Folding bikes are a brilliant and versatile form of transport. Folding bikes have most of the advantages of a regular bike, but can be carried in a car boot, taken on public transport, stored under a desk at work, or kept in a space in your home that wouldn’t be suitable for a non-folding equivalent.
We’ll be developing this guide as time goes by, but in the meantime here are some recommendations for folding bikes.
The Brompton arguably has the best ‘fold’ of any folding bike – few can match it’s folded size. It has 16 inch wheels, which helps with the small fold, but as a result the feel when riding is a bit different to other bikes you may be used to. Unfortunately the superbly-small fold comes at a cost. Most Bromptons cost upwards of £1000, although the ‘entry-level’ Brompton B75 (at the time of writing) is £745. The B75 is the budget Brompton option, which uses some older components. It also doesn’t come with mudguards, so you’d need to factor that in if planning to use it year-round in the UK. The Brompton is a brilliant bike with many loyal fans. You can learn more about the Brompton B75 here.
Brompton bikes do tend to keep their value, which makes it hard to recommend buying one secondhand. If you see one for a good price there’s quite a good chance it is stolen. But if you do want a secondhand Brompton we’d recommend eBay or The Facebook Brompton Buy and Sell group above Gumtree. On the subject of stolen Bromptons – we’d advise not leaving your Brompton locked up outside, as they are very popular with bike thieves. The great thing about a Brompton is that you can nearly always take it inside wherever you are going.
Dahon / Tern
We’ve grouped these brands together because they have the same roots – Tern is owned by the son of the owner of Dahon bikes. Both companies make a variety of bikes, but are known for 20-inch-wheel bikes that share the same technology – essentially folding in half. The fold isn’t as compact as a Brompton, but some might prefer the feel of a bike with a slightly larger wheel. They produce bikes to suit all budgets, but the basic models cost less than a Brompton. Both Dahon and Tern bikes are available in the UK, and are definitely worth looking at if you have a dealer nearby. Both brands are also worth looking out for secondhand. Bikes badged ‘Phillips’ or ‘Ridgeback’ and some Raleigh folding bikes use Dahon technology.
Dave’s recommendation: I have a Dahon Speed P8, and I love it. Chunky smooth-rolling Big Apple tyres, quality components, and a glorious red and black design. Hard to find now, but many other Dahon bikes are available.
A good source for a new Dahon or Tern folding bike in the UK: CH White in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. They do all the bikes and keep all the spares. But as always, it is worth finding a local bike shop if you can.
Decathlon’s Tilt range are another budget folding bike to consider. The basic single-speed steel-framed option, Tilt 120 is only £150 at the time of writing. There are geared and aluminium models costing more.
Other folding bike brands to look out for (a work in progress):
Strida – superb triangular design by Mark Sanders. Not suitable for hills, and best for short distances. Look for a Strida 3, or 5, or later (not 1 or 2).
Montague – folding bikes with 26-inch wheel, for those that want a bike that folds but still feels like a full-sized bike
Raleigh ‘Twenty’ – older bikes you’ll find plenty of on eBay. They are fine to ride around town, terrible to fold.
You’ll find many other brands of folding bike. If in doubt Google the brand to find reviews and find out how much the bike cost and where it was sold when it was new. We’d advise avoiding…
Cheap folding bikes
We’d urge you to be wary buying a very inexpensive folding bike from a catalogue or non-specialist retailer. It is so important to be able to rely on the hinge of a folding bike, and something very cheap is unlikely to fold or ride well. It will also be heavy, so once folded it won’t be easy to carry. You’ll probably get fed up with it, and end up not using it.