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Best Folding Bike: Unfolding The Ultimate Foldable Bicycle

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If you never looked closely at folding bikes, you might think they’re all roughly the same. Not a bit of it. They’re as diverse as non-folding bikes.

In this article, we’ll help you find the best folding bike for you. You’ll find a list of categorized reviews, crowned by the Brompton C Line Explore Folding Bike at the top. This beautifully made bike is a great all-rounder with a versatile gear range.

We’ll also steer you in the right direction with our buying guide, so you can purchase a folding bike with confidence.

Top 12 Best Folding Bikes

To help you quickly narrow down your search, our reviews are categorized.

1. Brompton C Line Explore 16” Folding Bike with Rack (best overall)

Brompton C Line Explore 16” Folding Bike with RackPin

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  • Frame Material: Mild Steel
  • Groupset: Brompton (6-speed wide ratio gears)
  • Weight: 27 lbs (12.24 kg)

For its admirable build quality, practical features, and a versatile set of gears, we put the Brompton C Line Explore Folding Bike at the top of our list. It’s mainly the wide-ratio gears that give the bike its name, plus the rack that lets you carry supplies with ease.

Brompton’s wide-ratio gears are a hybrid system comprising two rear derailleur gears and three rear internal hub gears. The 300% range of the 2×3 gears equals that of many bikes with 7 or 8 derailleur gears and makes the bike useful on flat roads or hills.

The steel construction of this bike includes a frame that’s fillet brazed by hand. It’s a bike that could last you for decades with careful use and maintenance.

Fenders and mudflaps are included on the Brompton C-Line, and its rear rack includes roller wheels for easy transport when folded. There’s a carrier block at the front of the bike that holds various sizes of Brompton bags.

The handlebar height on a Brompton is not adjustable. This one comes with an M-Type handlebar that suits people of “average” height.

For tall riders, the M-type handlebar might be viewed as a sporty option, as it gives them a slightly forward, more aero position on the bike.

A downside to this Racing Green bike is its cost, though Bromptons are never cheap.

What We Like

  • Construction – a beautifully made machine.
  • Gears – versatile gear range punches above its weight.
  • Luggage – rear cargo rack included, plus a carrier block at the front.
  • Suspension – rear suspension block improves comfort and reduces bounce.

What We Don’t Like

  • Price – Bromptons are never for anyone on a budget.

2. Tern Link C8 20” Folding Bike (runner-up)

Tern Link C8 20” Folding Bike in Red colorPin

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  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Groupset: Shimano Tourney (8 gears)
  • Weight: 28 lbs 3.2 oz (12.79 kg)

The Tern Link C8 Folding Bike offers some of the benefits of the Brompton. These include wide-ranging gears and its cargo-carrying capability. It lacks the crafted steel frame, but it does offer bigger 20” wheels for a smooth, comfortable ride.

Of course, the cost of those bigger wheels is a larger fold than you get with a Brompton, but the Tern is quick and easy to fold, nonetheless.

The 8-speed gears on the Tern Link C8 are roughly akin in their 290% range to the 6-speed Brompton. You can tackle hills on it thanks to an 11t to 30t rear cassette. A large 52t chainring at the front helps you to move briskly along even roads.

This bike has a Tern Physis™ 3D handlebar post, which is forged from a single piece of aluminum. The post provides reassuring strength and stiffness at the front of the bike.

Other features of the Link C8 include the FBL 2 Frame joint with 3 patented technologies, and Magnetix 2.0 clasping to hold the folded bike together.  There’s a luggage socket at the front for the optional Tern Luggage Truss.

A lack of adjustability in the solid handlebar post and fixed-height stem is a potential downside. This bike accommodates riders from 4’ 6” to 6’ 2”, but you’d have to switch the Physis post for another size if it didn’t work for you.

What We Like

  • Gears – versatile 8-speed gear range for varied terrain.
  • Joint – well-designed frame joint with many patented technologies.
  • Post – sturdy handlebar post for assured rigidity and performance.
  • Luggage – rear cargo rack plus potential for luggage at the front.

What We Don’t Like

  • Fixed – neither the handlebar post nor stem is height adjustable.

