​Which is better, a full-sized folding bike or a small-wheeled folding bike?

Posted by Yan Lyansky on Jun 19th 2015

Which is better, a full-sized folding bike or a small-wheeled folding bike? 

Why is one better than the other? Full-sized folding bicycles are considered about 50% of the size of a regular bike. Most trains allow riders to carry their bikes with them when boarding. These can also fit on RVs and boats. However, they may be too large in comparison to the smaller wheel folding bikes. Larger wheel folders have a typical size of 36”x36”x13”=16,848 cubic inches; while folding bikes with smaller wheels are approximately 32”x23”x12”=8,832 cubic inches in average size. What does this mean? It means that you will be able to nearly fit two of the 20 inch wheel folding bikes in a space that would fit one full size folding bicycle. This indicates that smaller wheel folding bikes are more efficient as it relates to space.

Small wheel folding bikes have other benefits compared to their bigger wheel counterpart. Smaller wheeled folders have more efficiency up until they reach 16 miles per hour. The bigger wheel folding bikes are difficult to ride when climbing hills and they slow down when going on recreational rides.

These days, most bicycles have excellent quality. Therefore, purchasing a good quality bike is an easy achievement. However, if you are shopping for comfort as well as quality, you have to ensure that the bike fits your body appropriately. Most 20 inch folding bikes fit individuals with heights of 4’8” to 6’2”. This is a one-size-fit-all practice. How is this even possible? The seat tube of the 20 inch folding bike is positioned at the back of the bottom bracket. Because of this, the length of the virtual top tube increases as the seat post is hoisted. It also decreases as the seat post is lowered.

When the rider adjusts the seat post higher, the inseam becomes presumably longer. Therefore, the length of the top tube is also increased. Likewise, when a shorter rider lifts the seat post higher, the length of the virtual top tube will be shorter. We can make the inference, then, that smaller wheel folding bikes are one-size-fits-all. Regrettably, this feature is not shared with the larger wheel folding bikes. Their seat tube is located on the top of the bottom bracket. That means you will need to ensure that the frame size, which is the length of the seat tube can fit your body. If it can’t, then you will have to lean too far forward or you will be crunched up when riding.

Bikes that have big wheels have some benefits. They are more shock absorbent to ensure that the rider is comfortable. They are also more competent when ridden on uneven terrain such as dirt trails and unpaved roadways. In addition, these bikes are safer when ridden on mountain bike trails. Small wheeled bikes are known for their rotation pattern around large objects like rocks and of hurling riders off their bikes.

In general, folding bikes with big wheels are nice and very compact, about half the size of a standard bike. On the other hand, folding bikes with small wheels are about half the size of the folders with big wheels and these appear to be great for flying, commuting, boating and RV-ing. In a normal car trunk, you can fit two of the small wheeled folding bikes in comparison to one big wheeled folding bike. The small wheeled folding bikes can be transported on an airplane with no oversize fee charges. These bikes are also designed with only one option – one-size-fit-all. That means the whole family has the cost effective option to enjoy just one bike. The folding bikes with big wheels are safer on rough terrain and very comfortable. They are not able to match up to the benefits of their 20 inch wheel cousins. If you do some shopping, you will discover that more than 80% of all folding bikes come with smaller wheels. Shop around and make the decision for yourself.