The big ‘which folding bike should I buy’ question. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors:
- How will you be using the bike? Folding regularly and nipping on and off public transport, or only needing to fold it occasionally to (for instance) carry it in a car boot?
- What’s your budget? How much money do you have to spend?
- Do you want an electric bike (allows you to go further and helps with hills, but heavier and more expensive) or a non-electric bike (lighter, cheaper, but your legs have to do all of the work)?
Over time I have plans to develop this page to give a far wide range of options, as there are many great folding bikes to consider. But in the meantime here are some bikes I recommend investigating.
A Brompton is the best bike for many people. No bike folds as neatly for travel by public transport. If you want to take a bike on the train or bus, this is probably the best one. In geek terms: it’s a trifold, meaning it folds twice, so into three sections. The back wheel folds underneath, and the front of the bike folds to the side. Cunning. Not everyone loves the way 16 inch wheels feel to ride, but for most people its a compromise worth making for such a brilliant all-round bicycle. The Brompton certainly isn’t the cheapest folding bike, but its well worth spending the money if you can afford to do so for the possibilities the bike opens up. The downside of a Brompton: thieves love them. So make sure you don’t leave it locked outside in anything but the most low-risk situations. But the great thing about a Brompton is that the small fold means you will rarely need to.
A less expensive option: the Tern Link. The fold doesn’t match the Brompton’s, but it could well be good enough depending on how often and how quickly you’ll be needing to fold it. A bike like this has some advantages: The larger 20 inch wheels give a ride that some people will prefer. And it costs a lot less. There are a variety of models, with the A’ being the more basic, going up to ‘D’, more fully-specced. It’s possible to get a good secondhand one if you’re prepared to be patient. Other 20-inch-wheel bikes that will do the job well are available too, but that’s a post for another day.
If you want an affordable electric bike, the Estarli E20 is an excellent choice. The 20-inch wheels give a good ride. The battery is in the seatpost and motor in the wheel hub, which keeps the weight down and means an onlooker may not even know it’s electric. Estarli are a UK company, the bikes being assembled at their base in Hertfordshire, which means you can easily contact them in case of any issues. Again, there are many other 20-inch wheel electric folding bikes that are worth considering and that we’ll be adding to this page, but the Estarli is an excellent one to start with.
If you budget will stretch to it, the Tern Vektron is a superb bike – a step up from the Estarli, but with a price to match. It’s one of very few folding bikes to use the market-leading Bosch motor, which powers many of the best non-folding electric bikes. The range is excellent, and the technology is top-notch, which should inspire confidence.
Returning to the budget end of things: If funds are limited, a secondhand bike might be your best option, but I realise that comes with its own complications, which we’ll cover in another post on another day.
If you’re looking for a new folding bike on a budget, my current recommendation is the Carrera Transit from Halfords. At the time of writing it is £365, which gets you a 20-inch wheel folding bike with a three-speed hub gear and a rack and mudguards. You can pay a bit more or a bit less for upgrades or downgrades, but to me this looks like a reasonably solid option, assuming you don’t have significant hills to tackle. The downside of buying from Halfords: the service may be excellent or it may be poor – I’ve had both.
Lastly, my wildcard suggestion: The Strida. The unique triangular bike designed by Mark Sanders. It folds into a stick shape, unlike to other bikes listed here, which mostly fold in half. It’s probably only a bike to consider if you travel short distances on the flat. It’s excellent for public transport as you can stand holding it in front of you. The riding position is very upright, and the steering takes some getting used to. Unfortunately the Strida is not currently for sale in the UK, which makes it tricky to try before you buy, which I would recommend. If buying secondhand be aware that early models (Mk 1 or 2) may have plastic components that are best replaced.
There are plenty more excellent bikes, but these are a few to get you started.
What not to buy: Budget folding bikes from manufacturers you’ve never heard of, or non-specialist online shops. It is possible that there may be some reasonable ones amongst them, but important considerations include: if it’s electric, is the battery / motor safe from a fire point of view? Is any kind of support offered once you’ve bought it? Is the bike constructed in such a way that the frame won’t fail on you? And are the components reasonable, or cheap and likely to cause frustration? Buying from a reputable company / brand is the best way to be as sure as you can that you’ve covered yourself against these kinds of issues. More to come on this in future posts!