3. Dahon MU D9 20” Folding Bike (best for versatility)

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  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Groupset: Sunrace (9 gears)
  • Weight: 25 lbs 9 oz (11.6 kg)

With its wide gear range and comfy ride quality, the Dahon MU D9 20” Folding Bike is useful for a variety of purposes. It’s equally at home on long rural leisure rides or lively jaunts through the city.

Like most Dahon bikes, this model benefits from the company’s patented tech. It uses the tall aluminum Sonus tubeset for strength and a lattice forged hinge with Dahon’s ViseGrip technology. The adjustable Radius handlebar post has Fusion technology.

The front-end adjustability adds to the Dahon bike’s versatility. You can set it up to maximize your riding comfort and then set it up differently for someone else in your family.

Normally, the handlebar should be roughly the same height as the seat or slightly higher for a comfortable ride. Folding bikes with a low handlebar have more of a sporting intent, as far as that’s possible on a folding bike.

This Dahon bike is lightweight at 25 lbs 9 oz, though this is partly because it lacks extras like fenders or a cargo rack. You might deem this to be a downside. It’s a bike for fair-weather leisure rides or dry-weather errands in its sold state.

What We Like

  • Versatile – wide gear range and comfortable ride quality create versatility.
  • Adjustable – an adjustable handlebar post lets you fine-tune comfort.
  • Strong – tall, flat-based, double-butted Sonus tubing is light and strong.
  • Looks – a stylish-looking bike with its contoured metalwork.

What We Don’t Like

  • Bare – few extras included for one of Dahon’s more expensive bikes.

Read more: Dahon folding bikes comparison

4. Brompton P Line Urban 16” Folding Bike (best lightweight)

Brompton P Line Urban 16” Folding BikePin

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  • Frame Material: Steel & Titanium
  • Groupset: Brompton (4-speed gears)
  • Weight: 21 lbs 3 oz (9.6 kg)

Thanks to its titanium rear frame and fork and a host of lightweight parts, the Brompton P-Line Urban Folding Bike weighs in at just 21 lbs 3 oz. It’s not the lightest Brompton you can get, which also has a titanium main frame, but the price appeals more.

This bike is labeled as an “Urban” bike because it has four gears with a 163% range. The range doesn’t tell you about any high or low bias, but you can safely assume it doesn’t have any super-low gears for steep hills. This Brompton is for cities.

Other lightweight elements of the P Line include a chromoly steel seat post, Brompton Superlight wheel rims and hubs, and a Superlight saddle with chromoly rails. The titanium fork is important for ride quality, as it does a good job of damping vibration.

There’s no cargo rack on the P-Line, which can’t count as a downside because it maximizes lightness—kind of the point. Even so, this Brompton does have the front carrier for luggage, fenders with mudflaps, and reflectors.

If you’re after a sublime lightweight folding bike that would excel as a commuting bicycle, this might be the one. It’s lighter than most other folding bikes and is a thing of beauty with Brompton’s hand-brazed workmanship. Durability is a given.

In fact, this bike won our best lightweight folding bike recommendation.

Unlike most folding bikes, you could probably sell this in a few years for the same price you paid for it. That high price has to count as a downside for many people during times of high inflation, however.

What We Like

  • Construction – expect Brompton’s usual high standards of artisanship.
  • Comfort – a titanium fork adds comfort as well as reduces weight.
  • Weight – one of the lighter folding bikes on the market.
  • Equipment – not especially light on extras given its USP.

What We Don’t Like

  • Price – not an affordable proposition for many.

5. Zizzo Forte Heavy-Duty 20” Folding Bike (best for heavy riders)

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While it’s common for folding fat bikes to have high load capacities, this feature isn’t often found on regular folding bikes. The Zizzo Forte Heavy-Duty 20” Folding Bike offers a 300 lbs load capacity for tall or heavy riders.

Zizzo is a trustworthy bike brand with familial links to Tern and Dahon. The bikes don’t have all the patented tech that comes from those brands, but they’re sturdy bikes at affordable prices.

