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- Folding bikes are a versatile and practical way of moving around cities and linking up gaps in mass transit.
- Their small size can hide their massive versatility, especially with the boost provided by the electric motor in the Tern Vektron, which is our top pick.
With cities becoming more crowded, gas prices remaining high and congestion not getting any better, driving to work seems to get less enjoyable and more expensive every year. Public transit works well if you happen to live and work close to hubs, but otherwise, it can lead to a frustratingly circuitous commute.
Cycling to work is becoming an increasingly popular way to get some exercise and save time and money on your commute. For some, riding from door to door is feasible, but many of us live too far away from work to make this possible.
Folding bikes offer a way to bridge these two options and still leave your car at home. Without the bulk of a regular bike, folding bikes can easily share your seat on the bus or train and be tucked away in your home or office when not in use, but they’re still far faster and more fun than walking that first and last mile of your trip.
We tested folding bikes to see if they really are as practical as they promise to be. This meant riding them up and downhill to test out the gearing and brakes. We also made sure to see how they handled on rough roads where some of the smallest-wheeled models become very unstable. We looked at cargo carrying capacity as well, because replacing a car commute might mean picking up some groceries on the way home.
Once we had established how the test bikes performed as bikes, we also checked how quickly and easily we could stow them, because nobody wants to miss their train while they fiddle with a tricky lever or complicated mechanism.
Here are the best folding bikes you can buy in 2019:
- Best folding bike overall: Tern Vektron
- Best folding bike for flat ground: Vilano Urbana
- Best budget electric folding bike: e-JOE EPIK SE Sport
- Best folding bike for travel: Dahon EEZZ D3
- Best folding bike for long rides: Tern Link D8
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best folding bike overall
Why you’ll love it: The sturdy geometry, fast fold time, and pedal assist make the Tern Vektron a real car replacement for city dwellers, even if they don’t have much storage space.
I have lots of bikes – too many if you ask my wife. I didn’t really think I needed a folding bike, and yet, I’ve found myself at the shops, at the bar, and even at work happily wheeling a folding bike into a locker or corner more often than I ever thought I would in the last month.
The Tern Vektron is the bike that changed how I look at folding bikes. It’s not just the motor, I have tested other electric folding bikes. Nor is it just the intuitive folding mechanism and adjustable fit. It’s the incredible practicality of the bike that makes it a great choice, even if you don’t intend to fold it very often.
The plethora of well thought out design tweaks make the Vektron a stand out bike. The right pedal detaches, making the bike a lot less wide when it needs to be stowed, but Tern goes the extra mile and includes a place to store the detached pedal behind the saddle. The Vektron folds easily, and when folded it can be rolled along on its back wheel like a shopping cart. This feature alone has saved me from missing more than one train.
Of course, the mid drive motor on the Vektron didn’t hurt in that regard, either. By placing the motor at the crank, where the power from the rider also comes from, Tern makes a bike that feels just like a regular bike but faster. There are none of the unexpected torque-wheelies or lurches in speed we associate with cheaper e-bikes here.
The included rack and Tern’s optional “dry goods bag” make this bike a more than capable grocery-getter. I also dramatically reduced my need to carry cargo when I cycled to the office because using the electric motor on the middle setting, I didn’t get sweaty.
The included battery is easy to charge and also powers the built-in lights. About the only problem we had with the Vektron was a connection issue with the front light, but Tern’s customer service was great and this was quickly remedied. Indeed, this process was so easy that I was still able to get the bike to my in-laws who are still raving about the bike, which fits happily in the footwell of their car or the storage compartment of their boats and lets them whiz around Palm Springs.
REI buyers loved the Vektron as well, with one saying his wife had overcome her fear of riding in traffic thanks to the boost in speed the mid drive motor provided. Reviewers at Bike Radar said the Vektron will “quietly conquer any urban challenge” and thought it would be a great choice for urban cyclist with longer commutes or heavy loads to haul.
The Vektron featured more points of adjustment than any non-Tern bike we tested, meaning that everyone I allowed to borrow the bike, including all my naysaying cycling buddies, could dial in a comfortable position that allowed for great handling even with the electric motor boosting the bike to 20 miles per hour.
Tern makes a range of Vektron models, those who think they will be heavy users or who are perhaps upgrading from a cheaper e-bike might want to go up to the s10, which offers a brand name motor and more robust luggage attachments, but I put the Bafang motor on my review bike through a lot of work without issue.
