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16 Vs 20 Inch: The Best Folding Bike Wheel Size

The most important decision to make when choosing a folding bike is which wheel size to go with. The wheel size plays a major role in the folded size of the bike. Smaller wheels allow for a smaller fold. That said, there are some compromises to choosing a smaller wheel. They can have an effect on the ride quality. This guide outlines the pros and cons of 16 inch Vs 20 inch wheels. I’ll cover ride quality, parts availability, maintenance, efficiency, and more.

I’ll also outline other existing folding bike wheel sizes including 18 inch, 24 inch, and 26 inch. In addition, I’ll outline the wheel size of popular folding bikes including Brompton bikes and Bike Friday. Hopefully, this guide helps you decide which is the best folding bike wheel size for your style of riding.

A red Brompton folding bike on a path in the mountains
A Brompton folding bike (16 inch wheels)
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20 Inch Folding Bicycle Wheels

20″ is the more common folding bike wheel size. One important thing to know about 20 inch bike wheels is that they aren’t all the same. 20 inch actually refers to two slightly different wheel sizes. This is important to remember because tires are not cross-compatible. The 20″ sizes are:

  1. 406 mm wheels- These are the most common 20 inch bike wheels. They are used on kids’ bikes, BMX bikes, many recumbent bikes, and most 20” folding bikes. You’ll have a wide range of tire and rim options for this wheel size. 406 tires tend to be wide.
  2. 451 mm wheels- These are pretty uncommon. They are used on racing BMX bikes and some folding bikes. 451 wheels are 45mm larger in diameter than 406 wheels. They are generally paired with narrow tires for road-oriented folding bikes. The main drawback to this wheel size is that there are very few tire and rim options available.

Both of these sizes are called 20″ because fatter 406 tires and skinnier 451 tires both measure roughly 20″. The number referrs to the ISO diameter. This guide focuses on the more common 406 size.

