The 6 best bike helmets, for road cyclists, commuters, or casual riders

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bike helmets offer vital protection for all cyclists, and can save their life in the event of a crash.
  • The best should fit comfortably, protect from blunt and rotational impacts, and be highly visible.
  • Our top pick, POC’s Octal X SPIN, has great ventilation, a highly protective design, and enhanced visibility.

Bike helmets aren’t the same polystyrene buckets they used to be. They’ve since become so specialized that the helmet one might use for commuting differs greatly from what they might grab for a road bike ride – and that’s a good thing. Now, anyone can leverage that variety and specialization to find a helmet suited perfectly to their needs and ride style.

The most important bike helmet feature is that it should be highly protective. Of course, you hope to never get to the point where you need it to perform its ultimate function of protecting your head, but no matter where you live, hopping on a bike comes with plenty of injury risk.

Thanks to a rigorous set of standards, modern helmets dramatically reduce that risk. They protect your head from the force of impact but also do well to avoid limiting your vision or coming loose and falling off as you ride. Helmet manufacturers have even started going a step further and implementing new technology (MIPS and SPIN) that build off those guidelines and protect you even better.

So, what exactly is the best bike helmet? Considering we couldn’t reasonably test each helmet for how well it protected our head in a crash, we were still able to judge other important factors like fit, comfort, weight, ventilation, and value.

After testing dozens of helmets, we settled on six that are worth the investment. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a bike helmet, as well as insight into our testing methodology.

Here are the best bike helmets:

The best overall

POC Octal helmet

The POC Octal X Spin is well ventilated, comfortable, and offers enhanced visibility and safety features that benefit cyclists and commuters alike.

Pros: Lightweight, well ventilated, highly visible, enhanced coverage and SPIN system for better protection

Cons: Some riders may have to size up from the non-SPIN models, the appearance will not appeal to everyone, POC’s crash replacement policy is not as generous as some brands, expensive

Whether I’m riding a hundred miles on the road or five miles to the shops, the OCTAL X SPIN is the helmet I pick for 90% of my riding. POC is relatively new to the cycling industry, but its focus on safety, along with a distinctly Scandinavian aesthetic, won the brand a loyal following.

To make the Octal X SPIN, POC took its popular road cycling helmet, the Octal, and gave it a few tweaks to make it equally suitable for trail use. Along with a shell that fully covers the lining — a common feature of off-road helmets — POC added SPIN technology. SPIN, which stands for Shearing Pads Inside, is designed to protect against oblique impacts — something many standard helmets don’t do well.

While CPSC regulations don’t require protection against these impacts, POC offers SPIN tech to people who want protection above and beyond the legal minimum. The main function of a helmet is protecting your brain, so POC made this its main selling point for the Octal X SPIN.

Safety might be a good reason to pick the Octal X SPIN, but you won’t be let down in terms of performance either.

The Octal X SPIN covers more of the back and sides of a wearer’s head compared to a conventional road helmet. This makes the Octal a safer choice, especially for riding off-road where low-speed falls and hits to different parts of the head are likely.

Despite its larger size, the Octal doesn’t feel heavy in use, and the scales confirm it weighs in at a very competitive 267 grams for medium. The larger footprint didn’t seem to impact ventilation, either. Even on slow climbs, the helmet provides ample airflow.

The best budget

bern helmet

The Bern FL1 Trail combines the styling of helmets five times its price with great venting and an adjustable fit for a performance that belies its incredible value.

Pros: Great value, highly vented and adjustable, looks and weight on par with top brands

Cons: Sits a little high on the head, visor is not adjustable

It might seem counterproductive to throw hundreds of dollars on something designed to break. Luckily, all helmets approved for use in the US have to pass the same tests, meaning that while cheaper helmets might weigh more or offer less venting, they’ll protect you just as much as their higher-end counterparts.

With the FL1 Trail, the compromises are minimal. Bern uses the same in-mold 18 vent construction as its top of the line helmets but manages to save money by using a non-brand-name adjustment dial on the rear closure mechanism.

The helmet also offers a visor to protect from rain, sun, and trailside vegetation. It doesn’t feel that much different in use to more expensive helmets thanks to its light weight of just 271 grams, along with plenty of venting.

The best for racing

giro helmet

Giro’s Aether is a slimline helmet that doesn’t compromise on breathability, aerodynamics, or safety, making it a great choice for racers.

Pros: One of the safest helmets on the market, lightweight and aerodynamic, comes in a variety of colors to match your bike or kit

Cons: The Aether is expensive, but you only get one brain, this is more of a road style helmet and off-road riders will have to wait for mountain bike appropriate model

Giro’s long been synonymous with the highest level of performance in bike racing. Its helmets have won bike races in just about every category, and the brand has routinely innovated not just performance but also safety.