Pros: Great ride feel, solid construction, motor helps, compact
Cons: Some issues with the light, expensive
The best folding bike for flat ground
Why you’ll love it: A simple coaster brake, larger wheels for comfort, and a single gear make the Urbana bike a reliable and simple way of navigating less hilly cities.
Sometimes innovation is great, it makes tasks simpler and products better, but sometimes you just want a simple tool for a simple task. The Urbana is exactly that. With just one gear and a coaster brake, it isn’t as capable uphill or downhill as other bikes on test here. But if you want a bike to get you a few blocks to work or to ride along canal towpaths, it might be just the thing for you.
The 20-inch wheels used by the Urbana offer a more comfortable ride than the smaller wheels on other bikes in this test and are less likely to be knocked off course by uneven road surfaces or potholes. It is also much easier to find 20-inch inner tubes if you get a flat, as this wheel size is used by BMX bikes.
Amazon purchasers seem to love the Urbana, noting that is it easy to assemble and “sturdy and high quality” despite its light weight and affordable price. At just 21.5 pounds, the Urbana is one of the lightest folding bikes in this price range.
Expert testers appreciated the simple design of the bike, which helps prevent damage when folding it and carrying it or checking the folded bike on a plane or train. Experts and Amazon reviewers did note that a little mechanical skill is required to assemble the bike as it seems that many arrive from the factory with bolts that are not properly tightened.
Luckily, the bike is affordable enough to set aside a few dollars to have it checked out at a local bike shop before use.
Pros: Lightweight, simple design, easy to find inner tubes
Cons: Needs skill to assemble, no gears for hills, some parts seem a bit flimsy
The best budget electric folding bike
Why you’ll love it: The e-Joe Epik bike’s rear wheel drive motor takes the sting out of hills and makes riding to work without having to shower on arrival an option.
For longer or hillier commutes, the limited gearing and small wheels of a folding bike can make life difficult. Add in a bag of groceries or your laptop, and you’ll be arriving at work feeling like you’ve just finished a workout. That is, of course, unless you get a little help from an electric motor. If you can’t stretch to the Vektron, the Epik is a good budget choice.
The Epik isn’t a motorcycle, so you’ll need to pedal for the motor to kick in, but there is a thumb throttle for when you need a little extra juice to get over hills or through busy intersections. The motor itself is located in the rear hub, making the bike handle more like a regular bike as power is applied through the same wheel. With that said, the motor can’t use the drivetrain like the mid drive motor on the Tern, so the Epik can struggle up hills.
The battery, which is replaceable, provides enough charge for up to 45 miles of riding, although this range would be decreased if you were riding uphill or using the included rack to haul heavy loads. With five levels of pedal assist, I found myself routinely opting for level three and still overtaking commuters on full-sized bikes.
In use, the Epik is highly practical but not as refined as the Vektron. One Amazon reviewer noted that the seatpost could be extended enough to accommodate his 6-foot-4-inch frame and appreciated the comfort offered by the suspension fork which is a relatively rare upgrade on a folding bike.
We tested it with a rider of five-foot-one-inches tall and another of six-foot-three-inches tall and both were able to find a comfortable position, but riders much shorter or taller might struggle. Other owners love the easy and reliable stopping power provided by the disc brakes.
Expert testers appreciated the longer range compared to other folders and the top speed of nearly 30 miles per hour. We also loved the built-in lights, but wish they were a little brighter and that the controller was backlit.
As the bike weighs 50 pounds, it isn’t a great option for those who will need to carry their bike up flights of stairs or much fun to ride without the motor. But with the motor on the bike feels lively and accelerates up to over 20 miles per hour very quickly. We’d love to see the suspension for on this bike scrapped in favor of a more reliable rigid fork, the suspension didn’t offer much in the way of comfort and felt worrying bouncy and flexy when cornering at speed.
This bike can really shift, but it is worth noting that the small wheels, combined with the fork and upright position are not the most stable, meaning that novice riders should exercise caution before launching into full speed urban commutes.
Pros: High top speed and easy climbing thanks to the electric motor, long range compared to other folding e bikes, 20-inch wheels for a more comfortable ride, reliable braking
Cons: Heavier than a non-electric bike, geometry and for make for some unpredictable handling, not much fun to ride without the motor
The best folding bike for travel
Why you’ll love it: Reliable components, a lightweight frame, and easy folding and unfolding make the Dahon EEZZ D3 ride like a regular bike.