The Zizzo is visibly reinforced by gusseted welding on the frame. In all likelihood, the thickness of the frame is bolstered, too. In any case, it’s a strong bike and comes with a rack, fenders, a kickstand, folding pedals, a magnetic catch, and all-terrain tires.

Because the Zizzo Forte is reinforced, it’s likely more capable than most folding bikes of being taken off-road a little. It’d be wise to stick to light trails if you tried that.

This bike comes with a Shimano Tourney 7-speed 11-28t freewheel and a 48t chainring. That’s fairly versatile, though it lacks the same low or high gears as many other bikes among these reviews. It’s fine for everyday riding over mildly mixed terrain.

Steel forks help to improve the ride quality on the Zizzo Forte, though they also add to its middling 29 lbs weight. This isn’t the lightest folding bike you’ll buy, but that’s understandable given its main selling point and multiple extras.

This bike was the up to 300lb winner in our best foldable bike for heavier riders list.

What We Like

  • Strength – a bike that can carry 30-70 lbs more than most folding bikes.
  • Reliable – sturdy build quality from a trusted brand.
  • Gears – low-tier Shimano gears with a somewhat versatile 254% range.
  • Extras – a well-equipped bike.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – fairly heavy, but that’s the trade-off for its strengths.

6. RadExpand 5 20” Folding Fat Tire 750W E-Bike (best folding fat bike)

RadExpand 5 20” Folding Fat Tire 750W E-BikePin

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  • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Groupset: MicroSHIFT (7-speed gears)
  • Weight: 62 lbs 8 oz (28.3 kg)

It just so happens that most (possibly all) folding fat bikes are also e-bikes. Anything else probably doesn’t make sense, but you can have fantastic fun on the RadExpand 5 20” Folding Fat Tire 750W E-Bike.

Note this bike placed #1 on the best fat folding e-bike list.

This bike has a meaty 750W geared motor to help you and the bike’s weight over challenging hills. The weight of the bike isn’t excessive in this class, by the way.

The RadExpand 5 comes with a 48V 14 Ah battery, which provides a useful 672 Wh of capacity for a range of up to 45 miles.

Unlike some fat bikes, this one doesn’t have any suspension, but the 4” wide tires do a good job of soaking up vibration. The Max speed is 20 mph and there are four levels of pedal assist.

The lack of any speedometer or odometer in the onboard display is a downside. Another downer for taller riders is the maximum 32.25” inseam suitability. Many a six-footer has longer legs than that.

Back to the positive stuff: this bike is excellent for foldability. It folds down to a compact 29” x 25” x 41” size and, better still, you can collapse the handlebars without tools and lean the bike flat against a wall for temporary storage.

What We Like

  • Motor – powerful 750W geared motor.
  • Range – you’ll get up to 45 miles of range from the 672 Wh battery capacity.
  • Foldability – compact folded size or flat storage with a collapsible handlebar.
  • Smooth – good ride quality, despite the lack of suspension.

What We Don’t Like

  • Data – no odometer or speedometer, which are odd omissions.
  • Rider height – doesn’t suit tall riders with long legs.

7. Tern Verge D9 20” Folding Bike (best for speed)

Tern Verge D9 20” Folding Bike in Silver/Grey colorPin

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  • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Groupset: Shimano Acera (9-speed gears)
  • Weight: 26 lbs 14 oz (12.2 kg)

Among the fastest small-wheeled folding bikes on the market are those in the Tern Verge range, and the Tern Verge D9 20” Folding Bike is an example of that.

The Verge D9 is designed with an aerodynamic geometry and has relatively rare ISO 451 wheels, which are the larger metric size of 20” wheels you can buy. Most folding bikes use smaller ISO 406 20” wheels.

Because the Verge has larger 451mm wheels (the size refers to the diameter between tire bead seats), it is faster. Its wheels are some 1.77” taller than 406 wheels, and larger wheels affect gearing as well as carry momentum better.

The effect the Tern Verge’s large wheels have on gearing is seen in the 97 gear inches it achieves in top gear. This is a faster gear than most 20” folding bikes have.

Not only is the Tern Verge a fast folding bike, but it has a wide range of gears to suit any terrain. An 11-36t cassette gives it a 327% range, which exceeds that of any Brompton.

