Why Are Folding Bikes So Expensive? Are Folding Bikes Any Good?

Folding bikes are starting to increase in popularity, and as more people learn about them, there’s one question that’s everyone asking. Why are folding bikes so expensive? 

Even though some folding bikes on the market are affordable, there are a few out there with prices that will raise your eyebrows. Needless to say, most people fail to understand how a folding bike can be so expensive.

Especially when there are hybrid bikes and mountain bikes out there that offer cyclists high levels of versatility.

There’s no one variable that dictates how expensive a folding bike will be, and we’ll have to discuss multiple factors. These include the frame material, size, and brand reputation. 

There are several other factors as well that you need to take into consideration. 

History of the Folding Bike

Before we get into why folding bikes are so expensive, let’s take a look at the history and origins of the folding bike. The initial designs of the folding bike first came out during the late 1800s. However, it wasn’t until military interest started generating for the concept that it really became popular. 

The initial folding bikes were designed to handle both on-road and off-road cycling conditions. However, their overall weight held them back from being very useful. They weight more than a lot of modern fat tire bikes and mountain bikes!

After the end of World War II, the folding bicycle concept went a little astray for a bit. It wasn’t until the late 60s and 70s that folding bicycles started to resemble the folding bikes we see today. These years saw the emergence of popular manufacturers like Brompton, Bickerton, and Dahon. 

Modern folding bikes are taking concepts from the 60s – 70s and improving on them significantly. Folding bikes are just getting better and better, from using better materials to providing a more comfortable ride thanks to better suspension and tires. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of when the folding bike concept came around let’s look at what factors might contribute to a folding bike being so expensive. 

What Factors decide a Folding Bike’s Price 

When you’re buying a folding bike and the price tag surprises you, it’s only natural to wonder why some folding bikes are so expensive. By understanding why folding bikes are so expensive, cyclists will be in a better position to decide whether they’re willing to spend the money or are better off going with a more affordable option. 

Here are the different factors that can impact a folding bike’s price!

Bike Frame 

Generally, the frame material tends to be the most expensive part when it comes to bicycles. The same applies to folding bikes. One of the main reasons why some folding bikes are so expensive is the type of frame material they use. 

When it comes to distributing the cost between the various components, the frame tends to contribute to between 15-20% of the total price of the bike. The bike’s frame is arguably the main body and is responsible for holding all the different accessories and components. 

When you’re discussing any of the bike’s different metrics like speed, comfort, braking abilities, and many more, the bike frame material will factor into the equation. 

The frame material will also be a major contributor to the overall weight of a bike. When you’re going to buy a folding bike, an occasion might arise where you’ll have to carry the bike. If the bike’s too heavy, it will become a major inconvenience. 

However, while it’s important to consider the weight, the material also impacts the overall durability. 

There are four main material choices that manufacturers tend to choose between when making a folding bike. 

Aluminum 

Aluminum frames are a popular choice for most bike types on the market, and the same is the case for folding bikes. The material features both rust and corrosion resistance due to the presence of aluminum oxide. 

Aluminum folding bikes are some of the most popular because they’re lightweight and fairly durable. Generally, you’ll notice that the aluminum frames tend to fall in the affordable to slightly pricey region. 

Carbon Fiber 

When people question why are folding bikes so expensive, it’s mostly in reference to carbon fiber folding bikes. Carbon fiber is the most common material choice for the most premium bikes on the market. 

Many cyclists believe that carbon fiber is the top material for bicycles. It’s super lightweight, strong, and durable at the same time. Other materials simply can’t compete with carbon fiber bikes, and that’s why they tend to be the most expensive on the market. 

Steel

Some of the first folding bikes featured a steel frame, and it’s still a pretty common frame material choice. Steel is affordable while being incredibly strong and durable at the same time. You can put a steel frame bike through a lot of punishment, and it still won’t lose the original structure. 

However, the issue with steel is that the material is very heavy. That really holds steel-frame folding bikes back in their overall performance. 

Titanium 

It’s also definitely possible for a titanium frame to be the reason why folding bikes are so expensive. The benefit of titanium is that it provides the same strength and durability as steel, but it’s significantly lightweight. 

Titanium also works well with mountain bikes because it has decent shock-absorption properties. The material is robust and lightweight as well. While not as pricey as a carbon fiber folding bike, a titanium folding bike can also reach eye-watering price levels. 

These are the four main frame material choices available to cyclists looking to buy a folding bike. Generally, the lighter the material, the more expensive it’s going to be! 

The order goes Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, and Carbon Fiber in terms of least expensive to most expensive. What frame material is used in the bike can help explain why some folding bikes are so expensive. 

Wheel Size 

Aside from the frame material, another important feature contributing to why folding bikes are so expensive is the wheel size. In general, folding bikes will feature 16-inch wheels. However, some manufacturers want to provide clients with more options, so they also make 20-inch, 24-inch, and 26-inch wheels. 

16-inch wheels tend to cost the most when it comes to expense. These wheels offer the most utility in terms of being able to fold them down significantly more than their larger counterparts. 

In addition, 16-inch wheels tend to offer cyclists the best acceleration, so if you want maximum speed, get the smallest wheel size. 

While the smaller wheels offer better performance, they tend to lag behind when it comes to comfort and stability. So if you’re looking to get a folding bike for some casual cycling, you might as well save some money and get a bike with larger wheels.

Why Are Folding Bikes So Expensive

Type of Tire 

Another factor contributing to why some folding bikes are so expensive is the kind of tire that they use. New cyclists can easily underestimate the impact a good quality tire can have on your overall ride quality. 

