Cycling culture is on the rise in Singapore, both as a method of transport and a leisure activity. With the cycling network tripling from the current 460 km to 1,320 km by 2030 under the Singapore Green Plan, it is increasingly enticing to own a bicycle that is easy to move around, store and brought around anywhere.
With their ease of storage and ability to go onto public transport, this is where foldable bicycles, or foldies, come in. Here is what to look out for when buying a foldable bicycle.
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Why Foldies Over Normal Bicycles?
Generally, people buy foldable bicycles for their convenience and ease of access.
Firstly, most Singaporeans live in HDB flats or condos, which means that we have little space to store a full-sized bicycle. For those who are concerned about bicycle theft or vandalism, foldable bicycles can be easily stored at home for added safety
Secondly, foldable bicycles can be brought onto public transport, as opposed to full-sized bicycles. This convenience means that you would be able to commute to work, meetings or gatherings easier with a foldable bicycle.
Lastly, foldable bicycles are small and compact, which means they can easily fit into cars, either in the backseat or in the car boot. If you wanted to bring a full-size bicycle on a car, you would need to buy the necessary bicycle rack to attach your bicycle to your car.
#1 Size and Shape
Contrary to popular belief, foldable bicycles can come in all shapes and sizes, and not all can fit onto public transport. When folded, bicycles must be 120cm by 70cm by 40cm on public transport such as buses and MRTs, with protruding parts covered up or folded. If you are unsure of the dimensions, you can easily check by fitting your bicycle into the sample box dimensions located at most MRT stations.
Ideally, a good foldable bicycle is one that has a good frame size and shape suited for your body, both in terms of posture and comfort. However, do note that while most foldable bicycles come with adjustable seats, they are usually less comfortable than a full-frame bicycle.
Wheels can also differ in size, with most wheel sizes ranging from 14” to 26”.
Based on what you want to do with your bicycle, you may want different wheel sizes. Smaller wheel sizes are more compact and easier to accelerate and steer, making bicycles with such wheels better for flitting around the neighbourhood. Larger wheels feel smoother and less shaky and are more suited for long-distance cycling, as they can maintain speed more easily.
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#3 How It Folds
There are multiple ways of folding a bicycle, and the different ways of folding your bicycle can affect how comfortable your ride is due to the suspension design, how easy it is stored as well as how fast you can open and close your bicycle.
Common folding methods include the half or mid horizontal fold, the triangle fold and the breakaway fold. However, other folds can also include the swivel fold or bicycles which fold two or three different times for compactness.
Each method comes with its pros and cons, which would impact your buying decision. For example, the half fold would be easy to dismantle, but its design causes it not to be very sturdy and may cause added stress to the bicycle with frequent usage or when carrying heavier loads. The triangle fold eliminates stress points and often come with in-built suspension, but may not be easier to ride or fold as compared to the other bicycles. Breakaway bicycles can be disassembled into two parts, but are harder and more tedious to reassemble.
Different methods may suit different people with different lifestyles, and if you buy from a bicycle shop, you can check with them for more information and test them out first.
#4 Build Quality
How a bicycle is built is a concern for bicycles, as they can affect both the comfort and the safety of your ride. This is especially as important with folding bicycles, as the suspension and comfort tend not to be as good as regular bicycles at the same price range due to both its build and material.
Most foldable bicycles are either made of aluminium or an alloy, which does not absorb shocks as much as traditional steel frames. There are also carbon fibre or titanium suspension builds, but these may come with a premium price.
Also, do check what kind of suspension is in your bicycle. Foldable bicycles can come with no suspension, which means that you would feel every shock if you are riding on rough terrain. Foldable bicycles can also come with suspensions built into its folding mechanism, or even have full suspension. However, these bicycles may be both heavier and pricier.
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How Much Would It Cost?
Generally, you can get your bicycle for as little as $200 (Tilt 100) or as expensive as in the thousands (Brompton M6L). As a start, you may want to look for entry-level bicycles that cost around $500 to $1000, such as the Dahon Hit at $650. A good quality starting bicycle would ideally be lightweight, easy to fold and comfortable to ride.
Do try to find bicycles that have a warranty, for at least two years and from reputable brands or sellers.
Ultimately, it would also be best if you can go to a bicycle shop, either retail or in your neighbourhood. The staff would have the expertise to help you find a suitable bicycle that is comfortable for you, and you would also be able to try the bicycles yourself.
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