This bike has the rigid Physis™ 3D handlebar post, only this time it has a Syntace VRO Stem that is adjustable for height. Its Shimano Shadow derailleur delivers exceptionally smooth gear changes from the 1X drivetrain.

There aren’t many downsides to this bike. It’s a bit bare, but you’re paying for quality over quantity here.

What We Like

  • Fast – larger wheels and a flowing design are built for speed.
  • Smooth – larger wheels = plusher ride quality.
  • Wide – offers a versatile 327% gear range with its 11-36t cassette.
  • Acera – Shimano Shadow design for smooth gear changes.

What We Don’t Like

  • Bare – a set of fenders would’ve been nice.

8. Qualisports Volador 20” Folding 350W E-Bike (best folding electric bike)

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  • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Groupset: Shimano Tourney (7-speed gears)
  • Weight: 38 lbs 14 oz (17.23 kg)

Unusually lightweight for a folding electric bike is the Qualisports Volador 20” Folding E-Bike, which comes with a strong 350W brushless motor. This bike is also compact when folded, achieving a respectable 32.5″ x 14.5″ x 26.5″ size.

The Volador has a top speed of 20 mph, and the manufacturer claims a range of up to 30 miles, though this seems a tad optimistic from the Samsung 36V 7 Ah battery (252 Wh capacity). Even so, you’ll love this bike for commutes or vacation rides.

You get a lot of modes with this bike, including 5 pedal assist levels, a throttle mode, a manual mode, and a cruise mode for rolling effortlessly along at a constant speed.

Although the Shimano Tourney 7-speed drivetrain is not Shimano’s finest, lightest, or smoothest, it gets the job reliably done and helps keep the cost down. Powerful disc brakes bring you to a safe stop in any weather.

There isn’t much to criticize here. You get an unusually lightweight, compact folding e-bike for your money. A bigger battery capacity would be nice, and there’s no magnetic catch or clasp to hold the bike together when folded.

What We Like

  • Lightweight – there aren’t loads of folding e-bikes that weigh under 40 lbs.
  • Compact – unusually compact when folded for an e-bike.
  • Modes – lots of modes let you moderate your effort.

What We Don’t Like

  • Capacity – battery capacity is low at 252 Wh, which makes the maximum stated range a bit fanciful.
  • Clasp – there’s no convenient catch to hold the folded bike together.

9. Vilano Urbana Single Speed 20” Folding Bike (best for low maintenance)

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  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Groupset: single speed.
  • Weight: 21 lbs 8 oz (9.75 kg)

Whenever you need a simple low-maintenance bike, a single-speed model is worth seeking out. The Vilano Urbana Single Speed 20” Folding Bike doesn’t have any derailleur to go wrong, which also helps it achieve a light 21.5 lbs weight.

This bike also offers exceptional value for money, as many single-speed bikes do. Part of its low weight and minimalistic style comes from a lack of rim or disc brakes. It has a coaster brake, which means you have to back pedal to stop.

A downside of this type of brake is that you should ideally avoid steep hills, which you are quite likely to do anyway on a bike with one gear. This bike is best suited to flat city riding or commutes of a few miles.

Although it’s delivered as a rather bare bike, the Vilano Urbana includes eyelets for a rear rack or fenders. And there’s a water-bottle mount to aid hydration.

Both the seatpost and handlebar post are height-adjustable on this bike, so you can fine-tune your riding comfort. The bike has a 12″ x 32″ x 25″ size when folded, which is helped by the included folding pedals.

There’s not much to dislike about a clean, simple bike that is lighter than many bikes costing many times the price.

What We Like

  • Lightweight – minimalism helps this bike achieve a low weight.
  • Low maintenance – an absence of gears reduces maintenance.
  • Durable – 1-speed drivetrains tend to have stronger chains.
  • Style – the bike has an appealing clean look.

What We Don’t Like

  • Coaster – coaster brakes limit the way and places you can safely ride the bike (i.e., stick to flat roads at modest speeds).

