 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 while out on the road.
Summary of Specs to Consider
So, in a nutshell, try to ensure that the folding electric bike you about to buy comes close to meeting the following specs:
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.