Traffic conditions are getting worse, and alternative ways to commute look more and more appealing. Many outdoor enthusiasts consider biking to work or campus as a convenient and cheap way to get in their daily thrill and some additional exercise.
Unfortunately, no matter how smooth and slick standard bikes are, they can be a nuisance in the city, and force you to spend more time than you should just maneuvering them into small spaces, locking them down, and worrying about them. The great news is that the best folding bicycle is custom-designed to avoid these small discomforts and can give you all the benefits of biking without the hassle.
Folding bikes can be smooshed up and clipped into a small package in an instant, which allows you to wheel or carry the bike indoors, up flights of stairs, onto public transport or into your car. If you don’t need to lock your bike into a bike stand, you can relax and stop worrying about it being stolen while you are gone.
The best part is that you don’t need expensive or cumbersome bike racks on your vehicle to carry your bicycle to your holiday destination, which means you will have the freedom to do as you please, and even go places that were previously inaccessible.
The Benefits of Folding Bikes
Folding bikes have become immensely popular with consumers, and bicycle manufacturers have responded with an incredible variety of designs. People buy folding bicycles for many different reasons, and manufacturers are leaping to respond to the demand.
Just a few of the benefits are:
- Total flexibility to utilize any transport e.g. buses, rail, cars.
- Immediate cost savings on transport or fuel costs, insurance and vehicle maintenance.
- Air travel without hassle? Absolutely! Just fold your bike and pack in a hard-shell suitcase with your clothing.
- You will be much fitter and healthier in a very short time.
- No more parking hassles and costs.
- Less frustration in heavy traffic.
- Portable and easy to store. Tuck into a cupboard, under a desk or in a corner at home or at work.
- Can be transported in the trunk or front of your car, no need for a special bike rack on the roof or trunk.
- Extremely lightweight, yet durable in an environment where knocks are inevitable.
- Responsive user experience with smaller or larger wheels, usually with multiple gears for effortless riding.
- Sophisticated and good looking designs.
- Have immediate access and freedom to explore your destination.
- Never worry about locking up your bike to prevent theft, just take it with you wherever you go.
Types of Folding Bikes
In this niche bicycle market, form follows function, and the intended use will dictate the size and design of your collapsible bike.
- Folding Mountain Bikes are sturdier than standard bikes and are used to traverse dirt tracks and off-road routes. They usually have larger wheels (up to 26”), thick treads, shock absorption features, and more gears to make uphill riding easier. They are somewhat less portable than other types of folding bikes.
- Folding Road Bikes are typically very light but quite fast, with 24” or 26” wheels which make them ideal for covering longer distances. While they are not the most compact bikes, they are light enough to make them a practical transport solution.
- Folding Commuter Bikes and Hybrids are the lightest and most compact models with wheel sizes ranging from 16” to 20”. These make the best folding bicycles for urban areas as they hugely versatile and provide exceptional usability in urban situations. They are used for daily commuting and leisure biking.
Types of Bicycle Folding Mechanisms
Folding your bike down to the size of a small suitcase should be easy and fast, and choosing the most convenient type of folding mechanism is critical.
If you battle with folding it down, you may resent the effort and resist using the bike as intended. It’s best to look for the folding system best suited to your circumstances. There are three main types of folding mechanisms:
- The Triangular Hinge mechanism is a very common and practical style with the most compact result, which makes it the perfect solution for someone who uses multi-stage or public transport.
The design contains hinges for folding the bike and clasps to clip and keep the bike in its compact form. Triangular hinge designs take a few seconds longer to fold than split fold mechanisms, but the result is tiny, compact, and eminently maneuverable.
- The Split Fold mechanism is currently the most popular style and features a hinge right in the center of the bike frame to let you fold the bicycle in half.
Folding is fast, but the result is bulkier than triangular hinge bicycles. These bikes are perfect for people who have sufficient storage space at either end of their daily route, or to take along in your vehicle for weekend excursions.
