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The Best Folding Bike - The New York Times

The Best Folding Bike – The New York Times

Our pick

Leaf Mariner D8

Dahon’s best seller, the Mariner D8 hits the high notes for a commuter folder, with a smooth ride, easy folding, brand-name components, and a rear rack and fenders.

From the leading manufacturer of folding bikes, the eight-speed Dahon Mariner D8 offers the features and performance most commuter cyclists may want in a folding model, all in a practical, affordable package. First, the Mariner D8 is comfortable to ride, going smoothly over bumps and shifting fluidly up and down hills. Second, it folds and unfolds quickly, and it latches securely into both modes. Its design also addresses practical concerns: The Mariner D8 has fenders to thwart rainy-road splashes onto clothing, a rear rack to carry stuff, and the option for a frame-mounted front bag. Finally, this bike is a good value. As with full-size bikes, with folding models you generally get what you pay for. But priced at around $1,000, the Mariner D8 is a good-quality folding bike with the features you need.

Runner-up

Tern Link D8

Tern Link D8

Tall riders will especially like the Link D8’s adjustable handlebars—and everyone can appreciate its higher-end components, such as the puncture-resistant tires.

The eight-speed Tern Link D8, the company’s most popular model, provides a few upgrades over the Mariner D8 that may suit taller riders or those willing to pay more for some higher-end components. Our test riders raved about the proprietary handlebar stem, which allows both height and angle adjustment via two simple quick-release levers. One bike expert praised the design of the front brake, which is mounted close to the frame to reduce snagging, as well as the “top-shelf” puncture-resistant tires. Still, our testers’ reviews were mixed regarding the fold, which positions the handlebars outside the folded package; some testers found this setup easy to manage, but others preferred the tighter package (and lighter weight) of the Dahon model. The Link D8 also comes with a similar rear rack and the same front bag-mounting option as the Mariner D8

Upgrade pick

Brompton S6L 6-speed

Brompton S6L 6-speed

If folding size trumps all, the notably compact Brompton leaves the competition in the dust.

For some shoppers, the number-one criterion is how small a folding bike can get. The Brompton S6L (and all the other six-speed folding bikes that Brompton makes) elegantly transforms into a package that shaves 3 inches off the height, 2 inches off the width, and 8 inches off the length of the folded Mariner D8 (and even more off the dimensions of the Tern D8), making for an easier carry. (The numeral in a Brompton model name indicates the number of gears; the letters refer to the handlebar style and whether the bike has racks or fenders or both.) Even so, a Brompton manages an “I’m almost riding a full-size bike” experience on the road. The handlebars, gearing, frame type, accessories, cargo options, and paint job are all customizable—for a price. The S6L, as it came to us in 2017, retails for $1,590 on the Brompton site. At the time of writing, the very similar Brompton M6R that we tested in 2021 is priced at $1,690 from Clever Cycles, in Portland, Oregon, and at $1,730 on the Brompton website. (While we were writing the most recent update to this guide, Bromptons were out of stock entirely on the company’s website. But Brompton representatives said bikes are arriving in the US every two to three weeks and divided among dealers, including REI, Brompton’s own store in New York City, and the Brompton online shop.)