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Folding bikes

7 August, 2012

For combining riding with public transport, if you have limited storage at home or at work or simply for a compact bike that is easy to step over, a folder could be what you need. Simon Vincett tested five models.

Keep in mind

  • Folders are more expensive than standard bikes of the same quality.
  • The handling is a little more twitchy than most standard-sized bikes.
  • Models with adjustable handlebar height are more able to provide you a comfortable position
  • Look at the bike when folded. Some folding mechanisms (often on cheaper models) leave the chainring and rear derailleur exposed, leading to damage and greasy marks. A hub gear is much more damage resistant option for folding bikes.
  • Test carry before you buy – ease of carrying is more important than the weight.
  • You might need new lights because the fatter tubes of folders won’t take some light brackets.
  • Beware that included accessories don’t add value if they are poor quality, such as the flimsy Giant Expressway carry bag.
  • Though many models can take a luggage rack, you generally can’t carry as much as on a standard-sized bike.

What are small wheels like?

Small wheels are strong and, with high-pressure tyres and good quality hubs, can be fast as well, though they are thought to have higher rolling resistance.

Higher gearing enables equivalent pedalling speed as you would use on a large-wheeled bike.

Small wheels transfer more vibration from rough surfaces. However, with or without suspension, all bikes in this test have adequate bounce in them due to the long seat posts and handlebar masts. This is ample comfort for riding on sealed roads.

Folders on public transport

Most bus and tram operators require folders to be in a bag to travel but it travels as luggage.

Once bagged a folding bike just looks like luggage and no one takes any notice.

Some folders have less sharp edges and are less bulky than others. These are better to carry in a bag.

Brompton M3L



  • Unbeatably compact fold with cleverly simple mechanism.
  • Very upright position with no handlebar height adjustability and limited seat height.
  • Fast, high-pressure tyres and rear suspension give excellent ride quality.
  • Three-speeds appropriate for around town but not high enough for longer trips.
  • High-quality components though proprietary gear shifter is challenging.
  • Low-maintenance Sturmey Archer hub gear.


Most compact but not enough gears and too upright for longer rides

Birdy LX–XT



  • Excellent gear range for both heavy traffic and a fast ride home.
  • Position adjustable from upright to more aero.
  • Folds without breaking the frame (and creating weak point).
  • Bulky when folded and parts stick out.
  • Suspension front and back (elastomers) is unnecessary and robs pedalling power.
  • Excellent rack (best in existence for folders) available separately.


Best for panniers and a great performer but too bulky when folded

Bike Friday Tikit Model T


  • Best in test for a 10km commute due to leaning forward position, high-quality components and high-gears in the 8-speed range.
  • Due to position, not so comfortable for riding in a suit coat or in stop-start traffic.
  • Most straightforward and fastest fold, though not especially compact.
  • Many proprietary bags and cases for any type of travel available separately.


Best in test for long rides and travel

Test bike provided by Peter Holloway of Cycle Science

Dahon Mu P7


  • Low-maintenance 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear with twistshift
  • Clever chain cover prevents mess.
  • Excellent double-leg kickstand keeps bike steady when folded and unfolded.
  • Neat finished fold is held together by magnets.
  • Tyre pump ingeniously stowed inside seat tube.
  • Excellent carry bag that stows under the saddle is available separately.
  • Also available is a good rack with bungee cord.


Rich in clever accessories, average in quality and performance

Giant Expressway 1


  • Shimano Altus rear 8-speed derailleur and easy-to-use rapidfire shifter.
  • Adjustable handlebar height.
  • Mudguards front and back.
  • Kickstand that works when the bike is unfolded and folded.
  • Basic fold that leaves bike unstable and liable to fall over.
  • Option for a rack and bottle cages.


Incredibly cheap but questionably durable for regular commuting

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 August, 2012 5:49 pm

    Another alternative is the Flight Alloy Folder from Goldcross. Retails for $399 but have seen it for as low as $249.

  2. Matt Shearer permalink
    15 August, 2012 8:02 pm

    Well I have adjusted my Brompton handlebars to face more to the rear to give me a more upright riding position that I prefer. Have done several 80 kilometre rides in a fair degree of comfort with the Brompton so adjusted. Have the 6 gear with the mountain gear front crank for the less energetic rider. Matt S

  3. Aleks permalink
    16 August, 2012 3:49 pm

    I bought a Giant Expressway and find it amazingly adjustable and comfortable, even for a 15km commute. Not that I’m doing it every day, but it’s doable without major issues.
    It felt much more stable and like a “real” bike than a Dahon or a Tern I’d tried before. I have added a 60mm stem and have achieved a reasonably efficient position. 5’6″ tall female.

  4. Clint permalink
    12 September, 2012 4:42 pm

    I have an ‘Airnimal’ folding road bike which I have had for about 8 years, I’ve ridden it in most countries around Asia, fits in a suitcase for easy transport, definitely for the serious rider though with Shimano Ultegra group set.

  5. The Flying Camera | Geelong permalink
    9 December, 2012 1:00 pm

    Not a very comprehensive observation of folders, and there are many, many avavilable; this review has tended to focus on big names and equally big price tags, neither of which are necessary.

    My “Bike Friday” is a simple, cheap and unfussed FLIGHT alloy folder. Coming from a three-decade-plus high-end road / MTB cycling environment, I have now ditched the lycra and “colours” because I’m now just commuting on the train from Geelong to Melbourne and nearby suburbs. Mild osteoporosis means that a bolt upright position, common with many folders, is much easier to tolerate than the bent/forward position that I have had for close to 34 years of cycling. How much is changed and how much more comfortable this is — at least for commuting! Above all else though is the simple convenience of stuffing my wheels on the folded down back seat of the car: now I can ride into towns I visit from my campsite — much more economical than taking the car for short trips!

  6. Mel permalink
    30 July, 2013 11:59 am

    I have three bikes, road, mountain and now the Giant Expressway 1. I have had the Expressway for a few months now and find I ride it exclusively. It is fun, comfortable and with 8 speeds, seems to be quite good, allowing for fairly high speeds on the flat. When climbing, the lowest gear is adequate. The only limitation climbing seems to be me! Fit for me is good (5′ 7″ and 213 lbs, 30″ inseam). Fits well in the trunk of my small car and great for camping, etc. I would recommend this bike to anyone looking for a fun bike. Now the only time I ride another bike is when I lend my Expressway!

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