10 best folding bikes
There's no need to put the brakes on your commute with a foldable cycle
Folding bikes can be a fabulous way to get around – especially if your travels involve other modes of transport, such as buses and trains. They are also ideal if you want a bike you can shove in the back of a car to take away on day trips, or if you have limited space at home and need something that won’t get in the way in a hall or shared space.
The downside to that extra practicality usually comes in the form of a weight penalty – clever folding systems do tend to add bulk, while frames are often beefed up to cope with the extra stresses and strains placed on them.
When choosing your ideal folder, consider what’s most important to you – are you looking for a bike you’ll need to lug around at either end of your journey, or are you happy to trade weight for a cheaper model you’ll only need to lift from time to time? Whatever you choose, stick to makes you can trust – there are some appalling, and sometimes dangerous bikes lurking on the internet awaiting unsuspecting buyers, so don’t get caught out.
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Brompton S6L: From £1,135, Evans Cycles
This British brand set the benchmark for folders. They have been turning them out in London since 1975 and the basic design was so good it’s hardly changed. If you need a bike you can slot into the luggage space on a bus, tram or train, this is the one for you. The long seatpost and a little rubber suspension block built into the rear assembly make for a comfy ride, while the 16-inch wheels allow for good acceleration. The smaller wheel size also means they are super-strong – important on our less than perfect roads. Brompton offer an almost limitless range of options, including gearing and handlebar shape, so you can tailor your perfect machine. The basic models weigh in around the 11.7 kg mark, depending on your chosen specification.
Hummingbird: £3,495, Hummingbird
After riding this – the lightest production folding bike in the world – we flicked through the classifieds to see what you could buy for the same money. A nine-year-old Toyota Aygo was the pick of the bunch, but give us the Hummingbird any day. At just under 7 kg for the single-speed version, it’s the weight of a racing bike and a real blast to ride. The carbon fibre frame and aluminium swingarm have a simple elegance, while the folding mechanism has been really well thought out. With practice, you can have it stowed in seconds. It’s built alongside race and rally cars in the Prodrive factory in Oxfordshire, and for a couple of hundred quid they will even paint it to match the colour of your yacht or helicopter.
Raleigh Evo-2: £250, Halfords
At 16 kg, this bike’s a little porky to be regularly lugged up stairs or on to trains and buses. But it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a budget bike you can sling into a car boot to use on days out every now and again. It folds around a simple hinge in the middle of the alloy frame. You get a seven-speed transmission operated by a twist-grip, and there’s a handy rear rack plus a folding pedal to make it easier to stow. The 20-inch wheels make the handling a bit more predictable than smaller-shod rivals, although they do take a fraction more effort to get up to speed. Fitted mudguards make it good for all weathers, too.
Carrera Intercity: £350, Halfords
Spend an extra £100 on the price of the Raleigh and you’ll get a machine that’s a welcome 4kg lighter. The Carrera’s folding isn’t as clever as a Brompton or Hummingbird as it’s another mid-hinged design, but it’s still quite easy to pack down. The eight-speed Shimano Altus gearing with its twist-grip shifter is tough and reliable, and there’s a good equipment list including a kick-stand, mudguards and a rear luggage rack. It’s another 20-inch wheeler, so although it won’t fold down as small as a Brompton, it should handle well over more uneven roads.
Apollo Contour: £225, Halfords
Step-through designs like this are great for riders with more limited mobility, as you don’t have to lift your leg quite so high to get on. There’s a trade-off with this type of frame though, as it’s a wee bit more awkward to carry when folded. Again, it’s a simple hinged folder with seven-speed Shimano gearing and a twist-grip shifter. With its alloy frame and 20-inch wheels, it weighs in at around 13kg and comes fitted with a kick-stand, mudguards and rack. There’s a lifetime warranty on the frame and forks, and Halfords will give you unlimited safety checks should you ever have any worries about your new steed.
Tern Link A7: £475, Evans Cycles
This smart-looking bike can cope with riders from just 4 foot 8 inches tall through to 6 foot 3 inch “giants”, thanks to the telescoping steering tube. There’s a good range of gears from the seven-speed transmission too, allowing you to tackle everything from flat city streets to fairly steep country climbs. At just over 12 kg, it’s light enough to lift on and off trains, and it will take mudguards to keep the grime at bay on damp days. It’s been built to support a luggage rack at the back and Tern will even sell you a huge basket to fit on to it if you need to carry large amounts of shopping around. There’s a 10 year warranty on the frame.
Birdy City: £2,159, Damian Harris Cycles
German firm Riese & Muller have crammed loads of features into a very small package with this one. It’s not cheap, but you get powerful disc brakes and front and rear suspension. It even holds the world record for folding – just 4.9 seconds. We value our fingertips too much to try to put that one to the test, though. Even this basic model boasts an 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear, lights, a kick-stand and plastic mudguards.
The front end looks a little quirky thanks to the innovative suspension design, but it does a great job of ironing out the bumps and ridges in the road. As the bike folds around the suspension points, it means the frame is super-strong. The whole thing weighs in just under 13 kg, pretty impressive given the extra features. One to consider if you want to strike up conversations with curious fellow riders every time you stop at traffic lights.
Dahon Curve i3 16w: £540.83, Tredz
Internal hub gears and a huge plastic chainguard should stop your trousers getting trapped in the drivetrain on this cute looking machine. It folds in the middle, so won’t collapse down as neatly as a Brompton, but the small 16-inch wheels mean it’s still a neat little package, even with the fitted mudguards and rack. Having just three gears means it’s best suited to riding on the flat rather than struggling up steep hills, but the tiny wheels are strong and get up to speed nice and quickly. Stopping comes courtesy of a pair of powerful V-brakes.
Brompton Electric: £2,594.99, Rutland Cycling
If the thought of too much pedalling has you in a cold sweat, take a look at this – an electric Brompton. It’s got a 250-watt motor built into the front wheel, which Brompton claims will help whisk you along for up to 50 miles. The motor kicks in as you pedal, although under UK law the assistance stops when you hit 15.5 mph. With a motor at the front and the pedals turning the rear wheel, you’ve effectively got an all-wheel-drive bike. The battery slots in and out of a carrier at the front so you can easily take it into the house to charge up. It’s got a set of built-in lights too, but the downside of all that extra kit is the weight – a hefty 16.8 kg, which means it’s probably a bit too hefty for hauling up station staircases at either end of your commute. It is great fun to ride though.
Giant Halfway: £599, Tredz
Giant are the biggest bike manufacturers in the world, so it’s only natural they should offer a folding model in their range. This clever design was penned years ago by legendary British bike designer Mike Burrows – the brains behind Chris Boardman’s 1992 Olympic gold-winning track bike. Unlike on most bikes, the forks and frame only support the wheels on one side, meaning you can fix punctures or change tyres without removing them.
Don’t worry – the wheels won’t drop off while you’re riding. This clever touch also means the bike folds down nice and slim – a great feature if you need to store it somewhere narrow. Overall, the seven-speed Halfway looks functional rather than fancy, but should give you years of hassle-free service.
The verdict: Folding bikes
We were delighted with the Hummingbird and really enjoyed our time together, but at more than £3,000 for the most basic model, it really is a luxury purchase. Our Best Buy, the Brompton, will hold its value well if you look after it and folds down small enough to take on trains and the tube without too much hassle. If you want a bargain bike and don’t mind the extra weight, take a look at the £350 Carerra from Halfords.
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