- Folding bikes offer riders the chance for recreation and exercise even if they have limited storage space around their home, place of work, or at school.
- This style of bike doe tend to be more expensive than standard frame bicycles but they can also be stored much more securely, thus minimizing loss via theft.
- Some brands offer electric versions of folding bikes capable of cruising at speeds around 20 MPH and that have ranges reaching nearly 50 miles between charges, making them ideal for urban commuting.
- Our top pick, the Tern Node D7i Folding Bike, feels like a standard framed bike, offers a smooth ride, and even has a built-in light that makes it great for night riding.
Over the years, folding bikes have grown from a small niche part of the greater bicycle market into an established, respected category. Though manufacturers have produced this type of bike for well over a century (and even issued in limited numbers to troops during both World Wars), folding bicycles are only now gaining mass-market appeal as more health- and eco-conscious consumers turn to cycling as a better way to commute, run errands, and recreate.
This growth in popularity means that there are more and better folding bike options available than ever before, making them worth more than just a passing consideration.
Connor Swegle, co-founder of Priority Bicycles in Manhattan, NY calls folding bikes “a great solution for so many commuters. They’re great for people who have to get up into the office or who have limited storage space at home. If you don’t have a bike room at work or a garage, a bike you can just carry or tuck away is ideal. As people look to cut down on the amount of other transportation they use, folding bikes are one of the best options.”
How to shop for a folding bike
You have to consider first and foremost what cycling experts refer to as use case. This means considering how, when, and where you plan to use your folding bike.
If your bike is purely for commuting, then an electric folding bike might be the best choice. Do keep in mind that an e-bike (outfit with a burly battery) might be too heavy if you have a third-floor walkup apartment.
Those looking for recreation and exercise may want to consider one of the larger folding bikes that approximates the feel of a standard bicycle. And if you're only concerned about what Swegle calls the last mile solution (i.e. getting from a subway stop to the door, for example) then a smaller, more affordable folder is perfectly fine.
But folding bikes aren't cut out for everyone. If you have plenty of storage space, intend on logging a few century rides, or you're looking to spend less than $500, a folding bike likely isn't for you.
How we test
Each bike featured in this guide went through several rounds of testing to see how well it performed across five different categories: Ease of use, portability, ride quality, build quality, and value. Here's what we looked for specifically across each category.
- Ease of use: Perhaps the chief concern over whether a folding bike is worth the investment or not is how easy it is to actually fold when you're done riding and unfold when you're ready to take it out. Most have their own unique learning curves but the best should take only a matter of a minute or two to unfurl and a similar amount of time to stow.
- Portability: When folded, these bikes should be easy to carry and stow, and shouldn't be as cumbersome as a normal bike. The way in which these bikes fold into themselves is an important consideration into its portability, as is its weight and whether it can slide into a closet, needs dedicated garage space, or can sit in a hallway without forcing you to climb over it each time you walk past.
- Ride quality: With a non-traditional shape comes the likelihood of non-traditional ride quality - but it doesn't have to be that way. The ride experience will undoubtedly be different than a normal commuter bike but the best folding bikes (and those featured in this guide) don't feel so different that it's like learning an entirely new hobby. After all, it should be just like riding a bike.
- Build quality: Folding and unfolding a bike presents a new kind of wear and tear not typically associated with bicycles, so build quality is vital. Each bike's hinges and joints should be able to hold up to literally thousands of folds/unfolds without showing much degradation.
- Value: Most folding bikes do carry with them a more expensive price tag than a standard commuter, though the price is often a reflection of the advanced engineering required to make it a quality bike that also happens to fold into itself. For value, we considered the previous four categories as a sum of their parts, and how that reflects the final sticker price.
To help those in the market for a folding bike, we tested models from brands like Tern, Brompton, and GoCycle to find the best currently available for a variety of use cases.
Here are the best folding bikes:
- Best folding bike overall: Tern Node D7i Folding Bike
- Best folding bike for commuting: The Bike USA Ubike Metropolis Folding Bike
- The best ultra-compact folding bike: Brompton M6L Folding Bike
- The best affordable folding bike: Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike
- The best folding ebike: GoCycle GX folding bike
Updated on 8/18/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on how to shop for a folding bike and included a new part on how we tested each bike, checked the availability of each recommended folding bike, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
The best folding bike overall
The Tern Node D7i Folding bike rides almost like a standard fixed frame bike, easily handling mile after mile of varied terrain.
If you want a folding bike that feels like a regular bike, the Tern Node D71 folder is your best bet. With 24-inch wheels, a seat post that raises to accommodate an adult of above-average height, and adjustable handlebars, you might forget this bike actually folds down to half its size.
For that smooth, steady ride that approximates a standard bike, you'll be paying a good deal of cash given this folding bicycle's nearly $1,100 price tag. But there are myriad features that add value to add up to a fair price.
For instance, a built-in lighting system keeps you safer when riding at night and won't ever require a change of battery thanks to an internal power hub that siphons your kinetic energy to keep the lights on. Seven gears allow you to easily make your way uphill and make cruising along on level ground a breeze.
At 33 pounds, it's also light enough to be easily carried up a few flights of stairs. It does still feature a rugged enough design that makes it suitable for occasional off-roading, too.
On-road, you might find yourself wishing for a few more gears, as any avid cyclist might find themselves easily pedaling along even in seventh gear. Of course, with the benefits of those larger-than-average wheels for a folder so too comes a folding bike that's still a bit clunky when folded down.
But for the person who wants both convenience and a solid, reliable bike, the Node D7i is a great choice.
Pros: Stable ride on varied terrain, built-in lighting system, suitable for adult riders of all sizes
Cons: Expensive, large for the category
The best folding bike for commuting
The Bike USA Ubike Metropolis Folding Bike is easy enough for riders of any experience level to enjoy and stable and responsive enough for urban cycling.
