The Best Folding Bike

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The folding bike may be the most convenient mode of transportation on two wheels: It can get you from point A to point B just as readily as a full-size bike, but you can stash it in a car trunk, tuck it under a desk, or store it in a closet. To suss out which folding bike does it all best for most commuter riders, we pedaled and shifted, folded and unfolded, and carried and maneuvered 11 popular models from eight manufacturers. After our 60-plus hours of research and testing, the well-designed Dahon Mariner D7 edged to the front of the pack, combining a comfortable ride and easy folding with decent-quality components, all for a reasonable price.

Last Updated: This month
We’ve added the Dahon Mariner D8, that manufacturer's replacement for our top pick, the Dahon Mariner D7, to the What to look forward to section.
Our pick
Dahon Mariner D7
Dahon’s best seller, the Mariner D7 hits the high notes for a commuter folder, offering a smooth ride, easy folding, brand-name components, and a rear rack and fenders.

From the leading manufacturer of folding bikes, the seven-speed Dahon Mariner D7 looks impressively like what a commuter cyclist might want in a folding model. First, it’s comfortable to ride, going smoothly over bumps and shifting fluidly up and down hills. Second, it folds and unfolds quickly, and latches securely into both modes. Its design also addresses practical concerns: It has fenders to avoid rainy road splashes on clothing, plus a rack to carry stuff. Finally, it’s a good value—although, as with full-size bikes, in folding models you get what you pay for. In the Mariner D7 you get a good-quality folding bike with the features you need for less than $600.

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

The eight-speed Tern Link D8, the company’s most popular model, provides a few upgrades over the Mariner D7 that may merit the additional $150 or so. Our test riders raved about the proprietary handlebar stem, which allows both height and angle adjustment via two easy quick-release levers. One bike expert praised the design of the rear derailleur and front brake, both of which sit 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, while others preferred the tighter package (and lighter weight) of the Dahon model.

Budget pick
Tern Link B7
For a good ride at a great price without the bells and whistles, look to this bike.

The Tern Link B7 rides great, folds and unfolds quickly (in the same manner as our top pick, the Dahon Mariner D7), and has a forged aluminum crank and the same good-quality seven-speed Shimano rear derailleur and shifters as the Mariner D7, all for a price that’s on a par with that of cheaper bikes built with no-name components. What’s missing are a rear rack and fenders (available for purchase separately from Tern). This model also has a slightly larger all-around footprint than the Mariner D7.

Upgrade pick
Brompton S6L
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 bike can get. The Brompton S6L 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 D7 (and even more off the dimensions of the Tern models), making for an easier carry. Even so, it 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. (Our six-speed test bike, as we equipped it, retailed for about $1,795 at the time of our review.)

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

I’ve been riding bikes around New York City for more than a decade and commuting regularly from Astoria to Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge to my job as a personal trainer and fitness instructor. In addition, I was formerly a staff writer for the Good Housekeeping Institute, where I was intimately involved with the scientific testing of all manner of products for the magazine and website.

I also know people. To research this guide, I consulted with David Lam, owner of Bfold, a folding-bike shop in Manhattan that carries Bike Friday, Birdy, Brompton, Dahon, and Tern, among other brands; Steven Huang, a consultant for Birdy and Brompton and the owner of Foldie Foodie Brommie Yummie riding food tours, also based in New York City; Stephen Cuomo, a folding-bike industry consultant in Connecticut and founder of Biketube; general bike expert Damon Strub, owner of the Astoria, New York–based Nomad Cycle (which carries Dahon), who answered all my annoying technical questions about derailleurs and hubs; and our very own Mike Berk, executive editor of The Wirecutter and a longtime folding-bike enthusiast. I also recruited nine cyclists—ranging from recreational to competitive, and including males and females of various heights—to test-ride the bikes and provide their thoughtful feedback.

Finally, I dedicated myself—and a good portion of my living room—to this pursuit, spending 60-plus hours researching (so many websites, so many reviews!), unboxing, riding, and doing everything else in between (see How and where we tested below for the nitty-gritty).

