Commuting is a pain, no matter how you look at it. If you want to cut down on carbon emissions and not wait on a bus or train schedule, an electric bike is a great option.
Look for a short amount of time, and you’ll see that the folding ebike pops up more often than once. These are marketed as a commuter’s best friend, but is that what they really are, or is it all a gimmick?
We’re going to break it all down right now, from maintenance to answering your burning questions about folding ebikes.
What is a Folding eBike?
A folding ebike is exactly what it sounds like—an electric bike that folds in half, or sometimes in more complex ways, so that you can store it in a compact area. The goal here is to create the perfect commuter bike.
Many folding ebikes will have the following features:
Dual Folding Action: The seat can likely be removed or depressed down until it’s very short, helping you store your bike more effectively. This provides a second folding point that may make your ebike small enough to fit into a large backpack, depending on what your goals are. This way, you could take it to the train station, fold it up and bring it aboard without being disruptive or taking extra time.
Lighter Frame: You’ll find that most folding ebike manufacturers take the user experience into account. An entire ebike with its motor, battery, and the frame material will be pretty hefty and difficult to carry. As a commuter, you’ll likely have something else on hand, like a backpack or a tote. This i why folding ebikes will use lighter frames, so that commuters aren’t exhausted from carrying their bicycles around or in their bags.
Suspension Stand: Once the bike is folded, a suspension fork will align on the bottom to act like a kickstand in accompaniment to the bulkier wheel. Between the two of them, the bicycle will stay upright and not tip over. This isn’t as sturdy as having your bicycle completely open and actually using the kickstand, but it’s still sturdy enough to not tip over at random. Just be sure you’re not going to bump into it while it’s in this folded kickstand mode.
The goal is to keep everything compact, but please keep in mind that not all folding ebikes are created equal. You’re going to find some brands that are much better with keeping clutter out of the way, and some bikes that, when you fold them, you run into some issues. We’ll talk more about that later.
How Do You Fold an eBike?
Every ebike is going to be a little bit different, but there’s a basic formula you can apply to just about every bike depending on how much it folds up. Typically, it goes like this:
Depress the Handlebars: There should be a way to bring the handlebars down, and then a folding latch that you can use to bend it over in a 180 degree angle. The handlebars will then sit next to the handlebar stem. The handlebars themselves may have connecting latches similar to scooters from the 90s where the handles can dangle off the side to save horizontal room.
Frame Folding Quick Release: There should be a quick release lever or button underneath your hinge and joint area of your folding ebike. This essentially pulls pressure and tension off of the hinge and joint so that the folding section of the latch can swing. Otherwise, it just won’t budge. Once you fold this all the way, there’s generally no locking mechanism on the other side (manufacturers don’t want to put tension on the frame when it’s banging around; it’s better if it just moves loosely). Just learn how to handle it without it locking in a folded position.
Lower Your Seat: Your seat should either be able to lower, or be taken off completely. In some cases, you can drop it like a hatch at a 90 degree angle, and it can just hang there similarly to your handlebars. It all depends on the bike.
Kick Stand: Look for the integrated kickstand, which is usually welded on to the bottom of the bike frame. This can be used once the bike is folded to help it stand upright, or if your wheels bend backwards, both wheels will help counterbalance one another and a kickstand may not be required.
Folding your ebike is fairly simple. It just takes one time before you get the hang of it, and begin to enjoy that sweet, sweet convenience.
Does Folding Damage Your Bike?
These bikes are designed to fold. That’s a very important statement, because if you just decided to chop a bike in half at the frame, add a hinge and joint, and call it a day, it would not perform the same way.
Ebike manufacturers take user weight, stress, and speed into account. They understand how durable the materials are, make sure the hinge and joints are of acceptable sizes and durability, and don’t put more strain on one side of the bike than the other.
Folding ebikes being more easily damaged is a misconception at best. That being said, if you have a solid frame with no separations or weak spots versus a frame with a hinge, there’s going to be an obvious difference. A hinge can be a weak point, but again, these manufacturers are engineers; they understand that going into the manufacturing process.
This is why you may notice the user weight capacity is lower on a folding ebike than a standard solid-frame ebike. It’s not for gimmicks; it’s because if the hinge does weakne it at all in terms of maximum user weight, manufacturers address this.
As an important note, remember that this includes clothing, backpacks, and any loads that aren’t part of the bike, so if your folding ebike is used for work, weigh that backpack!
How Do You Care for Your Folding Bike?
Folding bikes have more working parts to them. Not a lot, it’s not going to be a big spike, but it’s still noticeable.
You should absolutely watch out for small movement issues when folding and unfolding your ebike so that they can be addressed immediately.
This is a basic list of how to care for your folding ebike without going over the top.
Grease Hinges and Seat: You’ll have a moving hinge in the middle of your bicycle, which means metal on metal contact. This has to be greased as often as possible (effectively; you don’t want to overdo it) to prevent damage and degradation when you open and close the hinge to fold/unfold your ebike. While you’re at it, if you seat stem is removable and packs up with the rest of the bike, you’re going to have to add some grease on it.
Store Carefully: Your standard bike can simply be brought inside and rest up against a wall or sit on a covered porch if need be (especially if you’re solar charging it during the day). However, because that hinge and the way the battery housing opens up (on most full electric bikes, the battery is in the center of the frame), you’re going to have to keep it in a more confined space. We really want to protect that hinge.
Tech Maintenance: YouTube tutorials and some DIY handiwork is great, but from time to time, you should also check in with an electric bike technician or specialist. Many larger cycling shops will have someone that fits that description and certain qualifications to help you out. Sometimes you can’t tell when certain aspects of your ebike are damaged or being worn through, so a second opinion is always going to be helpful.
Daily Cleaning: This one sounds excessive, but hear us out: the most common places that people are expected to use folding electric bikes is in the middle of the city. It’s portable, it can be brought on a train, or into your place of work, and it’s never going to be in anybody’s way. That being said, you’re going to be around tons of carbon emissions in densely populated areas, as well as the general pollution of just about any city that you plan on using this in. Wiping down all of the main components at the end of each day can help keep excessive dirt and build-up from affecting brake lines, getting into the battery housing, or gumming up the chain.
Folding or Not, an eBike is a Solid Choice
Whether you go with a model that can fold or not, ebikes are an excellent and diverse choice that can completely change how you commute.
Folding ebikes have their place, especially if you don’t have the option to anchor down your bike and pop a solar panel outside of your place of work or home. Fold it up, bring it in, charge it up—you’re good to go.
Noel Joseph has been in the world of motor vehicles for a long period. Currently, he is enthusiastic about Electric & Hybrid Motors and is an independent researcher. He advocates for a clean and sustainable future and envisions utilizing his years of experience in mechanical engineering. His new venture here at CompactPower.com is to organize and simplify knowledge on Electric vehicles. He wants to build a space where people can talk about EVs and associated technologies with freedom.