10. Schwinn Loop 20” Folding Bike (best for senior riders)

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  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Groupset: Shimano (7-speed gears)
  • Weight: 33 lbs (14.96 kg)

Although other bikes in this review may also suit senior riders well, we’ve picked the Schwinn Loop 20” Folding Bike for this category for its easily mounted step-through frame and a gear range that lends itself well to leisurely riding.

There is conflicting information about what this bike is made of, but it has an aluminum frame with a steel fork to help create a comfortable, compliant ride.

The weight of the bike is a definite downside for some senior rides (or any riders) at 33 lbs, which is heavier than most non-electric bikes among our reviews. However, the bike is well-equipped with an integrated rear cargo rack, a kickstand, and fenders.

You get a choice of 7 Shimano gears with this bike. It’s worth pointing out the small 40t chainring at the front. This is better suited to light pedallers than speed demons. Anyone seeking to race about should look elsewhere.

The Schwinn Loop is solid, sturdy, and reliable. Front and rear linear-pull brakes provide powerful stopping. It’s okay as a commuter bike, too, though not as compact when folded as many other 20” bikes at 32.5″ x 26″ x 16″.

This bike comes with a famously frustrating carry bag that is scarcely big enough to contain the bike!

Note that the Brompton C Line (already mentioned) won our best folding bike for senior riders list. This was the runner-up.

What We Like

  • Value – a sturdy bike for a fair price.
  • Equipment – has an integrated cargo rack, fenders, and a kickstand.
  • Easy – easy to fold and store, though not quite as compact as other 20” bikes.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – on the heavy side at 33 lbs.
  • Bag – hard to fit the folded bike into the supplied bag.

11. Xspec Full Suspension 26″ Folding MTB (best folding mountain bike)

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  • Frame Material: High-Tensile Steel
  • Groupset: Shimano (3×7-speed gears)
  • Weight: Approx 42 lbs (19 kg)

If you’re after a full-sized folding MTB experience, look no further than the Xspec Full Suspension 26″ Folding Mountain Bike (our best folding MTB winner). This bike has triple chainrings at the front and a 7-speed Shimano freewheel at the rear for 21 gears overall.

Because of its steel frame, dual suspension, freewheel, and other heavier components like disc brakes, this bike is not lightweight at 42 lbs. If you need lighter, look at hardtail MTB models from Change Bikes or Montague.

This bike delivers a smooth ride with its front and rear shock absorbers and 26” x 1.95” tires. The sturdy wheels are laced with 32 spokes and are made with double-wall rims for strength.

The folded dimensions of this bike are 41” x 32” x 22”, which will enable you to carry this bike comfortably in the trunk of most cars without intruding on the rear passenger area.

Aside from its heavy weight (not particularly unusual for a chunky MTB), a downside to this bike is the low-quality foldable pedals. They are ripe for an immediate upgrade. Overall, though, this bike offers great value as a transportable mountain bike.

What We Like

  • Sturdy – robust steel frame.
  • Equipment – useful features like fenders, a kickstand, and disc brakes.
  • Wheels – strong wheels with double-wall rims and 32 spokes.
  • Latch – a strong latch inspires confidence.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – not the lightest folding MTB by a long shot.
  • Pedals – pedals are low quality.

12. Zizzo Ferro 20” Folding Bike (best budget)

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  • Frame Material: High-Tensile Steel
  • Groupset: Shimano (7-speed gears)
  • Weight: Approx 29 lbs (13.15 kg)

We’re turning to Zizzo as a reliable supplier of low-priced, high-quality folding bikes. The Zizzo Ferro 20” Folding Bike saves money with its steel construction and great-value components.

Its steel frame makes the Ferro heavier at 29 lbs but also durable and comfortable to ride. The bike comes fitted with 1.95” wide all-terrain tires, and indeed it can handle some light off-road riding.

A pretty cool feature at this price is full adjustability in the seatpost and handlebar height, which allows you to perfect your posture and comfort on the bike.

The 7-speed gears on this bike comprise a 14-28t freewheel at the rear and a 48t chainring up front. Note that the top gear is not as “fast” as the top gear on many other 20” folding bikes, so you’d have to pedal more frantically if you wanted speed.

