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Best Budget Folding Bike – Are Cheaper Foldable Bicycles Worth It?

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Are you looking for an affordable, portable bike for use on vacations or urban adventures? Folding bikes are ideal for these purposes, but they’re not always cheap.

This article will help you find the best budget folding bike for your needs. We review some top bikes, including the Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike. This tops our list for its quality manufacturing and great all-around specification.

You’ll also find hints and tips on what to look for when buying a folding bike.

Folding bikes let you ride in places where you’d otherwise be grounded.

Top Picks:

Top 11 Best Budget Folding Bikes Reviewed

Below, you’ll find a selection of budget folding bikes for your perusal. The reviews are categorized for convenience.

1. Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike (best overall)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano (7 gears)
  • Weight: 33 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 230 lbs

The Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike is our top pick because of its great all-around feature set. This is a fun yet practical bike to ride. It’s moderately lightweight at 33 lbs, bearing in mind it includes fenders and a built-in rear cargo rack.

Gear changes on the Schwinn Loop are made with 7-speed Shimano RevoShift twist shifters. The derailleur gears offer enough range for most rolling terrains. The chainring is walled on both sides to avoid any prospect of the chain derailing at the front.

Although the frame of the Schwinn Loop is aluminum, the front fork is made of steel. Steel is a more compliant material than aluminum, albeit heavier, so this fork helps to smooth out the ride quality.

The 20” alloy wheels (with 32 spokes) are strong enough for the rigors of everyday riding and contribute to the bike’s substantial 240 lbs weight capacity. This is a bike for people of all heights from 4’6” to 6’2”, as well.

Other features of this Schwinn include a quick-release seat post adjustment (for seat height), reflective pedals, and a protective rear-derailleur shield. Linear-pull brakes give you excellent stopping power.

Also included is a nylon storage bag for bike transportation. One of the few downsides of the bike is that this bag is a tad too small. This makes it hard to fit the bike inside and zip the bag up. One of the bike’s pedals folds to help in this endeavor.

What We Like

  • Protection – derailleur shield and walled chainring are mechanical safeguards.
  • Rack – useful cargo rack for shopping trips or commutes.
  • Versatile – easily adjustable for riders of most heights.

What We Don’t Like

  • Bag – it’s challenging to fit the bike into the supplied storage bag.

Read more: Schwinn Loop review

2. Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike (best lightweight)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Weight: 21.5 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 200 lbs

Our best lightweight award goes to the Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike. This weighs a mere 21.5 lbs and is easily the lightest bike on this list. There are several ways in which it achieves this modest poundage.

A lightweight aluminum frame is a contributing factor to the bike’s lightness. But the lack of gears or fenders and a simple coaster brake all help to shed ounces. Of course, that also makes the Urbana very portable by comparison to other folding bikes.

The coaster brake of this bike means you have to backpedal to stop. There’s no front brake. If your chain breaks or falls off, you’re left brakeless. This type of brake, coupled with a lack of gears, makes the bike better for flat roads.

One benefit of the coaster brake is a clean look without any cables. The lack of gears, too, means there is less maintenance to do and a lower probability of chain problems. This stylish bike comes in a choice of colors.

Despite its minimalism, the Vilano Urbana is not devoid of features. Among its useful specifications are an easily adjustable flat handlebar, a water bottle cage mount, and eyelets for installing a rear rack if you need to carry stuff.

The bike folds to a narrow 12-inch width, helped by its two foldable pedals. These flat pedals include reflectors for improved nighttime visibility. An easy-to-use frame clamp helps you to quickly fold or unfold the bike for storage or use.

What We Like

  • Light – this foldable bike sheds weight in most possible ways.
  • Portable – being lightweight, the Urbana is easy to carry.
  • Reliable – single-gear bikes are less likely to have mechanical problems.

What We Don’t Like

  • Brakes – coaster brakes minus front brakes have downsides and limitations.

Read more: Best lightweight folding bikes

3. Sailnovo 14” Electric Bike (best electric)

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  • Wheel Size: 14”
  • Weight: 55 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 265 lbs

The Sailnovo 14” Electric Bike earns its spot as our top folding e-bike primarily for its strong 450W brushless motor and convenient selection of modes. Those modes include throttle (full electric), pedal assist and manual.