20 inch folding bike
A 20 inch Bike Friday folding bike loaded for touring

20 Inch Folding Bike Pros

  • Easier to find replacement parts- Because 20 inch wheels are so common on kid’s bikes and BMX bikes, parts are easy to find almost anywhere in the world. This is important if you plan to tour with your folding bike in a remote region or developing country. You’ll have more luck finding a new rim, tire, or tube wherever you’re touring. Having said this, 20″ isn’t the most common size. In some regions, replacement parts will be difficult to source. You may need to carry a spare tire on occasion. 26 inch wheels are the most common size around the world. 700c is also common.
  • More stable- Folding bikes are known for being a bit twitchy due to the small wheel diameter. The steering is more sensitive than larger wheeled full-sized bikes. When compared to the smaller 16 inch wheels, 20 inch wheels feel much more stable. This may be because the more massive wheels have more rotational inertia so they don’t turn quite as quickly. That said, you really only notice the twitchiness when you start riding a small wheeled bike. You quickly get used to the faster steering after riding a few miles and it just feels normal. Most folding bikes seat you in an upright position that makes them easy to control.
  • 20″ wheels roll better and offer a smoother ride- Because 20″ wheels have a larger rim diameter than 16″ wheels, they roll over bumps and other obstacles in the road more easily. This is because larger wheels have a smaller angle of attack. They won’t sink as far into potholes. They can also glide over sticks, rocks, and debris in the road a bit easier. They’re less likely to get hung up on bumps. In addition, 20″ tires have more volume than 16″. This allows the tire to deform around bumps and other obstacles. This also helps to smooth out the ride and make it more comfortable. This allows you to ride rougher terrain with 20″ wheels. 20″ wheels can even handle some light off-road or gravel riding if you install high-volume tires.
  • There are more 20″ folding bike options- 20 inch wheels are standard for folding bikes. This means you have a lot of bikes to choose from. You can find 20 inch folding bikes with disc brakes, drop bars, internal gear hubs, belt drive, suspension, or basically any specifications you want. You can pick up a basic 20 inch folding bike for just a couple hundred bucks or you can spend thousands on a higher-end custom-made option. You can even buy a frameset and choose your own components. There are dozens of bikes to choose from with 20″ wheels. 16 inch folding bikes are much less common.
  • Less maintenance and repair- 20 inch wheels don’t have to rotate as many times as 16 inch wheels to cover the same amount of ground. The larger rims also don’t heat up as fast while braking because they have more surface area. For these reasons, rims, tires, and brake pads last a bit longer.
  • 20″ wheels may be more efficient- Folding bikes with 20″ wheels have shorter seat posts and handlebar posts because the wheels sit higher. The frame tube may also be a bit shorter. Shorter tubes flex less as you pedal. This improves efficiency because less energy is lost to flexing the tubes. More energy is used to drive you forward. In addition, the larger diameter wheels maintain momentum better because they have more mass and more inertia. Once you get the wheels rolling, it takes less energy to maintain your speed. You can coast further when you stop pedaling as well. Larger wheels also don’t have to make as many rotations to cover the same distance as smaller wheels so there will be less energy loss from friction in the bearings. The increased efficiency allows you to cover more ground on a 20 inch folding bike using the same amount of energy as on a 16 inch folding bike. You’ll maintain a slightly higher average speed as well.
  • Better traction- Generally, folding bikes with 20″ wheels can accommodate wider tires because the rims are wider and there is more frame clearance. For example, most 20″ wheels ann frames are designed to fit 1.75-2″ wide tires. Most 16″ folding bikes can only fit tires that measure up to 40mm wide (about 1.5″). The wider 20″ tires offer more traction. This allows you to ride rough or loose terrain. You can also buy knobby 20″ tires for even more traction. The wider tires also offer some shock and vibration absorption.
  • Better brake performance- Because 20″ rims are larger, they don’t heat up as fast when braking. This allows you to brake longer without your rims overheating. This comes in handy when descending a long hill. If your rims get too hot, brake power decreases. Your tire can also blow out because the heat causes the air pressure to increase. Of course, this point is only true if you’re using rim brakes. If you’re using disc brakes, the brake performance will be the same.
  • More tire size options- Because 20 inch bikes are so common, plenty of manufacturers make 20 inch tires. You can find everything from slick road tires to knobby mountain bike tires in 20 inch versions. Long-lasting puncture-resistant touring tires are also available. This point is only true for 20″ bikes with 406mm wheels. 451mm wheel tire options are far more limited.
  • 20″ folding bikes use more standard bicycle parts– For the most part, 20 inch folding bikes use off-the-shelf components. Nothing is proprietary except for the frame and hinges. Some folding bikes use a short rear derailleur but these are still pretty standard. This makes parts easier and cheaper to replace when they break. 16 inch folding bikes, on the other hand, tend to use some proprietary parts.
  • Better for tall riders-20″ folding bikes offer longer seatposts and a bit longer reach between the handlebars and seat. This is possible because the frames tend to be a bit longer and larger. This makes the ride more comfortable for tall riders. You can spread out more so you’ not all cramped up. If you’re 6’2″ or taller, you’ll probably be more comfortable with 20″ wheels.
  • Cheaper- If you’re on a tight budget, 20 inch folding bikes are the cheapest option. You can buy a new base model for just a couple hundred bucks. You can find older used models for even less. Replacement parts tend to be cheaper as well because they are more common. You’ll also save a bit of money on maintenance because tires, rims, and brake pads last a bit longer.
  • Allowed on some public transit- Many cities allow folding bikes on their metro and bus systems. Generally, 20 inch folding bikes are the largest size allowed on.
  • Greater luggage storing capacity- Most 20 inch folding bikes are compatible with standard off-the-shelf racks and panniers. This means you don’t need to buy new luggage to tour or carry your gear around.
  • Looks better- A big guy riding a folding bike looks a bit like a clown. 20 inch wheels look slightly more reasonable than 16 inch. Of course, not everyone cares about looks but it is something to consider.
Folded folding bike with 20 inch wheels
A 20 inch folding bike in its folded form

