Guide to Folding Bicycles

Military interest in bicycles began in the 1890s, when the French army and others used folding bikes for infantry use.
Military interest in bicycles began in the 1890s, when the French army and others used folding bikes for infantry use.

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A folding bicycle is a bicycle that can be folded up into a compact shape for easier storage and transportation.

See also: A-Z List of Bicycle Brands and Manufacturing Companiespast and present


The Folding Bicycle

Dahon EEZZ, a vertical folding bike.
Dahon EEZZ, a vertical folding bike.

When folded, these bikes can be carried into buildings, used on public transportation to enable mixed-mode and bicycle commuting, and stored in small spaces or on a vehicle, boat, or aeroplane.

Folding bikes can cost more than equivalent non-folding models due to their complex folding mechanisms, higher number of parts, more demanding structural requirements, and specialised market appeal. Folding mechanisms vary, offering a distinct combination of folding speed, ease of folding, compactness, ride, weight, durability, complexity, and price.

Aside from budgetary concerns, selecting a model involves addressing different practical needs: a rapid and simple fold, a small folded size, or a quicker but less compact form.

Rather than folding, some bicycles offer comparable benefits by splitting into individual parts.

Military interest in bicycles began in the 1890s

when the French army and others used folding bikes for infantry use.[3] In 1900, Mikael Pedersen created a folding version of his Pedersen bicycle for the British army, which included a rifle rack, weighed 6.8 kg (15 lb), and had 610 mm (24 in) of wheels. This version was used in the Second Boer War.

During the Second World War, in 1941, the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) created a folding bicycle small enough to be carried in small gliders or on parachute jumps from aircraft.

During the Second World War, in 1941, the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) created a folding bicycle small enough to be carried in small gliders or on parachute jumps from aircraft. The British War Office had requested a machine that would withstand being dropped by parachute and weigh less than 10 kg (23 lb) (this was not achieved; the final weight was about 15 kg (32 lb).

The Brompton Folding Bicycle

Brompton Bicycle

Folded Brompton Bicycle
Folded Brompton

BSA abandoned the traditional diamond bicycle design as too weak for the shock and made an elliptical frame of twin parallel tubes, one forming the top tube and seat stays, and the other the chainstay and down tube.

The hinges were in front of the bottom bracket and in the corresponding position in front of the saddle, fastened by wing nuts.]The peg pedals could be pushed in to avoid snagging and further reduce the space occupied during transit.

This British WWII Airborne BSA folding bicycle was rigged so that, when parachuted, the handlebars and seat would be the first parts to hit the ground (as bent wheels would disable the bike).

In addition to being used by British paratroopers, Commandos, and second-wave infantry units on the D-Day landings and at the Battle of Arnhem, the British WWII Airborne BSA folding bicycle was also used by British and Commonwealth airborne troops, some infantry regiments, and as a run-about on military bases from 1942 to 1945.

However, the early 1980s can be considered to have marked the birth of the modern, compact folding bicycle, with competing models from Brompton and Dahon. Founded in 1982 by inventor and physicist Dr. David Hon and his brother Henry Hon, Dahon has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of folding bikes [8], with a two-thirds market share in 2006. The 1970s saw an increase in interest in the folding bike, and the well-known Raleigh Twenty and Bickerton Portable have become the iconic folders of their decade.

Overlaid photos of two KHS bicycles, one a F20 510 mm (20 in) wheel folding bicycle and the other a Flite 100 700c (622 mm) wheel racing bike, show similarities in the geometry and riding position.

Bike Size

An example of a full-size folding bike from Montague with 700c (622 mm) wheels.

Because folding bike frames are typically only available in single sizes, folding bikes typically offer a greater range of adjustments than do regular bikes; however, the seat posts and handlebar stems on folders can extend up to four times higher than on regular bikes, and longer aftermarket posts and stems offer even more adjustment options.

The wheelbase of many folding designs is also very similar to that of conventional, non-folding bicycles. Although folders are typically smaller than conventional bicycles overall, the distances between the top of the saddle, the centre of the bottom bracket, and the handlebars—the primary factors in determining whether or not a bicycle fits its rider—are usually similar to those of conventional bikes.