One potential downside to this bike is the single-wall wheel rims, which will likely be weaker than double-wall rims or much heavier for the same strength. The lesser diameter of small 20” wheels makes them inherently stronger in the first place.

Overall, you’d be unlikely to be disappointed in this well-made bike from Zizzo.

What We Like

  • Price – the sort of low price that could tempt a folding-bike skeptic.
  • Strong – durable and robust steel frame.
  • Gears – useful range of gears, erring on the leisurely riding side.
  • Off-road – some off-road potential with the strong frame and all-terrain tires.

What We Don’t Like

  • Weight – borderline heavy at 29 lbs, but still manageable for most.

Read more: The best budget folding bikes

Important Features To Prioritize On Folding Bikes

We think folding bikes are great. However, some features require important consideration on a folding bike, but exactly how important they depends on your priorities.

Folded Size

The folded size of a foldable bike largely hinges on the wheel size, so you should search for bikes with 14”-16” wheels if you need ultra-compact dimensions. Of course, the folding method also contributes to the folded size.

A good place to start looking if you need a compact fold more than anything else is the Brompton bike range. Collectively, Brompton’s are among the smallest folding bike on the market. All models fold to the same size (23″ x 22.2″ x 10.6″).

As a rough guide, a 16” [wheel] Brompton is compact enough to be transported as carry-on luggage on many airlines. It fits under a desk at work. You can carry it onto buses and trains, and often it has rollers so you can wheel it along.

The most common wheel size among folded bikes is the 20” diameter wheel. The folded size varies, but this is still a bike you can usually take onto trains or fit into a suitcase in some instances. A 16” to 20” folded bike is often good for commuting.

With a larger folded bike, such as those with full-sized 26”, 27.5”, and 700c wheels, the main benefit is being able to put them into a car trunk without pushing the seats down in your vehicle. They’re also useful in small living spaces.

Wheel Size

We’ve talked about wheel size in the context of the folded size of the bike, but this is also a determining factor in comfort on a folding bike.

Hitting obstacles like potholes or stones on small wheels creates more of a jolt than it does on bigger wheels. That’s because, in effect, the obstacles are steeper (smaller wheels have a greater “angle of attack” as it’s known – not just a golfing term).

Wheel size affects other aspects of bike riding, too. Smaller wheels often feel oversensitive and “squirrely” to steer, at least to some people. Larger wheels feel more stable and controllable.

Smaller wheels are faster to accelerate than larger wheels, which can make folding bikes like Bromptons ideal for stop-start bike commutes with multiple sets of traffic lights.

Faster acceleration on small wheels occurs because of their lesser “moment of inertia”, but this benefit also has a downside. Small wheels accelerate faster but also slow down quicker, so you can’t coast as much on small wheels without rapidly losing speed.

Video: 6 Reasons Smaller Wheels Are Better

Adjustable Handlebar Post

Most folding bikes allow you to adjust the seat post (i.e., saddle height), but not all will let you alter the handlebar height. This is true of Bromptons, for instance, where the height of the handlebar is a done deal once you’ve bought the bike.

Why do you need to adjust the handlebar height? Maybe you won’t need to, but it will affect your posture on the bike and may help to avoid/alleviate issues with an aching back, arms, or wrists, for instance.

Comfort on a bike becomes more critical the farther you ride. If you want a folded bike to ride down the road to the shops, you might not need the same adjustability as someone who rides 10 miles to work.

Even on folding bikes, a low handlebar creates a more forward riding position that’s a little quicker than sitting bolt upright. Posture on a bike always affects aerodynamics, which in turn has an appreciable effect on average speed.

Frame Materials

Like regular bikes, folding bike frames are made of aluminum, steel, titanium, and carbon (in that order of occurrence). The most common choice you’ll make is whether to buy an aluminum folding bike or a steel one.

Aluminum frames are lightweight and strong, and they don’t rust. On the minus side, they’re fundamentally less durable than steel, often less comfortable, and can ironically end up heavier than steel because of the amount of material used.

Steel bikes are durable to the point that their lifespan is indefinite because they have a fatigue limit. That’s as long as they don’t rust, but rust on bikes is usually superficial. They’re often comfortable to ride and they’re easier to repair if damaged.