20 Inch Folding Bike Cons

  • 20″ folding bikes are larger and bulkier- Regardless of the fold design, 20 inch folding bikes are always significantly larger than 16 inch models when folded. The wheels are around 4 inches larger in diameter, after all. For example .a 20 inch Tern folding bike measures 15.6″ x 31.5″ x 28.7″ when folded. That’s 14,103 cubic inches or about 321 liters. On the other hand, a 16 inch Brompton folding bike measures 23″ x 22.2″ x 10.6″ when folded. That’s 5,412 cubic inches or about 89 liters. The 20″bike is over three times larger.
  • Heavier- Because 20 inch wheels are larger, they have more material. This adds to the weight of the bike. Most 20 inch folding bikes weigh in at around 30 pounds (around 13.6 kg). 16 inch folding bikes generally weigh around 25 pounds (around 11.3 kilos).
  • Less portable- Because 20 inch folding bikes are larger and heavier than 16 inch models, they are more cumbersome to carry around. This size difference means you may not be able to fit the bike into certain luggage compartments on busses or trains, small car trunks, or under desks. If you need to fit your folding bike in a small space, make sure you measure first. If you expect to carry your bike often, the smaller the better.
  • You may end up paying extra fees to fly with a 20″ folding bike- Many travelers like to bring their folding bike with them on vacation to better explore their destination. Most 20 inch folders can pack down to fit within airline checked bag limits. Some cannot. In order to check a folding bike as a regular piece of luggage on most airlines, the bike needs to pack down into a package that measures less than 62 linear inches (158 cm). You’ll also have to consider the weight. Most airlines limit checked bags to 50 lbs or 23 kgs. If the bike is too large or heavy, the airline may charge you an oversized bag fee. This can run anywhere from $50-$250 depending on the airline. If you’re looking for a 20 inch folding bike that is designed for air travel, check out the offerings from Bike Friday. They have bikes that are designed to fit in an airline-acceptable sized suitcase. For more info on flying with a bike, check out my guide: How to Box a Bike for a Flight.
  • 20 inch wheels are weaker- 20 inch wheels are larger in diameter and use longer spokes than 16 inch wheels. This makes them structurally weaker. They can’t handle as heavy of loads or take as much of a beating without damage. They are slightly less durable. You may experience more broken spokes or cracked rims. Having said that, wheels that are properly built with quality components are incredibly strong and durable. Also, 20 inch wheels are stronger than standard 26 inch or 700c wheels.
  • Not allowed in as many places- The great thing about folding bikes is that you can bring them inside with you rather than leaving them chained up at the bike rack where they could be damaged or stolen. The problem is that some businesses and buildings don’t allow bikes inside. The solution is to store your bike in a bag. Because 20 inch folding bikes are so large, they look suspicious. At some restaurants, hotels, government buildings, transit stations, etc. you might not be permitted to bring such a large bag inside. If you’re trying to be stealthy with your bike, 16 inch is the better option. They fold down small enough that they just look like a piece of luggage when they are bagged up.
  • Slower acceleration- Because 20″ wheels have more mass, it takes more energy to get them rolling. 20″ wheels don’t spin up as fast as 16″ wheels. It’s a bit harder to start from a stop. This makes stop-and-go city riding a bit more challenging.

16 Inch Folding Bike Wheels

Similar to the case with 20 inch wheels, there are actually two slightly different wheel sizes that are referred to as 16 inch. Tires are not cross-compatible between the two sizes.

  1. 305 mm wheels- These are the smaller and less common of the two. They generally use a slightly wider tire size. Rims and tires are harder to find for this size. Tire options are more limited.
  2. 349 mm wheels- This is the more common 16 inch wheel size. It’s the size that Bromptons and most other 16″ folding bikes use. The tires that fit 359mm rims rim are a bit more narrow. They are made for road riding. Rims and tires for this size are generally more common. 

305mm and 349mm wheels are both called 16″ because the tire sizes both measure around 16″ in diameter. This guide focuses on the 349mm wheel size.

Folded Brompton folding bike with 16 inch wheels
A Brompton folding bike in its folded form. This bike uses 16 inch wheels

