Folding bikes provide a portable, eco-friendly travel
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 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, 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
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 use the bike every day. They may also be more
durable and fully featured.
Our best reviewed folding bike in last year's report was
the (Est. $450), which users love for its
comfortable ride, durable construction and especially its reasonable price,
which is about half that of some of the competition. All of that still holds
true, but as of mid-2017 the Mariner D7 has been replaced by the (Est. $600). If you can pick up one of the discontinued Mariner D7s on sale,
it's a great buy. In the meantime, we expect good things from its successor.
As the name suggests, the Dahon Mariner D8 has eight gears
instead of seven. Other notable changes include an improved Shimano rear
derailleur, a switch to puncture-resistant Schwalbe Citizen tires, and the
Mariner D7's twist-style shifter has been replaced with a trigger-style
shifter. The D8 retains its predecessor's 20-inch wheels, rear rack and
fenders, and is available in white and quicksilver.
The new Mariner D8
also retains the geometry that owners said make the D7 a joy to ride, including
a high seat and adjustable handlebars. Unlike some folding bikes, users say the
Dahon Mariner line feels almost as stable as a regular bike. Riders who have
hills to tackle or just need a little more versatility will appreciate the
Mariner D8's eight different speeds, and we expect it to shift as smoothly and
easily as its predecessor.
The Mariner D8 isn't
the lightest folding bike at 26 pounds, but that's still substantially better
than cheaper models. Like the Mariner D7, it folds quickly and easily into a
reasonably small package: Jason Francis of FoldingBikeGuy.com said that in his
tests, it took 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 a Mariner 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
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, a feature
that is continued in the new Mariner D8. 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.
Many folding-bike 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. $1,200)
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 Tuan Do says steering is responsive and stable.
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. $229) is available
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
Another very popular
folding bike brand is the Taiwan-based Tern, and the Tern Link D8, (Est.
$750) is a potential
competitor for the Dahon Mariner D8. It earns an enthusiastic runner-up mention
after hands-on testing for TheSweetHome.com, where it is declared "a lot
of bike for the buck." The Tern Link D8 comes with an aluminum frame with
a hi-tensile steel fork, 20-inch wheels, puncture-resistant Schwalbe Citizen
tires, fenders and a rear rack.
The experts at
NYCeWheels.com say this bike is sturdy, lightweight, and easy to transport when
folded -- perfect for a regular commuter. A set of proprietary quick-release
levers let you quickly and easily adjust the handlebar stem's height and angle,
and a tester with Momentum Magazine says the eight gears and twist-style
shifter made it relatively easy to get up hills.
The Link D8 is the
cheapest model that comes with Tern's proprietary lateral-folding frame, which
takes 10 to 20 seconds to fold into a package that measures 31.1 by 15 by 28.3
inches. It's popular with tall riders, including Olympian and cycling fan
Jonathan Edwards, who tested it for the Guardian and declared the unfolding
process to be "very, very simple and intuitive." The only complaints
we see about the folding process are that the handlebars fold to one side of
the wheels instead of tucking between them, and the derailleur, low-profile
though it is, is also left on the outside of the fold.
The Tern Link D8 can
accommodate riders that weigh up to 230 pounds, and stand between 4-foot-8 and
6-foot-3. It's available in red and black or blue and white color schemes, and
comes with a five-year warranty on the frame that can be extended to ten years.
Other components are warrantied for one year.
Cheaper folding bikes
still get you around
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.
Reviewers say the (Est. $220 and up) 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, and is available in black, silver or white.
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 nonadjustable.
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 frustration.
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.
If the 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
At 21.5 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. FoldingBikeGuy.com's Francis says
the bike rattles while in use and some of the components feel cheap, and other
reviewers point out a variety of sporadic woes, from a cracked frame to loose
handlebars. 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
Another option in roughly the same price range is the Tokyo Citizen Bike (Est. $200).
(Citizen is the brand name; Tokyo is the model.) Reviewers are generally very
happy with this affordable bike, even though it comes with a couple of fairly
major performance quirks. The gearing is so low -- that is, easy to pedal --
that the bike feels slow, even with six gears to choose from. Its wheels are
also small -- 16 inches -- which means you won't be able to coast much.
That said, users say that solid build is a high point for
this bike, even in spite of its budget price. We find several reporting
specifically praising the rigidity of the frame, although the long stem on the
handlebars means you may feel a little flex there. The Tokyo Citizen weighs 30
pounds and folds down to an impressively small package that measures 13 by 22
by 14.5 inches, although feedback on the actual folding mechanism is fairly
This Citizen bike has a user weight limit of 220 pounds and
is advertised as accommodating users anywhere between 5 and 6 feet tall, but if
you're toward the top end of that range you might need to replace components of
the bike to get a comfortable fit. You'll also have to pay extra for any add-on
accessories such as a rear rack or front basket. But for a simple, inexpensive
get-around folding bike in this price range, the Tokyo Citizen does very well.
It's covered by a one-year warranty on the frame and fork, with 60 days of
coverage for everything else.
The best folding electric bikes
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.
Reviewers 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.
Overall, 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. $1,000) 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
The B.O.B (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.
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
If price is no object, reviewers say you really can't go
wrong with the Tern Vektron, (Est. $3,400). This top-shelf folding
electric bike draws praise from expert reviewers at BikeRadar.com, Cycling
Weekly and ElectricBikeReview.com for its responsive handling and 500-watt
four-speed electric motor. It's powered by a Bosch battery and drivetrain that
can boost you up to 20 mph, although the motor only sends power if you're
turning the pedals. Estimates of battery range vary from 35 to 80 miles,
depending on how you use the motor.
Jamie Beach at BikeRadar.com praises the Vektron's
"practical little extras for the city-going cyclist," including a
rugged kickstand, extensive chainguard, and magnetic clasps that help keep the
frame folded. He says that with some practice, it takes him about 20 seconds to
fold the bike and that it rolls into an apartment or office easily, although he
couldn't bring himself to inflict it on a crowded rush-hour train.
The Vektron packs a number of other features that make it
easy to use and ride, include wide, cushiony 20-inch Schwalbe Big Apple tires,
a quick-adjust Andros stem, a built-in 150-lumen Valo light and onboard computer, and a padded saddle that can be slung over your shoulder
to carry the bike, or used as a handle while wheeling the folded bike around.
It can accommodate riders between 4-foot-10 and 6-foot-5, and supports a weight
up to 243 pounds. The whole thing is backed by a five-year warranty on the
frame, with two years of coverage for the electronics and battery.
Expert & User Review Sources
don't receive many high-profile expert reviews, but we were able to find some
useful roundups from mainstream cycling sites like BikeRadar.com and CyclingWeekly.com. The Guardian offers a series of
short reviews from a former Olympian and cycling enthusiast, and Momentum Magazine also offers a healthy variety of hands-on reviews and roundups. TheSweetHome.com rounds out our expert sources, publishing their top picks after testing 11 different
types of folding bikes. In addition, we found even more
input from a number of niche websites including FoldingBike20.com, FoldingBikeGuy.com, FoldingBike365.com and NYCeWheels.com. Reviews of folding
electric bikes can be found at ElectricBikeReview.com, while 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 reviews.