May 9

What Exactly is a Folding Electric Bike?

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People are increasingly embracing the folding electric bike format thanks to the overall practicality they offer. The ingenious design allows the bikes to be more versatile than your average e-bike.  But folding e-bikes aren’t the most common sight in the streets. 

Anybody seeing them for the first time might be taken aback by the unusual design of the frame. You might even be wondering why someone would opt for a folding e-bike over a conventional electric bike. 

Well, in this post, we will be focusing on everything that explains what a folding electric bike is. Keep on reading to find out more. 

A folding electric bike is a battery-powered bicycle that’s designed with a collapsible frame, allowing you to fold it into a compact package. The bike features a hinge and clamp mechanism in the middle of the frame that folds the bike into two, making it easier to store and transport. Some models even come with a folding tiller that further reduces the dimensions of the folded bike. Generally, electric folding bikes come with all the features of a conventional e-bike such as pedals, brakes, drivetrain, etc. The only distinction is the ability to fold. 

How Did Folding Bikes Come About? 

Folding bikes have been around longer than you might think. In fact, it was in the late 1800s that folding bikes made their debut, but they were originally used for military purposes as opposed to the public application they are known for today. 

Their use generally fizzled out until the 1980s when new designs were launched. With this came renewed interest that allowed the more modern and compact folding bike to gain traction. 

It took a whole decade before e-bikes started being produced commercially, with Yamaha being one of the first manufacturers of e-bike prototypes in 1989. The Japanese company also invented the PAS (Pedal Assist System) in 1993.

Today, electric folding bikes have proven to be among the most popular formats of e-bikes on the market. Manufactures are getting even more creative with the styles of folding e-bikes they are rolling out, with some adopting fat tires to appeal to a growing fan base. 

Addmotor 750 folding bke

What are the Common Specs of Folding E-bikes? 

Just like any standard motor-powered bicycle, electric folding bikes maintain all the standard features of an electric bike, including a battery, motor, and controller. In most designs, the battery is usually mounted onto the frame or integrated into the frame for a smoother design. However, you can find it sitting on the rear rack or against the seat tube in some cases. 

The motor is the other electrical feature that you won’t miss on an e-folding bike. Typically, manufacturers use a front hub or rear hub motor on folding bikes to simplify the folding mechanism. Rarely will you sport one with a mid-drive motor. 

When it comes to the tires, folding e-bikes will generally have smaller rollers compared to a standard e-bike. This is meant to limit the footprint of the bike and make for enhanced portability. The most common dimensions for folding e-bikes tires are between 12” and 16” in diameter, compared to the 20” diameter that is standard for your average electric bike. The width of the tire also varies, with 1.75” being on the lower side. However, some bikes sport tires that can be as wide as 4” which is more common in the more contemporary designs of folding e-bikes. 

These are essentially referred to as folding fat tire e-bikes and are built to offer enhanced stability and traction. The increased surface area of the tire enables these types of folding e-bikes to “float” over soft surfaces like snow and sand, making them a preferred option for extreme adventures. 

Finally, e-folding bikes feature a U-shaped bar that sits below the chainring, which is meant to protect the chainring against touching the ground when the bicycle is collapsed. Essentially, it acts as a “third leg” that enables the folded bike to stand up when placed on its legs.

What are the Benefits of Folding E-bikes? 

Thanks to their ingenious and unique design, electric folding bikes tend to be more practical to use compared to a normal e-bike. Generally, the best folding bikes will offer you the following benefits: 

Ease of Storage and Transportation

Electric foling bike in the underground

The collapsibility of folding e-bikes means they can assume a more compact size that is easy to transport. You can throw a folded bike into the back of your truck as it will fit effortlessly. This is why these types of bikes are very popular with boat owners, RV campers, and private pilots. 

It  is also a great benefit when it’s time to store the bike at home after use. Rather than hanging it precariously from the ceiling or forcing it to lean clumsily against the wall, just throw it in the closet or any other hidden spaces you can find to ensure it doesn’t get in your way. 

Practical Commuter Tool

Electric folding bikes and commuting are a match made in heaven! When folded, you can get into the subway with no issues. The compact package also means you don’t need too much space for storage when you get to work. 

You can neatly tuck it under your office desk. This not only assures the security of your prized possession but also saves you the cost of public bike rack parking fees. 

Easy to Operate

Some people might be concerned that the folding and unfolding of these bikes can be too much work. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For a first-timer, folding the bike can be a challenge but it gets easier once you get the gist of it. 

