Both folding bikes and regular e-bikes get you from point A to point B. They use a battery and motor of varying capacities and speeds.
But that’s where the similarities end. Folding electric bikes are designed with a particular purpose in mind. This article takes a deep dive into the differences between folding e-bikes and regular e-bikes.
Choose a regular electric bike if your daily commute doesn’t require using a subway. If you don’t care much for portability, go with traditional electric bikes.
Folding e-bikes, in general, are designed to be very compact. Either option comes with its pros and cons. We’ll take an in-depth look at them below.
It is worth mentioning that neither option will cost under $500. You get what you pay.
You can always spend less but will likely end up with a mess. It can be frustrating to deal with quality issues in e-bikes.
Folding e-bikes are compact and smaller than regular electric bikes in California. Depending on the make and model, they may be lightweight.
Folding e-bikes occupy a smaller volume when folded. Most folding e-bikes and regular e-bikes will generally share similar weights and dimensions.
However, longer-range e-bikes are about 30 pounds heavier. Most electric bikes are easily stored in hallways; you can’t fit them in buses.
Folding e-bikes, on the other hand, can be folded to fit anywhere. The tradeoff is that folding e-bikes don’t have much in the way of range.
You might get more range if you stretch your budget to high-end folding e-bikes. Most high-end folding e-bikes are lighter and can deliver more range.
Both folding e-bikes and regular e-bikes are equally suitable for commuting distances. However, folding e-bikes cover a smaller distance.
This is because they have a smaller battery pack compared to regular e-bikes. Manufacturers are trying to improve the range of folding e-bikes.
New folding e-bikes use high gear ratios to make up for the smaller wheels. This conserves energy and improves range on a single charge.
If your commuting takes over 40 miles, consider getting a regular electric bike. Folding e-bikes are great for smaller distances.
Manufacturers are unencumbered by weight restrictions on regular e-bikes. This allows them to add as many extra features to typical e-bikes.
Unfortunately, they have to keep folding e-bikes lighter and smaller. This explains why folding e-bikes have a smaller range due to low-capacity batteries.
Folding electric bikes are slower, in general, than regular e-bikes. Most folding e-bikes can hit speeds of up to 12 mph.
However, regular e-bikes can support much faster speeds. Average speeds start at 15mph and max out at 28mph.
Some high-end models of regular e-bikes can reach speeds of 30 mph. The reason for this speed discrepancy is due to battery and motor size.
E-bikes have started to become cheaper as manufacturers realize economies of scale. In general, folding e-bikes will cost more than regular e-bikes.
This is because of the extra manufacturing steps involved in making folding e-bikes. The average cost of folding e-bikes starts at $1500.
However, regular e-bikes start at $500 and above. Although, we don’t recommend any e-bikes priced at $500.
Some e-bikes with all the bells and whistles cost as much as $10,000. Then there are the world’s most expensive e-bikes – which deserve their category.
Starting prices for these e-bikes are in the $50,000 to $80,000 range. For perspective, the most expensive folding e-bikes barely reach $5,000.
In general, though, folding e-bikes are more expensive than regular e-bikes. The long-term costs of owning folding e-bikes are also high when you factor in maintenance.
Let’s take a look at their ownership and maintenance costs.
It is cheaper to buy and maintain regular electric bikes than folding ones. This is mainly because folding e-bikes are relatively rare.
This is why most routine maintenance is going to be DIY. However, high-end electric bikes are more expensive due to electrical problems.
Set aside at least $100 per year to maintain folding e-bikes. This will sort out any electrical and mechanical problems with electric bikes.
It will reduce the rate of degradation of the chain and brake components. You might also spend more on tires and larger parts, but not every year.
Add another $100 annually if you want experts to do the maintenance work. These are not fixed rates and will vary based on where you live.
Maintenance costs for folding e-bikes are more challenging to predict.
It may be relatively easy to find parts at a lower price. For example, tires will be the only significant expense to worry about.
The good news is that most e-bike tires are available for cheap. However, they can be complicated to replace, depending on the type of e-bike.
Most folding e-bikes use hub motors. They are placed either in the front or rear of the e-bike. It is wise to hire an expert to replace the tires.
The longevity of electronics for all e-bikes is still a concern. It is unclear how long their electronics will last.
In other words, it is hard to predict the long-term cost of owning e-bikes. The good news is that it shouldn’t cost you much.
Most folding e-bikes have battery capacities in the 250-750 Wh range. The annual charging cost for folding e-bikes is $20 at most.
The cost of recharging regular electric bikes is also in the same ballpark. However, expect to pay more for a stronger battery.
With all things being equal, the charging cost of folding e-bikes is higher. This is on account of their relatively beefier frame.
Folding e-bikes can last for a long time, depending on the maintenance. This is especially true for models made using steel and titanium materials.
These materials tend to last for a long time. They don’t wear out easily, unlike frames made with aluminum.
