Folding bike reviews

Cycling is a great way to save time, save money and get a bit of exercise. But are folding bikes up to the challenge?
 
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  • Updated:11 Dec 2007
 

01 .Introduction

Riding a bike

Test results for seven folding bikes from $385 to $1800

Commuting by bicycle is an ideal way to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. It'll keep you fit, save the costs of running a car, not to mention helping the environment. By avoiding a 20km drive to work each day, you'll save 1.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

A folding bike offers all these benefits while introducing more options and greater flexibility. For example, if you want to combine public transport and cycling, it’s a lot easier to manage a folded bike on the train or bus than a regular bike. They're much easier to store at work as well.

Apart from commuting, a folding bike can also be handy if you don't have much storage space at home, if you like the idea of putting one in the car boot and driving to a suitable riding place, or for convenience when travelling by plane or train to exotic cycling locations.

With these uses in mind, CHOICE tested seven folding bikes with a range of designs and prices, to see what sort of quality and ride you get. Where there was a choice, we chose the biggest-selling model from each manufacturer. Two bike experts assessed each bike for quality of construction and components, ease of use and rideability. We also got six keen recreational riders to try them out.

Please note: this information was current as of December 2007 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Brands tested

  • Birdy Orange
  • Brompton M3L
  • Dahon Boardwalk D7
  • Giatex Sport 6 speed BICI 660
  • Progear Cross Road
  • Strida V3.3
  • Yeah YRA062

Video: What to look for - Folding bikes

Looking to commute to work by bicycle, but don't have the space for a full-sized model?

 
 

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What to buy
Brand Price
Dahon Boardwalk D7 $560
Yeah YRA062 $599

These two were rated best overall, but no one bike offers everything, and the bike that’s best for you depends on how you want to use it and the terrain you’ll be riding on.

While the Dahon Boardwalk D7 was rated top or equal-top by both the trialists and the experts, its bulk and weight mean it could be great for throwing in the car boot and taking to a bike track, but might not suit everyone for other uses. As an all-rounder, the Yeah is a good buy.

 Results table

  Performance
Brand / model (in rank order) Overall score (%) User trial score (%) Expert score (%) Price ($)
Dahon Boardwalk D7
www.advancetraders.com.au
85 80 90 560
Yeah YRA062
www.charlespurtonimports.com.au
78 80 75 599
Birdy Orange
www.birdy.com.au
70 60 80 1800
Progear Cross Road
www.progears.net
70 60 80 385
Brompton M3L
www.greenspeed.com.au
65 70 60 1365
Giatex Sport 6 speed BICI 660
www.giatex.com.au
60 50 70 695
Strida V3.3
www.strida.com.au
35 30 40 630
 


  Features Specifications
Brand / model (in rank order) Number of gears Type of gear shifter Luggage rack Mudguards Frame Wheel size (inches) Dimensions when folded (cm, H x L x W) Size when folded (M3) Weight (kg)*
Dahon Boardwalk D7
www.advancetraders.com.au
7 Twist grip Steel 20 65 x 86 x 38 0.21 13.2
Yeah YRA062
www.charlespurtonimports.com.au
6 Twist grip Aluminium 20 66 x 81 x 31 0.17 11.9
Birdy Orange
www.birdy.com.au
8 Trigger / lever (A) (C) Aluminium 18 62 x 77 x 43 0.21 11.4
Progear Cross Road
www.progears.net
6 Twist grip Aluminium 20 72 x 83 x 46 0.28 12
Brompton M3L
www.greenspeed.com.au
3 Trigger / lever (B) Steel 16 55 x 61 x 33 0.11 11.6
Giatex Sport 6 speed BICI 660
www.giatex.com.au
6 Twist grip Steel 20 82 x 115 x 35 0.34 14
Strida V3.3
www.strida.com.au
1 na Aluminium 16 (D) 23 x 53 x 117 0.14 10.2
 

  

Table notes

  • * Includes luggage rack and mudguards, when provided.
  • na Not applicable: only one gear.
  • (A) Optional front and rear racks for panniers.
  • (B) Has a custom luggage system in which a bag clips to a bracket at the front of the bike.
  • (C) Optional extra.
  • (D) Non-standard wheel specific to this model.