Two of the biggest trends in cycle helmets have been aerodynamics and multiple impact protection (MIPS) — each of which driven by Giro. Until recently, however, both required compromises resulting in racers often owning several helmets. Giro’s aerodynamic models were fast on the flat but tended to be heavy and poorly vented, making them a bad choice for hill climbs.

The Aether is a no-compromises racing helmet. Instead of placing the MIPS layer by a rider’s head, Giro sandwiched it between EPS foam layers, resulting in a more comfortable and aerodynamic helmet. Eleven vents make the helmet virtually disappear on climbs, too.

Of course, the Aether’s best benefit is one nobody wants to test. Impact protection with the MIPS spherical system is better than ever before and now the helmet’s fit and ventilation are uncompromised meaning that, should the worst happen, you’ll always be the best protected.  

A new Spherical MIPS system is built into the helmet and provides more impact protection and less inconvenience. The adjustable Roc-Loc 5 fit system also means that the helmet retains its fit.  

The best portable

stack helmet

The Loop uses a unique design to reduce its size by almost 50%, making it perfect for stashing in your bag when you’re not riding.

Pros: Collapses to a smaller size, portable, easy to travel with, protective design, easy to use, great for bike share fans

Cons: Not as robust as some higher-quality models

Most people who ride bike share bikes do so without helmets — it makes sense, too. It’s not easy to carry around a full-sized helmet on the off chance you decide to rent a bike. This is where the Loop comes in.  

It’s as safe and comfortable as a regular helmet but when collapsed, it takes up just half the space in your bag. If you use bike share bikes regularly or as part of a daily commute, the Loop will quickly become something you never leave home without.

When in use, the Loop acts like any other bike helmet, complete with ventilation and an adjustable elastic fit strap. It passed the same set of stringent tests that determine its ability to prevent brain injury in the event of a crash or fall as any other helmet, too.

The Loop locks in its expanded position dependably and never collapsed during our testing. The hidden air vents and elastic strap make for a comfortable fit and it comes in two sizes and four colors, meaning there should be a combo for everyone.

The best aspect of the Loop is how it behaves when not in use. Instead of requiring a special tie-down on the outside of your backpack or hanging awkwardly off your messenger bag, the Loop collapses into itself and can be stashed in a bag, drawer, or desk.

At only 330 grams, the Loop is light, too. If you use bike share systems or electric scooters on a regular basis, or intend to borrow a bike while traveling, this is a fantastic alternative to riding helmetless. At less than $80, it’s also a cheap way to stay safe as you make your way around town.

The best for commuters

ThousandChapter1

The Chapter from Thousand comes with an attachable 50-lumen rear taillight that’s capable of running for up to one-hour of solid light or two hours of blinking light.

Pros: Comes with a 50-lumen taillight that magnetically affixes to the back of the helmet or can attach to your bike, stylish design, features MIPS technology, easy to use clasp system

Cons: Light offers just one hour of battery life of solid light (though it does offer two hours of a blinking light)

If you bike regularly, chances are you find yourself riding in low light (or even night) conditions quite often. Riding with a light attached to your bike is a common practice but having a light affixed to your helmet helps dramatically improve your visibility. Though more helmets are starting to come standard with light functionality, our favorite is the Chapter from Thousand.

The Chapter comes with a 50-lumen rear taillight that attaches magnetically to the back, of which can also be affixed to your bike via an included adapter. Fully charged, the light stays on for up to an hour in solid light mode, and up to two hours while blinking. The ability to pop on or off the taillight gives the helmet great versatility for the everyday rider, as it doesn’t force you to lug it around every time you hop on your bike.

Other features include a small visor designed to improve your field of vision, Thousand’s signature PopLock that allows you to attach it to your bike via your bike lock, and an easy-to-use magnetic clasp system for easy on and off. It also has MIPS built into the helmet for added safety against impacts.

What also sets the Chapter apart is its modern design. Thousand’s made a name for itself designing stylish bike helmets and the Chapter continues that trend. The helmet comes in either an all-black colorway, a navy finish with a sort of tortoiseshell visor, and a vibrant matte white with a rose gold visor. — Rick Stella, fitness & health editor

The best high visibility

lumos helmet

The Lumos fits and feels like a regular helmet, but its host of high-tech features make it a great pick for anyone who rides in the dark. 

Pros: Highly visible and noticeable to drivers, wireless controls let you signal turns without taking your hands off the bars, easy setup, and a good fit

Cons: Proprietary charger, heavier than a standard helmet, lacks the adjustability of high-end helmets

For half the year, I ride home from work in the pitch black. I make every effort to light myself up like a Christmas tree with both flashing and steady rear and front lights, as well as reflective clothing. It wasn’t until I tried the Lumos helmet that I realized drivers knowing where I was is only part of the safety equation. To be truly safe, they also need to know where I’m going.