Although the motor is hub-mounted, it’s also powerful and will get most riders up most hills without too much trouble. When you’re not in throttle mode, you’ll have seven gears to choose from to help you conquer undulating terrain.

Considering its budget price, this bike comes with many features. Of course, you get the usual LCD panel, but there are also headlights and rear lights, a shock absorber, an electric hooter, fenders (MTB style) and a kickstand.

The range of this bike (i.e., battery life) is up to 28 miles in throttle mode or 45 miles in pedal-assist mode. The top speed is 18.6 mph or 30 km/h. An IP54 IP rating ensures the electrics are protected under rainy weather.

A full recharge of the 36V 10.4Ah lithium-ion battery takes about 5 to 6 hours.

Stopping power on the Sailnovo e-bike comes from front and rear disc brakes. When applying the brakes, the rear light flashes to catch the attention of nearby drivers.

Although this bike has an impressive load capacity of up to 265 lbs, it’s not recommended for tall riders of 6’ or over. The official recommended height range is from 4’10” to 5’10” tall.

You can fold this bike up easily and put it in the trunk of your car, though be aware it weighs a hefty 55 lbs. This is not unusual for e-bikes, but you do have the benefit of not having to find a car rack that supports the weight.

What We Like

  • Power – strong 450W motor helps with hills.
  • Lights – front and rear lights with flashing brake indication.
  • Range – decent range of up to 45 miles (pedal assist).

What We Don’t Like

  • Rider height – unsuitable for tall riders.

Read more: Best folding Ebike under $1,000

4. Zizzo Via 20” Lightweight Folding Bike (best for adults)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tourney (7 gears)
  • Weight: 27 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 240 lbs

Recommended for all riders between 16 and 75 years of age is the Zizzo Via 20” Lightweight Folding Bike. Despite its lightweight aluminum frame, this bike suits any adult weighing up to 240 lbs or measuring up to 6’ 3” tall.

No other folding-bike brand caters to a wider variety of adult riders at the budget end of the market.

The Zizzo Via makes a great choice for its combination of reliable branded parts and appealing price point. Using the Shimano Revoshift shifter you can select from 7 gears on the Shimano Tourney cassette and tackle varied terrain.

There are several standout features on this bike aside from its metallic orange finish. You get a handy kickstand so you can prop the bike up wherever you want, a pair of fenders, a rear reflector to help with nighttime visibility, and a magnetic frame catch.

Folding pedals help the Zizzo Via to fold into a compact size when not in use.

A nice feature of this bike is the ease with which handlebar adjustments can be made. Simply unlock quick-release cam levers to adjust the height or angle of the handlebar and clamp them shut again when you’re satisfied!

Both the handlebar stem and the seat post have measurements marked on them so you can always return them to the same place after folding down.

There aren’t many downsides to this bike given its price. You may find the saddle a little too firm for comfort. That’s about all.

What We Like

  • Versatile – suits adult riders of most heights and weights.
  • Adjustable – easily adjustable seat post and handlebar.
  • Reliable – durable and dependable Shimano gears.

What We Don’t Like

  • Saddle – you may find the firm saddle uncomfortable.

5. Xspec 20″ Folding Compact City Commuter Bike (best for commuting)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tourney (7 gears)
  • Weight: 36 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 220 lbs

We’re picking the Xspec 20″ Folding Compact City Commuter Bike as our best commuter for the ease and speed of folding and its reliable Shimano Tourney gearing. The price of this bike is attractive, too, even among budget bikes.

The rear cargo rack on the back of this folding bike is handy for carrying your work gear. You also get fenders to keep road spray off your work clothes and bike on rainy days.

This bike folds down into a decently compact size, so you can easily carry it onto buses or trains for intermodal commutes. A downside in this respect is the 36 lbs weight, which you can easily beat by 10 lbs or more with other bikes.

It’s the steel construction that accounts for some of this bike’s weight, but do take its rack and fenders into account, too. Lightweight folding bikes tend to have a sparser specification. Healthy adults shouldn’t have much trouble lifting this onto a train.