Most folding bikes on the market are made of aluminum, though Brompton only uses mild steel or titanium in their frames.

An aluminum frame in a folding bike is fine, though bear in mind that the longevity of a steel folding bike helps it retain its value, especially if it’s also a Brompton.

Some aluminum folding bikes have steel forks to improve the quality of the ride. As steel is a more compliant material than aluminum, it absorbs more vibration from the road than an aluminum fork.

Folding bikes made of titanium or carbon are the lightest on the market, but they are also expensive. Brompton and Helix both make titanium bikes. Hummingbird makes carbon folding bikes, though the latter do not have folding main frames.

Titanium bikes do not rust, are usually sold with a bare metal finish, and offer outstanding ride quality. But they’re super-expensive.

Folding Bike Gears

You need to think about gears when buying a folding bike, particularly in relation to where you expect to ride it. If you’re only going to ride flat routes, a 1, 2, 3, or 4-gear bike should work for you. Go for 6, 7, 8, or 9 gears if you ride in a hilly area.

There are occasional folding bikes that have 10 or 11 gears, which makes them highly versatile and suitable for longer leisure rides. The size of the chainring at the front influences how high or low the gears at the back are.

As a very rough guide, a 50-something tooth chainring on a folding bike delivers similar gear inches to a small 34t chainring on a 700c full-sized bike. You can ride quickly, but your cadence (pedaling speed) will also be high as a result.

You need a low top gear at the back (e.g., 11t) to keep your cadence in check if you’re a strong rider, otherwise, it will be impractical to ride quickly.

A cheaper folding bike with something like a 14-28t freewheel at the rear and a small 44t chainring is more suitable for casual riders than speedsters. It is usually possible to fit a bigger chainring to the front, however, to technically make it “faster”.

Brakes

Most folding bikes have rim brakes as opposed to disc brakes. And this is generally fine because most riders won’t be tearing around at great speeds on a folding bike.

Disc brakes make the bike heavier and might be more prone to damage on a foldable bike. They make more sense on a multi-speed folding bike that you ride up and down hills. Disc brakes are stronger than rim brakes and more reliable in wet weather.

What About The Folding Mechanism?

Folding bikes are generally safe as long as you obey the maximum load advice.

However, the design of a bike and where the hinge is placed can make some bikes more susceptible to breaking than others. It’s undeniable that a hinge in a bike frame is a weak point, but its design and position are paramount.

A low-slung, step-through frame with a hinge that is forward of the rider and/or near the ground is more vulnerable than one where the hinge is farther back and higher up. If you see such a bike, you’ll probably note a thick, heavy frame at the same time.

One thing to note about aluminum as a material is that it’s brittle, so if it’s going to fail, it’s more likely to fail spectacularly than steel. Check regularly for cracks in a folding bike frame, especially around the latch/hinge area.

As a side note, check the seatpost regularly for cracks, too, as this is often unusually long on folding bikes. Be careful not to over-torque such a seatpost, also (you’ll need the manufacturer’s advice for the specifics).

On a calming note, any horror stories you find about snapping folding bikes on the Internet represent a tiny proportion of the total ownership. Unless you see a high incidence of problems with one product, there’s no cause for alarm.

Why Ride A Folding Bike?

There are many valid reasons for wanting or needing a folding bike. Here are some:

  • Commuting – a folding bike is ideal for commuting, especially intermodal commuting where you use various forms of transport. You can take a folding bike onto a train, for instance, without needing to hunt for the bicycle carriage.
  • Air Travel – small 16” folding bikes are often small enough to qualify as carry-on luggage with some airlines. Many people put 20” folding bikes into suitcases, too, but this may involve risking an oversized suitcase with the airline.
  • Car Travel – even a full-sized folding bike can fit in a car trunk without needing to put the rear seats down. That’s great if you’re carrying passengers as well as your bike. Folding bikes take up less space in a car full of luggage, too.
  • Vacations – because a folding bike fits more easily into that car full of luggage, it may make a difference between you cycling and not cycling on family vacations.
  • Security – some busy cities are notorious for bike theft. You might feel unsafe leaving a bike in a workplace bike shed, too. With a folding bike, you just take the bike with you. This is even easier if the bike has integrated rollers.
  • Storage Space – if you live in a small city apartment without a ton of space for stowing bikes, folding bikes provide a solution. Boat owners also like folding bikes for the same reasons.
  • Nippy – folding bikes aren’t generally as fast as full-sized bikes like road bikes or hybrids, but their small wheels enable fast acceleration away from traffic lights and through other urban infrastructure. They’re agile in that respect.
  • Fitness – fitness doesn’t distinguish between one bike and another. If you ride a folding bike, you get fitter than you would by catching a bus or casually strolling. Any cycling on any bike is good for aerobic fitness and staying healthy.