If you need a bike that's reliable and nimble enough to get you across town, then the Ubike Metropolis is for you. While not the right choice for a cross-country tour, given its moderately-sized 22-inch wheels and its three-gear hub, this bike is perfect for the daily grind.
Those 22-inch wheels might not be great for open road cycling but they do allow for deft turns and plenty of control - they take up less space when the bike is folded, too. Though three gears isn't many, it's all you need for the city. Just use first gear when going uphill, second for most of the commute, and third on those rare open breakaways when you need some speed.
Twin hand brakes allow for quick stops while the durable frame and smooth, responsive gear system provide safe and comfortable riding on a variety of road surfaces.
Rider weight is limited to 250 pounds, and watch out for occasional issues with loose pedals. Overall, this is a fine choice for the urban commuter who wants to travel to and fro under his or her own steam.
Pros: Ships 90% assembled and requires minimal maintenance, easy to adjust seat and handlebars, durable alloy frame
Cons: Maximum rider weight of 250 lbs, pedals not durable enough
The best ultra-compact folding bike
You could ride your Brompton M6L Folding Bike for mile after mile and then fold it up and stick it anywhere from a car trunk, a closet shelf, or a mid-sized suitcase.
The Brompton M6L is one seriously compact folding bike. So compact, in fact, that you're able to fit it in a suitcase and check it onto a plane (no special bag required). Maybe you want to tuck it into the trunk of a Mazda Miata or carry one under each arm while your partner handles the grocery bags. At 26 pounds, and with wheels just 16 inches in diameter, this is the most compact folder we've seen.
With that small size comes this guide's largest price tag (for a non-electric bike, at least) and to be honest, this bike is a bit frustrating initially.
The process of unfolding the M6L for use and for folding it down after a ride is a multi-step process that can be confusing and annoying the first few times you do it. But once you master its hinge and locking mechanism, you'll be able to get it set up or packed down in less than a minute.
The M6L features six gears, twin hand brakes, and smooth pedaling action. Riding feels safe and natural despite its small tires, which allow for plenty of agility and are able to handle most urban and suburban terrain with ease.
Pros: Packs down very small, responsive ride, weighs just 26 pounds
Cons: Expensive, folding mechanisms take a while to master
The best affordable folding bike
If you want to cover a few city blocks a few minutes faster, then the Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike is a great choice at a great price.
When you are paying well under $300 for a bike, you can't expect it to do very much. Which is why you'll be pleasantly surprised by the fact Vilano's Urbana folding bike works fairly well within the context of those expectations. This bike isn't all that fast, it's far from rugged, and after a 15-mile ride, you'd probably be sore and ornery. But none of those define the purpose of this folding bike.
The Urbana is a perfect example of what Connor Swegle meant by a last-mile solution. This bike weighs just 21.5 pounds and folds down into dimensions of one by two by three feet, making it extremely easy to carry. This lets you finish your journey with ease and at speeds many times greater than you're able to walk.
As a single speed bike, the Urbana might not be great for a hilly city like San Francisco, but it's easy to ride and a good deal of fun given how light and responsive it is. And while rider weight is limited to 200 pounds, the bike's seat and handlebars can be raised or lowered to accommodate users of varying heights.
If you're watching your budget, concerned about storage space, and looking to make your short commute more efficient and enjoyable, you're looking in the right place with this one.
Pros: Great low price point, very lightweight and compact, easy to ride
Cons: Maximum rider weight of 200 lbs, single-speed not ideal for hills
The best electric folding bike
The Gocycle GX folding ebike zips along at 20 miles per hour and covers up to 40 miles on a single charge, so it might replace a car just as easily as it replaces a subway or bus commute.
Folded up, Gocycle's electric folding bike occupies roughly the same amount of square feet as a desk chair. Unfolded and underway, it cruises along with a top speed of about 20 mph and has a range around 40 miles - or even more if you opt for the battery upgrade. You can also track your battery life (AKA range) and speed on the LED display set between the ergonomic handlebars of this capable e-bike.
For all the complexity you might expect from an electric folding bike that's fast and features a long range, it's the simplicity that sets Gocycle's GX apart.
Take, for example, the fact all wiring and tubes are completely internal, without anything sticking off the hand brakes or snaking around the frame. Then there's the simple three-speed mechanical shifter for when you're pedaling yourself. And finally, not only are height adjustments quick and easy, but the bike folds down in less than 30 seconds.
There is one drawback, however, and you surely saw it coming: Its price. This ebike costs $3,299, or more than a perfectly decent used car. But you can't fold up a car and bring it on the elevator or tuck it in a closet.
Pros: Fast and long-range, quick and easy folding, daytime running lights for safety, easy and comfortable ride
Cons: Very expensive
Other folding bikes we considered
While the folding bikes above are some of the best out there to be sure, depending on your budget, your interests, or your aesthetic preferences, there are other units to consider, and these are a few more bikes that almost made the cut.
The Vektron D7i is a great ebike with almost the same range and speed as the Gocycle GX, and it costs a good deal less. And while that was almost enough to earn it the ebike slot on our list, the exposed tubing, chain, gears, and other components were what kept it as our also considered. In terms of design, this bike comes up just a bit short, though for performance and price, it's well worth you considering it, too.
SwinX Children's Folding Bike
For a kids folding bike, the SwinX's model is a fine choice because it can be used by most kids anywhere from preschool to age 10 and can be fitted with training wheels.
And if you want a folding bike that comes equipped to carry a bit of cargo, consider the Oyama CX8 Folding bike, which comes with a rear rack perfect for a backpack, briefcase, or well-secured bag of groceries.