Bikes with smaller than 410 mm (16 in) wheels are often called portable bicycles; these forgo the performance and easy ride benefits of their larger counterparts, acquiring characteristics similar to an adult folding kick scooter. Nevertheless, regardless of how each bike folds, the result is easier to transport and store than a traditional bicycle. Manufacturers such as Dahon, KHS, Montague, and Tern Bicycles are producing folding bikes designed around folding systems that allow them to use 660 mm (26 in) wheels. The advantages of smaller wheels include the potential for more speed, quicker acceleration, greater manoeuvrability, and easier storage.[10] For example, the A-bike is similar to the Strida but has tiny wheels and folds a bit smaller.

The Tern Verge X10 is an example of a half-fold bike.

Folding mechanisms are highly variable. Half- or mid-fold

Fold designs may use larger wheels, even the same size as in non-folders, for users who prioritise ride-over-fold compactness. Bikes that use this kind of fold include Dahon, Montague, and Tern. Vertical Fold. Many folding frames follow the classic frame pattern of the safety bicycle’s diamond frame but feature a hinge point (with single or double hinges), allowing the bicycle to fold approximately in half. Quick-release clamps enable raising or lowering the steering and seat columns.

The Brompton and Dahon Qix D8 both have vertical folding, but their designs are often more compact than those with horizontal hinges because they have one or two hinges along the main tube and/or chain and seat stays that allow the bike to fold vertically instead of horizontally.

The rear triangle and wheel can be folded down and flipped forward under the main frame tube, as in the Bike Friday, Brompton Mezzo Folder, and Swift Folder models. This type of hinge can also be combined with a folding front fork, as in the Birdy model. Alternatively, swing and flip hinges can be combined on the same frame, as in the Brompton Mezzo Folder and Dahlon models, which use a folding steering column. The speed at which folding mechanisms work is usually determined by latches and quick releases. Bike Friday offers a model called the Tikit, which has a cable-activated folding mechanism that does not require latches or quick releases.

1960s European folding bicycle, showing a hinged frame and quick-release handlebar stem, allowing the bars to turn parallel to the frame when folded.

Magnet folding and suspension systems

The folding mechanism consists of a magnet and a rear shock absorber. The magnet locks the back wheel section to the frame. To fold the bike in half, the magnet disconnects with a single motion. In an instant, the rear wheel rotates forward, allowing the bike to fold vertically without requiring hands. This mechanism also allows the bike to be rolled on its rear wheel when folded half-way. [12] Break away and other styles

Some of the variations of bikes are as follows: the Gekko, which folds from the seat tube like an upside-down umbrella; the iXi, which literally breaks into two halves; the Strida, which has a triangular frame and folds to resemble a unicycle; and the Bicycle Torque Coupling, a proprietary connector system that can be retrofitted to a standard frame. Bicycles can be partially folded and partially disassembled for packing into a standard or custom-sized suitcase for air travel (e.g., Airnimal and Bike Friday).unicycle.

Smaller wheels—410 or 510 mm (16 or 20 in) are more common—but 610 mm (24 in) is the biggest for which flip hinges are frequently employed. Folding mechanisms tend to use smaller wheels, incur more cost and weight, and allow for smaller folding.

The step-through design is a blessing to a larger variety of rider sizes, ages, and physical abilities. A smaller size does not mean a lower weight, as most of these designs lose the bracing benefits of the diamond frame and must compensate, as a step-through frame does, with thicker metal.

Folding bikes, like Montague Bikes, have another system that uses the seat tube as a pivot point for the frame to fold. This system, which is activated by a single quick release located along the top tube of the bike, gives the bike more torsional stiffness by using a tube within a tube design. The user can fold the bike without “breaking down” any essential tubes, maintaining the structural integrity of the diamond frame.

Portability

Honda Step Compo

Increasing a bike’s portability is primarily done so that it can be stored and transported more easily, allowing for greater flexibility when travelling from point A to point B. Several public transportation systems prohibit or restrict unfolded bicycles but permit folded bikes all or part of the time. For instance, Transport for London permits folding bikes on buses at the driver’s discretion, but only on the Underground. Other transport operators only permit folding bicycles when they are enclosed

Folding bicycles are frequently allowed as checked baggage on airlines; recent laws in Singapore have made folding bicycles permissible in the rail and bus transportation systems, subject to size and time restrictions.

Motorized

The Honda Step Compo was the first foldable electric bike released in 2000, and over the next 20 years, many more were released

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