Who should get this

As you might imagine, with a category like folding bikes, selecting a pick that’s truly one-size-fits-all is pretty much impossible. After all, not only are people different sizes physically but they ride for a variety of reasons, too. With folding bikes, we homed in on the commuter segment, the riders who want to get to and from work at least a few days a week, who may have a bus, subway, or car ride within that equation, who want to bring their bike inside during the day to avoid risking theft, and who may want to carry some stuff on their bike rather than on their back. This category also covers recreational riders who want a good-quality kicking-around-town bike that they can stow in an apartment or easily tote in a car.

Even so, our picks have some limitations. For starters, most folding bikes simply can’t accommodate riders who are very short (typically under 4′8″) or very tall (typically over 6′3″), and most can’t carry riders who weigh more than about 220 pounds (or, at least, their manufacturers don’t recommend that). And unless you really need your bike to fold for any of the aforementioned reasons, such bicycles might be more trouble than they are worth—a bike with additional mechanical hinges and latches may require more maintenance—and none really ride quite as smoothly or comfortably as a good full-size bike.

How we picked

A collection of eleven different styles of folding bikes stored in a small living room.

Although a single folding bike takes up very little space, storing 11 of them in one NYC living room is a different story.

With our “most people” rider in mind, we started by zeroing in on the brands and models that had good reputations and good reviews from other outlets, such as BikeRadar, Folding Bike Guy, and Momentum Magazine. I discussed at length the merits of a variety of options with experts David Lam, Stephen Cuomo, and Mike Berk, as well as the specs to use as limiting factors to narrow the field. We settled on bikes with:

  • wheels 16 to 20 inches in diameter (you can find some as small as 8 inches or as large as a full-size bike’s; however, too-small wheels would be impractical in terms of speed and handling over the distance of a typical commute, while too-large wheels would be awkward on a train and may not fit under a desk)
  • between six and eight gears (for options when you’re tackling hills and bridges)
  • traditional derailleurs (internal gearing can be handy—you can shift when stopped at a traffic light or when starting out on a hill—but it’s pricier and not widely available)
  • drivetrains that use a chain (belt drives have their advantages—they don’t need regular lubrication, they’re clean and virtually maintenance-free—but they’re costly, and again, not as common)
  • fenders, either standard or as an add-on you can order with your bike (to protect your work clothing from wet streets)
  • racks or other luggage systems as options to hold cargo (such as a laptop, a change of shoes, or groceries for dinner)

I also had long discussions with my editors about price versus value. A number of companies sell very inexpensive folding bikes on Amazon and at big-box stores such as Target and Walmart. However, because a rider’s life could quite literally be at stake should their bike suffer a mechanical failure mid-ride, we suspected that most people would prefer to spend a little more for a known brand with a reputation to maintain. We did call in Amazon’s best seller, a $200 Schwinn, as well as a couple of other mass-market bikes that had good reviews from other editorial outlets. On the other end, we considered a few pricier picks for more serious riders who are willing to shell out for higher quality or extra features. Finally, with the established producers (Dahon, Schwinn, and Tern), we looked at both an entry-level model and an upgrade version. Our final list:

We then set about creating a list of criteria against which we’d review the bikes. Namely:

  • quality of the ride (pedaling, steering, shifting, and braking, and overall ride experience)
  • comfort (adjustability for various body sizes, plus, to a lesser extent, touchpoints such as the pedals, handlebar grips, and saddle)
  • ease of folding and unfolding
  • compactness and stability when folded for storing, stashing, and maneuvering
  • weight and the distribution of weight for ease of carrying when folded or unfolded
  • inclusion of fenders (and assessment of quality)
  • availability and usefulness of cargo options (rack, bags)

How and where we tested

A person riding a silver Dahon Mariner D7 folding bike down a city street.

Our writer put the Dahon Mariner D7 through its paces on the streets of Astoria.

I unboxed, assembled (if needed), adjusted, and assessed each bike for my initial impressions, taking them all on a short first ride around my neighborhood in Queens. In a few cases, the bikes needed more extensive adjustments, for which I brought them to Nomad Cycle in Astoria; if you buy a bike online, you should bring it to a mechanic for a once-over, no matter what.

I then rode each bike on a test commute into Manhattan and schlepped it back on the N train, taking note of the shifting, steering, braking, and overall ride quality, as well as the ease of folding the bike and then carrying it down the subway stairs, through the turnstiles (not all fit), and onto the train—and then doing the reverse on the other end. I also evaluated any luggage/cargo-carrying options, as well as how compactly and securely each bike folded for fitting under a desk or into a car trunk or closet.