When it’s too dark for drivers to see hand signals indicating a change in direction, the Lumos uses an automatic rear warning light to signal braking and a handlebar-mounted signal to indicate changes in direction. Just like a car, the Lumos gives you red brake lights and orange turn signals.

The Lumos helmet also includes white LED lights on the front and red LEDs on the rear, meaning you’re visible even when not braking or turning. When combined with a sensible outfit and bike lights, the Lumos really does feel like the safest way to get home in the dark.

While the Lumos helmet might lack the adjustability of truly high-end road helmets, it’s designed more with commutes in mind and isn’t likely to see much use in 100-mile road races.

Overall, the Lumos is not a replacement for lights but it is a great addition to the safety toolkit of any cycle commuter. If you’re riding home in the dark, this helmet really stands out as a great choice for safety and visibility.

The lab testing process

In general, cycling helmets are designed to prevent a traumatic brain injury in the event of an impact. All helmets sold in the US must pass a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) test, meaning they satisfy certain criteria that help reduce the risk of brain injury.

There are generally four tests each helmet must pass. These tests are:

1. Peripheral Vision Test: A helmet must not block a rider’s vision

2. Positional Stability Test: The helmet must not come off a rider’s head during a fall

3. Retention Strength Test: A helmet’s straps do not stretch too much to allow the helmet to come off during an accident

4. Impact Attenuation Test: The helmet is capable of significantly reducing how much force is exerted on a wearer’s head when it hits a hard surface

In recent years, systems such as MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and SPIN (Shearing Pads Inside) have been included in helmets to help prevent brain injuries stemming from multiple impacts or oblique collisions.

These technologies go beyond CPSC requirements but can be helpful if a specific type of collision happens.

How to shop for a bike helmet

Since the jack-of-all-trades bike helmet is mostly a thing of the past, it’s important to consider the kind of riding you plan on doing before purchasing. If you’re a road biker, you’ll likely want one that’s aerodynamic and lightweight while commuters should opt for a helmet with some sort of built-in light or visibility marker.

Even if you’re just casually riding around your neighborhood, you still want to find the correct helmet (likely one that teeters more towards comfort than aerodynamics while still offering a premium level of protection).

Above all, a bike helmet should excel at protecting your head against all sorts of impacts, be it a light crash or something more severe. Research the lab testing standards and how well certain helmets rate in those tests before buying. A good rule of thumb is to always side with helmets that have MIPS or SPIN technology, as those are the latest innovations designed to protect against a wider range of rotational forces upon impact. 

How we test bike helmets

Each helmet picked in this guide went through a thorough testing process to determine if it’s worthy of a recommendation (and, ultimately, your investment). To do this, we looked at a number of factors, consisting of comfort, fit, safety features, and value. Here’s how each of those categories factored into what helmets made the cut:

Comfort: If a bike helmet isn’t comfortable while worn, you’ll be less inclined to want to throw it on, even if you’re just quickly running to the store. The best bike helmets should certainly feel like you’re wearing something but not to the point where you’re either constantly adjusting it or counting down the seconds until you can take it off. 

Fit: Similar in the way an uncomfortable helmet isn’t ideal, an ill-fitting one is just as miserable. A poor fit can also jeopardize how well it keeps you safe in the event of a crash or direct impact. Many modern helmets feature adjustable sizing, too, allowing you to customize a perfectly dialed fit.

Safety features: How a bike helmet protects your head in a crash is, hands down, it’s most important feature (and the entire reason why you’re wearing a helmet in the first place). Look for safety features such as MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) or those with WaveCel technology, as these are advanced systems designed to reduce the force of impact on your head. 

Value: A helmet’s value is the combination of the categories that come before it (plus, of course, its price). If you’re paying a premium sticker price, you should expect a premium product in terms of safety, fit, and comfort. Going the budget route isn’t taboo but do make sure that if you’re looking to save a few bucks, the helmet you purchase should still be effective at keeping you protected (we included a reliable budget pick that checks this box).

Check out our other bike gear guides

thule bike rack
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The 6 best bike racks for cars in 2021, including hitch, trunk, and roof racks

  • The best bike rack will hold your bike securely for 5 to 500 miles, without damaging your bike or car.
  • You also may want a bike rack that’s easy to unload solo and doesn’t prevent the trunk from opening.
  • Our top pick, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2, is durable, hitch-mounted, but allows trunk access and holds most bike sizes and tires.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you’re loading your mountain bike to head to the trail, transporting your roadie to a race, or taking the entire family’s commuters for a scenic ride, a bike rack is an essential piece of equipment for any cyclist of any level.

