Folding Bikes: A Top Ten List

There are days when you need to get around and maybe don’t have a place to park. Or want to carry around a u-lock. Or don’t want to change out of your clothes. Or have enough space to put it in your car. Whatever the reason, folding bikes are a wonderful option for those who want to run around and have a bike with them. There are also some great options for ladies who want to wear a dress or a skirt and need a frame with a very low down tube to lift the leg over, without too much exposure.

The fact that they fold means that these bikes are going to be able to get compact. For that end, the size of the wheel will be another factor.

Wheel size on a folding bike can get as small as a 12 inch diameter. Now there is something you have to consider: the smaller the wheel, the more you will have to pedal to reach the same point as a wheel that is bigger. So if you have a regular mountain bike (which normally uses a 26 inch wheel), it will go farther on one pedal stroke than a bike with a 12 inch wheel. Less surface is covered on a smaller wheel so if you’re going to the corner store and don’t mind a pleasant jaunt about the block, a smaller wheel will do you just fine.

There is a whole world of choice in the folding bike world so I’ve compiled a list of companies that make them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie, a weekend warrior or someone who is looking for high octane performance: there is a little something for everyone. The prices also vary so keep that in mind. I apologize but not all bikes had a listed price. 

In alphabetical order:

  1. Bike Friday Pocket RocketBike Friday - This is a pretty unique bike company, considering all their bikes are handmade in Eugene, Oregon to the specifications of each purchaser.  They have six different types of bikes: touring, road, mountain, commuter, tandem and specialty. Some of their bikes do come with a carbon belt drive from Gates and they do tout their road category as a nice on-the-road replacement for the serious roadie who needs to get some miles in. As a personal side note, the specialty category is designed to fit “someone  shorter than 5-foot-4.” How tall are the people in Eugene that they have to have this category? Wheel sizes of the models vary between 16 and 20 inches. Weight of the bikes, between 24 to 26 lbs. Starting price: $1,198. 
  2. Birdy Bike Birdy - Brainchild of Heiko Müller and Markus Riese, these bikes come with either Shimano or Sram components. Its double horseshoe fork design is an eye-catcher. This is one of the few folders that you can find with double suspension. Accessories sold separately on the site include a backpack where you can pack away your bike, bash guards for your chainrings and a rack where you can attach your panniers. Wheel size is 18 inches. Weight: between 24-28 lbs.  Starting price: $1,520.
  3. Brompton BikeBrompton - This West London company is another company that prides itself on hand building every single bike in its West London installations. Most of the bikes are made out of steel with the exception of the super light frames, which include titanium parts. They come in four different handlebar types and an array of colors. These bikes are also known for their fast folding and it’s designed to fold greasy parts away from clothes and luggage. Something to remember: most of their pieces and parts are made especially for this bike and in this factory. Wheel size is 18 inches. Weight: between 20-28 lbs. Starting price: £540 (or about $820 USD, give or take).
  4. Citizen Bike Barcelona Citizen Bike - These bikes come in an array of very colorful tones and reflect a sort of casualness that can be seen in a cruiser. There are a number of accessories and upgrades you can purchase for your bike but some of the standard items are the mud guards, lights and a little bell. There are alloy and steel options, as well as Shimano components in some of the models. You have your option of 1, 3, 6 or 7 speeds.  Wheel size comes in either 16 or 20 inches. Weight: between 26 and 32 lbs.
  5. Dahon Vector Dahon - These bikes come in the following categories: Urban Utility, Urban Performance, Road and Mountain. They come in a variety of wheel diameters and even in road wheel size. There are a lot of different bikes and the page is set up so that it is a little difficult to compare all the bikes but there are lots to choose from. Since there was a bit of controversy with the estranged son and wife of the founder of the company, who were caught funding a competing brand of folding bikes called Tern, it may explain why some of the links on the web page redirect to the Tern site. Depending on what you get, the fold time can vary from under 30 seconds to about 15 minutes. Weight: between 22.5 and 27.3 lbs. Wheels come in 16”, 20”, 24”, 26” and 700cc.
  6. Giant Expressway 1Giant – This popular bike company has a folder under its wing. I’ve included it as an option because it is interesting to see what a biking giant (as it were) can do with this concept. It’s called the Expressway 1, which comes in grey. It’s got an aluminum frame with a Sram freewheel. Its upgraded version is the Expressway 2 and it comes in white or black with Shimano components, a storage bag and a kickstand. Wheels are 20 inchers. Giant hasn’t listed a weight on this bike, saying that due to possible inconsistencies, the buyer should come to the store to physically see for themselves how heavy it is. The Expressway 1 starts at $560. 
  7. Montague Paratrooper ProMontague – As a bike company, Montague had the interesting opportunity to work with the military to develop a folder that could be parachuted out of a plane so that soldiers could have bicycles to work out, do recon or just get around base. With Shimano and Sram components, these bikes are built for either urban use or mountainous terrain, offered in the Pavement Series and the Mountain Series. Some of the Pavement bikes have the distinctive double top tube design. The wheels on these are 26 inchers or 700 cc. Weight: 27 to 32 lbs. Prices range from $632 to about $3000 MSRP. 
  8. Pacific Cycles iF ModePacific Cycles – Dedicated to listening to the buyer with folder bike dreams, Pacific Cycles was also the company that produced the Birdys in the entry above. The company has four different categories of bikes: the If (futuristic), the Reach (racing), the Birdy and the CarryMe (compact urban companion bike). The range is pretty interesting, including adult trikes to futuristic 3-spoked hubs with single armed forks, as well as triathlon-influenced road options. The wheels can go from miniscule 8-inchers to the full 700cc. Prices range from $680 to around $4650.
  9. STRiDA EvoSTRiDA – Out of all the options listed, this is the one option that takes its design cue from the penny farthings, the bikes of old that needed step ladders to mount one. Considerably smaller in comparison to its predecessor and closer to normal bike sizes, STRiDA has put out a colorful line of triangular bikes that fold up to look like a cross between a folded baby stroller and a unicycle. They also use a belt drive so it’s going to be silent and cleaner to maintain than its chain drive counterparts and they come in really fun colors. Wheels are 16 or 18 inchers. Weight: 22 to 28 lbs.
  10. Tern The Jack of All TradesTern – Tern has a variety of options, ranging from the small foldies to the larger urban bikes that are rugged and large-wheeled. You’ve got your cruiser option, mud guards and a rack, as well as the curb-jumpers. Fold time is under a minute or less and the components are Shimano. The colors are stylish in pastels and bright colors.  Weight: 20.5 to 33.7 lbs. Wheels come in 20, 24 and 26 inches.