Folding bikes are a great way to get around. They’re not as fast or slick as a full-size bike but they make up for this because they’re more versatile, and less likely to be stolen (you can take them indoors and up a flight of stairs more easily). You can take them on public transport – handy if your commute requires a train but could benefit from a ride to and from the station, say.
Most bikes have either 16-inch or 20-inch wheels. Smaller makes for a handier carry, larger for a faster ride. Some fold-ups are much lighter than others, with lightness adding to the price.
Try before you buy and note that a folding bike can feel less stable than regular bikes because of the smaller wheels. Remember you’ll be carrying it as well as riding it so try holding it folded as well. Models here range from 9.9kg (very light) to 16kg (don’t carry upstairs if you can help it).
1. Brompton S Type: £855, Brompton
British manufacturer Brompton makes the best folding bikes hands-down, thanks to great craftsmanship and a clever fold that makes the bike easy to carry. It folds down to a noticeably smaller size than any other here – it’ll slide under a desk easily. It’s a great ride, too. You can customise your bike to find the best handlebar shape, number of gears, quality of saddle and more. The base model we’ve chosen, with a steel frame, has a straight handlebar and three gears (you can save a little weight and £70 by opting for a one-gear model, but this is better).
2. Tern Verge N8: £525, Triton Cycles
With 20-inch wheels and eight gears, this versatile, aluminium-framed bike is powerful, nippy and easy enough to ride both on hills and the flat. It sits on the middle of Tern’s range, sold without mudguards or other accessories, though bike shops can sell mudguards for most bikes. It looks good and weighs around 11kg. The fold is not as clever as Brompton’s and it’s large wheels mean it takes up a fair bit of space.
3. Dahon Vigor P9: £400, Halfords
Dahon makes a huge range of folding bikes and its skill is at creating slick machines. The Vigor P9 has 20-inch wheels and nine gears – above average – which makes climbing hills that bit easier. Dahon, because it’s such a big company, is often able to offer strong value, as it does here. Like the Tern, it folds across itself instead of Brompton’s clever mechanism. Weighs 11.2kg.
4. Brompton P6R: from £1210, Evans Cycles
The unusual handlebars on the P Type are there for a more upright cycling position, which feels more secure on busy roads, but you can use the bottom part for a more aerodynamic ride. This model is very well-specced with six gears, mudguards, rear rack and dynamo lights. Note that each extra adds weight (13.4kg with everything fitted), though this remains a brilliantly portable bike when folded.
5. Bobbin Bicycles Fold: £470, Evans Cycles
Bobbin, set up in 2007, describes itself as aiming to evoke Sixties London and the colours of illustrator Dick Bruna. This bike is a compact folder, designed to fit small spaces. Even so, it features 20-inch wheels. The seven gears make it a useful ride in most situations. And the pale blue paint job is gorgeous. At 13.5kg, it’s not the lightest on the list but is still manageable.
6. Montague Crosstown: £600, Wheelies
If you want a bike you can fold but fancy bigger wheels, this may suit. It has full-size wheels like a regular bike – around 24.5 inches – but cleverly folds in half. Obviously it’s much less portable for carrying but it’s faster when you’re riding it. It comes in three frame sizes, to suit the rider’s height. To fold it completely you need to remove the front wheel.
7. Raleigh Evo-2: £250, Halfords
Raleigh’s 20-inch-wheeler offers strong value – there are cheaper folding bikes but they mostly use less effective components so need more maintenance. This model includes seven gears for greater versatility and has mudguards and a rear rack. Lower prices usually mean heavier bikes and this fits that rule, it’s the heaviest on test (16kg). Good value, but you may feel that extra weight rather sharply if you have to carry it for any length of time.
8. Bickerton Junction 1707 City: £649, Halfords
The new Bickerton Junction company has links to the British folding bike manufacture of a similar name from the Seventies, through family member Mark Bickerton. The 1707 has 20-inch wheels and is quicker than some on the list. It comes with mudguards and a rear rack, unlike most folders, and even a bag that sits behind the saddle and fits over the bike for easier transporting.
9. Dawes Diamond: £380, Wheelies
Another budget bike, the Dawes Diamond is also heavy, though lighter than the Raleigh, clocking in at 14.7kg, so still pretty arduous for lengthy carrying. It has 20-inch wheels and is complete with mudguards and carrying rack (with a handy front lip to stop your luggage sliding forward). It’s a decent ride, with a comfy saddle.
10. Tern Verge X20: £1,561, Triton Cycles
If you really want to push the boat out, the Tern X20 is a deluxe choice. It is extremely light (just under 10kg) thanks to carbon-fibre and titanium components among other things. It also has 20 smooth-shifting gears so you can go fast easily. It looks good and is very well-built. All this comes at a price, mind.
Bikes, including folding ones, are priced according to the quality of their components, so you’ll always get a better bike by paying more. So once you’ve set your budget, the main question is wheel size. The 16-inch wheels on the Brompton are certainly more convenient for carrying the bike, but bigger 20-inch wheels offer a little more stability. The standout bikes here are the dreamy-but-pricey Tern Verge X20 and both the Bromptons, the P6R and S Type, which match strong build with smooth rides.
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