Read more: The best spring cycling gear

Being able to safely and securely carry your bike wherever you go truly opens up the possibilities of where and when you can ride. For that reason alone, having a bike rack at your disposal proves just as handy as owning a bike lock or tire pump.

While testing the best bike racks currently available, we examined options from some of the top brands including Thule, Yakima, and Kuat. Our guide features racks that are user-friendly, can fit an array of bike types, and will keep your car from getting scratched. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on what to look for in a bike rack and how we tested those on this list.

Here are the best bike racks:

The best bike rack overall

Thule bike rack

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty hitch bike rack that still allows you to access your hatchback or truck bed, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is an expensive but incredibly well-designed solution.

Pros: Tilts for easy hatchback access, holds a broad array of bike types, durable, versatile, and expandable

Cons: Expensive, confusing assembly instructions, heavy

The Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is easy to install on your hitch (although it does weigh more than 50 pounds, so you might need a hand). And, once on, it has the ability to tilt up and down when needed, which lets you move it out of the way to access a hatchback or trunk. The entire process is actually simple enough to do with just one hand.

This bike rack has a frame-free ratcheting arm that quickly and easily secures up to two bikes with wheels from 20 to 29 inches, even fat tire models up to 5-inches thick. You can also add two additional trays to the T2 Pro XT, expanding its carrying capacity to four bikes.

As you’d expect from legacy brand Thule, this rack gets high marks for durability. It’s incredibly well-built and provides excellent stability, holding bikes of various sizes securely in place. The T2 Pro XT’s dual ratcheting arm system is intuitive, too, making it easy to transition to and from a ride with a minimum amount of hassle. 

When designing this bike rack, Thule put a great deal of thought into the needs of its customers. Little details like being able to widen the distance between the wheel trays in order to accommodate larger bikes is a much-appreciated feature, and the kind of touch that makes this pick stand out as the best overall bike rack available. 

That said, there are a few minor downsides to the T2 Pro XT: The durability makes it quite heavy compared to other models, and it’s expensive. 

Best roof rack

Yakima HighRise rack

The Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack allows for quick-loading of bikes and is ideal for cyclists who prefer hauling gear on top of their car.

Pros: Holds a variety of bikes securely, doesn’t come in contact with the frame, easy installation

Cons: Must be used with crossbars, doesn’t come with built-in locks

The Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack is different from other roof-mounted bike racks in that you don’t have to remove your bike’s front tire to load it, and it’s able to hold your bike in place without directly touching the frame. 

The HighRoad is easy to install and works by having two hoops that clamp securely onto the front wheel, holding it firmly in place. Once the wheel is in position, you turn a torque knob to lock it down further, limiting movement without damaging the wheel or frame. The rear wheel is then held in place with a strap, adding extra security and stability in the process. 

Overall, this makes for a speedier load and unload while also minimizing the chances of scratching the paint or bending the frame. This is especially important for those who ride costly carbon fiber models.

Yakima’s HighRoad is fairly versatile in what it can carry. The rack accommodates bikes with 26- to 29-inch wheels and tires as wide as 4 inches, which should cover most road bikes, mountain bikes, fat tire bikes, and kids’ bikes. 

As with all roof racks, the HighRoad keeps sight lines clear and doesn’t inhibit access to the rear of the vehicle. Loading and unloading can be quite challenging however, particularly for shorter riders or those with heavier bikes.

There also seems to be one blind spot in the design of this rack: While the HighRoad does support lock cores, it doesn’t include them out of the box. That means you’ll have to buy your own, adding about $60 to the overall cost.

Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack

Best trunk rack

Saris bike rack

The Saris Bones EX 3-Bike trunk rack is designed to fit nearly any vehicle, making it a great investment for any cyclist. 

Pros: Lightweight, compact, easy to install, compatible with a wide range of vehicles for longeviety, made from recycled plastics

Cons: Restricts access to trunk or hatchback, pricier than other trunk racks

The most recent of the company’s classic Bones model, the Saris Bones EX 3-Bike brings updated styling and a new system for attaching the rack to a vehicle that makes it compatible with 90% of the cars, hatchbacks, and SUVs on the market, including vehicles with spoilers. This expanded compatibility means there’s a good chance the Bones EX 3-Bike will not only fit your current car but your next one, too. 

The Bones EX is held in place by some of the best ratchet straps we’ve seen on a trunk rack. When properly installed, this model locks securely into position, holding two bikes, up to 35 pounds each. The entire system is designed to avoid touching the vehicle, which prevents scratches, scrapes, and dings. Those same ratchet straps also release quickly, making it a breeze to remove the rack when not in use. 