16 Inch Folding Bike Pros

  • 16″ folding bikes are more compact- Because the wheels measure 4 inches less in diameter, 16 inch folding bikes can fold down significantly smaller than 20 inch models. In fact, a 16 inch folding bike is about half the size of a 20″ model. This makes carrying and storing the bike much easier. You can fit it under most desks and in pretty much any vehicle. You can even store the bike in a small bag.
  • You can take the bike with you more places- 16″ wheels allow the bike to pack down small enough that you can take it almost anywhere. Even places that bikes are not permitted. For example, you can pack a Brompton in an Ikea Dimpa bag or a Brompton bag. These bags measure around 25″ x 25″ x 8″ (65cm x 65cm x 22cm). The bag is small enough that no one will ever suspect that you’re carrying a bike. It just looks like a standard-sized piece of luggage. 20 inch folding bikes, on the other hand, are large enough to draw attention, even if they are in a bag.
  • 16″ wheels are stronger- 16″ wheels are smaller in diameter and use shorter spokes than 20″ wheels. This makes them structurally stronger. The small wheels can handle heavier loads and take more of a beating without breaking spokes, cracking, or flexing.
  • Lighter-16 inch folding bikes usually weigh around 5 pounds less than 20 inch folding bikes. This is the case because the wheels, tires, and frames are smaller so there is less material. If you plan to use your folding bike in a way that requires that you fold it and carry it often, you’re better off with a 16 inch model.
  • Better maneuverability- The small 16″ wheels allow you to practically turn on a dime. This allows you to easily navigate busy city streets. You can quickly avoid potholes and other obstacles in your path. It’s also easy to ride between cars and around pedestrians.
  • Can pack small enough to fly with- Most airlines require checked bags to be less than 62 linear inches. 16 inch folding bikes easily meet this requirement with room to spare. In fact, they pack down so small that you can pack spare parts, tools, and some of your gear with the bike. For information, check out this great article about packing your 16 inch folding bike from Some travelers even take their Brompton folding bike into the airplane cabin as a carry-on. Check out Brompton Mafia for more info and some cool photos.
  • Faster acceleration- Smaller wheels have less mass. They also create less drag. There is less rolling resistance. This allows you to spin them up faster and more easily. This comes in handy for stop-and-go city riding. After stopping at an intersection, you can quickly get up to speed again. For this reason, 16 inch folding bikes are ideal for city use.
  • Lower gearing- Assuming the gears are the same, a 16″ folding bike make the effective gear ratio lower because the wheel circumference is lower. Lower gearing allows you to climb steep hills more easily.
A Brompton Folding Bike with 16 inch wheels

16 Inch Folding Bike Cons

  • Fewer tire size options- Only a handful of companies offer 16 inch bike tires. Probably because there just isn’t much demand. You’re limited to a few different road and touring tires. The most popular are probably the Schwalbe marathon tires. These offer excellent durability and puncture protection. Another popular option is the Kojak. These tires are lightweight and fast.
  • More expensive- For whatever reason, 16 inch folding bikes tend to cost more than 20 inch models. Most are higher end. Expect to spend over $1000. You don’t have many entry-level options. Replacement parts are a bit more expensive as well. Probably because the size is a bit less common.
  • Less stable ride- Small wheels make the steering very sensitive. This happens because the wheels have less mass and rotational inertia. The ride can feel twitchy and unstable. The bike responds to small turns of the handlebars and steers almost too quickly. Luckily, you get used to this feeling after a couple of hours of riding. That said, it can be challenging to ride a 16″ folding bike with no hands. It’s just not quite as stable.
  • Rougher ride- Smaller diameter wheels don’t roll over obstacles or potholes as easily as larger wheels. For example, smaller diameter 16″ wheels can fall further into a pothole than larger 20″ wheels. The small wheels can also get hung up more easily on a rock, rut, crack, or stick in the road. You’ll feel every bump more. This makes for a less comfortable ride. You’ll also need to pay more attention to the road to avoid any large obstacles in your path. You can come off the bike more easily if you hit something large enough. The small tire diameter makes it difficult to roll over large obstacles. For this reason, 16″ folding bikes aren’t great for riding gravel roads or off-road.
  • Finding replacement parts is more difficult- Because 16 inch bikes are so uncommon, spare parts can be challenging to source. Many bike shops don’t stock 16 inch rims, tires, or tubes, for example. This is particularly problematic if you plan to travel with your 16 inch folding bike in the developing world or a rural region. In some countries, you can’t just have parts shipped due to high importation costs and difficulties with clearing customs. This means that you’ll have to pack all of your own spares. You’ll at least want to carry a spare tire, some spokes, and a couple of tubes.
  • More proprietary or specialty parts- 16 inch folding bikes sometimes use specialty parts that are non-standard. For example, you might need a special short rear derailleur, uncommon spoke sizes. High-end 16″ tires and rims are uncommon. Brompton folding bikes, in particular, require a number of proprietary parts including brake calipers and shifters. In fact, about 70% of the parts are proprietary. Of course, this increases repair costs. Proprietary and non-standard parts are harder to source as well.
  • More frequent maintenance is required- Smaller wheels and tires wear out more quickly because they need to make more revolutions to cover the same distance as larger wheels. You’ll burn through more rims and tires than you’re used to. For example, a 16″ rim might only last 5000km (3100 miles). The reason is that the braking surface is smaller. The brake pads wear the rims down faster. Tires don’t last as long either. You may only get a few thousand kilometers out of a rear tire. You’ll also have to service your hubs more a bit more often because the wheels make more revolutions. This extra maintenance adds to the cost of ownership.
  • Fewer bike options- If you decide on a 16 inch folding bike, you really only have a few options to choose from. The most popular 16 inch folding bike, by far, is the Brompton. Dahon also makes a few 16 inch folders. There are a few Chinese manufacturers as well. Some options just aren’t available on 16 inch folding bikes. For example, I’m not aware of any 16″ folding bikes with disc brakes, drop bars, or multiple chainrings. Options are much more limited. There are dozens of 20″ options available from many different manufacturers with pretty much every configuration you can imagine.
  • Less luggage capacity- 16 inch wheels make the bike frame sit a bit too low to use standard racks and panniers. The panniers would rub the ground when you lean into a turn. There are a few ingenious methods people use to carry luggage on their 16 inch folders. Some bicycle tourists mount a hiking backpack to the seat post and rear rack. Check out this guide to carrying luggage from The Brompton Traveler for more info. Some folding bike manufacturers also offer proprietary luggage or rack systems. For example, Brompton offers a frame-mounted carrier block and a range of bags that mount to it.
  • The rims can overheat- Small 16″ rims heat up quickly when braking. The reason is that the braking surface is smaller. The small rims can’t dissipate heat as quickly as larger rims. In normal conditions, this isn’t a problem. While descending a long hill, the rims can overheat. When the rims get too hot, brake power decreases. You can even suffer a tire blowout. the solution is to stop periodically during a long descent to let your rims and brake pads cool down.
  • Less traction- The 349mm wheels that are found on most 16″ folding bikes are designed for road-oriented tires. The times are a bit more narrow. 16″ folding bikes tend to have less frame clearance as well. The maximum tire width is often limited to 40mm or around 1.5″. Narrow tires have less traction because the contact patch where the tire touches the ground is smaller. This way, the tire creates less friction with the ground.
  • Less efficient- 16″ bikes folding bike frames have a longer seat tube, handlebar tube, and oftentimes frame tube. this is necessary because the small wheels make the bike sit lower. The long tubes tend to flex while you ride. This way, some of your pedaling power is wasted by flexing the frame rather than pushing the bike forward. This reduces efficiency. This means you won’t be able to ride as far as you would on a bike with larger diameter wheels. For this reason, 16″ wheels aren’t ideal for long-distance touring. That said, many people do tour on 16″ folding bikes. Particularly the Brompton.
  • Looks kind of goofy- The tiny tires make the rider look kind of silly, even if you’re a smaller person. Of course, this only matters if you care about looks.