Other features of this sturdy bike include front and rear reflectors, a kickstand, a folding right-hand pedal for compactness, alloy wheels and an alloy handlebar.

The Xspec commuter bike is suitable for riders up to 6’ tall or slightly taller. The seat and handlebar heights are both easily adjustable to suit most riders. The bike supports a 220 lbs maximum load.

Stopping power in this bike comes from V-brakes. These powerful brakes are akin to the brakes often found on mountain bikes or other off-road bikes. They’re a rim-style brake rather than disc, and that’s fine for most applications.

What We Like

  • Quick – fast folding that’s ideal for commuting purposes.
  • Compact – good compactness when folded for easy storage or travel.
  • Reliable – branded Shimano Tourney rear derailleur and gear shifter.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – a steel frame makes this bike heavier than some.

6. Mooncool Folding 20” Disc-Brake Bike (best for women)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano (7 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 35 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

The Mooncool Folding 20” Disc-Brake Bike is a unisex bike rather than a women’s bike, though its stated rider-height range of 4’8” to 5’7” suggests otherwise. This bike is available in a wide choice of colors, so women and men can express themselves!

A notable feature of this bike is its front and rear disc brakes, which are absent on the majority of budget folding bikes. These are great for maintaining stopping power in all weathers, whereas standard rim brakes tend to become less efficient.

Also included on this bike is a rear cargo rack. Use this for shopping or work stuff and take the load off your back! You get fenders, too, so you won’t spoil your clothes on wet roads. Attached to the rear fender and wheels are reflectors for nighttime visibility.

For extra compactness when folded, this bike includes folding pedals. Unfortunately, the steel construction of this bike makes it heavier than aluminum bikes, so it weighs around 35 lbs despite its portability. But you can put it easily in a car trunk or carry it onto a train.

Putting aside its weight, the steel frame makes this bike strong and durable. Indeed, it boasts a 300 lbs maximum load capacity.

For gears, the Mooncool folding bike has Shimano trigger shifters and a Shimano Tourney rear derailleur. These will give you more dependable service than most unbranded gears.

An easy-to-use folding mechanism helps you to fold the bike or assemble it within seconds. That makes it ideal for commutes as well as fun leisure rides.

What We Like

  • Disc – disc brakes for reliable stopping power in all weathers.
  • Gears – branded Shimano shifter and rear derailleur.
  • Extras – rack and fenders included.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – steel frame is strong but adds weight to the bike.
  • Specs – the bike can probably support taller riders than stated.

7. Zizzo Campo 20” Folding 7-Speed Bike (best for tall people)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano (7 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 29 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 240 lbs

Suitable for riders up to 6’3”, the Zizzo Campo 20” Folding 7-Speed Bike wins our “best folding bike for tall people” category. All Zizzo bikes cater to tall riders with their easily adjustable seat and handlebar height.

The Zizzo Campo is a slightly more budget model than the Via and weighs a tad more at 29 lbs. It comes with a reliable Shimano Tourney rear derailleur and a Shimano Revo 7-speed gear shifter. This branded gearing provides valuable reassurance.

One contributing factor to the extra weight in this bike compared to other Zizzo models is probably the single-wall alloy wheels. These are likely to need more material to make them as strong as the double-wall rims used elsewhere in the range.

(Anyone substantially taller than 6’3” might need a more expensive, non-budget folding bike like a Brompton with a telescopic seat post and high handlebar.)

Other useful features on the Zizzo Campo folding bike include a magnetic catch for securing the folded bike, all-terrain 1.95” tires, folding pedals, and a saddle that’s been widened from earlier models for extra comfort. There’s a kickstand, too.

Stopping power in the Zizzo bike comes from powerful V-style brakes.

There are no extras like fenders or a rack on this bike, which helps keep the weight down at the cost of some practicality. But maybe you don’t need these features? In any case, the bike has eyelets so you can add them later.

This is a great choice of folding bike for all/tall riders on a budget.

What We Like

  • Shimano – reliable Shimano gears for riding over varied terrain.
  • Tires – you can ride these tires on light trails.
  • Price – attractive mid-budget price for a sub 30 lb bike.

What We Don’t Like

  • Wheels – no double-wall rims, unlike most of the Zizzo range.

