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Small wheels versus very small wheels on hills

james22b2james22b2 Posts: 132
edited May 2015 in Road beginners
Hi -
My Dahon with 20" wheels burst a tire and I have been riding another folding bike with 16" wheels for the past few days while I wait for parts.
The smaller bike is fine on a good surface, and is obviously less stable when the ground gets rough, but I also feel like it is a lot harder climbing steep inclines compared to the Dahon. Is this just because it has more limited gearing, or does the smaller wheel size make it more hard work? Can´t quite figure this out and thought it should be the other way round regarding wheel size, if anything..


  • whoofwhoof Posts: 756
    Smaller wheels = lower gearing for the same chainring /spocket size.

    This is why the Penny-Farthing (Ordinary) was invented to get a bigger 'gear'.

    The link below doesn't have 16" wheels but if you put in a chainring/spocket and then change between say 700c and 20" you will see the gearing lowers.
  • JayKostaJayKosta Posts: 635
    The size of the wheel isn't very important of itself.
    The important consideration is the 'gear inch' - the ratio of
    ((front ring) / (rear cog))
    (diameter of rear wheel)

    The smaller the 'gear inch', the easier to go up hills.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  • GiraffotoGiraffoto Posts: 2,078
    Smaller wheels generally have a higher rolling resistance - this is why 29ers are so much easier to ride fast than 26" wheeled MTBs. Another issue with folding bikes is that they're not very stiff, so your pedalling effort can be lost in the flexing of the frame (and everything else). Your other bike may be even less stiff. Try a full-sized non-folding bike and you'll be amazed.
    Specialized Roubaix Elite 2015
    XM-057 rigid 29er
  • Simon MastersonSimon Masterson Posts: 2,740
    Historically, it's generally been held that bigger wheels have lower rolling resistance (although that didn't stop the decline of 27" wheels in favour of 700c). Low profile time trial bikes from the mid '80s or so until it was banned by the UCI featured a smaller front wheel (700c/24"; later 700c/650c was more common), partly to facilitate a lower frontal position, but also because a smaller wheel should be more aerodynamic (I don't know the truth of it or how much). For a bit in the mid-late '90s, climbers would use 650c wheels for summit finishes.
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