The market for folding ebikes in California is booming. Almost every major ebike brand offers a lineup of folding electric bikes. Most folding ebikes are available in 20” wheels.
But there is more to the equation than wheel size. Other aspects to consider include battery pack, ebike weight, motor, and frame quality. So how can a beginner navigate the vast maze of products and constant new features? This guide is here to help you with your decision and find an answer for what should you look for in a folding electric bike.
Ebike Folding Mechanism
This is by far an essential element of folding ebikes. The folding mechanism dictates how you fold the ebike. Below are some of the most popular mechanisms for folding ebikes.
Split Fold Mechanism
The split-fold mechanism is the most widely used option in folding ebikes. It is often used with ebikes with 20” wheels and up.
There is a hinge at the center of the ebike’s frame. This allows the ebike to fold in half. The mechanism is quick and easy to use.
A major disadvantage is that these ebikes are relatively heavy with more volume. They are ideal for cyclists who are always traveling.
Triangle Hinge Mechanisms
A hinge in the bike’s frame allows the rear wheel and triangle to be folded. It involves clasps and hinges, making the mechanism more complicated.
It takes longer to fold the ebike. However, once you fold the ebike, it will occupy a tiny volume. This makes it easy to carry the ebike with you.
This mechanism is becoming increasingly common and is now the standard in folding ebikes.
Some folding ebikes use a diamond frame. This frame requires a ‘breakaway’ folding method. The pivot point with these ebikes is at the seat post.
The pivot point hinges and helps you separate the frame into two different pieces. Hence the name ‘break away’. You’ll have to practice to get more efficient with the breakaway mechanism.
Most cyclists find this mechanism to be unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, the learning curve with break away styles is also very frustrating.
Consider the Durability of the Ebike in California
Folding ebikes are ideal for cyclists who want an alternative for commuting to work. They are sturdy, tough, and can cover at least 200 miles on a single charge.
After all, you aren’t buying a folding ebike only for it to break down. The ebike should be made using quality components to fold without getting damaged.
Here are a few things to assess when selecting a folding ebike in California.
The frame material can make or break your experience with folding ebikes. The frame is what holds together the entire ebike and its components.
It is vital for the frame material to be both durable and lightweight. Some choices include aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, and titanium. Let’s discuss them below.
This frame is made by bonding several sheets of carbon fiber in a mold. Another method is weaving carbon into textile and applying it to a plastic resin.
The biggest advantage of using carbon fiber is that it is very light. The weight of carbon fiber is light compared to steel and aluminum. It is also highly resistant to corrosion.
A major advantage of carbon fiber is that it can be folded into complex shapes. This allows manufacturers to be more creative with their designs for folding ebikes.
Manufacturers can use this property of carbon fiber to make their ebike aerodynamically efficient. This explains why bikes with carbon fiber have less drag at breakneck speeds.
Some of the best folding ebikes use a carbon fiber frame. This is mostly because of its compact weight, which improves ride quality.
Moreover, it can be folded thousands of times without compromising its structural integrity. For perspective, carbon fiber is five times tougher than steel.
A carbon fiber frame allows the folding ebike to stay durable without being excessively heavy. Another advantage is aluminum alloy because it is more durable than steel.
However, it manages to keep the overall weight on the low end of the spectrum. The only disadvantage of carbon fiber is that it is more costly than other materials.
Aluminum was the default choice for ebike manufacturers until the advent of carbon fiber. There isn’t anything wrong with aluminum; carbon fiber is better at everything.
The only real advantage of aluminum is that it is relatively affordable. It is known for being lightweight, even when compared to carbon fiber.
Aluminum frames are available in a ‘butted’ form. There are three variations of butted aluminum frames:
- Single butted: Thick at one end only
- Double butted: Thick at both ends
- Triple butted: Two thicker ends with a thin layer at the center
The stiffness-to-weight ratio of butted frames is very high.
A major advantage of aluminum frames is that they are very durable. Unlike steel, you would have to go out of your way to dismantle their frames. Aluminum frames are easy to dent, however.
Steel used to be a popular choice several years ago. It is rust-resistant and highly durable. The only downside is that it is incredibly heavy.
The weight of steel frames makes them less ideal for use with folding ebikes. They are also very likely to be dismantled.
On the whole, manufacturers avoid using steel because several alternatives are available.
Titanium combines the best of both steel and aluminum. It is extremely durable and incredibly lightweight.
The material is ideal for folding ebikes where weight and durability are essential. It also boasts properties like corrosion resistance.
Titanium does have a reputation for being a premium product. So expect prices to be sky-high when buying an ebike with a titanium frame.
But titanium bikes have incredible durability that can last a lifetime. When you consider its durability, the value proposition for titanium starts looking better.
Note that they are heavier than carbon fiber and aluminum frames.
Tire Casings and Protection
The tires of folding ebikes have to be smooth, flat, and have all-weather tread patterns. The ideal width of tires for ebikes is between 28 mm and 42 mm.
