While at first glance you may think folding bikes are nothing more than a silly fad, the truth is that bike design has advanced to the point where folding bikes are not only convenient but affordable, too. Sure, some of the super high-end folding bikes can go for $1,000 or $2,000, but there is a veritable cavalcade of great folding bikes to choose from in the $200-$300 range.
So why would you need one? Well, aside from the convenience of not needing a truck or large van to carry your bike around, there are folding bikes that are small enough and light enough to commute to and from work. Imagine not having to drive a car, spend gas while getting some exercise on the go, and you can see the advantages of having a folding bike.
Folding Bikes Buying Guide
Picking a folding bike is pretty similar to picking a standard bike, with the only caveat that you have to take into account that the folding aspect tends to require a compromise somewhere in the whole package. Otherwise, all the things you look for in non-folding bikes is the same as folding bikes.
Folding Bike Sizes
16-inch is the smallest and most compact bikes that you’ll find around. Having a smaller wheel means that they can be folded into a smaller space, which makes them really easy to carry around, especially if you commute a lot in the city. Unfortunately, bikes these small tend to be quite expensive and can go up to $1,000 or even $2,000.
20-inch is bigger, so not as compact and portable, but they do tend to start a more reasonable price point, plus the ride tends to be better in general. Similarly, it might be difficult for some to ride around in a 16-inch, so the 20-inch is a great option if you still want something portable.
24-inch bikes are one of the biggest sizes out there and will give you a really comfortable ride, especially if you have a lot of bumpiness on the route you want to take. The downside, of course, is that it’s pretty big, although not bigger than a standard bike, so it can still be useful in terms of portability.
There are generally a few different folding methods with a variety of pros and cons:
Mid-fold is probably one of the more common ones you see, and it essentially just hinges in the middle of the frame, that’s why it’s also known as a half-fold.
Vertical fold is also another pretty common fold and works in the opposite way of a half-fold so that the bike swings up vertically and lines up the two tires together. These designs tend to be pretty compact.
Triangle fold isn’t that common, but it allows the rear triangle to be folded down, along with the wheel. Sometimes this fold also has a couple of other folds combined with it to make the bike as compact as possible.
Breakaway while not technically being a fold, is another way to make bikes compact. While most bikes can be taken apart, breakaway bikes have mechanisms that allow you to break up and put together different groupings of the bike quickly.
Folding Bike Features
The first thing you’re probably going to look at is frame materials, of which there are a couple you’ll likely find.
The majority of bikes are made of alloys of aluminum because it’s lightweight and corrosion-resistant. Steel is denser, but it allows for smaller tubes and easier design, although weight remains roughly the same. Carbon Fiber is very light and easier to mold but is unfortunately very expensive.
Finally, there’s titanium, which is very resistant to breaking and a bit light, although it tends to be very expensive.
Most folding bikes tend to come in 7 gears, although you can find them as high as 21 or 24. Obviously the more gears you have, the more control you have over your ride.
There are generally two types of brakes rim brakes and disc brakes. Rim brakes tend to not have as good or efficient braking performance as disc brakes, but disc brakes, or at least the bikes they fit on, tend to be expensive, and upgrading from rim brakes can also be very expensive.
There’s actually a pretty massive variety of saddles out there for you to pick, from flat to rounded and everything in between. Generally speaking, the thinner the saddle the more suited it is for racing and going fast, whereas wider saddles tend to be made for comfort.
The first thing to consider when it comes to tires is their diameter, with larger diameters generally giving you a more comfortable ride and being able to handle more bumpy ground. Then there’s the tire material itself, with most bikes using clinchers with wire or kevlar, while others are made with tubes or completely tubeless.
Unless you’re a professional, You don’t really have to worry too much about tube material, so focus on the size instead.
So, what are the best folding bikes?
1. Best Choice – Schwinn Loop
- Made of alloy
- 7 speed
- 3-piece alloy crankset
- 20×1.95″ wheels
- 230lbs maximum rider weight
- Included carrier and fenders
Schwinn Loop Folding Bicycle Review
Schwinn is a pretty well-known name in the fitness world, so when you’re buying this bike, you know that you’re buying quality.
Commuter bikes are a reasonably big industry, but going the folding route tends to be problematic, especially when you’re talking about mid-to-high tier models. That’s mostly due to their cost, I mean, why pay several hundred bucks on a commuter bike when you can just buy a nice trail bike or just an average bike.