Overall score
Equal weighting was given to the trialists’ and experts’ scores.

User trial score
Riders were asked to score their overall impression of the bike after unfolding and adjusting it, then riding, folding and carrying it.

Expert score
This score is based on our experts’ overall impression of the bikes, taking into account:

  • Quality of construction, folding mechanism, wheels and components.
  • Ease of use (removing and fitting front and rear wheels, and using brakes and gears).
  • Impressions on riding the bike.

How we tested

John Hardwick on folding bikeSteve Hogg on folding bikeTrialists: Six experienced leisure cyclists rode each bike on a 3.5km paved course with only moderate hills. They also unfolded and folded each bike, and carried it 30 metres.
Experts: The bikes were assessed by two bike experts, pictured at right. They are:

  • Steve Hogg (right), a road racing bicycle expert.
  • John Hardwick (left), editor of Mountain Biking Australia.

After assessing each bike’s quality of construction and ease of use, they took it for a short test ride, which included hills.

Folding and unfolding

Those models that mention folding time in their literature make claims ranging from five to 20 seconds — though it might take some practice to get up to speed.

  • The Strida was the outright winner for ease of folding and unfolding, with the Dahon and Yeah also rating well.
  • The Birdy was considered the most complex and difficult.

Weight and portability

  • The lightest and most portable bike is the Strida, which can be either wheeled along or carried when folded.
  • The Giatex is the bulkiest and heaviest, though you could also wheel that one along.
  • The more conventional folding bikes are mostly 11 to 12kg, except the Dahon, which weighs in at around 13kg (though it has both a luggage rack and mudguards). This is much the same as a regular bike.
  • Weight aside, they can be pretty bulky and awkward to carry.

Folded size

  • The most compact bike when folded is the Brompton, and it’s the only bike in our test that would meet the Queensland Citytrain size guidelines (see What to look for).
  • At the other end of the scale, the telescopic folding of the Giatex results in a package only a little smaller than a regular mountain bike. See the table for full details.

Ride

  • Our trialists rated the Dahon, Birdy and Yeah equal-top for ride performance, though the Birdy didn’t score as well as the others for comfort.
  • The Brompton wasn’t far behind, let down by its only having only three gears.
  • The unusual Strida was a distant last. The profiles have a lot more details on each bike.

Fixing punctures

  • The Birdy is the only bike with quick-release front and rear wheels.
  • The Giatex has a quick-release front wheel only.
  • For the rest you need a spanner to remove the wheels.

Different bikes will appeal to different riders, so we’ve profiled all of them here. The pictures show each bike in their extended and folded positions.

Dahon Boardwalk D7

Folded Dahon bikePrice: $560 UInfolded Dahon bike
Best ride/fold combo

  • The experts rated the Dahon highest overall: its construction and quality were considered reasonably good, and they were very impressed by its handling and bike-like ride. It’s one of the heaviest (including rack and mudguards), so might be better suited to those who want a folding bike for storage reasons or for taking in the car to go cycling, rather than commuting. Considering its price, it is excellent value for money: "Probably the best ride/fold combo [in this test]."
  • Trialists considered it a stable bike with good control, and it rated highly for all aspects of ride performance. The folding action and mechanism also rated well.

Trialists’ comments

  • "The bike was fun to ride. Felt very stable and suitable for riding longer distances."
  • "How simple. How easy. It’s a pleasure to fold."

Yeah YRA062

Folded Yeah bikePrice: $599
Unfolded Yeah bikeGood all-rounder

  • The Yeah has basic components and adequate quality, and the experts reckoned it rode reasonably well. However, it’s more expensive than other folding bikes of similar quality.
  • It’s a little lighter (it doesn’t have a luggage rack) and more compact than the Dahon, and might therefore be more suitable for commuters. Considering the ride, the quality and its portability, it’s a good all-rounder.
  • Our trialists considered it a comfortable and solid bike to ride, and it rated highly for all aspects of ride performance as well as for folding.