More Pros and Cons Analyses from Where The Road Forks

Other Folding Bike Wheel Sizes

Although 16 and 20 inch are the most common wheel sizes for folding bikes, several other sizes are also available. In this section, I’ll outline some more common folding bike wheel sizes and explain their benefits and drawbacks.

24 Inch Folding Bike Wheels

24 inch wheels offer a middle ground between a compact folding bike and a full-size bike. The main benefit of 24 inch wheels over 16 or 20 inch wheels is improved ride quality. The larger wheels offer better stability. The steering feels less squirrely. The larger diameter wheels also roll over obstacles better, making the ride smoother and more comfortable. You’ll appreciate this when riding on gravel or a bumpy road. Efficiency is also better. There is less frame flex because the seat post and handlebar post can be shorter. Less energy is wasted. 24 inch wheeled folding bikes also pack down small enough to put in a car trunk or store in a closet.

This improved performance and efficiency do come at a cost. The bike will be substantially bulkier and heavier with the larger wheels. 24″ wheels make the bike too large to take on some public transportation systems. Many cities limit the folding bikes allowed on their transit system to models with wheels 20 inches or smaller. You’ll also have more trouble fitting the bike in a standard checked bag size case for flights. The bike won’t be quite as portable. The ride quality and comfort also won’t be as good as a full-size bike.

26 Inch, 27.5 Inch, and 700c Folding Bike Wheels

Full-sized folding bikes have the same sized wheels as a regular bike. Most models have either 26″, 27.5″ (650b), or 700c wheels. A hinge in the middle of the frame allows the bike to fold in half. The result is a package about 60% of the size of a standard non-folding bike.