The EX is made from 100% recycled injection-molded plastic, so it’s environmentally-friendly, highly durable, strong, and resistant to rusting. What’s more, it’s surprisingly light, tipping the scales at just 11 pounds. As with all of its products, Saris backs the Bones EX with a lifetime warranty. 

It also features an integrated strap management system for a clean look that keeps the straps out of the way on the back of your car. The design also positions the 3 bikes on separate levels, lowering the chances the bikes will become intertwined while driving. 

As with most trunk racks, the Bones EX makes it challenging to get into a trunk or hatchback. It’s also a bit expensive at $205. That said, the EX’s ability to fit on a broader range of cars makes that added cost a good investment for the future. 

Best lightweight rack

kuat bike rack

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is a lightweight hitch rack that’s durable, easy to load, and still allows access to your trunk.

Pros: Very lightweight, tilts for hatchback access, plenty of space between bikes, easy to load

Cons: Doesn’t hold bikes with fat tires or those that weigh over 40 pounds

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is surprisingly light at just 31 pounds, thanks to its all-aluminum construction. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to install and, because it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to handle with just one person. This is truly invaluable for anyone who wants to remove the rack for everyday driving and re-install it for a few cycling adventures a year.

That lightweight does not compromise quality: The Sherpa 2.0 secures your bikes using a system that includes a front tire ratchet arm and a rear tire strap, locking your bike in place without the rack coming into contact with the frame. Folding tire cradles click neatly into place when in use, but efficiently slide out of the way when they aren’t needed. Each of these features work seamlessly together, making it easy to load and unload two bikes that weigh as much as 40 pounds each. All in all, loading and unloading bikes takes about a minute, which is ideal. 

The Sherpa 2.0 also has a clever foot-activated pivot system that lets you open the rack and move it into position with the tap of your foot — incredibly helpful when your hands are full. And the rack is built to tilt out of the way, allowing unfettered access to the back of the vehicle it’s mounted on. 

Unlike some hitch racks, the Sherpa can’t expand in size nor can it accommodate fat bikes. It’s lightweight limits the size of the load it can carry, too, which is why it caps out at bikes that weigh 40 pounds. Most conventional bikes fall below that threshold, of course, but this model would have issues with heavier e-bikes for instance. 

Best budget roof rack

IMG_1233.JPG

Swagman’s Upright roof-mounted bike rack is inexpensive, easy to install on cars with crossbars, and lets you quickly mount your bike without taking a tire off. 

Pros: Inexpensive, installs easily onto existing crossbars, features a locking mechanism to hold the bike in place, fits a wide range of bike styles

Cons: Holds just one bike

I’ve had a car roof rack for many years, but I never had the proper accessories to mount my bike on top. Since I’m riding my bike a lot more now, I decided it was finally time to get one. When I started doing research on bike mounts, I realized they can be rather expensive, especially if you go to popular name brands.

I got a great deal and paid $119 for my mountain bike during eBay’s Prime Day-adjacent sale a few years ago, so paying a couple hundred for a single bike mount didn’t sit well with me. I went with the Swagman Upright mount simply because it’s cheap (I got two of them for less than one mount from a name brand) and it turned out to be great. It was easy to install, it keeps my bike secure, and is lockable. I did add a bungee cord for extra security, but I would’ve done that even with a more expensive mount. — Amir Ismael, style and grooming reporter

Best budget trunk rack

bike rack 5

The Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it does have a simple, elegant design that easily meets the needs of most riders.

Pros: Affordable, holds a wide array of bike types, can easily fit in your trunk when not in use, lifetime warranty

Cons: Metal hooks could potentially scratch your vehicle, no locking mechanism

Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is very simple, but it’s surprisingly versatile for a budget model. It can hold two bikes, and of a wide variety of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes, kids’ bikes, and even fat bikes, provided they don’t exceed the 35-pound weight limit.

Installation isn’t especially difficult, but it can be a bit confusing the first few times you put it on your car. Allen Sports even designed it to be compatible with most cars, hatchbacks, SUVs, and even minivans. Removing the rack is equally easy, requiring just a few seconds to take it off when not in use.

Loading bikes on and off the support arms is quick and easy, and the simple-yet-rugged straps ensure your bike doesn’t jostle about. There’s even a strap prevent the front wheel from bouncing back and forth, protecting your vehicle from potential damage. The Premier Trunk Rack does a great job of securely holding its cargo in place. 

The price kicks in with the quality of the materials used; however, the Premier Trunk Rack still feels plenty sturdy and will likely last for quite a long time. Allen Sports even backs that up with a lifetime warranty on the Premier Trunk Rack

There are a number of small details that remind us that it’s a low-cost model. For instance, over the course of a long drive, the securing straps can come loose, so you should check them at every gas stop. The metal clips on the ends of those straps also lack any type of protective coating, which could scratch a car’s paint. In another cost-saving move, the rack doesn’t have a locking mechanism to protect the bikes from would-be thieves. Those may seem like small oversights but they are important to consider, nonetheless. 