8. Zizzo Forte Heavy-Duty 20” Folding Bike (best for big riders)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tourney (7 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 29 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

Bigger riders wanting a folding bike on a budget can also turn to Zizzo and its Forte Heavy-Duty 20” Folding Bike. This bike can handle an impressive 300 lbs load despite only weighing 29 lbs itself. It can also accommodate riders up to 6’ 3” tall.

It’s hard to know where this greater weight capacity comes from in the Zizzo Forte, but one can assume a slightly stiffer frame, which probably means tube walls that are a tad thicker than other bikes in the range.

The 6061 aluminum alloy frame is also noticeably beefed up with gusseting at either end of its crossbar. This is a form of reinforcement.

Finding fault with this bike is tough, but that gusseting does make the design a little less clean than other Zizzo bikes. It’s a small price to pay for the extra versatility this might bring you. You can load the Zizzo Forte up and go camping!

This greater load capacity isn’t only useful for big riders. It also better exploits the included rear cargo rack. Riders of most sizes can load this up with luggage or shopping and not worry about collapsing the bike.

Contributing to the bike’s strength are the 28H aluminum alloy wheels (28 spokes). Smaller wheels are stronger anyway in bikes. These are double-walled for reinforcement and have a healthy spoke count.

A Shimano Tourney rear derailleur and 7-speed Revo grip shifter help to deliver reliable gear changes on the Zizzo Forte. A strong KMC chain drives the 11-28T cassette, which should help you get up modest hills.

Other features of note include a wide “comfort saddle” (subjective), front and rear fenders, reflectors, a kickstand and a steel fork. The latter is often included on rim-brake bikes for comfort and its ability to soak up road vibration.

What We Like

  • Versatile – big 300 lbs load capacity means you can do more with the bike.
  • Branded – Shimano gearset and KMC chain make for a reliable drivetrain.
  • Comfort – steel front fork adds a little compliance.

What We Don’t Like

  • Lines – gusseted welding reinforces the bike but looks less clean.

9. Goplus 20” Folding Bike (best for seniors)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano (7 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 32 lbs

We’ve chosen the Goplus 20” Folding Bike as the best option for seniors. A large part of that thinking comes from a U-shaped frame that is easy to mount for people with mobility or joint problems. It’s quick and easy to get onto the bike.

The handlebar has some rise for comfort, too, in addition to its anti-slip grips. These are good things for senior riders, as is the 98% installed delivery. That means the bike is almost ready to ride right out of the box.

Probably the biggest downside to this bike is its fairly low 178 lbs weight capacity. It’s not intended for bigger riders. For the same reason, there’s no bike rack. You do get fenders in case you need to ride wet roads.

A potential reason for the lowish load capacity is the single-wall wheel rims, which aren’t normally as strong as double-wall rims. This isn’t to say they’re likely to be a problem: they probably won’t be if you don’t overload the bike.

The weight of the bike itself is a “medium” 32 lbs. That’s not too bad for a steel bike, but you could go for an aluminum bike if you envisage lifting it often. On the plus side, steel bikes are strong, durable and typically comfortable to ride.

In terms of gearing, this bike has a 7-speed Shimano rear derailleur and a Shimano Tourney thumb gear shifter. The shifter has an ergonomically contoured lever, an easy-to-read dial and light-action operation.

Not least of this bike’s attractions is its relatively affordable price, which will appeal to many seniors and younger riders alike.

What We Like

  • Mount – this is an easy bike to mount for anyone with joint problems.
  • Ready – the bike arrives 98% installed for simple set-up.
  • Durable – the steel frame is strong, durable and compliant.

What We Don’t Like

  • Capacity – this bike has a relatively low 178 lbs load capacity.

10. Eurobike G7 27.5” Full Suspension Folding Mountain Bike (best for off-road)

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  • Wheel Size: 27.5”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano Tourney (3 x 7 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 42 lbs

If you want a folding bike you fold up and put into the trunk for off-road adventures, consider the Eurobike G7 27.5” Folding MTB. You get a lot for your money with this bike, including Shimano Tourney front and rear derailleurs and a Shimano shifter.

