Are Bromptons the best folding bikes? We review the best folding bikes
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Best folding bikes at a glance:
- Brompton A Line, Best for: Short range commuting and storage, buy here
- Carrera Intercity, Best for: value, buy here
- Bickerton Argent 1909 Country, Best for: comfort and style, buy here
- Dahon Mariner D8, Best for: good specs on a budget, buy here
- Tern BYB P8, Best for: taller riders, buy here
- GoCycle G4, Best for: design and power-assisted speed, buy here
By their nature, folding bikes have smaller wheels than full-sized bicycles so they’re better suited to riding shorter distances of between three and five miles.
There’s very little chance of a folding bike ever being stolen because you can simply store the bike inside your house, or office (one day). Most shops and other public places will also allow you to take a folded bike inside with you, and they are easy to take on and off public transport.
How to choose a folding bicycle
Unlike standard bicycles that come in different frame sizes, the majority of folding bikes are ‘one size fits all’. Nevertheless, all models allow for seat post height adjustment and saddle reach while some also provide adjustable handlebar stems.
When choosing a folding bike, first consider the size of its wheels as this generally determines its comfortable cruising speed and hence the time it takes to get from A to B. In a nutshell, the bigger the wheels, the faster and further you’ll go.
Folding bikes: wheel size matters
A bike with 16-inch wheels will fold into the smallest of packages but you will likely be overtaken but every other cyclist. In that respect, most manufacturers opt for 20-inch wheels which allow the rider to travel a little bit faster without too much effort.
Another important consideration is price. As with most products, the ‘you get what you pay for’ maxim holds true.
If you can stretch your budget to around £350, then go for a decent folder like the Carrera (reviewed below). But if you want a bike that will provide better reliability in the long term, consider spending upwards of £700.
Electric folding bikes
If you live in a hilly area consider a folding electric bicycle. Electrically assisted bikes have revolutionised the bicycle industry and we can’t stress enough how effortless they make the act of cycling, especially up hills. E-bikes don’t require a license but their motor’s, by law, are only allowed to provide assistance when the pedals are in motion. Hence, you can’t simply hold a button in and expect to be propelled along on battery power alone.
The only major caveat with electric folding bikes is the weight – they are usually several kilograms heavier than standard folders. This is something you will most definitely notice when carrying the bike up stairs or when the battery runs out of juice and you’re left to rely on muscle power alone.
Electric bikes in the UK are restricted to a maximum speed of 15.5mph whereas in America it’s a more reasonable 20mph. Battery power can range from 20 miles to over 40 miles per charge.
Brompton A Line
Key specs – Wheel size: 16 inches; Weight: 11.5kgs; Gears: 3; Brakes: Caliper; Electric assist: Optional
If you’re not familiar with the brand, the steel-framed one-size-fits-all Brompton is arguably the finest folding bike ever invented.
This reliable and rugged workhorse quickly concertinas into the tidiest of packages, making it perfect for railway commuting and storage. You can even wheel it along in folded mode which is very handy for traversing railway platforms.
The Brompton A Line may run on small 16-inch wheels, but its long wheelbase keeps it remarkably stable at speed. This particular model comes with three gears but there are several other models available (even an electric model) with different gear ratios to suit your local terrain.
Although this bike collapses into the tidiest package of any folding bike on the market, it takes a few attempts to get to grips with the folding technique. However, once mastered, it can be folded and unfolded in under 15 seconds.
Brompton provides a range of accessories for its bikes, including a brilliant front-mounted case with integral handle that clips onto a black plastic block above the front wheel. The case itself is easily big enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop and a bunch of other travel accoutrements.
If your commute is under five miles, then this is the model for you. Available in a wide variety of colours, the Brompton A Line is light enough to carry, insanely practical for getting from A to B, and far and away the easiest of all bikes to store away.
Key specs – Wheel size: 20 inches; Weight: 13.6kgs; Gears: 8; Brakes: Caliper; Electric assist: No
The aluminium Intercity isn’t the lightest model in the bike shed but it’s easy enough to carry up a short flight of stairs and it can be wheeled along when folded, albeit a little awkwardly.
As to be expected at this price level, some of the components are on the cheap side, most notably the 20-inch wheels which can go out of true and rub against the brake pads – a common anomaly with inexpensive bicycles.
On the plus side, it’s easily adjusted to suit a wide range of rider heights (simply raise or lower the seat post and handlebar stem and you’re good to go).
The Intercity handles remarkably well, and comes equipped with an 8-speed derailleur and disc brakes front and rear, a luggage rack, a side stand and mudguards as standard.