Not only does it help improve your overall comfort levels, but it also increases bike performance and helps reduce wear and tear. Folding bikes back in the day would only feature one standard tire type. 

However, modern folding manufacturers provide their customers with several different tire options to help improve their riding experience. 

Here are the main tire types that you’ll find on a folding bike. 

Standard 

Ordinary tires tend to usually be the most inexpensive tires in the market, with so many different brands to choose between. They’re widely available, easy to install, don’t require a lot of maintenance, and don’t cost a lot when it comes to repairing. However, they won’t provide you with any significant performance advantages. 

Tubular 

Aside from the standard tires on the market, you also have the option of going for tubular tires. Most people looking to compete in races look to buy tubular tires. These tires feature the ability to run flat and stay on the rims despite there being any obstacles on the road. 

Folding 

A popular option for folding bikes is folding tires. These are tires designed specifically to handle low weights and offer better traction than standard tires. They provide cyclists with a lot of portability, but they definitely can contribute to why folding bikes are so expensive. 

Tubeless 

Even if you’re new to cycling, you’ve probably already heard the term tubeless tires. These don’t rely on a tube to help provide an airtight seal, so there’s much less risk of you running a flat. It’ll effectively decrease the rolling resistance without any compromise on comfort. 

Why Are Folding Bikes So Expensive

Bike Seat

Another factor that impacts why folding bikes are so expensive is the bike seat. The bike seat is also known as the saddle and is an important part of the bike. Many new cyclists make a critical mistake is not paying enough attention to the bike seat. 

Depending on how luxurious the bike’s seat is, the more expensive it’s going to be. More premium folding bikes offer bicycle seats made from premium materials and containing effective padding. 

Additionally, certain bike seats on the market incorporate a suspension underneath. The presence of the suspension makes riding a folding bike on rough terrains much easier. 

However, the added comfort from the suspension system usually comes out at an additional cost. The bike saddle might seem insignificant, but it’s all these little things that add up and contribute to why folding bikes are so expensive. 

Drivetrain 

All seasoned cyclists know that when it comes to modern multi-gear bicycles, the price can go up depending on the components of the drivetrain. Generally, folding bikes will employ the most modern gear-shifter systems to offer cyclists a versatile ride. 

A bicycle drivetrain generally includes pedals, cranks, chains, cogs, and a derailleur. All of these parts can add up and contribute to why are folding bikes so expensive!

Brake System 

Aside from the drivetrain, the brake system can also contribute to why folding bikes are so expensive. Most new cyclists tend not to pay attention to the braking system when buying a bike, and that’s always a mistake. 

A quality brake system can help ensure that you remain confident in your cycling because you know you’ll be able to come to a stop quickly and efficiently. With so many different types of brake sets available on the market and varying amounts of quality, premium brake sets can add to the overall price of a folding bike!

Why Are Folding Bikes So Expensive

Additional Factors that make Folding Bikes so Expensive

In addition to everything that you’d find on the bike, there are a few other factors that can contribute to making some folding bikes so expensive. Here are some of the additional variables that can add to the price of a folding bike. 

Brand Name 

When it comes to pricing, the name and value of the brand has a significant role to play. The major names in the folding bike industry can charge higher prices than lesser-known companies. 

It’s not always down to the brand name as it’s often the established names that can afford to use the highest quality materials, but it definitely will play a role. Consumers are more likely to pay higher prices for brands with a longstanding presence in the industry. 

Manufacturing Process

A high-quality folding bike requires a lot of precision. That can, in turn, increase the manufacturing cost of the bike. If the bike uses high-quality material, then it will cause the overall cost to increase further. 

The number of employees that are involved in the whole manufacturing process can also contribute to why folding bikes are so expensive. There are also plenty of different specialists that are involved, which can increase the overall cost. 

A full bike manufacturing team involves different craftsmen, designers, and promotional teams. All of these different teams can make a folding bike more expensive. 

These are some of the different reasons some folding bikes can seem more expensive. However, just because a bike is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. By understanding the different components that contribute towards making a folding bike expensive, you’ll be able to buy the right folding bike that meets your needs!

Are folding bikes any good? 

Even though many people are switching towards getting folding bikes, and they’re becoming more popular. However, many cyclists are still asking the question, are folding bikes any good? 

Yes, some folding bikes offer a lot of portability and are fun to ride. However, it all depends on the needs of the cyclist. If you’re looking for a bike for predominantly urban riding, then a folding bike will fit your needs perfectly. However, they aren’t going to work well in competitive scenarios. 

The small wheels on a folding bike will also make it challenging for them to perform well on off-road terrains. While there are specially designed folding mountain bikes, they still don’t perform on a standard mountain bike level. 

All-in-all, folding bikes are a good option for urban cyclists that are looking for something effective to manage their commute. The versatility of folding your bike and storing it in an effective manner is going to work to your advantage!

Conclusion 

The answer to why are folding bikes so expensive isn’t just down to one particular feature. It’s a combination of different factors that come together and contribute to making a folding bike expensive. 

Even though there are some ridiculously expensive folding bikes on the market. That doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones on the market worth buying. Rather than looking at the object’s price, it’s more essential for cyclists to understand what makes a good quality folding bike!

James Dawson

After learning how to ride a bicycle much later than all the other kids, James Dawson hasn't looked back. The author now actively rides a bicycle as a part of the community cycling group and competes regularly in local competitions. Aside from that, he loves technology and always keeps up to date with the latest cycling tech.

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