- The Breakaway mechanism is by far the least popular as the biker needs to split the bicycle into two separate pieces. It takes longer to dismantle or build than either of the other two mechanisms and may require more physical strength from the biker.
Folding Bicycle Frame Material
If you have to haul your transport up and down stairs or onto and off public transport systems regularly, the weight of your bicycle is likely to be the deciding factor. Practice makes it easier to handle your bike with confidence and the minimum of fuss, and your muscles will quickly get used to handling the weight.
However, like with most outdoors gear, there is usually a trade-off between weight and durability unless you are willing to spend a tidy sum for your new ‘green’ transport. If you regard your folding bike as a permanent and necessary part of your daily exercise routine, it may well be worth spending extra to obtain both a super-durable and super-light frame in the same package.
- The lightest is carbon fiber: Significantly more expensive than other options. While a carbon fiber frame folding bicycle will weigh almost nothing compared to others, carbon fiber can shatter under certain conditions, and you do need to take good care of it.
- The heaviest is steel: Strong, durable, moderately priced, and resistant to rust, steel is an excellent choice for bikes in general, however, if your aim is a light and very portable bicycle, steel moves to the bottom of the list.
- Aluminum is a good compromise: Any outdoor enthusiast will be familiar with aluminum as it is widely used in camping and household gear. It is rust-free, lightweight and well priced, but not the most durable material in this category.
- The luxury version: Titanium. It is expensive, but value for money. Titanium frames weigh somewhat more than carbon fiber frames but are far stronger than any of the other options. Also, titanium dampens vibrations and are the most durable option of all.
- Check that you will attain the proper riding and steering wheel height using the height adjustment settings. You should be able to reach the ground with both feet while sitting comfortably on the seat.
- The handlebars are likely to be in an upright and slightly swept back position, different than a mountain or road bike. This is necessary for you to be able to turn your head quite far to either side and even look backward without upsetting your balance. Rear- or side view mirrors are important safety features.
- Check with the manufacturer to ensure you do not exceed the weight or height specifications for your particular bike, or you may end up with your knees hitting your chin or even the handlebars when you turn sharply.
- Practice folding the bicycle a few times before you take it out to get used to safety features, clips, and hinges. It’s easy to get fingers or nails caught and cut if you are in a hurry.
- ‘Pimp your ride’ with a basket or rear rack, special seats, handles, mirrors, a bell, head, and tail-lights. Remember to check your bike’s compatibility with standard cycling gear and accessories before you buy.
- The riding style is generally more upright, and your center of gravity is slightly different than on a standard bicycle. Ease into hard pedaling so that you don’t lift the bike into the air when you peddle uphill hard.
- If possible, take your bike to a bike store for a tune-up when you receive it. Like all standard bikes, the gear chain may need tweaking or shortening after initial use.
Top Rated Bikes on The Market
Dahon Mariner D7 Folding Bike
Weight: 26 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time: 10 seconds, folded dimensions: 25.6” x 12.6” x 31.1”
Gears: 7-speed Shimano
Frame: Lightweight Dalloy Sonus Tubing with a lattice-forged hinge and Dahon V-Clamp technology
Wheels: 20” wheels
Specific Features: Max rider weight: 231 lbs. Recommended rider height: 4’9″-6’3″. Non-corrosive coating for marine environments. This is the lightest Dahon folding bike.
The Mariner D7 has been specially designed for boaters. It folds up very small to fit into compact storage spaces and has a rust resistant coating which is ideal for corrosive maritime environments.
Description: Made from a very lightweight but sturdy alloy and notable for the ease with which you can fold and unfold the bike. You can roll or steer the folded bike around like a cart, and even use it as a portable seat.
Although the coating does not make it rust-free, it does make it a low-maintenance and handsome collapsible bicycle that is especially suitable for wet and humid climates.
