Folding Bikes and Suspension

by Peter on June 8, 2010

Rear suspension block on a Brompton folding bike

Brompton folding bikes use a rear suspension block

You’ve probably seen suspension on mountain bikes and hybrid road bikes, but did you know that suspension can also be found on folding bikes? In fact, suspension is one of the primary ways in which folding bicycle designers compensate for using small wheels. Now don’t take me wrong, small wheels are actually far superior than normal bicycle wheels in many ways, but they do perform a bit differently than larger wheels. So why suspension on folding bikes?

Suspending disbelief, can a folding bike really ride like a normal bike?

Folding bikes typically use small wheels between 16 and 20 inches in diameter. If nothing is done to compensate for their size, these smaller wheels can cause a folding bike to shake as the wheels are deflected by bumps in the road. This is caused by a natural tendency for smaller wheels to be more susceptible to vibration than larger wheels.

In order to counteract this jittery tendency folding bikes either employ lower tire pressures, larger wheels, or more commonly, suspension. The problem with the first two options is that each solves one problem while adding another. Lower air pressure tires may absorb some of the shock of the road, but they slow the bike down significantly. Think of the difference between a mountain bikes fat tires and a road bikes thin hard tires. Folding bikes are generally ridden more on pavement than loose dirt and gravel, so fat tires are out – they slow the bike down and add weight.

Folding bikes with larger wheels

Increasing wheel size does smooth out the ride, but it also seems to work against the fundamental goal of folding bikes, compactness. A folding bicycle can never fold smaller than its wheel diameter, so larger wheels greatly increase the folded size. This solution is good for people who don’t need a very compact folding bike.

Folding bikes with suspension

Although there are several folding bikes with suspension available we only sell the best. Brompton folding bikes combine the best characteristics of the folding bike world in one small package and with 16 inch wheels it is no surprise they also have suspension. Brompton’s use a rubber rear suspension block which makes for a nice smooth ride. The block comes in two versions: soft and firm. The soft suspension is great for most people. For riders with a more aggressive or high speed riding style the firm suspension is the right way to go. Either way you can be sure of a smooth ride from this folding bike.

Folding bikes may have started out with nick names like “wobbly wonder” but for many of today’s folding bicycles this name couldn’t be more off the mark. Thanks to the use of suspension, folding bikes are easy to ride on a daily basis and feel very similar to a regular bike. Check out some of our great folding bikes, not all have suspension but they are all plenty of fun to ride.

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