Electric folding bikes buyer's guide

Electric folding bikes buyer's guide
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Electric folding bikes buyer's guide

The convenience of electrical assistance combined with the benefits of the fold – we do like an electric folding bike here at Cycle Republic.

Zip to the train station, nip to a nearby meeting, bundle it into the car for a weekend away or simply pound the pedals and commute to work - electric folding bikes really are the swiss army knife of the bike world.

If you want to take the plunge and buy an electric folding bike, but you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, this buyer’s guide should, like a sheepdog, round you up and point you in the right direction.

Why should I buy an electric folding bike?

Before we get stuck into the what, let’s look at why electric folding bikes might appeal.

  • Enjoy helping hand on your daily commute: Having a battery and motor fitted to your bike means you can commute without fear of overdoing it a climb or arriving at the office hot and bothered.
  • Hop on a train, hail a cab – it’s easy with an electric folding bike: Packed commuter trains or the boot of an Uber – not places you’re going to fit a full-size electric bike easily. An electric folding bike adapts to your working day, going everywhere you go. 
  • Remove the threat of theft: Unfortunately, bike theft is a blight on UK cities and with safe locking spaces often at a premium it can be a worry leaving your pride and joy out in the open. An electric bike, with all its gizmos and high price tag, is an attractive option for light-fingered ne'er do wells. Folding electric bikes, irrespective of how compact they fold, are far easier to take with you – slot one under the table at the pub, in your friend’s hall or just inside the door at your local convenience store. 
  • If you’re short of space on the train, at home or at work: There’s no getting away from it, electric bicycles can be cumbersome things! When the cupboard under the stairs or even your spare bedroom doesn’t have enough room for a bike, an electric folding bike really comes into its own. They’re ideal for workspaces too, less likely to bother colleagues if they’re stored under your desk than propped up against Steve and Carl’s favourite place for their Monday morning sales meeting.

What is an electric folding bike?

If you’ve made it this far, it’s more than likely that you’ve got a good handle on what an electric folding bike is, but if you want to head back to basics, our What is an e-bike guide should set you straight.

All electric folding bikes, through various levers and clamps, are capable of being reduced from a rideable bike to something much more compact.

Raleigh Stow-e-way electric folding bike

The ‘electric’ part of an electric folding bike is a motor and battery that provides assistance as you pedal up to a speed of 15.5mph. Head north of that and the bike’s motor and battery won’t provide any extra oomph.

READ: Electric bikes buyer’s guide

Ready to weigh up some options? Here are some folding electric bike attributes you should consider before making a purchase.

Different levels of fold: Perhaps the most crucial attribute of an electric folding bike is its fold. Make a note of how compact your chosen model folds and how that compares to the space you’re going to store it in. Most models will fold at the handlebar and at the mainframe. Some are sold with folding pedals to further reduce their bulk.

Carrying a folding electric bike

Some folding mechanisms are more friendly than others, so we’d recommend seeing one in the flesh to get familiar with the process. At the very least head over to YouTube to see it demoed by someone else. Remember you could be doing this in a hurry as you try and catch the 07:05 to London.

Battery power and range: The most expensive part of an electric folding bike is its motor and battery. Bigger batteries offer a larger riding range but to the detriment of overall bike weight. We’d suggest calculating the distance of your typical bike ride and see whether your chosen e-bike’s range matches that. It’s no good buying a bike with a 30-mile range when you’re going to be riding 40 miles to work and back.

READ: Beginner’s guide to cycling to work

Riding a folding electric bike

Do bear in mind that range figures are very much an average, however. Terrain, assistance level and weather conditions are factors that can have an adverse or favourable effect on an e-bike’s range.

Weight: Now we’re getting to the nub of the matter - an electric folding bike’s weight could be a deal-breaker. If you can’t lift it onto a train, let alone up your office or apartment stairs, the bike might not be for you. Some models like the Gocycle GX make use of their wheels, helping the rider wheel the bike along when folded, whilst other bikes are specced with a removable battery– great if you want a temporary reduction in overall weight.

Wheel size: Most folding e-bikes are designed around a 20” wheel. Smaller than full-size wheels, they are lighter and more compact when folded, but they won’t gather much momentum on the road when you get up to speed.

20" wheels on a folding electric bike

Gearing: Just because an e-bike has pedal assistance, doesn’t mean you can neglect its gearing. You’ll still need your smallest gear as you approach that steep hill through the park. Most folding e-bikes run a 1x8 setup, that’s one chainring at the front and eight sprockets at the back. With the electric assistance, that should be more than enough to cater for most people’s riding demands. If your route to work is across flat terrain, a 3-speed setup will do the job!

Racks, mudguards, lights and kickstand: Some bikes are sold as a complete package, a rack, mudguards, front and rear lights, kickstand – the lot! If you want to make an electric folding bike part of your everyday life - come day or night, rain or shine - then it’s a sensible idea to purchase a fully-equipped model.

Lights on folding electric bike

Brakes: One last differentiator is an electric folding bikes brakes. Models at the lower end of the price spectrum are more likely to run V-brakes, where the stopping force is applied against the rim of the bike’s wheel. More expensive models use disc brakes, which offer greater stopping power and reduced maintenance.

A closer look at electric folding bike batteries and motors 

Folding electric bikes are powered by a motor, which in turn takes its energy from a battery. At the cheaper end of the market, the motor is placed in the rear wheel, whereas more expensive bikes use a motor placed at the crank of the bike.

READ: How green are E-bikes?

These mid-motor cranks feature a torque sensor which measures how much power you’re putting through the pedals and alters the power accordingly – this helps the bike ride naturally as if it was a bike without assistance.

Changing modes on electric folding bike

To deal with varying terrain or low battery situations, electric folding bikes feature a control unit that shackle or increase the power of the bike’s motor. Some even have a walk mode too, helpful when you’re off the bike and wheeling the bike along.

Wheeling a folding electric bike

That’s that, our guide to electric folding bikes. If you’re all clued up, you can start shopping our range on our website.

Did we miss something? Ask away in the comments below. Alternatively, your local Cycle Republic store will be able to assist with any enquiries you may have.

 

19 September 2019
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