The hinge and clamp mechanism used on the bikes operates smoothly in a simple maneuver that shouldn’t give you a headache. Nevertheless, you should be careful not to lean awkwardly over the bike when folding to avoid injury. 

What are the Disadvantages of Electric Folding Bikes? 

Although generally considered to be practical, the folding e-bike format doesn’t favor all e-bike lovers. For this reason, they can be slightly inconvenient for riders in the following ways: 

They are not Suited for Tall People

As earlier mentioned, electric folding bikes typically fitted with 20” tires. This is significantly smaller than your typical e-bike tire, which means the bikes generally sit closer to the ground during riding. 

For a tall person, being on such a bike results in an uncomfortable posture that messes up the whole riding experience. It feels like riding a kid’s bike and this can get a little awkward.

More riding skills required 

The majority of folding e-bikes sport a shorter wheelbase, as well as a straight handlebar that’s mounted on a straight tiller. Unfortunately, this interferes with the general feel of the ride and narrows the margin of error for riders compared to a regular e-bike. 

Any abrupt turns on a 20” folding bike cause you to lose more control than if you were to do the same on a standard bike. However, this should not be a problem as you get a feel of the bike and learn your way around its operation. 

Best uses for a Folding E-bike

The folding e-bike was designed for various uses. If you are thinking of getting one, check whether you fit any of the categories below: 

E bike in the apartment
  • Your workplace is close to where you live and you are looking for an alternative to commuting by car, bus, or train.
  • The apartment you live in is a little bit confined and you don’t have enough space to fit a standard electric bike.
  • You are looking for freedom and don’t want to follow the public transport schedule.
  • You're looking for a practical way to get to work without having to deal with the constant traffic jams.
  • You’re looking for an eco-friendlier way of getting to work that will replace driving a car.
  • You want to go on a distant bike tour and need to transport your bike in a car to get there.

What are Some Common Misconceptions Regarding Electric Folding Bikes? 

Several myths about folding bikes are propagated in electric biking circles. Let us look at two common misconceptions flying around and try to dispel them. 

Folding Electric Bikes Break Easily

Because of their folding frames, one of the more talked about myths is that electric folding bikes are structurally weaker compared to standard bike frames, so they snap after a short period of use. This is not entirely true; it might have been in the case in the earlier versions of folding e-bikes but manufacturers found a way over that hurdle. 

Most folding bikes today are designed with aluminum alloy frames- an extremely hardened alloy composed of magnesium and silicon as the main elements. This offers great mechanical attributes that are best suited for a folding bike. 

Furthermore, the hinge and clamp mechanism used on folding bikes today has been improved to be heavier-duty by being welded into the frame during construction. It allows the bike to support up to 300lbs of weight without disintegrating. 

However, you should avoid riding a folding e-bike with a weak or loose clamp as it significantly destabilizes the ride. If you suspect that the clamp isn’t holding the frame securely, it is recommended to find an e-bike specialist to resolve the issue before riding the bike. 

Another thing you should note about folding e-bikes is that you get what you pay for just like in any other product. If you go looking for bottom-of-the-barrel folding bikes, you can only blame yourself when the frame starts falling apart. 

After all, the manufacturer has to find a way to compensate for the reduced price; in this case, it’s the integrity of the frame that’s compromised. On the other hand, if you invest in a high-quality folding e-bike from a reputable brand, the frame is probably going to be as solid as any other standard e-bike. 

Folding E-bikes are Slow

This is another incorrect assumption about folding e-bikes that you should be aware of. Even with the electric motor removed, folding e-bikes can match the speed of your average road bike. 

Fast e bikes

Image credit:  https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/11/best-folding-electric-bikes-revealed/

While speed could have been a problem in the earlier designs, continued innovation allowed manufacturers to solve this issue with an improved design. With the motor supporting the bike, it’s become easier to overcome any lag experienced when riding the bike. 

Overall, the folding e-bike doesn’t suffer any structural inefficiencies as far as speed and durability are concerned. So, before you entertain what the skeptics are saying and back away from getting a folding e-bike, remember these two misconceptions to avoid being misled. 


Conclusion

If the latest e-bike consumer trends are anything to go by, electric folding bikes are only going to get more popular with time. This is especially true as manufacturers search for more innovative features to appeal to the larger electric biking market. 

So, if you were uninformed about folding e-bikes and therefore could not make a decision to buy one, hopefully this article provided all the insight you require to make a wise choice! 


About the author

Emma was born and raised in the UK, studied in Amsterdam (where she discovered her passion for biking), and is currently living in Ohio. Her main passion is cycling, that's why she is always looking for an amazing new e-bike to make her journey even more unforgettable!


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