Once I’d done my part, I invited nine cyclist friends over for test rides, asking them to rate the ride quality and the ease of folding and unfolding, as well as to provide commentary and suggest a price (as a way to gauge their perception of value). Finally, I asked bike expert Damon Strub to peruse the spec sheets and highlight any pros or cons of each model.

Our pick

A silver Dahon Mariner D7 folding bike with its kickstand down standing on a street in front of a brick wall.

Our pick
Dahon Mariner D7
Dahon’s best seller, the Mariner D7 hits the high notes for a commuter folder, offering a smooth ride, easy folding, brand-name components, and a rear rack and fenders.

For anyone familiar with the folding-bike category, it may not come as a surprise that a Dahon—the Dahon Mariner D7 in particular—topped our tests and emerged as our pick for most people. Founded in Southern California by David Hon 30-plus years ago, the company lists 18 current models on its site, from basic grocery-getters to step-through beach cruisers to high-performance bikes.

And indeed, the company’s best seller, the Mariner D7, ranked as the first choice after our testing thanks to its features, as it ticks all the boxes on the list of what most commuter riders would want in a folding bike. First and foremost, we found it smooth to ride and to shift, and appropriately geared for pedaling up hills (I rode it comfortably on the second-easiest of its seven gears up the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan). It folds down quickly, in about a five-step process, and locks together with a magnet between the 20-inch wheels.

The size, when folded, lands in the middle of the field, narrow enough to fit through subway turnstiles and compact enough to avoid getting too many annoyed looks on an elevator. Its 27-pound weight is average (news flash: none of these bikes are really very light), and this model is rated for riders up to 230 pounds. The handlebars both pivot and telescope to accommodate riders of different heights (from 4′9″ to 6′3″) or riders who simply prefer a more upright position.

Possibly most telling, our cyclist testers gave the Dahon Mariner D7 a unanimous thumbs-up, saying it “felt most like a real bike.”

The Mariner D7 comes with fenders and a rear rack that has a nicely designed clip-on bungee cord so you don’t have to buy or hunt for something else to use; for my eight-block ride home, it held a 4-pound bag of dog food securely in place. If you plan to use panniers with the Mariner D7’s rear rack, Dahon recommends using front panniers, which are usually smaller, to avoid heel strike when you’re pedaling—if you want to try using larger panniers on the rack, we recommend taking the bike with you while shopping, or at least taking careful measurements.

As for tech specs, the Mariner D7 is outfitted with a forged aluminum crank (more long-lasting, according to our experts, than the pressed/riveted steel or aluminum that manufacturers sometimes use to cut costs) and a Shimano Tourney rear derailleur, which offers decent quality for the price. (As do the tires, a set of Kenda Konversions.) Finally, and possibly most telling, our cyclist testers gave the Mariner D7 a unanimous thumbs-up, saying it “felt most like a real bike.”

Who else likes our pick

For what it’s worth, the Dahon Mariner D7 has received many accolades within the world of folding-bike websites. Folding Bike Guru found few flaws, giving it an “excellent” rating of nine (out of 10) and calling it “[a] very solid and outstandingly-performed folding bike.” Folding Bike 365 also gave the Mariner D7 high marks, especially for value: “A fantastic, no-frills, well built commuter bike which delivers as promised. Highly recommended.” Ricky Do of BikeFolded acknowledges the Mariner D7’s best-seller status, writing, “Once I tested the bike, I was not surprised with the success at all.” Although none of these reviewers are transparent about their possible relationships with bike manufacturers, I felt they were reasonably legit—the reviews being the product of enthusiasts indulging their obsession—and the best of what’s out there. As for mass-media outlets, not many seem to be looking at the folding-bike category as a whole, though Popular Mechanics did choose the Mariner D7 as its mobility pick in its recent best commuter bike recommendations. More than 100 Amazon shoppers also agree at this writing, giving the Mariner a 4.3 rating out of five.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

I occasionally had trouble getting the magnets to meet when the Mariner D7 was folded, and I found myself futzing with the pivot and height of the handlebars as well as the height of the seat to get the two wheels close enough together for a secure lock. In theory, you’re supposed to be able to push the bike when it’s folded, keeping the seat raised so that you can steer with it, but I found doing this to be more cumbersome than it was worth. Like most of these bikes, the Mariner D7 was awkward to carry one-handed in my tests. Folding-bike expert Steven Huang’s pro tip is to keep the folding bike open and turn it around so that you can rest the seat atop your shoulder for easier carrying, especially up and down stairs.

