When I was looking to get an electric bike I was considering getting a folding one due to their convenience. So, I did a lot of research to find out about how folding e-bikes differ and what to look for when getting one.
So, how to choose a folding e-bike? The main aspects that you should consider are the range of the battery, the weight of the e-bike, if it is pedal assist or throttle assist, the battery replacement cost, the type of folding bike, the quality of the components and the total price of the e-bike.
There are actually a lot of things to consider when choosing a folding e-bike and one of them can differ greatly to another.
How To Choose A Folding E-Bike
Folding e-bikes are ideal for when space is going to be limited such as when traveling, living in tight spaces or commuting to work where you don’t have much room in the office. They can differ a lot so below I will talk about how they differ and what to consider when buying one.
- Pedal or throttle assist
Electric bikes can either be pedal or throttle assist. A pedal assist e-bike works by giving you additional power each time you pedal and you must pedal it to make use of the motor. Throttle assist e-bikes work by using the motor to turn one of the wheels when you push a throttle and do not require you to pedal.
Throttle assist electric bikes are ideal for when you want to be able to get around without having to put much effort into it. Perhaps you want to get to work without being hot and sweaty or you just want to be able to get around town more easily. The problem with throttle assist e-bikes is that they tend to have a lower range. If you only plan on using the throttle to get around on the e-bike then you won’t be able to get the health benefits from cycling either. They are also banned in some parts of the world so this type of e-bike might not be an option for you. You can see e-bike laws here.
Pedal assist folding e-bikes will allow for you to get the fitness benefits from cycling since you need to pedal them to make them move. You can also control the level of assistance being given by the motor using an LCD. This helps to improve the range of the bike since you can select a lower setting when you don’t need a lot of power assistance.
Pedal assist e-bikes will vary the amount of power assistance based on how hard you are pedaling. If you are pedaling with a lot of force at higher speeds then the motor will provide you with more power. If you are pedaling slowly at a lower speed then you’ll get less power assistance. This is a good thing since it improves the range that you can get out of the battery and it allows for a smoother riding experience.
If you are considering getting a pedal assist folding e-bike then they can either have torque sensors or cadence sensors. Torque sensors are more expensive but they are more sensitive to changes in how you are pedaling allowing for a smoother riding experience. Cadence sensors are ok when you are cycling at a constant speed but they can allow for sudden jolts of power assistance from the motor.
If you’re unsure of whether or not to get a pedal assist or throttle assist then you could also get a hybrid which has both pedal and throttle assist.
- Motor placement
There are three types of motors that can be used on folding e-bikes which are front-hub, rear-hub or mid-drive motors.
Front hub motors get placed on the front wheel and they work by making the front wheel push you along when you push on the throttle. This can cause an unnatural feeling to the ride of the bike since having the front wheel be moving the bike takes some getting used to. It also causes more weight to be placed to the front of the bike. The advantage, though, is that they’re easier to install so they’re often cheaper. You won’t find these types of motors on pedal assist e-bikes for the most part.
Rear hub motors get placed on the rear wheel and they make the rear wheel turn more quickly. They add more weight to the rear of the bike but this is more natural feeling than on the front. These types of motors can be used on pedal assist or throttle assist e-bikes and hybrids will almost always use rear hub motors. The more premium throttle assist folding e-bikes will use this type of motor.
Mid-drive motors get used on pedal assist folding e-bikes and they have a number of advantages. By placing the motor to the middle of the bike the additional weight will get distributed more evenly. This means that pedaling and cornering will feel more natural. The more premium folding pedal-assist e-bikes will use this type of motor.
If you’re considering getting a front or rear hub motor then there are two types that you can get which are geared or direct drive.
Geared hubs are the louder of the two but not by much. However, they are also more efficient since they are better able to generate torque at lower speeds this helps to make the wheel turn using the motor easier. This also means that they will have the better range of the two and they are also the lighter of the two. If you can this is the type of hub that I would recommend.
Direct drive hubs are quieter. However, they are less efficient, especially at lower speeds. They also weigh more and are more obvious to passers-by.
- Motor power
The power of the motor is something that you should take a moment to consider. The motors, on e-bikes, can go up to 750 watts but the maximum will depend on the laws of the area that you live in. Having a more powerful motor will help you to speed the bike up more easily but it will also cause the range to be lower since it will require more power from the battery. You should consider how far you intend to ride on the folding e-bike and the type of terrain that you will be riding on when deciding on how much power you need. If you won’t be cycling far but there are a lot of hills in your area then a more powerful motor would be beneficial.
