Folding bikes are great if you have limited storage space at home or at work. They are also incredibly handy if your travels involve other modes of transport such as buses and trains. And they are ideal if you want a bike you can shove in the back of a car to take on trips or to use on holiday.
That extra practicality often comes with added weight, however, as clever folding systems do tend to add bulk, while frames are often beefed up to cope with the extra stresses and strains placed on them.
When choosing your ideal folder, consider what’s most important to you – are you looking for a light bike that you’ll be able to carry at either end of your journey, or will you be happy with a heavier, cheaper model that you’ll only need to lift from time to time?
Whatever you choose, stick to a brand you can trust. There are some potentially dangerous bikes lurking on the internet, so make sure you buy from a trusted trader and don’t get caught out.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Brompton S6L: £1,130, Halfords
Tell someone you’re buying a folding bike and we bet they’ll bring up the name Brompton. The British firm has been making them in London since 1975 and the basic design was so good that it’s hardly changed. If you need a bike you can slot into the luggage space on a bus, tram or train, this is the one for you. The long seat post and a small, rubber suspension block built into the rear assembly make for a comfy ride, while the 16in wheels allow for good acceleration.
The smaller wheel size also means they are super strong – important on rutted roads – and they are shod with excellent Schwalbe marathon racer tyres. Brompton offers an almost limitless range of customisable options, including gearing and handlebar shape, so you can tailor your perfect machine. Models start at around the 11.7kg mark, depending on your chosen specification. With practice, you should be able to fold one in about 20 seconds.
The AC Atto: £2,250, Austin Cycles
Here’s something special that you might have seen Team GB members riding in their downtime at the Rio Olympics. It’s a folding bike with hydraulic disc brakes that tips the scales at just 8.2kg thanks to its carbon fibre frame. It even includes a Gates belt drive rather than a chain, so no more oily marks on your trousers when you arrive at the office. You can buy it in a single-speed version or with a Shimano alfine 11-speed hub if you live in a hillier area, but this comes with an extra £500 cost. To keep the weight down there is a carbon fibre seat post and handlebars.
Brompton B75: £745, Halfords
Here’s a cheaper take on the classic folder for anyone who wants to dip their toe in the market. It’s a stripped back version of the original Brompton model that does away with goodies such as the handy folding pedal and luggage block that allows you to attach a bag. Don’t worry though – if you fall in love with your bike you’ll be able to add those later and customise it to your specification. There’s just one colour available, a cool “water blue”, and you’ll need to add mudguards if you want to ride in the rain. You only get three gears, which is something to bear in mind if your commute is particularly hilly.
Raleigh evo 2: £250, Halfords
At 16kg, this bike is a little weighty to be regularly lugged up stairs or onto trains and buses. But it’s a great deal if you’re looking for a budget machine that you can sling into a car boot to use on days out every now and again. It folds around a simple hinge in the middle of the alloy frame. You get a seven-speed transmission operated by a twist-grip, and there’s a handy rear rack plus a folding pedal to make it easier to stow. The 20in wheels make the handling more predictable than smaller-shod rivals, although they do take a fraction more effort to get up to speed. Fitted mudguards make it good for all weathers.
Btwin tilt: £199.99, Decathlon
It’s certainly not the lightest in our roundup, nor is it the easiest to fold – it’ll take you around half a minute – but the Btwin is still a great buy at this price. Your money gets you a sturdy high tensile steel frame and fork with a lifetime guarantee, 20in steel wheels, V-brakes and even a kick-stand and mudguards. There are six gears which you change via a grip-shifter on the bars. It’s not going to win any races, and at 14.5kg is probably a bit heavy for using on a daily commute, but if you want a folding bike for infrequent use this could be a great buy.
Brompton electric: From £2,845, Evans Cycles
If the thought of too much pedalling has you in a cold sweat, consider this bike. It’s got a 250w motor built into the front wheel, which Brompton claims will help whisk you along for up to 50 miles. The motor kicks in as you pedal, although under UK law the assistance stops when you hit 15.5mph. With a motor at the front and the pedals turning the rear wheel, you’ve effectively got an all-wheel-drive bike. The battery slots in and out of a carrier at the front so you can easily take it into the house to charge up. It’s got built-in lights too, but the downside of all that extra kit is the weight – a hefty 16.8kg – which means it’s probably a bit too hefty for hauling up railway station staircases. It is great fun to ride though.
Tern link A7: £449.99, Formby Bicycles
This smart-looking bike can cope with riders from just 4ft 8in tall through to 6ft 3in, thanks to the telescoping steering tube. There’s a good range of gears from the seven-speed transmission too, allowing you to tackle everything from flat city streets to fairly steep climbs. At just over 12kg, it’s light enough to lift on and off trains, and it will take mudguards to keep the grime at bay. It’s been built to support a luggage rack at the back and Tern sells huge baskets to fit onto it if you need to carry large amounts of shopping. There’s a 10 year warranty on the frame.
Birdy eight-speed nexus: £2,398, Damian Harris (available for pre-order)
German firm Riese & Muller has crammed a lot of features into a very small package with this one. It’s not cheap, but you get powerful disc brakes and front and rear suspension. It even holds the world record for folding – at just 4.9 seconds. We value our fingertips too much to try to put that one to the test, though. Even this basic model boasts an eight-speed Shimano nexus hub gear, lights, a kick-stand and plastic mudguards. The front end looks quirky thanks to the innovative suspension design, but it does a great job of ironing out bumps and ridges. As the bike folds around the suspension points, it means the frame is super strong. The whole thing weighs in just under 13 kg, which is impressive given the extra features.
GoCycle GX folder: £2,899, e-bikeshop
This futuristic folding e-bike was designed entirely from scratch, which means it’s got some great features you rarely see on other bikes. The patented Pitstopwheels are bolted to the magnesium alloy frame on a single side, so you can fix punctures without having to take them off. The drivetrain is also completely covered, meaning there’s no dirty chain to muck up your clothes.
Its step-through frame design makes it really easy for riders to get on and off, and you can fold it down in just 10 seconds – meaning you can store it by your desk rather than leaving such a valuable machine in the office bike rack. The 500w motor is located in the front hub and uses traction control for extra safety, while the battery is said to be good for up to 40 miles per charge.
Hummingbird single speed: £3,495, Hummingbird
This nifty offering from Hummingbird is the lightest folding bike in the world. At just under 7kg for the single-speed version, it’s the weight of a racing bike and a real blast to ride. That lack of gearing also makes it very quiet, although those living in hillier areas might want to check out the more practical multi-speed versions for around £300 extra. The carbon fibre frame and aluminium swingarm have a simple elegance, while the folding mechanism has been really well thought out. With practice, you can have it stowed in seconds. It’s built alongside race and rally cars in the Prodrive factory in Oxfordshire, and for a couple of hundred quid you can even get it painted to match the colour of your other expensive toys, like your yacht or helicopter.
The verdict: Folding bikes
Our best buy from Brompton is everything almost all riders will ever need. It’s sturdy, folds down in seconds and will hold its value should you ever decide to sell it on. If you’re looking for something a bit different – and have deep pockets – then take a look at the thoroughly enjoyable Hummingbird. For occasional users, the Raleigh is a real bargain.