Electric bikes are here in a big way. Liberated from some of the normal constraints of standard bike design like weight and gearing, e-bike design has exploded; if you can imagine it, someone has built it. From cargo bikes to city bikes, messenger bikes to mountain bikes, road bikes, and even beach cruisers, there is something for everyone. The beauty of e-bikes is they make the joy of cycling accessible to so many people in so many ways.
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-foot-5. 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.)
If you live in a city, it’s quite possible that folding electric bikes are the ultimate commuting machine. The huge number of convenience factors provided by a folding electric bike make it the smartest choice for use when traveling around the city daily. You have the versatility of a bicycle – the ability to switch to sidewalks, go around traffic, and ride in tight spaces – with the convenience of a powered form of transportation.
But with prices ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds, it pays to do your homework before choosing what’s best for your requirements. We took a range of folding bikes out in central London, on to commuter trains and into the depths of suburbia in order to ascertain which is best folding bike in each category. And if you'd prefer a little electric boost for your commute, have a look at our guide to the best electric bikes.
From the leading manufacturer of folding bikes, the eight-speed Dahon Mariner D8 offers all of the features and performance most commuter cyclists might want in a folding model in a practical, affordable package. 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—as with full-size bikes, in folding models you generally get what you pay for. But in the Mariner D8 you get a good-quality folding bike with the features you need for less than $600.
Backing any high-tech crowdfunding campaign always comes with a degree of risk. In the case of the Mate X, I’d rate that to be fairly low. The brother-and-sister company now employs about 15 full-timers, and has the experience that comes from shipping over 8,000 bikes to more than 50 countries. As such, the company is much better positioned to handle the logistical and support issues that resulted in delays and frustration in the overly ambitious Mate campaign from 2016.
Bike Friday - this high-end brand offers many types of folding bikes for those most concerned with performance. All Bike Fridays use 20" wheels and are built to fit into a suitcase for travel. Many also quick-fold and fit into a travel bag for use in commuting. A typical "stock" model (most Bike Fridays are custom made) quick-folds in 30 seconds to 27" X 27" X10" and weighs in at 24 pounds. Bike Fridays range in price from about $730 for a stock model to about $3400 for their best custom-made bikes. To ask questions about the Bike Friday, subscribe to the Bike Friday discussion list at www.bikefriday.com/community/the_yak. www.bikefriday.com, 1-800-777-0258.
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 D8 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.
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.
“I am a big mountain biker and over the past couple years have taken a couple of electric folding bikes with me on various trips around the Southwest. I ride hard on the mountain bikes, then use the eFolders to get out and see the nooks and crannies of the town we are staying in … Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Resort, Sedona, Springdale near Zion National Park, etc. I leave my truck in the parking lot and explore on the eFolder … after a hard day of riding the electric aspect is great … don’t have to worry about hills! Also the folding nature allows the bikes to transport easily, and store easily in the hotel or condo.”
Not only that, the foldability and light weight of these bikes can help you prevent theft – which is a huge problem in most cities. Instead of locking your bike up outside and leaving enterprising thieves to consider the best way of stealing it, you can simply fold it up and take it with you – to the office, grocery store, wherever you may be. No fretting about whether or not you bike will be there when you get back from your errands.
The first step in deciding which Electric Bike is for you is to determine the right style for your type of riding. Want to take things off road? We have a full range of Mountain Electric Bikes, Hunting Electric bikes, and Fat Tire Ebikes that’ll have you going on and off trails with ease. Looking for a low impact but super fun ride? Our line of Comfort E-bikes, Commuting E-bikes, and even folding bikes will have you zipping around town, on the beach, or anywhere you can ride- no problem.