Folding bikes provide a portable, eco-friendly travel solution
Folding bikes have exploded in popularity, thanks in part to volatile
gas prices and a renewed emphasis on cleaner, greener transportation options. You can put a folding bike in a car trunk,
carry it on the subway or store it in your office or apartment to prevent
theft. The best folding bikes are lightweight and can fold in seconds,
making them a great choice for commuters or cyclists with limited storage
foldable bikes include quick-release levers or hinges that fold the bike;
pedals and handlebars can also be folded down for a more compact package. Some
folding bikes include a carrying bag. To keep weight down, folding bikes
typically have minimal accessories. Some come with fenders or small rear racks,
but you'll have to pay extra for these accessories on most bikes. The majority
of folding bikes come with 16- or 20-inch wheels like you might find on kids' bikes, which we cover in a separate report. However, it is possible to find
full-size foldable bikes with 26-inch wheels or mini bikes with 8- or 12-inch
Folding bikes aren't cheap. Though there are several under $350, they
are heavier and less compact. If you only have a short commute or want a
folding bike only for occasional weekend fun, these bikes may do just fine. But
if you have to ride several miles and then carry your bike on public
transportation, consider paying more for a lighter bike. If price is no object
or you want a little assistance, an electric folding bike can ease your commute
considerably, especially if you face any challenging hills.
The best folding bikes often cost a pretty penny, but they have several
advantages over their budget-priced counterparts. For one, the top-rated
folding bikes are lightweight and have a very compact fold, which can make a
big difference if you are using the bike every day. They may also be more
durable and fully featured.
the (Est. $580) for its comfortable ride, durable construction and
especially its reasonable price – some comparable folding bikes are
double the price. The bike has 20-inch wheels and comes with a rear
rack and fenders. It's available in brushed aluminum, graphite and ultramarine
Owners largely say the Mariner is a joy to ride. It
has a high seat and adjustable handlebars, and unlike some folding bikes, it
feels almost as stable as a regular bike, they say. Riders who have hills to
tackle or just need a little more versatility appreciate the bike's seven different
speeds, and reviewers say the gears shift smoothly and easily.
The Mariner isn't the lightest folding bike at 26
pounds, but that's still substantially better than cheaper models. Jason
Francis of FoldingBikeGuy.com praises
the bike's quick, small fold: In his tests, it takes just 14 seconds to
fold the bike into a package that's 25.6 by 12.6 by 31.1 inches. It can be a
bit tricky to roll the bike once it's folded up, notes Tuan Do of
FoldingBike20.com. That's a critique some owners echo. A few others say the
seat can be uncomfortable for more than short distances.
As its name suggests, the Mariner was initially designed for boaters who needed a quick mode
of transport once they docked. Because of this, its aluminum-alloy frame is
very rust-resistant. Several owners say they've used the bike for at least a
few years without issues. Dahon backs the bike frame with a five-year warranty
and other components with a two-year warranty. The Mariner can accommodate
riders from 4-foot-9 to 6-foot-3 and up to 231 pounds.
aficionados will tell you that U.K.-based Brompton has almost legendary status
for its bikes, but they don't come cheap. The Brompton S1E (Est. $1,255) is
the entry-level bike in this manufacturer's vast line, but reviewers say that
doesn't mean it skimps on quality. It has 16-inch wheels and can be customized
to an extreme degree on Brompton's website – buyers can choose from a
vast array of colors, add souped-up tires and mudguards, and even tinker with
frame material, handlebar type and gears, among other things.
The S1E is a single-speed bike, so it's best for
riders who won't often need to tackle hills. Otherwise, reviewers say it's a
top performer: The bike is "really fast"
and "tears up the flats," according to experts with NYCeWheels, a New York
City bike shop. Ricky Do of BikeFolded.com says the S1E is comfortable to ride
despite its small wheels, and Folding Bike 20's Do says steering is responsive
At 22.8 pounds, the S1E is lighter than the
Mariner. Its biggest claim to fame,
however, is a very compact fold – roughly 22 by 21.5 by 10 inches, a
third of its unfolded size. That makes it ideal for urban dwellers who have
little storage space or those who need something as small as possible that can
accompany them on a packed bus or subway car. However, some reviewers note that
performing the fold is also a bit lengthier and more complex than the Mariner's,
with a longer learning curve. A carrying bag, the Brompton B-Bag (Est.