The same holds true for regular e-bikes. Barring any unique parts that may go bust, regular e-bikes will also last forever.
However, regular maintenance is key to the longevity of your e-bike.
The more high-end your e-bike, the lower its lifespan. This is because all those bells and whistles tend to go bad.
All things equal, the lifespan of regular e-bikes and folding e-bikes is the same. It is hard to judge the lifespan of circuitry.
This uncertainty represents a greater risk to the cyclist. In other words, expect the resale value to fall off a cliff yearly.
The moment you bring your new e-bike home, it will start to depreciate.
Folding e-bikes have more moving parts. They are more susceptible to bad weather, stormy conditions.
But this is true for just about any electric bike. Very few electric bikes can work just fine under heavy rain.
Waterproofing is essential for all e-bikes, regardless of where you live. The choice of tire is also essential with electric bikes.
Horrible weather and harsh terrain will require solid tires. In any case, traction on the wet ground tends to suffer.
Make sure to be on your best behavior when riding on wet ground. This means riding at slower speeds.
Cornering is more difficult on wet terrain. Make sure to slow down your folding e-bike before cornering.
Apply the brakes sooner than later because you can never anticipate performance on wet tarmac. Ebikes equipped with superior brakes give you more wiggle room for the stopping distance.
Either option will work if you want to cycle through ice and snow. Just make sure to upgrade to studded tires for folding e-bikes.
However, the availability of studded tires for e-bikes may be an issue, depending on your location.
And as we mentioned earlier, replacing tires is not easy in e-bikes. This is especially true for e-bikes with hub motors.
In any case, plan carefully before bringing your bike on a sanded road. Traction is the least of your concerns. There is a significant risk of a flat tire.
Moreover, salty roads can take a toll on your bikes. It is better to avoid them altogether. Unless your e-bike is designed explicitly for offroading.
The ambient temperature will dictate the performance of the e-bike battery. Your folding e-bike’s range will fall in extreme temperature conditions.
Whether boiling hot or icy cold, extreme temperatures are bad for lithium-ion batteries. In this regard, folding e-bikes and regular e-bikes have the same strengths and weaknesses.
No e-bike is safe from bad weather. If you want something portable but do well in harsh weather, use folding e-bikes.
Folding e-bikes and regular electric bikes are both safe. Just make sure to use them responsibly and on a compatible surface.
In general, bikes with larger wheels can handle obstacles with ease. They are safer for use on bad terrain as well.
The brakes on both bikes are strong and manageable. It may be tempting to ride both at a breakneck speed. However, you should always drive under the speed limit in your area.
Tire diameter is a major safety factor in e-bikes. As a rule, larger tires can overcome obstacles with ease.
Most electric bikes have 26” wheels. However, 20”, 22”, and 24” variants can be found. However, folding e-bikes are more likely to have smaller tires.
The average tire size of e-bike wheels is about 16”. You might find 20” on higher-end versions.
Manufacturers choose smaller tires to keep the frame smaller. These bikes are meant to have a smaller size because of their compact nature.
This is why regular e-bikes are safer than folding e-bikes. Moreover, having larger tires can improve the handling of the e-bike.
With folding e-bikes, you will have to manage obstacles on the road. This can be very dangerous and mentally taxing.
We strongly recommend going for the largest folding e-bike wheels for maximum safety. This is especially true if you are relatively inexperienced in e-bike riding.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say that folding e-bikes are more dangerous. You have to be more careful.
You should take care of cargo limits and plan longer stopping distances. This mostly depends on your mood and stress levels.
If you are in a rush and stressed, you may likely ignore safety. Make sure you have learned safety tips for using folding e-bikes.
Both folding e-bikes and regular e-bikes have well-adjusted brakes. This is one component that manufacturers do not skimp out on.
Your bikes are likely to have rim brakes or disc brakes. Rim brakes have been around for over a century.
They are easy to deploy on any wheel size. The total force that they apply is usually less. This can lower the stress on e-bike components.
Disc brakes, however, are stronger and mostly found on vehicles. Most folding e-bikes use disc brakes. The choice of brake depends on the manufacturer.
They may select brakes depending on what is more convenient for them. In any case, both disc and rim brakes are powerful.
Folding e-bikes have a learning curve associated with them. Regular e-bikes will feel more natural because of their regular size and larger tires.
As such, folding e-bikes will handle less predictably. New riders will feel a little uncomfortable at first.
It takes a more concerted effort to stay in control of folding e-bikes. However, it will get easier the longer you use your folding e-bike.
Posture is a significant factor with most electric bikes. Taller riders may find it challenging to use folding e-bikes.
Verdict – Folding Electric Bike vs. Electric Bike
If you want raw, unadulterated performance, go with regular electric bikes. But if you want to maximize portability, then go with folding electric bikes.
Both are good options for commuting. But performance-oriented riders will want to go with regular electric bikes.
Let us know which e-bike in California you plan on buying.
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My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.