Are Electric Foldable Bikes The Future?

Electric folding bikes are certainly part of the future, as are e-bikes in general.

It’s an undeniable fact that you’ll get fitter riding a manual bike or that manual bikes are more eco-friendly than e-bikes. However, the point is that electric bikes reduce needless car journeys and are far “greener” than cars emitting greenhouse gases.

E-bikes also allow riders to improve their aerobic fitness at a level they can sustain, and that means more people are riding bikes. Senior riders or riders with health conditions can ride an e-bike across all terrains without extreme fatigue.

A folding e-bike may also encourage people to take on a longer bike commute than they otherwise would. Even the cheapest folding e-bikes usually have a 12-15 mile range, and this is effectively doubled if you can recharge the battery at work.

While it’s true that recharging an e-bike or e-scooter battery indirectly burns fossil fuels (currently), this is still seen as an important move away from mass car use.

Personal electric transport (PET) is already transforming the way people travel and gradually moving them away from a dependence on gas-guzzling vehicles. The Covid pandemic only accelerated the need for this type of individual transport.

Folding Bikes FAQs

Are Foldable Bikes Good For Long Distance?

In terms of efficiency and preserving energy, it’s fair to say they’re not quite as good as full-sized road bikes for long distances. However, many people tour on folding bikes, riding 40-50+ miles a day on models with wide gear ranges.

Are Folding Bikes Fast?

It depends a bit on the bike in question. Yes, you can ride quickly on them, but you’ll probably ride a bit faster on a full-sized bike than a typical 20” folding bike, for instance. This is because of factors like inertia, lower gearing, slower tires, and aerodynamics.

Are Foldable Bikes Really That Easy To Fold?

A good folding bike should be easy to fold, yes, which isn’t to say you’ll find it easy for the first few times. With practice, it should be doable in around 15-30 seconds.

Are Folding Bikes Good For Air Travel?

Bromptons are compact enough to fit into some overhead lockers, so they’re good for air travel. You can also fit some 20” models into a suitcase. Note: this usually means using a suitcase slightly larger than is strictly allowed without a surcharge.

Can Folding Bikes Be Used To Improve Fitness?

Folding bikes are a good way to improve aerobic fitness and help prevent conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Typical folding bikes with small wheels are less efficient at coasting, so they even encourage a workout!

Final Thoughts On The Best Foldable Bike

We have no qualms about putting the Brompton C Line Explore Folding Bike at the top of our list as the best foldable bike. The bike offers a good balance of Bromptons finest features, including a wide 6-gear range and, of course, exemplary build quality.

Tern has a reputation for making high-quality, innovative folding bikes, and the Tern Link C8 Folding Bike is an affordable example. It’s a rock-solid bike that benefits from Tern’s immovable Physis™ 3D handlebar post. It, too, offers a useful gear range.

Occupying the third spot on our list is the Dahon MU D9 20” Folding Bike. This 9-speed bike is equally at home in bustling cities or calm pastoral landscapes. It’s lightweight, responsive, and fun to ride. And it’s easy on the eye.

We hope this article leads you to the perfect folding bike for your needs. If you go with one of our choices, that’s great, but we’re just as happy to help you make your own informed buying decisions.

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Glenn Harper
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When Glenn isn't writing for BikePush, he can often be found cycling on his local rural roads. If he can help you benefit from bicycling in some small way, He’ll consider it a win.

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