$225) is available separately.
Brompton has a
reputation for durability, and reviewers say the rugged steel
frame and clamps are built to last. Brompton provides a five-year warranty for
the frame and a two-year warranty on other components. Weight capacity is 242
pounds. As for height, Brompton recommends a maximum inseam depending on the
bike's seat post. A standard seat post can accommodate up to a 32-inch inseam,
but longer seat posts are available for taller riders.
It is possible to get a good folding bike for a few hundred dollars, but
these bikes are usually heavier and bulkier than higher-end folding bikes. Most
foldable bikes under $350 weigh 30 pounds or more, while bikes in higher price
ranges typically weigh less than 25 pounds. They may also be less durable with
bulkier folds, which can be a big downside if your commute involves public
transportation or you have limited storage space.
say the (Est. $290) provides a smooth, easy ride at an even
easier price. As its name suggests, this bike has 20-inch wheels.
It comes with a rear rack and fenders, but is available only in black.
Like the Dahon Mariner D7, the
Loop has seven speeds to ease riding for anyone who is tackling varied terrain.
Reviewers appreciate this and say the gears shift smoothly. They praise the
stable-feeling ride and the step-through design, which is especially appealing
for older riders who may have trouble swinging their legs over a taller bike
frame. On the other hand, the seat draws a lot of complaints for being too hard
– many users recommend replacing it – and the handlebars are
At 33 pounds, the Loop is much heavier than the pricier Mariner and
Brompton S1E. Its fold, at 16 by 32.5 by
26 inches, is only slightly larger than the Mariner's, and Paul Thomson of
FoldingBike365.com says it took only 15 seconds to accomplish. Unfortunately, there
is no included lock or strap to keep the folded package together – that means
users are on their own to secure it with a bungee cord, Velcro strap or
something similar. It comes with a carrying bag, but many reviewers say the bag
is quite flimsy and barely big enough to fit the bike without a lot of
The Loop receives mixed reviews for durability: The brakes and sturdy steel frame get mostly good marks, but
several reviewers say they received bikes with flimsy or faulty components out
of the box, and experts including Thomson say the low-end crankset may not last. Schwinn backs the bike with a limited
lifetime warranty, though. The Loop accommodates riders up to 230 pounds,
and Thomson says the long, adjustable seat post should work for taller riders.
Schwinn 20-inch Loop is still a little too spendy –
or you just want something much simpler and lighter – the (Est. $180) could be a better option. Like the Loop, it has
20-inch wheels, and it's available in gray, white and black. It comes with mounts
for a water bottle and rear rack.
The Urbana is a single speed, so it's best for flat terrain, and
reviewers say it handles reasonably well. Most
folding bikes have hand brakes, but to reduce bulk and costs, the Urbana has
foot-operated coaster brakes like those you would find on a kid's bike.
Experts are divided on whether this is a good thing: Jason Francis of
FoldingBikeGuy.com says "they are very easy to use and work exceptionally
well," but Rose Larson of FoldingBike20.com calls them less precise. The few
users who comment on them seem to support the latter and wish for hand brake
pounds, the Urbana is lightweight for any folding bike, let alone one that
costs so little. Folded, it measures 12 by 32 by 25 inches, slightly
smaller than the Loop, and since there are no cables, gears, or levers to fuss
with, it's very easy to break down. For both these reasons, many reviewers are
willing to overlook other deficiencies, saying it's super easy to fold and toss into a trunk or stow in a closet.
As for durability, reviewers seem to agree that you get what you pay
for. Folding Bike Guy's Francis says the bike rattles while in use and some of
the components feel cheap. The bike has a one-year warranty on its frame and rigid
fork; other parts are warrantied only for 30 days. The nonadjustable seat post
may not accommodate very tall or short riders. Vilano doesn't list an official
weight capacity, but a couple of users over 200 pounds say the bike supports
them just fine.
If the thought of incorporating a bike ride in your daily commute seems
more tiring than convenient, a folding electric bike might be a good option.
