By Stefan Abram
As you might expect, an electric folding bike combines the benefits of folding bikes and those of electric bikes. The best e-bike for you will be dictated by your individual needs; how far you're riding, how flat or hilly the ride is, and how much you want to spend.
The folding mechanism makes these bikes well suited for situations where space is at a premium. For instance, commutes which require multiple forms of transport. Not only does a folding bike make squeezing onto a rush-hour train easier, many operators won’t allow non-folding bikes on at peak times. Their compact size means the bike can be kept by your feet at your desk, rather than risking leaving it outside.
But the benefits aren’t confined only to commuting. A folding bike is easier to find a place for at home if storage presents an issue. For those who like to take their bike with them on holiday, being able to collapse the bike into a manageable size makes this a far more practical proposition.
Regarding the electrical assistance, an electric folding bike provides you with the benefits a conventional e-bike brings. Such as being able to travel further for the same effort, opening up bike commuting for far more people than before.
Additionally, in having the option to make the ride a little easier, this can do away with the need for a change of clothes and a shower at the other end—making for a more straightforward commute. Although it is worth remembering that e-bikes only provide assistance proportional to what you put in. To paraphrase Greg Lemond, you can still work hard—you just go faster.
These aspects can be equally enjoyed when using the bike recreationally. With an e-bike, hills don’t pose an impediment—all topography can be tackled—opening up a greater variety of routes. The electrical assistance also serves to increase the capacity of what you can carry on the bike.
A question often asked is whether you have to pedal an e-bike. The short answer is yes, e-bikes work through pedal assistance; there is no throttle. The e-bike will deliver power proportional to how much you are putting in yourself.
Up to a point. In the UK, e-bikes are limited to providing pedal assistance up to 25 kph (15.5 mph), above that speed you will be propelling the e-bike under your own steam.
In the US, it's a bit more complicated, as the laws vary from state to state. The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association has sought to clear up the murky legislation with a three-class system — each limited to 750-watt motors.
- Class 1: the motor is strictly pedal assist and is limited to 20mph
- Class 2: can provide assistance whether or not the rider is pedaling, and is limited to 20mph
- Class 3: the motor provides pedal assist, is limited to 28mph, and must be equipped with a speedometer.
Our friends over at People for Bikes have complied complete guide that breaks down the rules state by state.
To aid comparisons between bikes, it is helpful to note that batteries are measured in Watt Hours (Wh). The greater this value, the further you will be able to travel on a single charge (all other things being equal). Also, the power of the motor is measured in Watts (W). A more powerful motor will provide greater assistance when accelerating and cycling up hills.
Read on to discover some of the best e-folding bikes on the market.
Best e-folding bikes 2021
Gocycle GX Folding Electric Bike
A solid choice for a commuter, with the option to add many accessories such as fenders, a front and rear rack, integrated lights, lock holster, smartphone mount and a kickstand.
The drivetrain is completely enclosed—making it good for all weather riding—and utilizes a Shimano Nexus 3 speed internally geared hub. With 1” of suspension and 2” wide tires, it is one of the more comfortable small wheelers. Single-sided wheel attachment means you don’t even have to remove the wheel, should you puncture one of the 20” wheels.
The 250W motor and 300Wh Lithium-ion battery provides a range of 65km / 40mi on eco mode and will fully charge from empty in seven hours. A more expensive fast charger that halves the time is also offered.
It weighs in at 17.8kg / 39.25lbs, however, as the weight is centered low on the frame, this at least makes the ride more stable. The folding mechanism has been improved since previous versions and can be quickly collapsed into a small package.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Designed and built in the UK, this bike hits some good practical points. However, even with 20” wheels, it doesn’t fold as tightly as some of the others on our list.
With a Gates Carbon Drive and Shimano Alfine 8 speed internally geared hub, the need to degrease and lube dirty chains and sprockets is removed. Hydraulic disc brakes, 2.1” tires and fenders, combined with the integrated front and rear lights make this a versatile bike.
This bike only folds at two points, meaning it does not come up particularly small, and at 21.7kg / 47.84lbs, it is not exactly lightweight either. This can be put down to the large 418Wh battery giving an impressive maximum range of 95km / 59mi.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This London based brand has been going for 45-years now and have applied their expertise in manufacturing folding bikes to produce electric ones.
With six hub based gears, fenders and built lights, the M6L hits many of the points of a good commuter. The handlebar-mounted bag which holds the battery has extra capacity for carrying other items, and there is even a 5V 1.5A USB port you can use for charging your devices directly from the bike’s battery.
The 250W motor and 300Wh battery give a respectable maximum range of 70km / 45mi and takes four hours to charge from empty, although a faster charger can be bought separately. With 16” wheels and weighing 16.6kg / 36.6lbs, this is a compelling option for maximum portability.
Raleigh Evo Electric Folding Bike
Raleigh’s offering balances cost and performance, aiming for a middle ground in both.
