Folding bikes occupy a curious niche in the bicycle world—traditionally favored by boaters and small aircraft owners, but increasingly taken up by urban apartment dwellers and commuters. They can be stowed in car trunks, are allowed on most forms of public transportation, and even get around the bike bans that many downtown buildings apply to their elevators.
These loophole-exploiting bikes tend to have small wheels, extra-long setaposts, and precious little in common with traditional bike designs. They come in odd, ungainly, even insect-like forms. Over the course of the week we enlisted five different staffers to chip in riding and offering opinions, and we may have even converted a commuter or two.
We tested five bikes with 16-, 20-, 22- and 24-inch wheels, respectively—plus one with full-sized 700c road-bike wheels. Collectively, we logged more than a hundred miles on these bikes in a week that started off with rainy weather. We got lost in Queens, we got a flat tire, we blasted through gaping potholes, we experienced successes and failures carrying the bikes through the subway system, and we even brought the Brompton to a bar.
After a week of road testing, the results are in. We ranked each one on a custom “foldability” scale—essentially an ad-hoc tally of how easy and intuitive each bike was to collapse, how small it got, and how much we liked it. See below for the tale of the tape, and click through for full reviews, stats and photo galleries of each individual bike.
While some of these bike skew towards the more expensive end, quality folding options start around $600, with models like the Dahon Mariner or the Tern Link D8. Bromptons (our favorites) however, don't dip below $1,000.
*Special thanks to NYCeWheels, which carries the most comprehensive collection of folding bikes on the East Coast, for generously lending us a fleet of folders for the week.