These bikes have a battery-powered motor that can provide extra help if and
when you need it, keeping you from tiring as fast and showing up at work sweaty
and disheveled. They may be especially helpful for anyone who lives in a hilly
area or frequently carries shopping bags or other cargo that make riding
tougher. Of course, this convenience comes with a hefty price tag – there
aren't really any "budget" folding electric bikes to speak of – and they
also usually weigh a good bit more than nonelectric folding bikes.
say the (Est. $1,700) is one of the best reasonably priced folding
electric bikes on the market. Its 500-watt motor can power the
bike up to 30 miles before the battery must be recharged. With 26-inch wheels,
this is a full-size bike, and reviewers appreciate that it looks a bit more
respectable than folding bikes with tiny wheels.
As with most electric bikes, users can opt to pedal normally, without
using the Phantom X2 motor. However, a
simple twist of the throttle can propel users up to 20 mph. Reviewers do
love the motor, saying it's powerful, quiet and gets them where they need to go
faster than their car in traffic-clogged areas. They also say this eight-speed bike feels very stable,
but a few warn that the position of the battery also makes it a bit back-heavy
and takes some getting used to.
Unfortunately, the same powerful components and large wheels that make
the Phantom X2 an easy ride also weigh it down. At 54 pounds, it's on the heavier side for an electric bike and very
heavy for a folding bike. It also doesn't have the smallest fold at 48 by
36 by 28 inches, and users say folding it can be cumbersome. For those reasons,
they say it's best for those who will only occasionally fold it to put it in a
trunk or overcrowded garage, or commuters who don't have to carry it up and
down stairs or fold and carry it onto public transportation. They also wish
there was a spot to attach storage bags on the rear of the bike, but the
battery's position makes that tricky.
reviewers say the Phantom X2 is well-built with quality parts. Experts
with ElectricBikeReview.com say the battery is built to withstand up to 2,000
recharge cycles, but they doubt it will do that world in imperfect real-world
usage. The frame and components have a limited two-year warranty.
Though it still costs a pretty penny, the (Est. $1,025) is a
bargain compared to other folding electric bikes. Reviewers also love that
it's extremely lightweight and compact, especially compared to the beastly
ProdecoTech Phantom X2. However, you'll have to be okay with a bike that looks
more like an overgrown scooter, as the B.O.B has tiny 12-inch wheels.
(short for "battery-operated bicycle") has a top speed of 20 mph, but its
250-watt motor can't get you quite as far as the Phantom X2 – it will go
up to 20 miles on a single charge. It has a step-through frame that won't
require any gymnastics to get on the bike. Like the Phantom X2, it can be used
without battery assistance as well. Users say it provides a stable, comfortable ride for short distances despite the
For an electric bike, the B.O.B is a practically feather-light 35
pounds, though that weight isn't particularly impressive compared to many nonelectric
folding bikes. Dimensions of the folded bike are roughly 33 by 25 by 11 inches
– relatively small – and a video review by ElectricBikeReview.com
shows that the folded package can be rolled along with one hand. Several
reviewers say it's quick to fold or
unfold, making it a good candidate for commuters who want to take it on a
crowded bus or subway.
Long-term customer feedback about the B.O.B is
limited, so durability is largely an open question. While reviewers say the
bike's aluminum alloy frame seems sturdy, Electric Bike Review's experts note
that it might be hard to find replacement parts if something wears out or
breaks. The B.O.B.'s maximum weight capacity is 220 pounds.
Expert & User Review Sources
Owner-written reviews are in short supply for folding bikes, but a
number of niche websites offer expert perspectives. They include FoldingBike20.com, FoldingBikeGuy.com, FoldingBike365.com, FoldingBikeGuru.com and NYCeWheels.com.
Reviews of folding electric bikes can be found at ElectricBikeReview.com, and
mainstream cycling website BikeRadar.com offers expert reviews in both
categories. TransAlt.org provides a helpful rundown of major
folding-bike brands. The best place for owner reviews is, unsurprisingly, Amazon.com. Walmart.com includes a number of reviews of folding bikes at the lower
end of the price spectrum, and NYCeWheels.com also includes some customer