Folding bikes have typically been built for commuters and are designed to be compact and light weight. In the spirit of discovery, i wanted to ask if anyone has seen or tried to build a gravel focused folding bike that doesn't compromise on portability?
a gravel focused folding bike that doesn't compromise on portability?
All bicycles are a study in compromise.
Here are three examples of the many different approaches to the portability requirement.
You have to decide what factors are more or less important to you and your situation in order to select the right platform for gravel bike portability.
Tire selection might be a limitation with 20" wheels, and the gear range of the Alfine 8 might not be wide/low enough if you have big climbs. But I bet this bike would actually perform quite nicely on dirt roads.
That's just one example of a quality folding bike with clearance for some wider tires, which you could ride on gravel.
I have a 20" folder, which was retrofitted form 1x6 to 3x8 gears. At the bottom end, it has around 15 gear inches. I've ridden gravel and very light offroad, and it tows a hundred kilo trailer adequately.
In theory it can climb steep grades, but as the ground gets steeper, the handlebars end up aft of the BB axle. This makes pedalling darn-near impossible.
The clamps are not as rigid as a piece of metal or carbon, so there are several additional points where flex enters the system, and you can definitely feel the bars move.
Many folders have clearance for a 45mm+ tyre, but 20" wheels don't have the same "rollover" as a larger 26" or 622 wheel. So lumpy or rutted ground is extra hard.
On the positive side, folders tend to enjoy a short wheelbase which makes for a more agile ride, and the small front wheel allows fast steering inputs.
Every bike is a compromise. A folder has to compromise somewhere, which is often weight, so an otherwise identical bike without the hinges and clamps will be lighter and stiffer. How important is folding to you ?