Trialists' comments

  • "Beautiful, smooth ride, comfortable and easy to handle."
  • "So straightforward — the easiest [to fold] of the lot."

Birdy Orange

Price: $1800 Unfolded birdy bikeFolded Birdy bike
Best quality

  • Our experts rated the Birdy equal second, scoring it well for overall quality and ease of use, with quick-release wheels and good-quality gears and brakes. However, folding was complex and cumbersome.
  • Ride performance rated well with trialists, who liked the gear-changing mechanism and shock absorption, but folding was considered difficult and smaller riders commented on the long frame. Note, however, you can buy them with a handlebar stem that’s angled more towards the seat, making the reach a little shorter and more suited to smaller riders.

 Trialists' comments

  • "I felt stable on this bike. Steering responsiveness good and not too tight. Didn’t feel too many bumps — loved shock absorbers."
  • "Fairly tricky to [fold] — you would have to practise this a lot. I guess once you get the hang of it, it would be OK. The most difficult of the bikes tested."


Progear Cross Road

Price: $385 Unfolded progear bikeFolded Progear bike
Value for money

  • While the Progear’s components were generally of only basic quality, the experts agreed they worked well and the bike functioned and rode very well — they rated it equal second overall. As the cheapest bike on test, they considered it excellent value for money.
  • A number of trialists commented about the handlebars feeling wobbly, and not being able to stand off the saddle for hill climbing. Folding was rated fiddly by some and easy by others.

Trialists' comments

  • "Compact and light, a pleasant ride for shorter distances."
  • "Good gear ratio for hills but can't stand out of the saddle to ride up. Gears don’t go high enough for flat or downhills."

Brompton M3L

Price: $1365 Folded Brompton bikeUnfolded Bromton bike
Most compact when folded

  • Our experts rated the Brompton fairly well for quality. It has a good-quality Sturmey Archer internally geared rear hub, but other components are basic. It rode fairly well on flat ground but the gearing (only three gears) told against it on hills and the free-hanging rear wheel (which becomes a neat bike stand) was disconcerting over bumps. Quirky, and may suit some riders well, but at the price it rated poorly for value.
  • Trialists rated it fairly well for ride performance, but the three gears were a letdown. The fold mechanism is a little tricky but straightforward once learned, and when folded it’s very compact and easy to carry.

Trialists' comments

  • "Biggest drawback is having only three gears. Not a very good gear-changing mechanism, which looks flimsy on otherwise a very good-quality bike."
  • "Handlebar height too low and fixed. Too much pressure on the hands."

Giatex Sport 6 Speed BICI 660

Price: $695 Unfolded Giatex bikeFolded Giatex bike
Adjustable length

  • The Giatex scored reasonably well with the experts for quality and ease of use, but the problem for this bike was the unusual folding mechanism: its tubes telescope to make the bike shorter, rather than folding and collapsing down like most others. This is very easy to use, though not as compact a fold as most other bikes on test. The experts found the telescoping tubes tended to move (the inner tube rotates within the outer tube) when ridden, especially under hard riding. The resulting frame flex was disconcerting.
  • Trialists were similarly unimpressed with its ride, and although they thought the adjustable centre tube resulted in a tailored fit (which could also be good if different sized people are sharing the bike), the bike was rated down because of its bulky folded size and its heavy weight.

Trialists' comments

  • "Weird having the saddle offset to the right of the mainframe. Gears needed adjusting — didn’t click in correctly. Felt rather unstable despite looking like one of the most sturdy bikes tested."
  • "Fantastic to be able to adjust the distance between seat and handlebar."

Strida V3.3

Price: $630 Unfolded Strida bikeFolded Strida bike
Design icon: hang it on your wall!

