It is possible to get a good folding bike for a few hundred dollars, but these budget bikes are usually heavier and bulkier than high-end folding bikes. Most foldable bikes under $500 weigh about 25 to 30 pounds, while bikes in higher price ranges typically weigh less than 25 pounds. They also tend to have bulkier folds, which can be a big downside if your commute also involves public transportation.
The Dahon Speed D7 (MSRP: $490) is one folding bike at a budget price that gets high marks for value. As its name suggests, the Dahon Speed D7 has seven speeds and weighs in at nearly 28 pounds. The steel frame, which accommodates 20-inch wheels, has a folded size of 11.7 inches by 30 inches by 25 inches. According to Dahon, the bike only takes about 15 seconds to fold. Only one frame size is available, but the bike is said to suit riders up to 6 feet 4 inches tall. Other components include a kickstand, chain protector, fenders and a rear rack.
Reviewers say the Dahon Speed D7 provides a surprisingly smooth and stable ride for a budget, folding bike. "Besides the nice price and the fact that, post-ride, you can stash it in your trunk, closet, or midsize suitcase, we found another likely reason the chromoly (steel) D7 is the world's best-selling folding bicycle: it's a pretty damn good ride," says Jeremy Spencer at Outside magazine, which recommends the Dahon Speed D7 in its annual cycling issue. Handling is stable and confidence-inspiring, and the fold is pretty compact for this price range. Britain's Daily Mail says the bike has "good weight and adjustability and a neat folding system for the price."
The few user reviews available are also positive, with most owners saying the Dahon Speed D7 folds easily and has a sturdy ride. "I was surprised by how stable the bike felt when I first rode it," says one owner at Amazon.com. However, users say several of the components need to be adjusted frequently. In addition, one expert says the Dahon Speed D7 doesn't handle hills as well as the top-rated Brompton M3L (discussed below), which has just three gears.
Citizen Bike also gets high marks for its affordable folding bikes. The Citizen Bike Barcelona (MSRP: $400) has 20-inch wheels, like the Dahon Speed D7, but it has three speeds and weighs 30 pounds. The cruiser-style frame is outfitted with fenders, an integrated rear rack and adjustable kickstand. A front basket (*Est. $30) or front carrier rack (*Est. $20) are also available. At 30 inches by 27 inches by 15 inches when folded, the Citizen Bike Barcelona isn't quite as compact as the Dahon Speed D7, and it's only recommended for teens and adults up to 6 feet tall.
Even though the Citizen Bike Barcelona doesn't have the smallest fold, reviewers say it is comfortable to ride and the price is hard to beat. "If comfort and value trump speed and compactness, then you'll appreciate this bike's laid-back sensibility," says Michael Hsu in The Wall Street Journal. The low step-through frame is easy to ride and provides a good upright view in traffic. The Citizen Bike Barcelona attracts a few user reviews at Amazon.com, where opinions are mixed. One owner says the bike is easy to fold and carry, but another user says the bike was damaged during shipping.
If total weight is your primary concern, the new Melon Slice folding bike (MSRP: $500) weighs 25.5 pounds and is suitable for riders up to 6 feet 3 inches tall. It weighs a few pounds less than the Dahon and Citizen bikes discussed above, but with a folded size of 34 inches by 27 inches by 13 inches it doesn't fold as compactly as the Dahon Speed D7. The Melon Slice has a red aluminum frame, eight speeds, 20-inch wheels and Promax V-style brakes. However, common commuting accessories cost extra, including fenders (*Est. $12) or a rear rack (*Est. $60).
Bicycle Times magazine says the Melon Slice foldable bike is stocked with high-quality components from manufacturers like Shimano and SRAM. The brakes have good stopping power, and the Melon Slice is comfortable to ride in the city. "The 20" wheels and short wheelbase translated into a fast, nimble bike that felt great zipping around town," says Bicycle Times. The bike is easy to fold, meeting Melon's claim of requiring only 15 seconds to do so. However, there is no strap or lock that keeps the bike together when folded, which would be a useful addition.
Some of the cheapest folding bikes are available at Toys R Us or other department stores. These 20-inch folding bikes, including the Schwinn Hinge (*Est. $170) and the Schwinn Loop (*Est. $220), are cheaper than other budget folding bikes, but they are much heavier. The Schwinn Loop weighs 37.5 pounds, while the single-speed Hinge folding bike weighs in at nearly 31 pounds. In a few owner-written review5s on Amazon.com, both of these folding bikes get relatively good ratings. Still, one reviewer who gives the Schwinn Loop a 5-star rating also says it rides "like a toy bike." A number of owners also say the bike was damaged during shipping. If you do purchase one of these bikes, experts recommend taking it to a bike shop and paying extra for adjustments.