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- Folding bikes are a versatile and practical way of moving around cities and linking up gaps in mass transit.
- Their small size can hide their massive versatility, especially with the boost provided by the electric motor in the Tern Vektron, which is our top pick.
With cities becoming more crowded, gas prices remaining high and congestion not getting any better, driving to work seems to get less enjoyable and more expensive every year. Public transit works well if you happen to live and work close to hubs, but otherwise, it can lead to a frustratingly circuitous commute.
Cycling to work is becoming an increasingly popular way to get some exercise and save time and money on your commute. For some, riding from door to door is feasible, but many of us live too far away from work to make this possible.
Folding bikes offer a way to bridge these two options and still leave your car at home. Without the bulk of a regular bike, folding bikes can easily share your seat on the bus or train and be tucked away in your home or office when not in use, but they’re still far faster and more fun than walking that first and last mile of your trip.
We tested folding bikes to see if they really are as practical as they promise to be. This meant riding them up and downhill to test out the gearing and brakes. We also made sure to see how they handled on rough roads where some of the smallest-wheeled models become very unstable. We looked at cargo carrying capacity as well, because replacing a car commute might mean picking up some groceries on the way home.
Once we had established how the test bikes performed as bikes, we also checked how quickly and easily we could stow them, because nobody wants to miss their train while they fiddle with a tricky lever or complicated mechanism.
Here are the best folding bikes you can buy in 2019:
- Best folding bike overall: Tern Vektron
- Best folding bike for flat ground: Vilano Urbana
- Best budget electric folding bike: e-JOE EPIK SE Sport
- Best folding bike for travel: Dahon EEZZ D3
- Best folding bike for long rides: Tern Link D8
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best folding bike overall
Why you’ll love it: The sturdy geometry, fast fold time, and pedal assist make the Tern Vektron a real car replacement for city dwellers, even if they don’t have much storage space.
I have lots of bikes — too many if you ask my wife. I didn’t really think I needed a folding bike, and yet, I’ve found myself at the shops, at the bar, and even at work happily wheeling a folding bike into a locker or corner more often than I ever thought I would in the last month.
The Tern Vektron is the bike that changed how I look at folding bikes. It’s not just the motor, I have tested other electric folding bikes. Nor is it just the intuitive folding mechanism and adjustable fit. It’s the incredible practicality of the bike that makes it a great choice, even if you don’t intend to fold it very often.
The plethora of well thought out design tweaks make the Vektron a stand out bike. The right pedal detaches, making the bike a lot less wide when it needs to be stowed, but Tern goes the extra mile and includes a place to store the detached pedal behind the saddle. The Vektron folds easily, and when folded it can be rolled along on its back wheel like a shopping cart. This feature alone has saved me from missing more than one train.
Of course, the mid drive motor on the Vektron didn’t hurt in that regard, either. By placing the motor at the crank, where the power from the rider also comes from, Tern makes a bike that feels just like a regular bike but faster. There are none of the unexpected torque-wheelies or lurches in speed we associate with cheaper e-bikes here.
The included rack and Tern’s optional “dry goods bag” make this bike a more than capable grocery-getter. I also dramatically reduced my need to carry cargo when I cycled to the office because using the electric motor on the middle setting, I didn’t get sweaty.
The included battery is easy to charge and also powers the built-in lights. About the only problem we had with the Vektron was a connection issue with the front light, but Tern’s customer service was great and this was quickly remedied. Indeed, this process was so easy that I was still able to get the bike to my in-laws who are still raving about the bike, which fits happily in the footwell of their car or the storage compartment of their boats and lets them whiz around Palm Springs.
REI buyers loved the Vektron as well, with one saying his wife had overcome her fear of riding in traffic thanks to the boost in speed the mid drive motor provided. Reviewers at Bike Radar said the Vektron will “quietly conquer any urban challenge” and thought it would be a great choice for urban cyclist with longer commutes or heavy loads to haul.
The Vektron featured more points of adjustment than any non-Tern bike we tested, meaning that everyone I allowed to borrow the bike, including all my naysaying cycling buddies, could dial in a comfortable position that allowed for great handling even with the electric motor boosting the bike to 20 miles per hour.
Tern makes a range of Vektron models, those who think they will be heavy users or who are perhaps upgrading from a cheaper e-bike might want to go up to the s10, which offers a brand name motor and more robust luggage attachments, but I put the Bafang motor on my review bike through a lot of work without issue.