While these large-wheeled folding bikes aren’t nearly as compact as 16 and 20 inch folding bikes, they can fit in places where a full-sized bike cannot. For example, you can fit a full-sized folding bike in a standard car trunk, RV, or boat. They are also permitted on most long-distance trains and busses, where non-folding bikes may not be allowed. Full-sized folding bikes are also a great choice for those who live in a small apartment in the city. You can store the bike indoors without taking up too much space.

Full-sized folding bikes offer the same ride quality as a non-folding bike. They look pretty normal as well. You won’t attract the same stares and unwanted attention that you do while riding a small-wheeled 16″ or 20″ folding bike. As an added bonus, they use standard-sized tires, rims, and tubes. This makes parts easy to find.

Of course, there are drawbacks. These bikes just aren’t anywhere near as portable as 16 and 20 inch folding bikes. You can’t take them on most public transportation systems and you’ll pay an oversized bag fee to fly with them. They are also substantially heavier than smaller wheeled models.

For more info on these wheel sizes, check out my guide:

18 Inch (355 mm) Folding Bike Wheels

This is the least common folding bike wheel size. In fact, the only folding bike manufacturer that I’m aware of that uses 18 inch wheels is Birdy. 18 inch wheels offer a mid-size between 16 and 20 inch. They offer slightly better performance and ride quality than 16 inch wheels. These smaller wheels allow the bike to fold slightly more compact than 20 inch models. It’s a nice compromise.

This wheel size has one major drawback in my opinion. That is parts availability. 18 inch wheels and tires are uncommon. To buy quality replacements, you’ll pretty much have to order parts online and have them shipped. This is fine for urban commuters and casual riders. Anyone looking to tour will have to pack enough spares.

Fat Tire Folding Bikes

These days folding bikes with fatter tires are becoming popular. Particulalry on electric folding bikes. These models typically use 20″ wheels with tires that measure around 4 inches wide. The wheels have a different rim size than standard folding bikes. The rims are extra wide to accommodate a fatter tire.

A woman riding a folding electric bike with fat tires
A folding e-bike with fat tires

Folding Bike Recommendations

After you’ve decided on wheel size and any other features you need, it’s time to pick a bike. Below, I’ll outline some of the best folding bikes in each of the more common wheel sizes.

Brompton Folding Bikes

The Brompton is the gold standard of folding bikes. These steel-framed bikes are hand made in England. There are 1,3, and 6 speed Brompton models available. They also offer steel and titanium frames. They also come with a built in suspension block for some shock absorption.

The build quality on these bikes is excellent. The Brompton fold is the most compact of any folding bike on the market. Loads of aftermarket parts are available. The bike also has a devoted fan base. There is also a pretty large network of dealerships so parts availability is good.

There are some drawbacks. These are some of the most expensive folding bikes. There is also only one frame size available.

For more info, check out my guide: Are Brompton Bikes Worth It?

a Brompton folding bike near the beach

Brompton Wheel Size

Brompton bikes come standard with 16″ wheels. The stock tires are 35mm (1.35″) wide. That is the only Brompton wheel size option available from the factory. A handful of companies take stock of Bromptons and convert them into 20″ folding bikes.

For example, the Scottish company Kinetics offers custom Bromptons with 6 different wheel sizes including 16″ (305) standard Brompton wheels, 16″ (349) fat bike wheels, 18″ (355) wheels, and 20″ wheels. You can purchase a kit and install it yourself or a complete custom new bike from Kinetics. Check out their website for more info.

Their MTBrompton Upgrade Kit comes with a taller and wider fork and a wider rear triangle. This allows you to use 20″ wheels as well as a range of higher-end components including internal gear hubs, disc brakes, and belt drives. Of course, you’ll need a new 20 inch front wheel and rear wheel.

A Brompton at the waterfront

One drawback to these modifications is that they increase the folded size of the Brompton substantially. The bike will be around 140mm longer, 45mm taller, and 80mm wider. The larger wheels and tires also add weight. Of course, these kits are also expensive. They are niche products built in small numbers.

A Dutch company called Eerder Metaal also offers a 20 inch Brompton. Their custom Bromptons offer 2.26″ of tire clearance, mounts for derailleur gears, luggage mounts, and more. They also cut down the head tube to allow for a longer fork that can fit a wider tire. This also allows them to maintain the bottom bracket height. Check out their website for more info.