As you might expect with a budget steel-framed MTB, this bike weighs in on the hefty side at 42 lbs. It is a full-suspension mountain bike, however, so that’s only a few pounds above average. Build quality is sturdy and durable.

This is not a bike you’ll be wanting to ride on technical courses, but it’s good for some light trail riding. The 27.5” tires make it better suited to that than most folding bikes, even if the bike is bigger.

If a full-suspension MTB is slightly surprising at this price point, so are the front and rear disc brakes. These offer excellent braking efficiency in all weathers.

The Eurobike G7 folding MTB is suitable for riders between 5’7” and 6’ and comes 85% assembled. A convenient toolkit is supplied with the bike so you don’t need to fish your tools out of their box. Assembly is quick and easy.

This is not a bike that folds up extremely small, but it might save you from having to buy and install a hitch receiver or crossbars and a car rack.

You’ll maybe do yourself a favor if you upgrade the cheap pedals and maybe the seat soon after purchase. The best part of this deal is the sturdy frame, branded gearset and disc brakes.

What We Like

  • Off-road – a foldable bike you can ride trails on.
  • Sturdy – strong and durable steel frame.
  • Brand – reliable Shimano derailleurs and shifter.
  • Brakes – disc brakes a bonus at this price.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – heavier than most MTBs or smaller folding bikes.

Read more: The best folding MTBs

11. IDS Home unYOUsual 20” Folding Bike (best budget)

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  • Wheel Size: 20”
  • Groupset(s): Shimano (6 gears)
  • Weight: Approx. 39 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 250 lbs

Our best budget award goes to the IDS Home unYOUsual 20” Folding Bike for its robust construction and a very decent set of features at the price. This bike is ideal for storing in the trunk of a car or in your office and through cities.

You could choose this as an inexpensive commuter bike, but it’s also good for exploring cities and getting some aerobic exercise. This is a bike you can have fun on as well as getting fitter if that’s a goal.

Among the bike’s features are a Shimano rear derailleur, a 6-speed Shimano freewheel and a Shimano RevoShift gear shifter. This all adds up to reliable gear changes over mildly undulating terrain.

The freewheel on this bike is one element that makes the bike cheaper, but functionally it’s no different to a more expensive cassette. One downside is that it can be harder to remove than a cassette when it comes to replacement.

Despite its claims to the contrary, this bike isn’t all that lightweight for a small folding bike at 39 lbs. That’s largely because of its steel construction. On the flip side, steel is a strong and durable material, hence the 250 lbs maximum weight capacity.

Other features of this neat folding bike include Wanda 20″ x 1.75 wheels, adjustable handlebar height, adjustable seat height, powerful V-brakes, and a bicycle bell.

With its adjustable seat and handlebar heights, this bike can adapt to most rider heights. It’s suitable for anyone from children to 6’ 2” adults or over.

What We Like

  • Price – as affordable as folding bikes get.
  • Gears – reliable Shimano gears.
  • Strong – sturdy and durable steel frame.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – 10 lbs heavier than many aluminum folding bikes.

Why Use A Folding Bike?

There are several ways to use a folding bike and several reasons for buying one. This is a bike that can go places a normal bike can’t go.

Commuting

A folding bike is ideal for intermodal commutes where you rely on more than one form of transport to get to work. For instance, you might drive to a train station in your car, carry a folding bike onto the train and do the last leg of your journey on the bike.

Folding bikes aren’t ideal for long-distance commutes, but they’re great for crossing cities or riding into town from a suburb. They might also solve security issues, as you can normally carry a folded bike into your workplace.

Apartment Life

If you live in a city apartment where rental prices are high and space is at a premium, a folding bike may offer a cycling solution. You can fold and store it without taking up valuable floor space in your home.

Keen cyclists may already have a full-sized bike or two stored indoors. A folding bike still has its uses for chores like shopping, as you can take your bike into stores rather than risk leaving it outside. The worry about keeping the bike safe vanishes.

Family Vacations

A common feature of family vacations is struggling to fit all the family and luggage into a vehicle. You might need to use a roof rack. Squeezing a bike in as well may be a bridge too far, but a folding bike makes this more viable.

