Folding Bikes - a guide

What you need to know when buying a folding bike.

What is a folding bike?

A folding bike is a bike designed to fold into a compact form, making it easier to transport and store. 

A folding bike can be ridden in the same way as a standard bike. But, when folded, folding bikes are easier to carry into buildings and on public transport. They can be more conveniently stored at home (even if space is at a premium), in a car, a boat or onboard a plane. 

p line carried onto train

Why would you buy a folding bike?


10 things to consider when buying a folding bike

1. Who uses a folding bike?

Folding bikes are suitable for everyone. 

Why would you buy a folding bike? A folding bike can be ridden by anyone who can ride a standard bike. Many people who become owners of folding bikes are regular cyclists looking for the added convenience of a folding bike.  Many others are novice cyclists who are looking at the folding bike as an alternative to other methods of transport. For those who want the benefit of electric power, there are electric folding bikes available.

The perfect city bike

Folding bikes are perfect as city bikes. Ideal for urban commuting and multi-modal transit, a folding bike can be an excellent choice. A folding bike can replace a car journey, either to the office, or as means of getting to and from the train station at both ends of a commute. Check with your train operator directly, but most trains (including the London Underground) allow you to take a folding bike into the stations and onto the trains, just like normal hand luggage.  As they fold up into an easy to transport and store format, folding bikes are easy to take on to a train, at no extra cost, and without inconveniencing other passengers.

Easy to transport and store

Most folding bikes, such as the Brompton models, are compact enough to fit into a car boot, or in the luggage rack on trains and buses. At the end of your journey the bike can accompany you into the office or be safely tucked away at home - even if space is at a premium.  This reduces the need to chain up the bike to ensure it’s secure to reduce the risk of theft - a common concern for many bike owners.

So, a folding bike can be a daily companion for a commuter; or can be ideal for those looking to get away for the weekend.

Discover some incredible journeys on two wheels from folding bike owners.

collage showing 3 different scenes where person is riding a brompton collage showing 3 different scenes where person is riding a brompton

What's your adventure?

2. How big are folding bike wheels?


Folding bicycle wheel sizes can range from 16-inches up to a hefty 24-inches. 

What are the benefits of the smaller wheels on a folding bike?  Folding bikes with 16-inch wheels, like those on a Brompton, are perfect for those prioritising compactness (fitting under a desk, in the corridor of your flat, the boot of your car, etc.) without compromising on ride quality. 

Smaller wheels not only make the folding bike more compact, but also offer a distinctive advantage when it comes to urban cycling. 

The smaller wheels on a folding bike provide a quicker start and stop ability, making them particularly advantageous at traffic lights and bustling intersections. The smaller and lightweight wheels offer nimble handling; essential for navigating through crowded city streets. 

When first riding a folding bike with smaller wheels, the responsive nature of the wheels may take a short while to get used to compared to larger wheels.  Compared to a standard bike, the benefits of convenience and agility around the city are noticeable, especially for those prioritising compactness and manoeuvrability.


3. What materials are used for folding bikes?


The frame of a folding bike is its backbone. The choice of material influences not just weight, but longevity and cost too.

When a folding bike folds, everything needs to be precision engineered, so choosing the right frame material is an integral part of the design process.

Steel Frames

One of the most common materials used in folding bike frames is steel, known for its remarkable durability and ability to absorb shocks and vibrations, it provides a smooth ride. Steel frames are characterised by their stability, longevity, and robustness on the road. The weight, however, can be a drawback for those seeking a more lightweight folding bike option. 

Aluminium Frames

Aluminium is used by some folding bike brands to produce lighter weight frames, but there is a compromise, and tends to have a more limited lifespan compared to steel.

Titanium Frames

At the top end of the market, and taking inspiration from the aviation industry are folding bikes using a titanium frame. Titanium is a premium material known for its strength, lightness, and corrosion resistance. While coming at a higher cost, the exceptional ride quality, resilience, and longevity of a titanium folding bike frame often justifies the investment for dedicated cyclists. 

4. How do folding bikes fold?

Embrace the Fold. Every folding bike tells a story with its unique folding method. Brompton’s intuitive folding mechanism is a benchmark in the industry – you can fold down your bike in under 20-seconds – making it a top pick for those who fold and unfold their bikes multiple times a day.

How do folding bikes fold? Designed to fold down quickly into a compact, portable package you can take with you anywhere, folding bike frames are crafted from multiple parts held together by hinge clamps. These quick release hinge clamps easily allow you to fold and unfold your bike. Some models of bikes even have folding pedals so your bike is even more compact when folded down!

Many folding bikes also have different handlebar heights and an adjustable seat post, which allow you to perfect your bike to the riding style that suits you best.

5. How much do folding bikes weigh?


Weight plays a pivotal role in both the ride and portability of your folding bike.

Folding bikes typically weigh up to around 14kg, but the lightest folding bikes (made using titanium and carbon fibre) can tip the scales at under 7.5kg. As well as being easy to carry and transport when not in use, a lighter bike can be easier to pedal and accelerate, contributing to a more responsive and nimble ride, especially uphill. However,a light frame might compromise on stability, particularly at higher speeds.