Of course, the best thing about the Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is its price. At $110, it’s a bargain when you consider everything it brings to the table. 

How we tested

Each bike rack featured in this guide went through a number of on-vehicle tests to judge how well it compared across four categories: ease of installation, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category factored into our decision making for which racks made this guide:

  • Ease of installation: Ordering a bike rack online means that you’ll most likely be tasked with installing the rack onto your car or truck yourself. Regardless if it’s a roof-, hitch-, or trunk-mounted rack, the installation process isn’t always an easy chore. This isn’t a complete dealbreaker but it is definitely a vital consideration.
  • Ease of use: A bike rack is inherently somewhat complicated, but it should be intuitive enough that you don’t have to references the owner’s manual to load or unload your bikes after the first go. Ideally, a rack will take just a few minutes to load or unload to not take time out of your actual ride.
  • Versatility: It’s hard to judge a rack on how many bikes it can carry since almost all racks are designed to haul a specific number, so it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Versatility, however, is a much better distinction, even if it’s a broader term. This means that a bike rack may be able to carry several at once but also that it has the ability to be used on different vehicles or could even offer the option of carrying something other than a bike.
  • Value: A bike rack’s value is the sum of the three categories above, as well as how much the thing actually costs. It’s smarter to spend a little more on a premium product than to spend less on a cheaply-built product, though there are plenty of budget bike racks that are solid and get the job done — two of which are featured in this guide. 

How to shop for a bike rack

Having loaded and unloaded my fair share of road and mountain bikes from sedans, vans, trucks, and everything in between, I’ve learned that one bike rack does not fit all. Selecting the right rack requires research beyond just the type of riding you plan on doing. You’ll want to consider your vehicle, how many bikes you plan on transporting, how much you want to spend, and your preferred style of rack itself.

Depending on how you answer the above considerations, expect to decide between these three separate styles of bike rack:

  • Hitch rack: A hitch rack connects to your vehicle’s trailer hitch for easy loading and unloading. This style tends to limit rear visibility, weighs more than others, and can interfere with accessing the trunk or hatchback, but it also provides excellent carrying capacity and stability and is very easy to load and unload for one person. Tray hitch racks are generally better than hanging hitch racks because they’re easier to load and don’t grip the bike frame, which is important if you’re concerned about scratching your paint job.
  • Trunk racks: This style connects to the trunk or hatch of your car using straps, buckles, and hooks. When firmly secured in place, it can be surprisingly stable, although they do hinder rear visibility and make it difficult to access the trunk. On the plus side, these racks are lightweight, affordable, and easy to use. 
  • Roof racks: Roof racks mount on top of your car or truck, meaning they don’t get in the way of sightlines or prevent you from accessing the back. They can also be fairly versatile, making it easy to transport things like kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, too. The downside of a roof rack is that they tend to be expensive and loading bikes all the way up onto the rack can be a challenge, particularly for a solo rider and shorter people.
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The best folding bikes

  • Folding bikes offer riders the chance for recreation and exercise even if they have limited storage space around their home, place of work, or at school. 
  • This style of bike does tend to be more expensive than standard frame bicycles but they can also be stored much more securely, thus minimizing loss via theft.
  • Some brands offer electric versions of folding bikes capable of cruising at speeds around 20 MPH and that have ranges reaching nearly 50 miles between charges, making them ideal for urban commuting.
  • Our top pick, the Tern Node D7i Folding Bike, feels like a standard framed bike, offers a smooth ride, and even has a built-in light that makes it great for night riding.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Over the years, folding bikes have grown from a small niche part of the greater bicycle market into an established, respected category. Though manufacturers have produced this type of bike for well over a century (and even issued them in limited numbers to troops during both World Wars), folding bicycles are only now gaining mass-market appeal as more health- and eco-conscious consumers turn to cycling as a better way to commute, run errands, and recreate.

This growth in popularity means that there are more and better folding bike options available than ever before, making them worth more than just a passing consideration. Even Connor Swegle, co-founder of Priority Bicycles in Manhattan, NY, has long been a fan of folding bikes, despite Priority not offering any in its lineup.

“[Folding bikes are] a great solution for so many commuters,” Swegle told Insider. “They’re perfect for people storing a bike at work or who have limited storage space at home. If they don’t have a bike room at work or a garage, a bike they’re able to just carry or tuck away is ideal. As people look to cut down on the amount of other transportation they use, folding bikes are one of the best options.”