Bike Friday Folding Bikes

A Bike Friday folding bike

Bike Friday offers both 16 inch and 20 inch folding bikes. This company is known for its folding touring bikes. The New World Tourist is their standard road touring model. They also offer the All-Packa, which is designed for off-road touring, gravel riding, and bikepacking. It can handle tires up to 2.8″ wide. They also offer a road bike called the Pocket Rocket. This model comes with 451 20″ wheels.

Bike Firday also offers a 16″ model called the PakiT. This lightweight model is designed for city riding and commuting.

In addition, Bike Friday offers electric bikes that fold and folding cargo bikes. These models also come with 20″ wheels.

Bike Friday offers a wide range of frame sizes. They offer a custom fit on most of their bikes.

For more info, check out Bike Friday’s range of folding bikes here.

Tern and Dahon Folding Bike

Tern and Dahon are 2 folding bike manufacturers with an interesting past. They also make some of the most popular 20 inch folding bikes on the market. They offer quality folding bikes in the mid range in terms of budget and components. One of the most popular options is the Dahon Mariner folding bike. It features 8 speeds, folds down to 25.6″ x 31.1″ x 12.6″ and weighs 26 pounds.

Full-Sized Folding Bikes

A number of companies offer folding bikes with full-sized 26″, 650B, or 700c wheels. For example, Montague makes a nice range of 26 inch and 700c folding mountain bikes, road bikes, and touring bikes. They use a strong design that was developed for the US military.

One of their more popular options, the Montague Paratrooper Pro features 27 speeds, disc breaks, and front suspension. It also includes a rear rack. It’s a full-sized bike that folds. This is one of the best options for mountain biking with a folding bike.

Which is the Best Folding Bike Wheel Size?

This choice really comes down to how you plan to use your folding bike.

16 inch wheels are ideal for commuters who plan to use their bike for multi-modal transportation. You can fold the bike up and take it on the bus, train, and to work with you. In fact, you can take it pretty much anywhere. You never need to lock the bike up outside. 16 inch folding bikes are small and light enough to carry around wherever you go. The compact size and maneuverability make 16 inch wheels an excellent choice for those who ride in large and crowded cities.

20 inch wheels are better for those who plan to ride further and carry the bike less often. This is also a great wheel size for those who plan to travel with their folding bike. You can tour with 20 inch wheels. These wheels can fit in a standard-sized checked piece of luggage. Those who want to ride rough terrain and off-road will also be better off with larger diameter 20 inch wheels.

The larger rim diameter improves ride quality. These bikes allow for larger tire widths which improve comfort. The larger diameter wheels do make the bike a bit less portable. You can still fold the bike up and take it with you. It’s just a bit more of a hassle due to the large size of the folded bike.

For those who plan to fold the bike to put it in the trunk of a car for transportation to nearby trails or bike paths, larger wheeld folding bikes may be preferable. If you’re just buying a folding bike to save space in your small apartment, you may want to consider a full-sized option.

Before buying a new bike, visit your local bike shop to test out some different models. Many bike shops stock folding bikes these days. Some even specialize in folding bikes.

My Choice

Personally, I prefer 20-inch wheels on folding bikes. I think 20-inch wheels are more practical. They are faster, smoother, and more comfortable. They allow you to ride further thanks to their efficiency. They offer better overall performance. In addition, more tire options are available. Parts availability is also better.

Having said that, I love Brompton bikes. They are the most compact folding bikes. The Brompton frame is brilliant. I just wish they offered a 20 inch version from the factory. The conversions outlined above are very cool but they are prohibitively expensive for most riders.

Final Thoughts: 16 Inch Vs 20 Inch Folding Bike Wheel Size Comparison

Folding bikes offer incredibly versatile and portable transportation for both commuters, bicycle tourists, and recreational riders. There’s just something freeing about being able to fold your bike up and bring it with you wherever you go. Not having to worry about locking your bike up outside gives peace of mind as well.

When it comes to choosing a folding bike, the wheel size is the most important decision that you have to make. If the bike is too large, you probably won’t get much use out of it. At the same time, if the performance is lacking, you won’t want to ride it very far. Folding bikes are a compromise.

Whichever folding bike you end up with, I hope this guide has helped you in choosing the right size wheels.

For more reasons to choose a folding bike over a full-sized bike as well as bike recommendations, check out my guide: Pros and cons of folding bikes.

Which folding bike wheel size do you prefer? Share your experience in the comments below!

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What do you think of the other elephant in the room, STRiDA?


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

I don't know much about Strida. I've never ridden one. The design looks interesting though. I'd like to test ride one.

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