The main consideration for many is how easy the bike is to carry and transport when folded. Carrying your bike up a flight of stairs to your flat or manoeuvring through a busy train station becomes significantly more manageable when the bike is a lightweight folding bike. This is particularly important for those in the city, who might frequently need to carry their bikes over short distances or up several flights of stairs.  

collage showing 2 different scenes of a brompton in action collage showing 2 different scenes of a brompton in action

Discover incredible journeys

Striking the right balance between weight and performance is crucial. A folding bike that's light enough for easy portability, yet sturdy and stable for a safe and comfortable ride, can significantly enhance your cycling experience.

Electric folding bikes are becoming more and more popular.  There are obvious benefits when riding an electric folding bike, but there will be the additional weight of the battery and motor to consider - making the bike slightly heavier to transport when folded and not in use.

manchester brompton photo shoot woman sat with folded brompton

6. How many gears should my folding bike have?


The pros and cons of having more gears on a folding bike 

Gears are integral to a folding bike's performance, allowing you to adjust the effort needed for pedalling in different terrains. Gears help you manage your bike’s speed and how hard you have to pedal. More gears provide greater versatility, enabling you to handle a variety of terrains more efficiently.

Riding in hilly or varied terrain often requires more gears. They allow for easier pedalling uphill and controlled speeds downhill. Conversely, if you’re using your folding bike mainly in flat environments, like city streets on your daily commute, a lower number of gears should suffice, making the bike simpler to operate and maintain.

More gears, more weight.

It’s important to note that more gears can add extra weight to the bike, potentially impacting its portability. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the terrain you’ll mostly be riding on and balance the need for versatility with the benefits of a lighter folding bike.


7. What accessories and add-ons are important for a folding bike?


Enhance Your Ride.

While the bike itself is paramount, it's the add ons that make your folding bike feel like it’s truly yours.  

Whether it’s a phone mount to allow for easy navigation while riding, lighting that keeps you safe and seen in your evening rides, luggage you can fill with all your daily essentials that fits securely to the front of your folding bike with a front carrier block, or cycling gear to keep you warm and dry in the cooler months.

Explore a range of accessories designed seamlessly to fit folding bikes, enhancing functionality without bulk. 


8. How do I know if a folding bike is right for me?


Embrace the Joy: The Test Ride Experience  

If you haven’t been on a bike for a while, or aren’t sure what a folding bike will feel like to ride, or just need to work out which folding bike is right for you, then a test ride is a must. There’s a certain thrill in stepping into the world of possibilities when you test ride a folding bike for the first time. The breeze in your hair, the pavement under your wheels. It’s your first taste of freedom on your magic carpet for the city and a chance to feel the rhythm of the ride.

As you embark on this journey, feel how the folding bike responds to your every move, notice how it glides around corners, and how it climbs uphill. Experience the joy of the wind whispering past, the world blurring around the edges, while the bike remains steadfast beneath you.

This is the moment to ask: how does the folding bike make you feel? Pay attention to the nuances – the comfort of the saddle, the grip of the handlebars, and the ease of the fold. This is the perfect time to test several folding bike models to discover which one is the best for you.

collage showing a brompton bike in different contexts collage showing a brompton bike in different contexts

Embrace the joy with a test ride

The test ride isn’t just about mechanics; it’s about emotions, about discovering a bond with your folding bike. It’s your story unfolding, a narrative of adventure and exploration. 

Find a Brompton retailer near you and test ride a folding bike today.


Peace of mind

If you’re looking to buy online, make sure you’re buying from a reputable retailer who offers a money-back guarantee should the bike not meet your expectations, or isn’t suitable for your specific needs. For example, buying directly from the official Brompton website gives you a 28-day money back guarantee - so you can return an undamaged bike with no hassle or worries.

a line brompton folding image in front of blue wall

9. How reliable is a folding bike?


A folding bike is an investment that should provide years of trouble-free riding and convenience. 

Buy from a reputable manufacturer (like Brompton) that has a reputation for quality established over years of specialist experience. Look for a warranty on the folding bike frame, and also ensure there's a comprehensive support service available. 

With some simple regular maintenance, a properly manufactured folding bike should give you years of trouble-free use. 


10. Which is the best folding bike?


The best folding bike depends on your specific requirements. 

What is your budget? Are you looking for the lightest city bike for your daily commute? Are you looking for the most cost-effective folding bike? Is your daily ride relatively flat, or would you benefit from having a higher number of gears to deal with the hills and gradients? Do you want your folding bike to last for years, without having to worry about it letting you down when you need it most? Do you want the additional benefit of adding electric power to your folding bike (and the additional weight)?

All these questions will help you determine which is the best folding bike for you. This guide will help you answer a lot of these questions, and the online Brompton experts can answer any specific questions you might have relating to the specifications of the bikes, how to purchase (and what options are available), and discuss the after-sales support you can expect.  

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