To help those in the market for a folding bike, we tested models from brands like Tern, Brompton, and GoCycle to find the best currently available for a variety of use cases. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a folding bike and the other models that almost made the cut, as well as insight into our testing methodology.

Here are the best folding bikes:

Updated on 1/5/2021 by Rick Stella: Updated the sections on how to shop for a folding bike and the testing methodology we used, checked the availability of each recommended bike, and updated the prices and links where necessary.

Best folding bike overall

Tern Foldable Bike

The Tern Node D7i Folding bike rides almost like a standard fixed frame bike, easily handling mile after mile of varied terrain.

Pros: Stable ride on varied terrain, built-in lighting system, suitable for adult riders of all sizes

Cons: Expensive, large for the category

If you want a folding bike that feels like a regular bike, the Tern Node D71 folder is your best bet. With 24-inch wheels, a seat post that raises to accommodate an adult of above-average height, and adjustable handlebars, you might forget this bike actually folds down to half its size.

For that smooth, steady ride that approximates a standard bike, you’ll be paying a good deal of cash given this folding bicycle‘s nearly $1,100 price tag. But there are myriad features that add value to add up to a fair price.

For instance, a built-in lighting system keeps you safer when riding at night and won’t ever require a change of battery thanks to an internal power hub that siphons your kinetic energy to keep the lights on. Seven gears allow you to easily make your way uphill and make cruising along on level ground a breeze. 

At 33 pounds, it’s also light enough to be easily carried up a few flights of stairs. It does still feature a rugged enough design that makes it suitable for occasional off-roading, too.

On-road, you might find yourself wishing for a few more gears, as any avid cyclist might find themselves easily pedaling along even in seventh gear. Of course, with the benefits of those larger-than-average wheels for a folder so too comes a folding bike that’s still a bit clunky when folded down.

But for the person who wants both convenience and a solid, reliable bike, the Node D7i is a great choice.

Best folding bike for commuting

Ubike Lifestyle

The Bike USA Ubike Metropolis Folding Bike is easy enough for riders of any experience level to enjoy and stable and responsive enough for urban cycling.

Pros: Ships 90% assembled and requires minimal maintenance, easy to adjust seat and handlebars, durable alloy frame

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 250 lbs, pedals not durable enough

If you need a bike that’s reliable and nimble enough to get you across town, then the Ubike Metropolis is for you. While not the right choice for a cross-country tour, given its moderately-sized 22-inch wheels and its three-gear hub, this bike is perfect for the daily grind.

Those 22-inch wheels might not be great for open road cycling but they do allow for deft turns and plenty of control — they take up less space when the bike is folded, too. Though three gears isn’t many, it’s all you need for the city. Just use first gear when going uphill, second for most of the commute, and third on those rare open breakaways when you need some speed.

Twin hand brakes allow for quick stops while the durable frame and smooth, responsive gear system provide safe and comfortable riding on a variety of road surfaces. 

Rider weight is limited to 250 pounds, and watch out for occasional issues with loose pedals. Overall, this is a fine choice for the urban commuter who wants to travel to and fro under his or her own steam.

Best ultra-compact folding bike

Brompton M6L Lifestyle

You could ride your Brompton M6L Folding Bike for mile after mile and then fold it up and stick it anywhere from a car trunk, a closet shelf, or a mid-sized suitcase.

Pros: Packs down very small, responsive ride, weighs just 26 pounds

Cons: Expensive, folding mechanisms take a while to master

The Brompton M6L is one seriously compact folding bike. So compact, in fact, that you’re able to fit it in a suitcase and check it onto a plane (no special bag required). Maybe you want to tuck it into the trunk of a Mazda Miata or carry one under each arm while your partner handles the grocery bags. At 26 pounds, and with wheels just 16 inches in diameter, this is the most compact folder we’ve seen. 

With that small size comes this guide’s largest price tag (for a non-electric bike, at least) and to be honest, this bike is a bit frustrating initially.

The process of unfolding the M6L for use and for folding it down after a ride is a multi-step process that can be confusing and annoying the first few times you do it. But once you master its hinge and locking mechanism, you’ll be able to get it set up or packed down in less than a minute. 

The M6L features six gears, twin hand brakes, and smooth pedaling action. Riding feels safe and natural despite its small tires, which allow for plenty of agility and are able to handle most urban and suburban terrain with ease.

Best affordable folding bike

Vilano Urbana Lifestyle

If you want to cover a few city blocks a few minutes faster, then the Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike is a great choice at a great price.

Pros: Great low price point, very lightweight and compact, easy to ride

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 200 lbs, single-speed not ideal for hills

When you are paying well under $300 for a bike, you can’t expect it to do very much. This is why you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fact Vilano’s Urbana folding bike works fairly well within the context of those expectations. This bike isn’t all that fast, it’s far from rugged, and after a 15-mile ride, you’d probably be sore and ornery. But none of those define the purpose of this folding bike.