Related: The Dahon Vitesse D3 Folding Bike is a 3-speed bike at the same light 26 lbs weight. The estimated folding time is a little longer at 15 seconds but the frame caters for rider heights from 4’8″ to 6’4″. It features a nifty high capacity integrated foot pump which forms part of the seat post.
Dahon Speed P8 Folding Bike
Weight: 26.2 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time: 10 seconds, folded dimensions: 11.8″ x 30.3″ x 25.2″
Gears: Dahon NEOS 8-speed special edition
Frame: Stiff K-series steel frame with rigid handle-post for enhanced stability and control
Wheels: 20” wider tires for stability on gravel and dirt roads
Specific Features: Recommended rider height: 4’8″ – 6’4″. Max rider weight: 230 lbs. The short wheelbase combined with larger wheels and 8-speed gears makes for a very agile ride at an economical price. High performance for longer commutes over hilly terrain and uneven surfaces. Good for weekend excursions and touring. Light enough for multistage commuting.
Description: The Dahon SpeedP8 is an exceptionally agile bike due to the short wheelbase. It has a fully adjustable handlebar and offers a more upright riding position. The comfortable seat is set on an air pump seat shaft.
The effective gear ratio helps you to conquer hilly terrain, while the folding pedals and the Dahon easy folding system transforms the bike into a very small package for easy multistage commuting or storing.
Related: The Dahon Vybe D7 Folding Bike is a very lightweight and compact retro design bike for a very competitive price. Although the folded dimensions are slightly larger at 26.4″ x 13.4″ x 32.7″ than that of the Dahon Speed P8, it delivers smooth gear selection and a stable ride, and the elegant look and color doesn’t hurt either!
Montague 20-Inch Paratrooper Pro Folding Bike
Weight: 29 lbs.
Dimensions: Folding Time: 20 seconds, folded dimensions: 36″ x 28″ x 12″
Frame: 20” aluminum frame
Wheels: 26″ wheels
Specific Features: 18″ frame for users of 5’3″ – 5’10” and 20″ frame for users of 5’11” – 6’4″. Max rider weight: 230 lbs. The Montague has a big wheel size and sturdy frame with many gears for steep climbing.
It offers 100mm of play in the front shocks for full shock absorption functionality on off-road trails. The patented Montague CLIX folding system provides fast folding and unfolding without tools – just flip the CLIX quick release lever at the top.
Description: A strong frame and regular bike-sized wheels mean that the Montague Paratrooper Pro is a full-size mountain bike, but has the added benefit of being collapsible to fit into cars or even public transport. The design is built on the patented folding system that eliminates the need to “break” the frame when folding the bike, which makes it the strongest folding bike in this group.
The Folding Integrated Technology (FIT) frame construction allows for removal of the front wheel, disengaging the locking pin and folding the bike without effort or disturbance to the cam. The components are sturdy with excellent shock absorption.
Related: The Montague Paratrooper Express Air Force Blue Folding Bike is another very strong performer on rough trails and comes in a 16”, 18” and 20” frames for riders of different height and weight. Great gear selection allows high performance on steep terrain.
The semi-knobby tires and front wheel suspension will help you chew up rugged terrain or challenging commutes and the 26” wheels allow for high speed on flats.
Schwinn 20-Inch Loop Folding Bike
Weight: 37 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time 20 seconds, folded dimensions: 36” long 17” wide 30.”
Gears: 7 gears to get up hills easily
Wheels: 20” wheels
Specific Features: Rider height: 6” and max rider weight: 200 lbs. Front and rear fenders plus a chain guard protect the passengers’ clothes, and Schwinn has included a heavy-duty Nylon carry bag for ease of carrying and storing.
Description: The Schwinn 20-Inch Loop Folding Bike has a very low step-over stand with a sturdy frame and fork. Linear-pull brakes offer perfect control, while the rear rack provides sufficient storage for daily needs. It provides decent speed and a smooth ride with very good handling, even if the handlebars are not adjustable.