Runner-up

A Tern Link D8 folding bike with its kickstand down standing on a street in front of a brick wall. The bike is black with a large red stripe running down the frame.

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

Tern has been in business only since 2011, but it has an interesting pedigree: It was formed by the son and wife of David Hon, none other than Dahon’s founder. This development has proven to be a boon for folding-bike buyers, with Tern quickly turning out folding models of excellent quality. The Link D8, Tern’s best seller, is feature packed, with just enough upgrades to merit the current $150 premium over the Dahon Mariner D7—if those upgrades matter to you.

Like our top pick, the eight-speed Link D8 offers a great ride, smooth shifting, and a rear rack that includes a bungee. The most obvious difference is the handlebar stem, which uses Tern’s patented Andros pivoting system and allows you to change both the angle and height of the bars by lifting two quick-release levers and maneuvering the bars into place with one fell swoop. If you are tall or fussy about either an upright or more aggressive riding position, you can likely get the fit you prefer with ease.

The Link D8 is outfitted with puncture-resistant, cushiony 20-inch Schwalbe Big Apple tires, which bike expert Damon Strub pointed out as a highlight given the bike’s price. Those tires alone retail for around twice what the Kenda tires on the Mariner D7 would cost. Strub also told us the Big Apples were projected to last for 3,000 to 5,000 miles of use versus the Kendas’ 2,000 to 3,000 miles, and that they should be less prone to a sidewall puncture—a common mishap in city riding. Less obvious but just as noteworthy is the design of this Tern model’s Neos derailleur, which sits close to the frame—meaning you’re less likely to bang it going through doors. Fenders and a basic rack with a bungee come standard, and the frame also has a socket for attaching a bag (sold separately) to the front of the bike. The Link D8’s fold, too, is different from that of the Dahon Mariner D7 and the Tern Link B7, with the handlebars releasing to the outside; if you leave them up, you can push the bike when it’s folded, a nice feature if you don’t want to lug the folded bike, say, along a train platform. I also liked the ergonomic handlebar grips and the tidy folding mechanism of this Tern bike’s pedals; for the latter, you release the pedal via an internal lever and then fold, which in my tests seemed to offer me more control than the Dahon’s push-and-fold mechanism. The Link D8’s internally geared hub offers eight speeds, which probably sounds better than seven but likely won’t make much of a difference to most people.

At nearly 29 pounds, the Link D8 is heavier than many of the bikes we tested, including our top pick, the Dahon Mariner D7; this Tern model also has a larger folded footprint (the Link D8 is nearly 3 inches wider than the Mariner D7). In my tests, when the bike was folded, the handlebars kind of dangled, even when I “secured” them with the rubber strap; I found that if it was on too tight a notch, the balance of the folded bike was off and the whole thing was liable to tumble over. Also, weirdly, the twist shifter has the gears in the opposite order of every other bike we tested—as an owner, you’d no doubt get used to it, but it was definitely an odd adjustment for us to make when we were testing bikes en masse.

Budget pick

A Tern Link B7 folding bike with its kickstand down standing on a street in front of a brick wall. The bike is black with a thin red stripe running down the frame.

Budget pick
Tern Link B7
For a good ride at a great price without the bells and whistles, look to this bike.

After evaluating the seven-speed Tern Link B7, I had to double-check that it in fact retailed for just $400. For starters, it rode great, an opinion that all nine of our cyclist testers shared—one tester, suspecting it was one of the pricier bikes of the group, said that even if it cost $500, he would buy it that day. (I don’t think he actually did buy it, but he was pretty pumped when I told him it came in under his estimated sticker price.) Bike expert Damon Strub confirmed that “it’s a lot of bike” for the money, praising its “clean frame design” and pointing out that it had the same Shimano derailleurs and shifters and similar 20-inch Kenda tires as the Mariner D7, which usually retails for nearly $200 more. I found the fold, which is like the Mariner D7’s, to be a cinch, and the magnet snapped tight every time (something that wasn’t always the case with the Mariner D7 or the Link D8, though those cases could simply have been adjustment issues). The Link B7 also has ergonomic handlebar grips similar to the ones we like on the Link D8, and the same pinch-a-lever-to-fold pedals.