Thicker tires provide an additional layer of protection to folding ebikes. However, you don’t want the tires to be extremely wide. This is because it would add to the overall weight of the ebike.
You ideally want the ebike to have suspension in the rear. High-end ebikes often feature suspension in the front and back.
In general, folding ebikes with rear suspension should provide excellent ride comfort. They also play a crucial role in absorbing shocks and tremors on bumpy rides.
Find a Battery That Covers the Range You Need
This is a no-brainer. We don’t recommend a low riding range because it won’t help you commute to work.
What’s the point in buying folding ebikes if you lose charge before reaching your destination? You should also consider your riding habits and behavior before choosing a battery.
For instance, do you forget to charge your ebike often? In this case, you might be better off buying a more powerful battery pack.
It should cover a return trip to and from work on a single charge. There are other factors that also affect range.
Examples include rider weight, tires, terrain, and others. Higher range, in some cases, is not always better. It will cost you an arm and a leg to buy a superior battery.
A major advantage is that you can spend more of your time using motor assist. It is important to pay attention to how the battery is designed.
Smaller batteries with a compact design are more compatible with the geometry of folding ebikes. This can affect overall range, ride quality, and performance.
Not all manufacturers use properly designed batteries for their folding ebikes. It is certainly worth investigating the overall battery design before selecting a folding ebike.
Folding ebikes may use three types of motors. These are front hub, rear hub, and mid drive motors.
Folding ebikes are not designed for performance. Instead, they are used for making the daily commute easy.
This is why most folding ebikes use hub motors, usually in the rear. The power output of most hub motors is between 250W to 500W.
However, if you are aiming for top speeds, consider opting for mid-drive motors.
When selecting hub motors, avoid front wheel motors. This is because they work by pushing the front wheel when you activate the throttle.
It can feel odd and unnatural to use such an ebike. Using front hub motors will take some getting used to.
Choose the Level of Assistance that You Need
All folding ebikes offer two types of motors: throttle and pedal assist. The throttle engages the motor whether you are pedaling or not.
Pedal-assist engages the motor only when you start pedaling. The throttle option is not legal in some places of the world, including Europe.
However, the throttle is legal in North America. Some manufacturers offer folding ebikes in both pedal assist and throttle.
These are further divided into three classes depending on their assistance levels.
Class 1 ebikes in California are pedal-assist only with no throttle.
Their speed with Class 1 ebikes goes up to 20 mph.
Class 2 ebikes use throttle and reach a maximum speed of 20 mph. Class 3 ebikes have top speeds of 28 mph and do not have throttle. They are pedal assist only.
Based on where you live, all classes restrict the motor’s power output to 750W.
Most electric bikes use wheel sizes of 16”, 20”, and 26”. Wheels with a larger diameter often have more cushion.
There is more air volume to disperse when you go over bumps on the road. Bigger wheels can roll over bumps very easily. Smaller wheels have a more challenging time overcoming bumps.
Using bigger wheels allows for a smoother ride. The only disadvantage is that they are big and heavy.
Folding ebikes are designed to be compact and lightweight. This is why some folding ebikes come with 12-inch wheels – which is on the low end.
Another way to demonstrate this is to imagine a 10-inch pothole. A 16-inch wheel will likely pass over the hole with relative ease.
A 12-inch wheel, on the other hand, may fall deep into the hole. This would create problems for the folding ebike and cyclist.
On the other hand, a 21” bike would easily pass over the pothole. The major disadvantages of larger wheels are that they are slower with a lower acceleration.
The torque output from bigger wheels is relatively small compared to smaller wheels. Wheel size selection ultimately comes down to the rider’s own needs.
If ride comfort is more important, go for larger wheels. Use smaller wheels if your folding ebike is as light as possible.
The table below looks at wheel size and its pros and cons.
|Wheel size||Pros and Cons|
|16-inch wheels||They are among the tiniest wheels you can find.|
Easy to transport
Not ideal for longer commutes of over 20 miles (ride is too bumpy)
Do not handle bumps easily
Are not very fast
|20-inch wheels||These are the most commonly found wheels on ebikes, including folding ebikes.|
Found on most folding bikes
Cyclists can choose from a wide range of tires
Can go relatively fast and are easy to control
Ideal for the daily commute and leisurely rides
They may get too heavy for folding ebikes
|26-inch wheels||These wheels are usually reserved for performance-oriented ebike, such as mountain ebikes. It is unusual to find them with folding bikes.|
Offer the highest level of shock resilience and stability
Provide good range on most tires
Extremely heavy compared to 16″ wheels
Take up a lot of space when folded up
So there you have it, a detailed guide on how to choose folding electric bikes. They are ideal for commuting to and from work.
Is it worth buying folding ebikes? That depends on how much money you will save on an annual basis. It also depends on whether you enjoy cycling instead of driving or using the train.
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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.