The Schwinn folds up small and easily for storage, but note that if you do not pop it into the bag when you fold it, you will need to keep holding the folded bike to keep it together.
Related: Make it a family affair and get some Schwinn bikes for the little ones! Have a look at the Schwinn 12-Inch Balance Bike. Schwinn bike in colors very appealing to younger audiences!. The seat height and handlebars can be adjusted to cope with growing kids, and the Schwinn “foot to floor” frame is designed to support young riders.
Columba 26″ Folding Bike
Weight: 34 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time 10 seconds, folded dimensions: 38″x14″x29″
Gears: Shimano 18 speed shifter and derailleur.
Frame: Sturdy steel frame
Wheels: 26” Kenda tires
Specific Features: Rider height: 5’3″~6’0″ with an option to purchase a longer seat post for taller riders. Max rider weight: 200 lbs.
The front handles can be removed for a more compact folded size using the quick-remove system. It has an alloy silver cap, PVC black bell, steel hub in the front and rear and a steel kickstand.
Description: The alloy front brake and rear V-brake allows perfect control at higher speed, which is easily obtained with the 18-gear system and large wheels. The Columba 26″ Folding Bike provides excellent overall comfort – the ride comes close to a standard size biking experience due to the large wheels and comfortable riding position.
It has an adjustable seat and handlebar and great gear rations for a powerful ride on hilly terrain. Very quick to fold and it is built from strong components.
Related: The flashy Columba 26″ Folding Bike w. Shimano 18 Speed Yellow bike is a fun variation hybrid bike and also weighs in at 34 lbs. This bright yellow bike stands out from the crowd and the high visibility serves as an added safety feature. The steel frame is sturdy and very durable, and the large wheel size makes it a fast, reliable ride.
Stowabike 20″ Folding City V2 Compact Foldable Bike
Dimensions: Folding time: 20 seconds, folded dimensions: 24.1″ x 33.9″ 31.9″
Gears: 6 speed Shimano
Frame: 20″ steel hybrid folding frame
Wheels: 20” wheels
Specific Features: Not recommended for riders over 6”. Max rider weight 200lbs. Built for city life with a luggage rack, mud guards, and a reliable folding system, the Stowabike 20″ Folding City V2 Compact Foldable Bike is agile, and the right gear ratio provides easy power on hilly terrain. This is a fair entry level bike but may not be sturdy enough for heavy long-term use..
Description: Pedals with CPSC Reflectors and 560mm handlebar. Black rubber grips, steel chainset, chainring, steel V-brakes, mudguards, and cranks. Clear chain guard to protect your clothes and a middle kickstand. Comfortable seat with springs for shock absorption, which provides a stable ride. The handlebars can also be removed using an Allen Key. Great value for money.
Related: The Stowabike 26″ MTB V2 Folding Dual Suspension 18 Speed Gears Mountain Bike is a much more sporty bike which you can use on dirt tracks and mountain terrain. The steel fork and front wheel suspension system lets you tackle rough terrain, and steel v-brakes allows perfect speed control.
It comes in slightly heavier at 38.5 lbs, but the added toughness makes it a lot more versatile than a standard bike.
Speck Folding Single-Speed Bicycle
Weight: 23.5 lbs.
Dimensions: Folding time: 20 seconds, folded dimensions: 30″ x 10’ x 22″
Gears: Single speed.
Frame: Lightweight and rust-resistant aluminum frame.
Wheels: 20″ Kenda Kwest tires
Specific Features: The hinge-latch mechanism has a spring-loaded safety pin features to keep the bike from folding down while you are riding. This means that you need to lift the latch while folding to ensure safe handling and use the strap provided to keep it locked down while you carry it
Description: The rear coaster brake means you backpedal to slow down, a rather nostalgic but very effective form of braking which contributes to the very light weight. Speck Folding Single-Speed Bicycle is solid despite the very basic and stripped-down aluminum frame design with a well-designed handlebar hinge.