If the thought of splashing out over £800 on a folding bike makes you flinch, consider adding this commendable budget-priced offering to the shopping list.
Bickerton Argent 1909 Country
Key specs – Wheel size: 20 inches; Weight: 12.96kgs; Gears: 9; Brakes: Caliper; Electric assist: No
Bickerton’s classically styled Argent 1909 Country is a brilliant all-rounder and arguably the most comfortable bike in this guide.
Top design details are evident everywhere, from the polished rectangular aluminium frame to the adjustable and supremely comfortable cruiser-style handlebar.
The top-notch leather Brooks saddle tops off a really high quality package that will turn many heads.
The Bickerton is easy to fold – it utilises the split top tube method where the front wheel folds round to attach to the rear wheel via a magnetic holder.
A thick rubber strap holds the collapsed handle bar in place when carrying but you can also wheel it around, albeit a little cumbersomely.
Granted, the Argent 1909 Country doesn’t fold into as compact a package as the Brompton but its larger 20-inch wheels and 9-speed gearing make it easier to ride up hills and at higher speeds for longer distances.
If you want to ride is style and at an affordable price, this is the bike to be seen on.
Dahon Mariner D8
Key specs – Wheel size: 20 inches; Weight: 12.34kgs; Gears: 8; Brakes: Calipers; Electric assist: No
This no-frills option from American brand Dahon provides a very decent level of specification for the price.
It’s shod with lightweight 20-inch wheels for maximum comfort, stability and efficiency and it collapses down impressively well using the classic mid-fold technique.
The difference with this model is that, when folded, the handlebar stem sits between the two wheels. This is a good thing because it prevents the handlebar from snagging on people’s clothing when travelling on a train or bus.
Cast from stiff Dalloy aluminum, the Mariner D8 comes well equipped with an 8-speed drive chain for a variety of terrain, V-style brakes for effective stopping power, a rear rack for your commuting essentials and mud guards to keep your face and posterior free from muddy spray.
If you’re looking for a very competent and relatively light folding bicycle to use for short commutes to and from work or simply something for a weekend away in a plane, train or automobile, give this sterling model some serious consideration.
Tern BYB P8
Key specs – Wheel size: 20 inches; Weight: 12.7kgs; Gears: 8; Brakes: Caliper; Electric assist: No
This model has one of the most ingenious folding mechanisms on the market though it does take a couple of minutes to perform the process.
Once folded, the bike can be stored upright and pushed along using the handlebars and a combination of its main wheels and two pairs of tiny swivelling castor wheels on the rear mudguard.
For a 20-inch wheel folding bike, it’s certainly one of the smallest and neatest packages this rider’s ever encountered.
Other top design flourishes include a really low-slung double-split top tube for easy mounting and dismounting, an excellent telescopic seat post with a height range wide enough to accommodate any size of rider (from 4’10” to 6’5”) and a fantastically slick gear shift lever that flicks through its eight gears with smooth precision.
True, the BYB’s otherwise excellent folding mechanism is a bit convoluted, but this bike is exceedingly well built and relatively light, too. The 20-inch wheels, meanwhile, make it an effortlessly speedy entry into the commuter arena.
Key specs – Wheel size: 20 inches; Weight: 17.6kgs; Gears: 3; Brakes: Disc; Electric assist: Yes
Created by former Formula One McLaren car designer Richard Thorpe, the new GoCycle G4 is the most advanced folding electric bike on the market and, in many respects, the best designed.
The G4 is one of the easiest bikes of any to fold. Simply put it on its stand, unhinge the frame and fold the front wheel round to meet the rear one. Then fold down the handle bar and attach it to the main frame using the supplied rubber strap.
The G4 can now be wheeled about holding the saddle or stored steadily on its stand while in transit. It’s also light enough to easily carry up a flight of stairs.
Unlike the majority of folding e-bikes which use a handlebar-mounted computer, the G4 works in conjunction with GoCycle’s free GocycleConnect app (Android and iOS); simply strap your phone to the handlebar and select your favourite power band. As soon as you start pedalling, the motor cuts in to propel you to a speed of up to 20mph. Depending on how much effort you put in, a full charge will keep the wheels rolling for up to 40 miles.
Constructed out of ‘hydroformed’ 6061 T6 alloy and fitted with chunky 20-inch wheels, the G4 is a bastion of bicycle design. There isn’t a cable to be seen anywhere and even the internally mounted (and removable) Lithium Ion battery is tucked away out of sight.
If you can afford the high price and hanker after a premium electric folding bicycle that truly turns heads and is a joy to ride, then step right this way.