What the Link B7 doesn’t have, however, are a rack and fenders, which come standard on both the Dahon Mariner D7 and the Tern Link D8; you can purchase them from Tern separately for $35 and $40, respectively, but they will of course add about 2 pounds to the nearly 27 pounds the bike already weighs (and unless you’re really bike-handy, you’ll also pay a mechanic—$45, give or take—to install them). The Link B7 also feels more sluggish than the Mariner D7 and Link D8: The gearing definitely isn’t calibrated for speed. On the Queensboro Bridge, I pedaled uphill comfortably in a middle gear, and I sometimes thought that the hardest gear (which is meant for going fast on level ground, not for climbing) wasn’t enough for zipping along on flats or slight declines (we’re talking 15 or so miles per hour—I’m no speed demon). One last note: The bike I tested was the 2017 model, which is now sold out. The company says that the 2018 model, which will be available in early September 2017, is what’s called a carry-forward model—it’ll be identical to the previous year’s.

Upgrade pick

A person wearing jeans, a blue shirt, and blue sneakers standing behind an orange Brompton folding bike.

Upgrade pick
Brompton S6L
If folding size trumps all, the notably compact Brompton leaves the competition in the dust.

On the day I rode the Brompton S6L to work, an acquaintance mentioned that she and her husband were both folding-bike owners. For hers, she really wanted a full-size bike feel and so went with a Dahon that had 20-inch tires (closer to the 26 inches or more on a regular bike—larger wheels generally provide a smoother ride), versus the Brompton’s 16-inchers. Her husband’s top criterion: He wanted to be able to bring his bike into bars. With its exceptionally smart, compact fold, the Brompton was his pick, and it’s also ours for anyone looking for that go-anywhere capability.

Its fold really is innovative. The rear wheel rotates under, the front wheel tucks into the side, and the handlebars fall sideways and lock into place—the typical fold-in-half frames of our other picks look clunky and huge by comparison. (The larger wheels don’t help, of course.) The folded Brompton stands 3.4 inches shorter, and measures 2 inches narrower and 8.1 inches shorter front to back, than the Mariner D7—and the differences are even more dramatic when you compare the Brompton against the larger Tern models. If you want to tuck your bike under your desk or bring it into stores with narrow aisles, smaller is, of course, definitely better.

The other standout feature is the front luggage system, which allows you to clip a number of well-designed bags from Brompton and other makers to the front of the bike; the bags can even hang out there (albeit a bit awkwardly) when the bike is folded. (This last feature, which allows you to roll the bike when it’s half-folded and use it as a shopping cart, works better if you have Brompton’s basket bag attached, rather than a touring-style bag.)

Finally, Brompton bikes are customizable, which means you can choose the frame material (steel or a super-light combination of steel and titanium); the handlebar shape (four options); the number of gears (one, two, three, or six) and the gear ratios (three choices); the suspension type; the tire type; the saddle type and height; accessories such as the fenders, rack, front bags, and lights; and the paint color. A single-speed Brompton starts at about $1,200; the one we tested, the S6L, came outfitted with sport-style straight handlebars, six speeds ($220 more), fenders ($80 more), a front carrier block for attaching a bag and a front flap bag ($185 for both, bag not shown), and rechargeable battery-powered lights ($110, not shown), totaling about $1,795.

On a Brompton, the shifting takes some getting used to—you aren’t supposed to pedal when changing the front gears, but you do need to pedal when changing the rear.

Our test bike was a six-speed, Brompton’s most popular option, configured with a three-speed internally geared front hub (gears 1, 2, 3) and a rear derailleur that shifts between two external gears on the rear hub (called + and -). While the internal gearing is certainly a higher-end feature, the shifting itself takes some getting used to—you aren’t supposed to pedal when changing the front gears, but you do need to pedal when changing the rear, so you have to remember which gear you’re in (or glance down really fast). And to go from, say, 2- to 1+ to climb a hill, you have to coast and drop way down to 1- using your front shifter and then pedal while shifting back up to 1+ using your rear derailleur (the alternative is to pedal really hard for a moment to go from 2- to 2+ in the rear, and then coast while shifting down to 1+). I also perceived a big difference between the gears, so I sometimes felt like Goldilocks, forever looking for the gear that was “just right.” This problem may have been remedied, though, with a custom gear ratio, which I didn’t get to select on the test bike.