This is an adjustable, highly functional and agile bike for mostly flat areas or easy grades, and it comes at a great price. Easy to fold and carry.
Related: The Venus Dutch Step-Thru City Comfort Hybrid Bike, also by Retrospec, is another single-speed folding bike with a lovely vintage-inspired design. It is a little heavier but has a very low step-over, which makes it easy for users with hip, knee and leg problems to use.
Perfect for users who haven’t been active for a few years! The Kenda tires, cushy grips and seat, and the handy rear rack makes it perfect for quick trips to neighbourhood stores.
Dahon Speed Uno Folding Bike
Weight: 24.2 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time: 10 seconds, folded size: 11.7 x 30 x 25 inches.
Gears: Single speed
Frame: K series, SuperLite 4130 Chromoly frame.
Wheels: 20” Dahon Rotolo tires
Specific Features: Rider height: 4′ 8″ to 6′ 4″ and max rider weight: 230 lbs. The Dahon Magnetix latching system is extremely effective for fast folding and also keeps the Dahon Speed Uno Folding Bike folded while you carry it. The carrying handle provides perfectly balanced weight. The bike has been stripped down to bare essentials to keep it very light and affordable.
Description: Dahon really pared down this design, and there are no brake or shifter cables but rather a coaster brake (pedal backward to stop).
The Dahon Speed Uno is exceedingly light and very affordable, but still, features Dahon’s DoubleLok latch system which reminds you to clip the secondary lock into place before riding. This system ensures maximum safety and the minimum maintenance at a very good price.
Related: The Dahon Ciao i7 Folding Bicycle 20″ Wheel is a little heavier at 30 lbs, but has an astoundingly low step-over and is very easy on the hips and knees. You can adjust the handlebar and seat height for a relaxed upright riding position on flats and easy grades, and the excellent Dahon latching system makes it easy to fold, andmanage the bike when you reach your destination.
Ford by Dahon Convertible 7 Speed Folding Bicycle
Weight: 41 lbs
Dimensions: Folding time 10 seconds, folded dimensions: 13.1″ × 27.1″ × 33.9″
Gears: 7-speed Shimano gears
Frame: Aluminum K1 Quick-fold with heavy duty Alloy V-Breaks
Specific Features: Rider height: 4’6” to 6’3” and max rider weight 230 lbs. This 7-speed special edition bike is loaded with fun Ford stickers. It has good mud fenders and a rear rack-adjustment system.
Description: This Ford by Dahon Convertible 7 Speed Folding Bicycle is branded with the Ford name, and as can be expected, it is a robust and durable bike featuring everything a daily commuter needs for a comfortable trip. The frame is made from lightweight aluminum, and the bike has mud fenders for wet weather and a rear rack for your book and grocery bags.
The Dahon folding mechanism ensures that you can fold the bike in 10 seconds to store it out of the way. The high-pressure tires provide a springy though comfortable ride Although it is heavier than other Dahon’s this bike offers excellent value for money.
Related: The Dahon Jetstream P8 Urbanite Folding Bike is much lighter at 26.5 lbs but still offers a full suspension to let you tackle uneven surfaces with confidence. Although it looks very sturdy and rugged, it folds to a tiny 11.3″ × 32.4″ × 25.7 for a quick commute. The 20” wheel size keeps you moving at a decent speed, and the folding time is also just 10 seconds.
Have You Picked Out Your Folding Bike Yet?
If you hate being cooped up in your car and sitting in long traffic lines, biking to work could be a liberating experience.
Why not borrow a friend’s bike and try it for a few days? You’ll meet new people and have fun riding around in the neighborhood while getting a little fitter and stronger – and saving a small fortune in gas money.
Is it better to start out with a cheap bike and learn your lessons the hard way, or should you buy the best folding bicycle that you can afford immediately? Let us know what you think in the comments below!