With a folding bike, you can easily explore holiday destinations. Okay, so you may not be speeding around, but you’ll have a lot of fun on two wheels. You might find places you’d otherwise miss on your portable bike.

Exercise

You don’t need a flashy or fast bike to benefit from exercise. Riding a folding bike is a valid form of aerobic exercise. What’s more, its foldability and portability mean you’ll be able to get a workout at times that are convenient to you.

For instance, you could keep a folding bike at work and go for bike rides during your lunch hour. Burn off a few calories riding to your favorite lunchtime spot across town!

Daytrips & Picnicking

Plenty of folding bikes have a rack built onto the rear, which gives them potential as touring bikes. You can take lunch with you or even a change of clothes and head off to a destination a few miles away for a break.

Most people wouldn’t attempt long-distance rides on a folding bike. A ride of 10-15 miles is quite long on a bike with small wheels and limited gears. But there is scope for adventure without high mileage.

Why not ride out into the countryside on a folding bike and meet friends for a picnic? If you have any kind of mechanical problem on a rural ride, folding bikes will always go into any taxi for an emergency ride home.

Video: Travel Adventures On Folding Bikes

Boating

Okay, so most of us don’t own a boat and are unlikely to ever own one. Maybe we’ll go on a cruise someday. A folding bike is useful on a barge or boat as a means of exploring places when the boat is docked.

Many boats don’t have loads of space on board for storing bikes, so a folding bike’s ideal in those circumstances. You could also carry a folding bike onto a ferry quite easily rather than locking a regular bike below deck.

RVs

Recreational vehicles (RVs) pose problems if you want to carry bikes on the exterior. They tend to throw bikes around a lot and need an RV-approved rack to avoid this. You could sidestep this hassle by stowing a folding bike inside the vehicle.

If you’re a keen cyclist, you might want to carry full-sized bikes on a rack, but a folding bike is handy for quick errands at your destination. It might avoid having to unhitch a caravan on an overnighter.

Folding Bike Features To Look Out For

Okay, so we’ve given you a few potential uses for a folding bike. But what should you be looking for when you go to buy one? There are answers below.

Naturally, you have to cede some of these features the more low-budget you go.

Folded Size

You have to consider the folded size when you’re buying a folding bike. This may not be extremely critical to you unless you intend to squeeze the bike into a specific space.

The compactness of a folded bike is mostly decided by the wheel size. Thus, a folding bike with 16” wheels will fold smaller than one with 20” wheels. Similarly, a folding full-size MTB is going to have 26” or 27.5” wheels and won’t be compact.

Another factor in the folded bike size is the pedals, which naturally jut out. Many folding bikes have either one or two folding pedals to make the folded width narrower. This is a handy feature to have, especially if you intend to pack the bike into a bag.

Man folding his bikePin

Weight

The weight of a folding bike is patently important in many instances, as it affects portability. Exactly how important it is will depend on the fitness and strength of you, the buyer. But lightweight is good.

At the higher end of the market, you’ll find folding bikes that are only about 15.5 lbs in weight (e.g., the single-speed Hummingbird). Among our reviewed budget bikes, we get within a few pounds of that.

As you’d expect, certain aspects of bike design have to be forfeited to achieve a low weight. The lightest bikes are likely to be single-speed with very small wheels and an aluminum frame, potentially with carbon parts.

For most of us, it’d be an extravagance to buy the lightest folding bike possible. The real-world advantages are few and there may be some downsides.

Materials

The metal your folding bike is made of affects its weight quite radically. Folding bikes are typically made of aluminum or steel. Aluminum folding bikes are quite likely to be at least 10-20% lighter than steel equivalents.

This light weight is a benefit of aluminum, but steel is a naturally strong metal that is less brittle than aluminum. And that makes it more durable because aluminum constantly degrades with use.

You’re likely to ditch the bike before durability becomes an issue, but on paper, steel is more durable. It’s liable to bend rather than crack. Steel bike frames are also famously easy to repair compared to other frames.

It’s fair to say steel delivers a more comfortable ride than aluminum on average, but whether this quality transfers to a compact folding bike is hard to reliably say. You’re unlikely to notice a huge difference.

You’ll find the front forks of a folding bike are often made of steel, which makes the ride quality smoother. Many aluminum road bikes have carbon forks for this same reason.