  • Both experts were impressed with the quality of the Strida’s build, and clever features such as its folding mechanism and greaseless drive belt (instead of a chain). However, the ride, in the words of one of our experts, was "diabolical". It’s very unstable, especially when the seat is high up for taller riders, and hard to ride up hills (you can’t stand on the pedals, and it has only one gear).
  • Trialists found its design intriguing and reasonably comfortable, and it’s easy to fold and lightweight to carry. However, its ride was considered too unstable.

Trialists' comments

  • "Interesting and innovative but not a serious proposition — the ride is just too weird and no gears would be no good for Sydney [or anywhere with hills]."
  • "I felt decidedly unstable for most of the test ride. I only had to look sideways and the bike turned. Each time I stopped and restarted I felt I was at the risk of the unknown."

Is a folding bike right for you?

Folding bikes address some of the issues facing would-be cyclists who are short on space or want to cycle in conjunction with public transport. But dollar for dollar, you’ll get a much better quality of bike overall if you buy a regular bike rather than a folder.

More and more train stations in Australian towns and cities are installing bike lockers — storing a regular bike in one of these may be an option if you don’t need the bike at the other end. Even buses with bike racks on them are becoming an option in some areas.

For a commuting ride of only a kilometre or two, an alternative to a bike could be a folding scooter. These days you can get 'grown-up' versions of the micro scooters, with larger wheels providing a more comfortable and potentially safer ride.

Discuss your needs with a reliable bike shop to get a bike that suits you, and take several models for a test ride. You may be able to customise the bike with a different saddle, tyres or add components such as lights, mudguards, a stand and a luggage rack. And if the retailer offers a free service after you've bought your bike, take advantage of this.

What to look for

A good folding bike is:

  • Quick and easy to fold up and unfold. You don’t want to be standing covered in scratches and grease with a half-folded bike as your bus roars past. Try it out in the shop, but keep in mind it might take a while to get the knack. Bikes that fold with the chain enclosed inside will be less inclined to get grease on your clothes.
  • Light and portable. Try walking while carrying it when folded. There’s more to portability than weight alone, and if you have to hold a chunky folded bike way out to one side to avoid it dirtying your clothes, even the lightest bike becomes awkward. Can you wheel it when it’s folded? Does it lock together when folded, or do you need to strap it closed? Can it stand up when folded?
  • Compact enough to have with you when you sit on the train or bus. Some have an optional carry bag, which will help protect it and prevent it from dirtying you, other people and other luggage. As an indication of what’s acceptable size-wise, passengers on Queensland’s Citytrain services are allowed to carry folding bikes any time (including peak hour), providing they’re in a travel bag not exceeding 79 x 59 x 36cm.
  • Comfortable and stable to ride. Keep in mind that with its small wheels, less sturdy frame and high seat post, a folding bike feels different from a regular bike and might take a little getting used to. The acid test is to corner one-handed while signalling with the other. If you’re using the bike for short rides, mainly to connect with public transport, ease of folding and carrying may be more important than the quality of the ride. But a bike that’s not much fun to ride won’t be ridden at all.
  • Easy to maintain. Apart from an occasional service and adjustment of gears and brakes, the main thing you’ll probably need to do is repair punctured tyres. Given that most folded bikes don’t have quick-release wheels, this makes repairing a puncture rather awkward if you’re out and about — although you could just fold it up and jump in a taxi. Because the wheel sizes are smaller than on regular adult bikes, you’re advised to carry spare tubes with you, as you might not be able to buy them easily in an emergency.
  • Good right from the start. Our experts commented that many bikes weren’t especially well assembled, and could have done with some fine-tuning to get the wheels true and all the components operating as smoothly as possible. Get the shop to do this for you if possible.
  • Equipped with useful features.These can include mudguards (a good idea if you’re not just a fair weather rider), and luggage racks. Some racks can carry panniers, which can be useful. Other bikes (such as the Brompton have a special carrier. But some folding bikes aren’t cut out for carrying luggage at all.