Much like traditional bikes, finding the best folding bike is a matter of finding the best folding bike for you and depending upon what features are most important for your lifestyle. Folding bikes are efficient, convenient, and uber-portable, allowing the folding bike owner to go where other bike riders may not. Those who are considering bike commuting for the first time, may want to consider a folding bike. Folding bikes can easily be taken on public transportation, stored under your desk at work, and carried up stairs.
Features to look for in a folding bike are weight, compactness, ease and speed of the fold, and components. In general folding bikes use either 16″ or 20″ wheels, though there are some with 24″ or 700c wheels. The 20″ wheels are a more standard size and ride more like a traditional bike, while the 16″ wheels provide more compactness. What may have started off as a novelty has now grown into a full-fledged segment of the bicycle market, with more and more manufacturers popping up and traditional bike makers producing their own version of a folding bike.
After surveying reviews from sources such as NYCeWheels, BikeForums.net, Commute By Bike, Bicycle Quarterly, Folding Bikes Blog, and Bike Radar, we’ve come up a list of the top rated folding bikes available for 2011:
Dahon Mu P8 Folding Bike ($700)
- Lightweight aluminum frame; upgraded components
- Versatile for commuting or weekend rides
- 20″ wheels, 8 speeds, rides fast and efficient
- Simple folding in 15 seconds
- Not the smallest folding bike
- Some may prefer the rigidity of a steel frame for commuting
Top Review Sources:
- NYCeWheels: “Great Value”
- Folding Bikes Blog: “A nimble, attractive and exceptionally fun ride with superb acceleration.”
Dahon is a maker of some of the lightest and most efficient folding bikes as well as the best selling. The Dahon Mu P8 has been a popular choice for commuters over the years and the 2011 model features some nice upgrades including faster Schwalbe tires, stronger rims, and a front luggage truss that allows for simple placement of a bag or basket.
The handlebar can be raised for an upright ride or lowered for a more aggressive feel. Located inside the seat post is a tire pump. Weighing in at 24.7 pounds, the bike can be folded quickly (some even claim with one hand) and carried up stairs or onto public transportation. Folded size is 11.7″ x 30.8″ x 25.7″.
The Dahon Mu P8 folding bike is available on Amazon.
Brompton M3L Folding Bike ($1,270)
- Most compact folding bike
- Award winning European design with innovative luggage system
- Internal hub for low maintenance
- Front and rear fenders
- Many don’t like the dual pivot brakes
- 3 gears could be limiting for some
Top Review Sources:
- NYCeWheels: “Folds with great ease and forms a small package.”
- Folding Bikes Blog: “Well-built, all-purpose bike”
- Commute By Bike: “Ingenious and elegant; rides well”
When one thinks of folding bikes, the name Brompton immediately comes to mind. Brompton bikes are handcrafted in England and are best for those looking for compact storage, portability, and quick folding all while maintaining an aesthetic design. The M3L is Brompton’s most popular model, though what’s great about the company is that no bike is standard. You can custom build your bike with options such as gearing (up to 6), frame, and color.
Brompton bike frames are steel which makes for a stable commute. The M3L weighs 24 pounds. If you’re looking for the lightest folding bike, Brompton offers a titanium frame which shaves about 3-4 pounds off the bike, but does add quite a bit to the price tag. Brompton also offers a wide array of accessories to increase the efficiency and functionality of a Brompton, including Eazy Wheels which can turn your Brompton into a shopping cart. Bromptons can carry up to 242 pounds.
Pacific Cycles IF Reach Folding Bike ($1,550)
- Speedy integrated folding design
- Rolls while folded
- Front and rear suspension
- 9 speed drivetrain, 20″ wheels
- Relatively heavy (26 lbs.)
Top Review Sources:
- Bicycle Quarterly: “A penchant for both pavement and dirt riding.”
- NYCeWheels: “Pacific bikes are practical and stylish.”
Pacific Cycles is an innovator in folding bike design. Their recent IF Mode folding bike has turned heads and won awards, though it won’t win any awards for affordability. The IF Reach model comes down a bit in price and is best for those who desire the look and feel of a more traditional bike with the convenience of a quick folding design.
What sets the Pacific folding bike apart is the dual suspension that translates well from the road to the trail or would be great for those with a rough commute, though this does add to the weight. These bikes are meant to be wheeled away, not carried, so they work well for public transit, but may not be the best for apartment dwellers or if you need to carry your bike up stairs.
The Pacific IF Reach folding bike is available on Amazon.
Xootr Swift Folding Bike ($749)
- Lightweight (22 lbs.), aluminum frame
- Rides like a traditional bike, 8 speeds, 20″ inch wheels
- Folds in 5-10 seconds
- Rugged, built for NYC streets
- Pedals and saddle may need to be upgraded
- Not the most compact when folded
Top Review Sources:
- Commute By Bike: “awesome for commuting, training, fun rides, errands, and it’s folding capabilities makes this bike worth the money”
- Bicycle Times: “Excels in rideability”
Born in Brooklyn, the Swift folding bike saw a cult following by NYC commuters for many years before Xootr, maker of kick scooters, began manufacturing the Xootr Swift folding bike. Designed primarily for performance on the road, the Xootr Swift rides like a hybrid bike. Though you won’t get the compactness of a Brompton, it is lightweight for hand carry.
The Swift offers flexibility in components. You can make it a fixie, add an internal hub, change out the tires, get different handlebars, etc. You can also add fenders and pannier racks with ample cargo space behind the seat post. Xootr offers different size frames, which is unusual for folding bikes. Also comes in silver.
The Xootr Swift Folding Bike can be ordered through the Xootr website.
Bike Friday Tikit ‘Model T’ Folding Bike ($1,275)
Top Review Sources
- Bike Radar: “Quick and easy fold, and a good ride quality”
- NYCeWheels: “A joy to ride, fold, and own”
Bike Friday is a specialty manufacturer of folding bikes based in Oregon who are fast becoming America’s version of the Brompton. With a loyal customer base, Bike Friday owners say that these folding bikes handle better than Bromptons, have a better braking system (V brakes), and fold faster. Though Brompton has them beat on compactness.
The ‘Model T’ version of the Tikit is Bike Friday’s most affordable folding bike. They offer custom made bikes in a variety of styles including touring, road and commuting. You can also upgrade to an internal Nexus hub. Like Bromptons, the Bike Friday comes in a variety of colors.
The Bike Friday folding bike can be ordered directly from their website.
Dahon Eco C6 Folding Bike ($380)
- Best folding bike under $500
- 20″ wheels- for a traditional bike feel
- 6 speeds for hill climbs
- Fenders included
- On the heavy side (27 lbs.)
Top Review Sources:
- NYCeWheels: “An economical solution for casual weekend rides or basic transportation around town”
- Amazon: 4.7 out of 5 stars, based on 3 customer reviews
Even those on a budget can benefit from the convenience of a folding bike with the Dahon Eco C6. Most folding bikes under $500 are too heavy, which can defeat the purpose. The Eco C6 is the lightest budget folding bike currently available. Best for those looking for a fun ride to get around town or run errands without spending too much. A rear rack can be added for cargo storage. The 2011 model comes in red.
The Dahon Eco C6 is available on Amazon.