The 8-speed derailleur gears mean maintenance is easier, but more frequent. Coming with a rack, fenders, kickstand and integrated lights, it a versatile bike. The wheels are 20” and shod with 2” tires.
The maximum range comes to around 50km / 31mi due to the smaller 250Wh battery. However, if you thought that would translate into a significant weight saving, you would be wrong, with the whole bike coming in at 20kg / 44lbs. Considering the Evo folds in just two places, the space it takes up is impressively small.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A more unconventional offering from Tern, this bike favors other aspects than minimizing volume.
By folding only at the handlebars, it might collapse to a similar height as other folding bikes, however the Tern remains considerably longer. If space is not at an absolute premium, there are some unique features that make this bike an interesting offering.
The rack can handle 60kg / 132lbs, while the frame can take a gross weight of 170kg / 375lbs. The battery is beefed up to match, with 400Wh delivering a maximum range of 110km / 68mi. This ruggedness means the bike weighs in at a hefty 26kg / 57lbs.
Some highlights of the spec are its hydraulic disc brakes, 9-speed derailleur drivetrain, integrated lights and 20” wheels with 2.2” tires.
Carrera Crosscity Folding Electric Bike
Carrera is the in-house brand of Halfords and is known for its keen prices. This bike lives up to that reputation, delivering good value for money.
Practicality is present, with mudguards, rack, kickstand, and an 8-speed derailleur drivetrain. The wheels are 20” but do have relatively narrow 1.75” tires. The frame only has two folding points but comes in at 18kg / 40lbs, which is impressive for the price.
The range is 50km / 31mi, somewhat lower than expected, given the 250W motor and 313Wh battery. Six hours are needed to reach full charge from empty.
COMPASS Comp Electric Folding Bike
Coming from Go Outdoors in the UK, this is the cheapest bike on our list.
It comes with a kickstand, rack, and mudguards and has a 6-speed derailleur drivetrain. However, due to the size, it folds to and the 22kg / 48.5lbs weight, it probably isn’t the best option for a commuter. But if you’d be packing it in the back of a car or campervan for a trip to the countryside, this is the role it best performs.
In Spanish, Volador means flying, and that's precisely what this folding bike from Qualisport does. Using a rear hub-based motor, the battery is hidden in the seat tube, and the Volador looks about as close to an analog folder as possible.
It's comparatively lightweight for an e-folding bike tipping the scales at 18.14kg / 40lbs, the battery is claimed to provide up to 30mi / 48km of range. The drivetrain is a 7-speed derailleur driven Shimano Tourney affair and the Volador sees mechanical disc brakes and an integrated light.
Rollin on 20in wheels and tires, the Blix Vika+ has a quality folding mechanism at the downtube and stem, which origamis the bike down plenty small enough to fit under your desk,
Blix claims the 11Ah battery and the 350-watt rear hub-based motor will give you 56km / 35mi of range and charge in three hours from empty. There are no disc brakes here, but the Vika+ does have a 7-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain, rear rack, integrated front and rear lights, fenders, and luxurious leather grips.
Anatomy of an electric folding bike—what you should be aware of
As a bike with the core purpose of portability, weight is a major factor to consider. Although an e-folding bike will never be as light as a bike without a motor and battery strapped to the frame, some are significantly heavier than others. Being able to comfortably carry the bike plays an important part in how many folding bikes are used.
The size of the battery and motor have a large effect on the overall weight of an e-bike. Although a more powerful motor will give more ‘oomph’ and a bigger battery will increase the range, these aspects need to be balanced against the intended use of the bike.
If you are taking the bike on public transportation, these will likely be sacrificed in favor of a lighter build. Whereas, if you want a bike that just takes up a little less space than a full-sized one, there is no need to hold back.
For commuters, it’s worth remembering you can bring a cable to charge the bike while you’re at work. This way it’s possible to go for a smaller and lighter battery, whilst keeping an acceptable total range.
It is worth testing out the bike in person, to gain a clearer understanding of what weight and power is the correct balance for you.
As with conventional folding bikes, wheel size is a trade-off between speed and comfort against compact size. Most range between 16” and 24”, however extremes such as 10” and 26” are possible. Which wheel size you go for will be a personal choice depending on what your priorities are.
Degree of folding
Some e-folding bikes can tuck themselves away to an impressively small volume, with Brompton among the leaders in this department.
However, the more folding points a bike has, the longer it will take to pack away and the fiddlier it is to do so. A bike with fewer folding points will be faster and easier, although not as compact. Every bike will sit somewhere along this spectrum of pros and cons, and there is no right answer on how compact to go—the choice depends on your circumstances.
Again, it is very much worth testing the bike in person to get a feel for what size and how easily the bike folds. That said, collapsing the bike will become a second nature over time.
Although some e-folding bikes are bought to simply be flexible and convenient bikes for storing and transporting to pleasant cycling locations, many will see use in the rush hour. As such, there are certain points that make a bike more practical for commuting. For example, mudguards, pannier racks and built-in lights all become important considerations.
We hope these tips help you make the perfect choice—happy cycling!
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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