Thankfully, Schwinn came to the rescue with a pretty good and cheap-ish folding bike. The fold itself happens relatively simply with the mid-bar hinge with a quick-release lever that allows you to fold the bike in on itself. The handlebars then come down and the seat is collapsed to make it as small as possible.
While the folding process itself is a bit involved, the Schwinn loop has an included carrier in the form of the rack, which you can use to carry the bike around if you like.
Unfortunately, the whole thing comes to about 30 pounds when assembled, so it’s quite a hefty amount to carry around. As such, you could also consider this bike easy to carry around in a car or a truck if you’re planning a vacation to rural areas or where biking is more likely than driving.
In terms of performance, though, it’s actually pretty excellent for the price you’re paying. There are 7 gears for you to work around, so lots of choices on how you want to alter your ride. Front and back breaks also have good stopping power, plus the semi-slick, street-tread tires help quite a bit with the grip.
Overall the Schwinn Loop is an excellent commuter bike that rides as well as a non-folding bike, so you might not even remember it half the time. Performance is good all around, with a comfortable cushion, although it is a little bit on the heavy side. That being said, for just under $250, I would say it’s quite a steal.
- Aesthetically pleasing design
- Great performance
- Good build
- Folding and unfolding can be a bit difficult
- Rather heavy to carry around
2. Premium Pick – EuroMini ZiZZO Via
- 7 Speed
- Magnet catcher to help with folding
- Made of lightweight aluminum alloy
- Double-wall rims
- 240 lb weight limit
- Weighs just under 26 lbs
EuroMini ZiZZO Via Review
The EuroMini is a relatively new player in the scene, but they’ve managed to hit one out of the park in terms of foldable bikes. Folding a bike can be somewhat of a pain, especially when there are lots of moving parts to deal with or if it’s heavy like the Schwinn loop.
Well, where the ZiZZO differs is that it has a magnetic catcher, which is essentially a magnet that snaps the bike closed and keeps it folded. This means that overall it’s going to be not only easier to fold, but also to carry around since you don’t have to worry about it suddenly opening up on you.
The folding mechanism itself is also pretty simple, with a hinge in the crossbar that swings the front back and up. The seat retracts downward and around, and you’re pretty much done! Unfortunately, though, there’s no carry case, so it might be a bit of a pain to carry around.
In terms of performance, you’re getting some pretty top-notch gear . . . . a 7-Speed Cassette gear shifter (ok, puns are not my strong suit). Attached to that is a Shimano Revo 7-Speed shifter and a Shimano Tourney 7-speed Derailleur. You don’t often get that much variance and quality in foldable bikes, so I’m pretty happy with what’s on offer.
In addition to that, you get 20” wheels with double-wall rims, so the ZiZZO is going to be able most urban environments pretty well. Also, the whole thing is made out of aluminum alloy, which makes the whole thing weighs only 26 lbs, that’s pretty impressive. Of course, it only has a 240 lb weight limit, but that’s not too bad honestly and is higher than the Schwinn Loop.
Overall, the EuroMini ZiZZO is probably one of the best folding bikes you’re going to get out there when you take into consideration the gear/shifter combo, the magnet catcher and the aluminum alloy materials.
Folding and unfolding are easy, and while the V style isn’t great and side-pull would have been better, but no product is ever perfect. For the price you’re paying, I’d say this an excellent folding bike if you want the best.
- Folding is a cinch
- Easier to carry
- Price is pretty good for the product
- Pedals can lock up when folding
- 240 lb weight limit
3. Best Value – Columba
- 18 speed
- 26 inch wheels
- Steel frame
- Weighs 35 lbs
- Maximum rider weight of 200lbs
Columba Folding Bike Review
While most foldable bikes tend to be aimed at day-to-day commuters, the Columba Folding Bike wants to cater to a variety of different people.
Helping it with that goal is the pretty generous Shimono 18-speed shifter and derailleur, which means that you can really control your ride the way you want it; whether you want to coast or you need to push.
Similarly, the whopping 26” wheels are large and firm and therefore can handle most terrain, even mountain trails. The only downside though is that there’s no suspension here, which is a bummer since it will be a really rough ride on mountain trails and just decreases the versatility somewhat.
Folding is pretty simple and you can probably get the whole thing done in under 10 seconds or so, which is pretty fast when you’re on the go. That being said, it does make quite a big faux pas, in that it doesn’t actually have a latch or locking mechanism to keep it folded.
This can be a problem for storage or carry since it can easily just open up, so I’d suggest not spending a lot of time carrying it around by hand. Of course, it does weigh 35 lbs, so it’s not going to be easy to carry it around by hand anyway.