An orange Brompton folding bike sitting on a street in front of a brick wall. The rear tire is partially folded up to serve as a kick stand.

Without a kickstand option, you have to partly fold up your Brompton if you have nowhere to lean it.

The Brompton is not as light as you might expect given its smaller size. At my weigh-in, my test bike was more than 26 pounds—the same as the Tern Link B7 and just a pound or two lighter than the Dahon Mariner D7 and the Tern Link D8, respectively.

Despite the 16-inch wheels, I didn’t feel that I was sitting low to the ground, though the ride was somewhat stiff—I noticed every little bump, including the seams in the sidewalk (yes, I know I’m not supposed to ride there).

Finally, unlike our other picks (and in spite of all those great accessories available), the Brompton has no kickstand option; instead, you have to flip the back tire into a half-fold position if you want to stop the bike and have it still stand up. A kickstand is just easier.

The competition

The Birdy Standard 9 Speed has a cool backstory: The bike was designed by a pair of German engineering students in the ’90s and is now manufactured by a Taiwanese firm. This model, a reintroduction of the original design, has no break in the frame. Instead, you fold it by rotating both tires underneath. This means that when it’s locked into the riding position, it has the structural integrity to handle heavier riders up to 240 pounds. In our tests it offered a comfortable ride thanks to its integrated rear suspension, but given the bike’s limited distribution, its larger footprint when folded, and its high price—comparable to that of the Brompton—we chose the Brompton as our upgrade pick. Still, the Birdy could be a good option for larger riders.

The Dahon Qix D8, a higher-end model than the Mariner D7, folds in half like a switchblade (end over end), and you can orient it the standard way (seat up) or upright, with the frame hinge up; with the bike in the latter position, you can roll it. In our tests, everything about the Qix D8, from ride to storage, was just fine, but unless you’re in love with the interesting fold, you may be better off putting your $1,000 toward a Brompton or a Birdy, or saving nearly half of that by buying the Mariner D7.

I wanted to love the Bike Friday pakiT, which is available for order with a custom-made frame. It has a unique fold (a sort of cross between those of the Brompton and the Birdy, with the rear tire rotating under), and with the front tire and the handlebar mast removed, you can pack it into an oversized backpack and bring it almost anywhere, even on a plane. It’s also the only bike we tested that can accommodate more petite riders (kids or little people) from 4′5″ tall. But although it’s made in Oregon of good components—a Shimano Claris derailleur, Schwalbe tires—our testers thought it somehow felt less secure on the road, and the fenders I ordered kept rubbing on the front tire and getting caught on curbs. (If you go with the pakiT, don’t get the fenders.)

A big selling point of the attractive Citizen Bike Seoul, sold direct from the company’s website, is that it comes straight out of the box ready to ride—on our test unit, even the tires were inflated. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the ride and gearing as smooth as those of bikes costing just $100 more. Though the folding and unfolding were easy, the magnets simply wouldn’t hold when the bike was folded, and it kept flopping open (especially problematic when I was carrying it down subway stairs); the company told me that an update on that was forthcoming. Plus, the Seoul’s folded footprint was so large, it wouldn’t fit through the subway turnstiles.

Out of the box, the Schwinn Adapt 1 needed a lot of adjustment; the handlebars were loose in the frame, which was a serious safety concern, so I paid my bike expert to be sure it was safely set up for me. I enjoyed the ride just fine, but for $420 or so, you’re better off with a Tern and its brand-name components. Also, the Adapt 1 has no mechanism to hold the bike closed when it’s folded; you’re supposed to pack it into the included bag for storage, which is a lot of work and annoying if you need to use your bike regularly, as a commuter would.

The 20-inch Schwinn Loop, Amazon’s best-selling folding bike at around $200 currently, isn’t really designed for commuting (despite the Amazon verbiage). It has a bulky step-through frame, and in our tests it offered a heavy, sluggish ride—Citi Bikes (those blue three-speed bike-share behemoths) often passed me on the bridge, and I had no hope of fitting it through the subway turnstiles. If you plan to use your folding bike regularly, do yourself a favor and spend more.