Something to consider here is that most e-bikes will have a limit on how fast they can go. This limit will normally be 20 mph or 28 mph in the US. So, a more powerful motor won’t help you that much to reach a higher top speed since they will be limited.
- Battery range
The range of the folding e-bike is something that you will want to make sure to know before buying it. It’s important that the stated range is higher than the distances that you want to cycle so that you won’t be running out of battery when cycling. You should also remember that the range given by manufacturers will often be under good conditions so the actual range that you should expect to get will be lower than the stated range. With that being said, there are a number of things that you can do to increase the range that you can get out of the bike that I have written about here.
Many manufacturers will also offer long-range batteries which you can pay extra money for when you are buying the e-bike. This is something that you should consider getting if you plan on cycling longer distances.
- Battery placement
The location that the battery gets placed, on the e-bike will have an impact on how it performs. The batteries, on folding e-bikes, will either be above the rear wheel or on the middle of the bike on the main frame. Having it above the rear wheel makes it easier to remove the battery and to put it back but it adds more weight to the rear of the bike. Having it on the main frame will allow the extra weight to be distributed more evenly helping the bike to handle more normally but it can make adding and removing the battery a bit more difficult.
- Replacement cost
The batteries are the most expensive parts on e-bikes. They will normally be able to last for 500 full charging cycles before being less than 60%-70% as efficient as they were when they were new. This means that it will be necessary for you to replace the battery every few years. It will be the biggest on going cost you will have with the bike so it would be worthwhile for you to find out how much it costs to replace the battery on the folding e-bike that you are considering. You can expect it to cost between $300-$800 to replace it.
There are a number of things that you can do to extend the lifetime of the battery that I have talked about here.
- Type of folding bike
There are a number of different types of folding electric bikes that you can get and the right one for you will depend on what you want to use the e-bike for.
If you are planning on using the folding e-bike for commuting to work then you should consider a folding commuter e-bike. They are designed to be cycled on the road so they are ideal for getting to work as quickly and easily as possible.
If space is very tight then you might want to consider a mini-folding e-bike since they are designed to take up as little space as possible. They tend to have smaller wheels and frames so they also weigh less. The trade-off is that they won’t go as far and that they won’t perform as well as other e-bike types.
If you’re unsure of the type of terrain that you will be cycling on then you should consider getting a folding mountain electric bike since they are designed to be used on and off-road. They also have quite a large selection so you should be able to find one you like more easily.
You can also get fat tire folding e-bikes which are designed to be able to handle difficult terrain such as sand. The problem is that the fat tires create extra drag which causes them to be less efficient on other surfaces.
There are a number of other considerations that you should make before getting the folding e-bike that might not be obvious to you at first.
Folding electric bikes will usually have a lower weight limit than other types of e-bikes this means that the combined weight of you and your luggage might be more than the e-bike can handle and this is something that you should find out before getting the bike.
You should also consider the actual weight of the bike and if it will be something that will cause an issue for you. If you need a lighter folding e-bike then you should consider getting a mini-folding e-bike.
You should also consider where you will be storing the folding e-bike. Since you’re considering getting a folding e-bike it’s likely that space will be tight. Before getting the e-bike you should check the dimensions of it when it is folded to make sure that it will fit where you want it to.
You should also consider the safety of the area that you will be storing it. If it’s not a very secure area then you should consider getting a cheaper folding e-bike since it will be easier for you to replace if it were to be stolen.
- Test ride
If you have not ridden a folding electric bike before then you might not like the way that it rides and it will be hard for you to judge what you think of it without actually riding it. This means that it would be a good idea to try some folding e-bikes out at a local bike shop before getting one to make sure that you like it.
How far do e-bikes go? Electric bikes will normally be able to get a range of between 20-50 miles. The actual range that you will be able to get will depend on the terrain that you cycle on, the number of hills, the size of the battery, the level of assistance that you use and the weight of you and your luggage. I have written more about how far e-bikes can go here.
How fast can e-bikes go? E-bikes will normally be restricted to stop providing power assistance after you reach a certain speed. The speed will depend on where you live but in the US it will normally be either 20 mph or 28 mph and in Europe it will be 15 mph.