Folding Bike Gears

Folding bikes will generally have 1, 2, 3, 6 or 7 gears. You might think more gears equals more money, but that’s not necessarily the case.

More expensive Brompton bikes often have fewer gears, for example. They typically use hub gears, which are low-maintenance, reliable and can be changed when stationary. Thus, fewer gears isn’t automatically worse.

When you think that many folding bikes will only be ridden in flat cities, the need for several gears is often non-existent. That’s when it might be worth buying a lightweight single-speed bike. These are easier to maintain, too.

The budget folding bikes we’ve reviewed above mostly have 6 or 7 derailleur-style gears, and that’s more than enough to help you over moderate hills. Choice of gears does help you find a pedaling cadence or rhythm you’re comfortable with, too.

Brakes (Rim vs Disc)

You’ll find most folding bikes are made with powerful V-brakes or some other form of rim brakes. Disc brakes are less beneficial on a bike that won’t be ridden at high speeds. Plus, they’ll tend to make the bike heavier and wider.

Wheel Sizes & Rims

Nearly all of our reviewed budget bikes have 20” wheels. Is wheel size important? Smaller wheels make the folding bike more compact when folded, but bigger wheels are fractionally more comfortable.

Bigger wheels hit obstacles at a lower “angle of attack” than smaller ones, which theoretically means they’ll absorb the shock better.

In reality, you’re unlikely to notice much difference between a 16” and 20” tire as regards to average ride quality. But it’s different with holes in the road.

Potholes are more hazardous with smaller wheels.

Smaller wheels are usually stronger than big wheels, but a “double-wall rim” is stronger than single-wall rims on folding bikes and others. A double-wall rim may also be lighter, so it wins twice.

Extras

The main extras you might want in a folding bike are fenders and a rear rack. These are especially useful for bike commuters.

Budget Folding Bikes FAQs

Below, you’ll find some commonly asked questions about budget folding bikes.

Are Collapsible Bikes Slower Than Normal Bikes?

A collapsible bike will be significantly slower on roads than road bikes that encourage a more aggressive riding position and have slimmer, faster tires. There’ll be less speed difference between a folding bike and, say, an urban commuting bike.

Are Folding Bikes Too Heavy For Some People To Carry?

Undoubtedly, some folding bikes will be too heavy for some people to carry. They can weigh up to 40 lbs or more. The weight of a bike should always be noted before buying a folding bike. Cheaper bikes made of high tensile steel are likely to be heavier.

Can You Roll A Folding Bike Along The Ground When Folded?

You can roll some folding bikes along using the wheels of the bike or castor wheels. This isn’t always the case, so you must investigate specs or peer reviews if you need this feature. You may also be able to buy a bike bag with wheels.

Are Budget Collapsible Bikes Well Made?

There is no reason to suppose that a budget folding bike will not be well made. The cheapest bikes tend to be made of heavier high-tensile steel, but this has its own qualities and doesn’t necessarily mean poor manufacturing.

Can I Bring A Folding Bike On Public Transport?

Tolerance for folding bikes on public transport is higher than for regular bikes. You can carry them onto most services, whereas normal bikes may be restricted to certain off-peak times or weekends

Read more: Are foldable bikes any good?

Let’s Wrap This Up

Now it’s time to revisit our bike reviews. The Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike is great for its sturdy construction, stylish looks and comprehensive set of features. This is a bike that will last, and it comes with a limited lifetime guarantee.

A completely different bike in second spot is the minimalistic Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike. In the budget price range, you’ll struggle to find a lighter folding bike. The Vilano is ideal for flat urban riding.

At the higher end of budget prices you can pick up an e-bike. For medium-height adults there’s the Sailnovo 14” Electric Bike. This is impressive for its strong 450W motor, which will help you over many hills. There’s a full-throttle mode, too, for easy days!

If you’re in the market for a cheaper folding bike, we hope this article helps inform your buying decision. Enjoy the extra freedom that a folding bike can give you!

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Glenn Harper
Glenn Harper
When I’m not contributing articles to Bike Push, I can often be found cycling on the rural roads around me. If I can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, I’ll consider it a win.

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