The Allen Sports Urban X was a lot of fun to ride; I was able to get up some decent speed. It was lighter than many other models we tested, despite its larger wheel size (451 mm)—likely because it lacked fenders and a rack (a surprising omission, considering that Allen Sports is known for its bike racks for cars). It also had a nice secure wheel lock when folded, and a very easy fold and unfold process. However, its no-name Chinese components gave our bike expert pause, and I quickly noticed that the plastic chain guard was breaking. Furthermore, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to stay balanced upright when folded, and it took up a lot of space—it also wouldn’t fit through the subway turnstiles. Since our testing, Allen Sports has discontinued its folding-bike line, so whatever you can find in stores or online retailers is all that’s left.

Care, maintenance, and safety

As with any bicycle, you should buy a folding bike in person, at a local bike shop—first, so that you can test-ride it, and second, so that you can have a knowledgeable person set it up and make sure it’s safely street-ready. If the model you want isn’t in the store, the shop owner can typically order it for you. If you do end up ordering online, unless you’re very knowledgeable about bicycle mechanics, please take your bike to a local shop to have a pro set it up (and be sure to take the fee for that service into account when you’re weighing any online discount you’ve found). Remember: You will be entrusting your life to this bike, and the last thing you want is for the handlebars to come loose or who-knows-what-else happening when you’re riding in traffic.

Because folding bikes have more moving parts than regular bikes, take the time, every time, to tighten the nuts and check the clamps before you go rolling off.

It’s also wise to schedule regular tune-ups—every year at least, or more often if you’re an avid rider—to have a pro assess what, if anything, needs adjusting or replacing. Again: Your life.

Because folding bikes have more moving parts and quick releases than regular bikes, you will need to tighten the nuts or the clamps regularly. Take the time, every time, to be sure everything is locked firmly into place before you go rolling off. Clamps should be very firm to close from about the halfway point on.

Consider marking your ideal seat-height level with a permanent marker on the seatpost (oddly, only two of the bikes we tested had preprinted measurement marks) or committing to memory where on your body it should come up to while you’re unfolding the bike; otherwise, you’ll be readjusting the dang thing every time you want to ride.

And finally: Wear a helmet. Because, your life.

What to look forward to

At the time of this writing, Dahon had just completed a Kickstarter campaign for its 35th Anniversary Curl, a high-end folding bike that operates similarly to the Brompton (though the company is very sensitive about that comparison). The campaign claims that the bike will be “not just a refinement of what has come before – it represents an almost total overhaul that completely changes the riding experience of folding bicycles.” We’re eagerly awaiting its production so we can test one out.

In addition, Dahon has let us know that as of July 2017, it is shipping the Mariner D8, a new replacement for our top pick, the Mariner D7. As the name suggests, the new model has eight gears instead of seven; it also comes with Schwalbe Citizen tires instead of the D7’s Kenda Konversions, as well as what the company describes as “a push-pull shifter and a better rear derailleur.” We’ll test this bike as soon as we can get our hands on it. Since the D7 and D8 are both priced at $600, and since we haven’t yet found the D8 to be a better option, we feel confident in keeping the Mariner D7 as our top pick.

In April, the Taiwanese company Oyama, a 30-year manufacturer of folding bikes, began shipping its bikes in the US for the first time. Considering these models’ intriguing specs and competitive prices, we’re looking forward to testing some and reporting back.

(Photos by Michael Hession.)

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Sources

  1. David Lam, owner of the Bfold folding-bike shop in Manhattan, phone interview, April 5, 2017
  2. Steven Huang, consultant for several folding-bike companies and owner of Foldie Foodie Brommie Yummie riding food tours in New York City and Taiwan, phone, email, and in-person interviews, April to June 2017
  3. Stephen Cuomo, industry consultant and founder of Biketube in Weston, Connecticut, phone interview, April 20, 2017
  4. Damon Strub, owner of Nomad Cycle in Astoria, New York, email and in-person interviews, June and July 2017
  5. Folding Bike 365
  6. BikeFolded
  7. Best Folding Bike Reviews, Folding Bike Guy
  8. The Best Folding Bike, NYCeWheels

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