Aside from that, there’s a 200lb weight limit, which is a bit lackluster, but for a cheapish folding bike, that isn’t too bad.
All in all, the Columba Folding Bike is an excellent budget folding bike, and even though you’re going to miss out on some features from the more expensive bikes, it’s still not a bad option.
You get the 26” wheels, 18-speed shifter, and a pretty good seat all things told, although you compromise by losing out on suspension and a locking mechanism. As far as bike pricing vs feature goes, this is a great deal.
- Great pricing
- Versatile bike
- Front and rear steel hubs
- Heavy to carry and only 200lbs capacity
- No locking mechanism
4. Best Folding Mountain Bike – Xspec
- 26inch wheels
- Disc brakes
- Shimano equipment
- High tensile frame
- 220 lb maximum carry weight
Xspec Folding Mountain Bike Review
While so far we’ve been looking more at commuter-style folding bikes, we shouldn’t completely disregard folding mountain bikes.
In this regard, Xspec stands out a lot, especially with the 21 speeds that you can pick from, a good little bump from the 18 of Columba. Helping with the heavy-duty use is the full-body suspension/shock absorbers, altogether able to handle a super-bumpy ride.
Similarly, the 26” and high-grade tires can take quite a beating, so not only can you ride this bike around town, but you can also take it up in the mountains and feel equally comfortable in both places.
As you might imagine with a bike this good, you get some pretty good brakes, in this case, disc brakes which are pretty awesome. They have some excellent braking efficiency, which also makes them much safer to use, even when dealing with wet things like rain and mud.
Finally, the bike is strong enough to handle 220 lb max load, so it should be able to handle most riders quite easily.
The Xspec Folding Mountain Bike is a really awesome mountain bike that is actually portable. The awesome suspension, 26” inch wheels, and 21-speed means that you’re going to get excellent ride performance and comfort.
Granted, it’s a bit on the larger/heavier side, so not as convenient to carry as some other standard bikes, but for what you get, that’s a small price to pay.
- Full suspension gives a great ride
- Really versatile
- Excellent brakes
- Initial assembly can be a bit difficult
- The seat isn’t the most comfortable
5. Best Under $200 – IDS Home unYOUsual
- 20” wheels
- 6 Speed
- Removable handle stem
- Made of aluminum alloy
- Rear-mounted kickstand
IDS Home unYOUsual U Transformer Review
For the most part, people tend to look at the larger folding bikes for their better comfort due to the larger wheels, but that doesn’t mean you should discount the smaller ones.
One great thing about smaller bikes like the IDS Home unYOUsual U (aside from its name), is that its very compact, lightweight and easy to carry around. This helped with its aluminum alloy construction which is pretty and minimalist. What’s also great is that the handlebars are actually adjustable, not something you tend to see often with foldable bikes.
Overall, the performance is pretty reasonable, although you shouldn’t necessarily expect it to run like a mountain bike. The 6 speeds are not too bad, especially if your needs are commute-centric, rather than trailing or racing. The brakes also offer some good performance, which is appreciated in a folding bike at this price point.
Sure, the unYOUusual U doesn’t really look like anything special on the surface, but when you consider the sub-$200 price, the small size, weight, and general compactness, it’s not a bad deal. Shift and gear performance are smooth, as is braking, so you should feel safe and secure in your ride. If you’re looking for a good budget option in the sub $200, then this is the bike for you.
- Very quick to fold
- Great braking performance
- Might take a bit to assemble
Folding Bikes: Frequently Asked Questions
Are Folding Bikes Good for Long Rides?
Surprisingly yes! Even though a lot of people might think that folding bikes are mostly for short routes and commutes, they’re still pretty handy for long rides. Their folding nature is a huge boon when you consider that you might not always be able to ride a bike, so you can literally carry your mode of transportation everywhere.
Not only that, but you can absolutely find all-terrain bikes, although they tend to be pretty pricey, so be aware.
Is a Folding Bike Worth It?
Well, that depends a lot on what you’re going to use it for. If you do a lot of commuting around the city or in a suburban area, then absolutely, the ability to fold it is very worth it. On the other hand, if you do a lot of heavy mountain biking, you’re probably better off going with a non-folding mountain bike.
What is the Best Folding Electric Bike?
Well, there’s a lot of options out there, but probably one of the best is SwagCycle Pro Folding Electric Bike. It can take up to 264 lbs, can go as fast as 18mphs and take up to 12 degrees of incline. It also has an included app where you can keep track of the battery and its usage.