The Dahon EEZZ D3 packs down so small – its packed dimensions are 25.6 feet long, 10.6 feet thick, and 24.4 feet wide – that it will fit in a standard checked bag. Indeed, this is how I tested it on a short work trip to Europe. Knowing that I wouldn’t have time to exercise and that I’d need to move between various work sites and my Airbnb, the bike saved me a lot of stress and money that would have otherwise been poured into rideshares and taxis.
When I had longer trips, it was a breeze to fold the bike and take it with me on the metro or a bus and it was easily stored beneath a desk or in a locker when I was working. Not only did I save money and get some exercise, which helped to offset my prodigious pastry consumption, I found a truly great way to see the city.
But packability is not the only thing that the EEZZ D3 has to offer, despite the relatively affordable price tag of $599 at the time of publishing, the EEZZ D3 includes quality components such as a Shimano rear derailleur, KMC chain, and a comfy stock saddle.
The three-speed drivetrain might not be enough for racing, but is a huge upgrade from the single-speed version of this bike and gives a range that allows for high speed on the flats and an easy enough gear for considerable climbs. One expert reviewer found the bike got up to speed “surprisingly quickly” and could negotiate “Vancouver’s steepest hills.”
The folding mechanism of the EEZZ D3 is easy to activate with an expert reviewer taking less than 15 seconds to set the bike up. I never timed myself, but found the mechanism easy to operate, even when wearing thick gloves on colder commutes. The lightweight design, just 21.5 pounds, made the bike easy to heft up stairs and onto buses.
Unlike the Brompton brand bikes which offer the same gearing, this bike cannot be rolled along when folded, but it makes up for this with its lighter weight and the fact that it costs just over one-third of the price.
The only thing we would like to see changed about the EEZZ D3 is the size range, riders above 6 feet will want to look elsewhere as the saddle height will not accommodate them. It’s also worth noting that the external derailleur is more fragile than the hub gear system favored by other brands and that the derailleur should be treated carefully in transit.
Pros: Small packing size
Cons: Lack of gears and adjustability compared to the Tern
The best folding bike for long rides
Why you’ll love it: Great gearing, geometry, and adjustability make the Tern LINK D8 bike feel like a non-folder, even on serious distance rides.
For many people, a folding bike is a first mile and last mile solution. It allows them to get to a subway station that is a little too far to walk to or perhaps helps them see a city when their cruise ship comes into port. But some riders will get bitten by the bug and want to ride further. If that’s the case, the lightweight and highly adjustable Tern LINK D8 is a great choice.
Just like the Vektron, the LINK D8 features more adjustability than any other bike we tested. In particular, the angle and reach adjustment of the bars was something I loved. I am used to riding racing bikes, with the saddle and handlebars at very different heights. I found a lot of the folding bikes I tested put my hands worryingly high and felt sketchy at speed as a result. This wasn’t the case with either of the Tern bikes, both of them allowed me to drop the bars into a stable and comfortable position.
I would have loved to see clearer seatpost markings to allow me to unfold the bike and set the saddle perfectly without having to guess at my saddle position. Tern selects a wide-ranging and reliable Shimano Claris drivetrain for the LINK D8, with plenty of gear for most climbs you are likely to encounter unless you really seek out the steepest way around town. The wide range of gears this provides means that the LINK D8 is highly capable on rides far longer than the first or last mile of your trip.
Reliable braking and a good choice of grippy tires make the LINK D8 feel safe and planted on the descents, a rarity among folding bikes. Once I was done descending fast, I loved how quickly I could fold and unfold the LINK D8, often in thirty seconds. Fast folding doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is when the train is getting ready to shut the doors and you can’t get on with an unfolded bike. Testers at Momentum Mag enjoyed the fast folding, high ride quality and gearing that let them climb with “relative ease.”
I’d pick the Link D8 if I wanted to travel with a bike that would allow me to really see the places I was visiting. The geometry, gearing, 20-inch wheels make it suitable for real bike riding, not just joining up gaps in mass transit. One REI purchaser rode 55 miles on his.
Pros: Customizable fit, stable handling and geometry
Cons: Heavier than some models
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