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Evaluating foldable bikes for commuters

Folding bikes are exploding in popularity, thanks in part to volatile gas prices and a renewed emphasis on green commuting options. For commuters, folding bikes offer a number of advantages -- they are portable, versatile and compact. You can put a folding bike in the trunk of a car, 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 space.

Most 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, foldable bikes typically have minimal accessories. Some models 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, although it is possible to find full-size foldable bikes with 26-inch wheels. Mini bikes with 8- or 12-inch wheels are another option, but the ride quality on these models can't compare to the larger-wheeled bikes.  

Foldable bicycles come in a variety of price ranges. There are several well-reviewed folding bikes under $500, but these bikes are typically heavier and less compact than more expensive models. If you only have a short commute, these bikes perform perfectly well. If you have to ride multiple miles and then carry your bike on public transportation, you may want to consider paying more for a lightweight bike. If you don't need to fold your bike, note that ConsumerSearch covers non-folding comfort bikes in a separate report. These commuter and recreation bikes emphasize comfort and cargo practicality over compact size and weight.

Folding bikes are incredibly popular in the U.K. and Europe, so some of the best comparative reviews come from British publications. Surprisingly, a car review magazine, the U.K.'s Auto Express, conducts excellent tests of folding bikes, although some of the bicycles they review are not widely available in the United States. T3.com and the Daily Mail also have solid group tests.

Among American publications, Bicycling magazine has some coverage of folding bikes, and Men's Journal offers shorter reviews. The Wall Street Journal and Outside magazine are also helpful. Owner-written reviews are in short supply for folding bikes, but some bike blogs offer owner perspectives.

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