You're looking for a folding bike coz you're far from subway station and the bus is unreliable, or you happen to live in a fourth floor walk-up apartment and don't have enough space to store a full bike, or you just want something new for fun. Your friends might have pointed out that it looks like a wheelchair, but don't worry you'll get the last laugh.
Purpose of your bike. Folding bike is good for recreation, fitness and commute. Good in the bus, train, trunk, elevator and under your office desk too. Do you intend to race or you're just a good weather rider. Using it for commute gives the best return, if you’ll not mind getting sweaty stares from your officemates while increasing your laundry cost (I wonder about that dude in the insurance TV commercial - lol).
Budget consideration. You don't need expensive ones, but sometimes your life may depend on your bike so invest more on reliable brands. Most folding bikes today are manufactured in Taiwan and China. Sadly, there are no folding bikes made in the USA (I will be more than happy to get corrected on this one). Happily, wherever made, most folding bikes are fitted with premium parts such as Shimano and SRAM. The $400 price range is where you get value and quality, giving the best bang for the buck.
Minimum enjoyment requirements. To get the most out of your folding bike it should be (#1) versatile for city driving and in navigating urban park hills. You might consider getting one with multiple speed as single-speed may have been good for you but only a long time ago during your BMX years. And, it should be (#2) light enough to carry home while leaving enough strength to pull your legs to bed.
Let’s get techie. There are two common sizes of folding bikes, the 16s and the 20s. It does not pertain to your age and don’t think dirty either, it refers to the size of the wheels in inches. The 16s are more portable but got leisurely speed. The 20s are bulkier but have more natural bike feel and speed. The body or frame of the bike is either made of steel or alloys – the latter is preferred for being lighter but is more expensive. Then comes the drivetrain which is either single or multi-speed ranging from 3 to 27 speeds. While 3 speeds are sufficient for experienced city biker, you should look for at least 7 speeds to get better all-around performance and this is where good brands matter, the drivetrain being the working horse of your bike – apart from your legs. All other parts which complete the bike, like the brakes, saddle, handlebar – can be generic brands, and if made of alloy, the better. And lastly, the reason you need to buy a folding bike is its distinct characteristic to fold. A good bike should fold no more than 30 seconds and have folded footprint no bigger than a person space in any public area.
So there you are, all the things you need to know to find your perfect folding bike. Which one you choose is a matter of taste, but you'll definitely know...once you see it. We'll have our shortlist of folding bikes in the next post. And good luck in your conquest for fitness and good life.
"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong