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Brompton folding bikes: A full guide to the range - Cyclist

Best folding bikes of 2021 for commuting – Cyclist

If your daily commute is long enough to require a train ride, a folding bike is a godsend, providing a quick and easy means to cover the last few miles at either end of the journey. But being used to riding fast, lightweight machines at weekends, we’re not going to settle for gas-pipe clunkers for our ride to work.

So for this round-up, we looked for bikes that not only offer the convenience of foldability but are also fun to ride.

All the bikes featured take a different approach to solve this conundrum but which offers the best balance between practicality and performance? Let’s find out…

How to choose a folding bike

Price

Like the bike market as a whole, there’s a great disparity in pricing for folding bikes. But for a bike that could get fairly limited use, you need to ask yourself whether you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

If you plan to simply ride this folding bike a kilometre or so to the station and back daily, you’d probably be better suited to a cheaper option. Alternatively, if you have grander plans, a better-equipped and more expensive choice could be a wiser investment.

Gearing

On that note, where will you be riding your new folding bike? Do you work and commute somewhere mostly flat? Or do you need to navigate steeper streets?

This will be important when it comes to the bike’s gearing. After all, some options will come with just one gear, others limited hub-based systems, while others still will have the same wide-ratio external derailleur gearing found on conventional machines.

Spec

Some folding bikes will come with front and rear mudguards to keep you clean from road splatter – but check before purchasing. Similarly, some options will also have rear-wheel mounts for racks or a catch on the front to place a bag.

Size

While all the bikes in the list below fold to a certain extent, some are more capable than others. A smaller bike will get you less dirty looks on a crowded train, but will often tend to be more skittish when unfolded at your destination.

Of course, if you’re looking for something with a bit more assistance, and don’t mind a little extra weight, you might also consider an electric folding bike.

However, if you’re happy to provide all the push yourself, we don’t think you’ll find a better folding bike than those listed below…

The best all-round folding bike: Brompton

Browse the Brompton range at Halfords

Invented by Cambridge University engineering graduate Andrew Ritchie in the mid-1970s and still built by hand in West London, the Brompton remains a true cycling icon. With around 50,000 bikes sold around the world each year, the classic design has been much refined over the years. Now available in a wide range of different set-ups, each retains the same essential design, including the super-compact folded size that remains the bike’s USP.

Durable enough to last decades rather than years, you get a choice of gears; 1,2,3 or 6-speeds, and tall, upright or flat handlebars. Easily fitted with a range of equally well-designed luggage and accessories, Brompton’s continue to inspire a degree of enthusiasm that borders on the monomaniacal.

For our money, if you don’t mind the limited range of gears and moderate weight, they’re by far the most dependable and the easiest folding of folders. To find out why, check out some of our Brompton content below.

Find out how we got on commuting by Brompton
Read our Full guide to the Brompton bike range
Welcome to the fold: Behind the scenes at Brompton

Browse the Brompton range at Halfords

The best budget folding bike: Btwin Tilt 900

Buy now from Decathlon for £449.99

At £450 the Btwin Tilt 900 folding bike is the cheapest option in this list. Some of you might not be thinking that £450 sounds all that cheap, but consider what you’re asking from a folding bike. Not only do you want everything you’d expect of a conventional bike, but you want it miniaturised and made to fold.

Both these things place extra stress and strain on the bike, leaving the Tilt 900 the cheapest machine we’re happy to recommend. However, despite its budget pricing, it’s actually a cracking bike.

First, its aluminium construction leaves it light at 12kg. Medium-sized 20-inch wheels and chunky tyres also mean it handles well. Arriving with mudguards and built-in lights, these additions boost its practicality and cut out potential after-sales costs.

V-brakes rather than discs are to be expected at this price, but the superb Shimano Sora 9-speed gearing is a rare treat. Closing up to 78 x 66 x 44cm, its fold is slightly basic and its packed size a tad larger than you might expect. Still, for the money, it’s unbeatable.

Buy now from Decathlon for £449.99

The highest performing folding bike: Tern Verge X11

Buy now from Wiggle for £2,600

Tern makes a huge range of folding bikes covering the transport needs of all kinds of cyclists, whether that’s getting around town or heading off on a fully loaded touring adventure. However, this Verge X11 model is all about going fast.

Basically a racing bike in miniature, other than its folding frame and 20-inch wheels, many of the parts will be recognisable to bike nerds as lust-worthy items. Like the ultra-wide ratio, single-ring Sram X1 11-speed groupset, the Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes, or the German-made Schwalbe tyres and Ergon finishing kit.

Fold it up and it’ll fit within your regular baggage allowance, allowing you to fly straight to the Alps and take on the biggest HC climbs. Alternatively, race to work and leave it folded up under your desk. With 10kg weight, full range of gears and recognisable components, this is one of the most full-sized feeling folding bikes.

Buy now from Wiggle for £2,600

The most minimalist folding bike: Vello Alfine 11

Buy now from Selfridges for £2,699

With a slim steel frame, larger-than-average 20-inch wheels, and integrated suspension damper, this Vello bike is one of the neatest folders on the market. Cramming a near full-size ride into a tiny package, it goes a long way to justifying its premium pricing.

Unique in both the way its fork folds backwards and its simple magnetic clasp system, this 11-speed version adds a wide range of low-maintenance internal gears. With a similarly clean running belt-drive and powerful disc brakes, this Austrian-made bike remains a comparatively rare sight on the road.

With great ride quality and a moderate weight of 12.9kg, you’d think Vello’s bikes would be a more common sight. However, with sporadic distribution and sales in the UK, its designs are some way ahead of its dealer network.

Hopefully, given the quality of its design, along with the brand’s move into the electric market means this will change soon.

Buy now from Selfridges for £2,699

The lightest folding bike: Hummingbird

Buy now from the Conran Shop for £3,745

The Hummingbird is the brainchild of designer Petre Cranciun, who came up with it as a solution to the problem of other folding bikes being too heavy for some riders to carry around. The full carbon frame is built by Prodrive, better known for its work in motorsport building race cars for Aston Martin, Subaru and Volkswagen.

This not only leaves it very light but also very expensive. However, the Hummingbird does a lot to justify its price tag. For one thing, it weighs just 7.24kg; only a Mars bar or two more than a Tour de France racer. Easy on your arm and great on the road, its handling is also very nippy, while the fold is excellent too.

Achieved in a minimal two steps, the bike’s aluminium rear stays pivot around the bottom bracket, which means the distance between it and the rear hub stays constant at all times. Leaving no need for a chain tensioner, this not only cuts weight but looks clean and reduces possible maintenance issues. Coming in single-speed, hub-geared, and electric versions, none are cheap, but if you want the world’s lightest folder this is where you’ll find it.

Read our full review here.

Buy now from the Conran Shop for £3,745

Most full-size performance: Airnimal Joey

Buy now from Airnimal from £1,399

Airnimal aims to offer something a bit different in the world of folding bikes, being aimed at all cyclists rather than just commuters. With more of a focus on the rider experience yet still folding down small enough to take on public transport, they’re also popular with frequent flyers who want to explore upon arrival.

Perhaps the best way to think of them is as a collapsible rather than folding bike. Breaking down into a larger folded package than other bikes here, this is still only the work of a minute or two – and the time invested pays dividends in terms of ride quality.

Easily the sort of thing you could happily spend all day riding, their large 24-inch wheels, conventional geometry, and wide range of gears make them almost indistinguishable from a conventional machine. With three models in the range, the road bike-esque Chameleon, the off-road Rhino, and the commute or tour-ready Joey, you can find our full review of the last of these here.

Read our full review: Airnimal Joey Elite Drop

Buy now from Airnimal from £1,399