Pros: Great ride feel, solid construction, motor helps, compact
Cons: Some issues with the light, expensive
The best folding bike for flat ground
Why you’ll love it: A simple coaster brake, larger wheels for comfort, and a single gear make the Urbana bike a reliable and simple way of navigating less hilly cities.
Sometimes innovation is great, it makes tasks simpler and products better, but sometimes you just want a simple tool for a simple task. The Urbana is exactly that. With just one gear and a coaster brake, it isn’t as capable uphill or downhill as other bikes on test here. But if you want a bike to get you a few blocks to work or to ride along canal towpaths, it might be just the thing for you.
The 20-inch wheels used by the Urbana offer a more comfortable ride than the smaller wheels on other bikes in this test and are less likely to be knocked off course by uneven road surfaces or potholes. It is also much easier to find 20-inch inner tubes if you get a flat, as this wheel size is used by BMX bikes.
Amazon purchasers seem to love the Urbana, noting that is it easy to assemble and “sturdy and high quality” despite its light weight and affordable price. At just 21.5 pounds, the Urbana is one of the lightest folding bikes in this price range.
Expert testers appreciated the simple design of the bike, which helps prevent damage when folding it and carrying it or checking the folded bike on a plane or train. Experts and Amazon reviewers did note that a little mechanical skill is required to assemble the bike as it seems that many arrive from the factory with bolts that are not properly tightened.
Luckily, the bike is affordable enough to set aside a few dollars to have it checked out at a local bike shop before use.
Pros: Lightweight, simple design, easy to find inner tubes
Cons: Needs skill to assemble, no gears for hills, some parts seem a bit flimsy
The best budget electric folding bike
Why you’ll love it: The e-Joe Epik bike’s rear wheel drive motor takes the sting out of hills and makes riding to work without having to shower on arrival an option.
For longer or hillier commutes, the limited gearing and small wheels of a folding bike can make life difficult. Add in a bag of groceries or your laptop, and you’ll be arriving at work feeling like you’ve just finished a workout. That is, of course, unless you get a little help from an electric motor. If you can’t stretch to the Vektron, the Epik is a good budget choice.
The Epik isn’t a motorcycle, so you’ll need to pedal for the motor to kick in, but there is a thumb throttle for when you need a little extra juice to get over hills or through busy intersections. The motor itself is located in the rear hub, making the bike handle more like a regular bike as power is applied through the same wheel. With that said, the motor can’t use the drivetrain like the mid drive motor on the Tern, so the Epik can struggle up hills.
The battery, which is replaceable, provides enough charge for up to 45 miles of riding, although this range would be decreased if you were riding uphill or using the included rack to haul heavy loads. With five levels of pedal assist, I found myself routinely opting for level three and still overtaking commuters on full-sized bikes.
In use, the Epik is highly practical but not as refined as the Vektron. One Amazon reviewer noted that the seatpost could be extended enough to accommodate his 6-foot-4-inch frame and appreciated the comfort offered by the suspension fork which is a relatively rare upgrade on a folding bike.
We tested it with a rider of five-foot-one-inches tall and another of six-foot-three-inches tall and both were able to find a comfortable position, but riders much shorter or taller might struggle. Other owners love the easy and reliable stopping power provided by the disc brakes.
Expert testers appreciated the longer range compared to other folders and the top speed of nearly 30 miles per hour. We also loved the built-in lights, but wish they were a little brighter and that the controller was backlit.
As the bike weighs 50 pounds, it isn’t a great option for those who will need to carry their bike up flights of stairs or much fun to ride without the motor. But with the motor on the bike feels lively and accelerates up to over 20 miles per hour very quickly. We’d love to see the suspension for on this bike scrapped in favor of a more reliable rigid fork, the suspension didn’t offer much in the way of comfort and felt worrying bouncy and flexy when cornering at speed.
This bike can really shift, but it is worth noting that the small wheels, combined with the fork and upright position are not the most stable, meaning that novice riders should exercise caution before launching into full speed urban commutes.
Pros: High top speed and easy climbing thanks to the electric motor, long range compared to other folding e bikes, 20-inch wheels for a more comfortable ride, reliable braking
Cons: Heavier than a non-electric bike, geometry and for make for some unpredictable handling, not much fun to ride without the motor
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