The Urbana is a perfect example of what Connor Swegle meant by a last-mile solution. This bike weighs just 21.5 pounds and folds down into dimensions of one by two by three feet, making it extremely easy to carry. This lets you finish your journey with ease and at speeds many times greater than you’re able to walk.

As a single speed bike, the Urbana might not be great for a hilly city like San Francisco, but it’s easy to ride and a good deal of fun given how light and responsive it is. And while rider weight is limited to 200 pounds, the bike’s seat and handlebars can be raised or lowered to accommodate users of varying heights.

If you’re watching your budget, concerned about storage space, and looking to make your short commute more efficient and enjoyable, you’re looking in the right place with this one.

Best electric folding bike

Gocycle Lifestyle

The Gocycle GX folding e-bike zips along at 20 miles per hour and covers up to 40 miles on a single charge, so it might replace a car just as easily as it replaces a subway or bus commute.

Pros: Fast and long-range, quick and easy folding, daytime running lights for safety, easy and comfortable ride

Cons: Very expensive

Folded up, Gocycle’s electric folding bike occupies roughly the same amount of square feet as a desk chair. Unfolded and underway, it cruises along with a top speed of about 20 mph and has a range of around 40 miles — or even more if you opt for the battery upgrade. You can also track your battery life (AKA range) and speed on the LED display set between the ergonomic handlebars of this capable e-bike.

For all the complexity you might expect from an electric folding bike that’s fast and long-range, it’s the simplicity that sets Gocycle’s GX apart.

Take, for example, the fact all wiring and tubes are completely internal, without anything sticking off the hand brakes or snaking around the frame. Then there’s the simple three-speed mechanical shifter for when you’re pedaling yourself. And finally, not only are height adjustments quick and easy, but the bike folds down in less than 30 seconds.

There is one drawback, however, and you surely saw it coming: Its price. This ebike costs $3,299, or more than a perfectly decent used car. But you can’t fold up a car and bring it on the elevator or tuck it in a closet. 

What else we considered

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While the folding bikes above are some of the best out there to be sure, depending on your budget, your interests, or your aesthetic preferences, there are other units to consider, and these are a few more bikes that almost made the cut.

Vektron D7i: The Vektron D7i is a great ebike with almost the same range and speed as the Gocycle GX, and it costs a good deal less. And while that was almost enough to earn it the ebike slot on our list, the exposed tubing, chain, gears, and other components were what kept it as our also considered. In terms of design, this bike comes up just a bit short, though for performance and price, it’s well worth you considering it, too.

SwinX Children’s Folding Bike: For a kids’ folding bike, the SwinX’s model is a fine choice because it can be used by most kids anywhere from preschool to age 10 and can be fitted with training wheels.

Oyama CX8: If you want a folding bike that comes equipped to carry a bit of cargo, consider the Oyama CX8 Folding bike, which comes with a rear rack perfect for a backpack, briefcase, or well-secured bag of groceries.

How to shop for a folding bike

You have to consider first and foremost what cycling experts refer to as use case. This means considering how, when, and where you plan to use your folding bike. 

If your bike is purely for commuting, then an electric folding bike might be the best choice. Do keep in mind that an e-bike (outfit with a burly battery) might be too heavy if you have a third-floor walkup apartment.

Those looking for recreation and exercise may want to consider one of the larger folding bikes that approximates the feel of a standard bicycle. And if you’re only concerned about what Swegle calls the last mile solution (i.e. getting from a subway stop to the door) then a smaller, more affordable folder is perfectly fine.

But folding bikes aren’t cut out for everyone. If you have plenty of storage space, intend on logging a few century rides, or you’re looking to spend less than $500, a folding bike likely isn’t for you.

 

How we test folding bikes

Each bike featured in this guide went through several rounds of testing to see how well it performed across five different categories: Ease of use, portability, ride quality, build quality, and value. Here’s what we looked for specifically across each category.

Ease of use: Perhaps the chief concern over whether a folding bike is worth the investment or not is how easy it is to actually fold when you’re done riding and unfold when you’re ready to take it out. Most have their own unique learning curves but the best should take only a matter of a minute or two to unfurl and a similar amount of time to stow.

Portability: When folded, these bikes should be easy to carry and stow, and shouldn’t be as cumbersome as a normal bike. The way in which these bikes fold into themselves is an important consideration of its portability, as is its weight and whether it can slide into a closet, needs dedicated garage space, or can sit in a hallway without forcing you to climb over it each time you walk past.

Ride quality: With a non-traditional shape comes the likelihood of non-traditional ride quality — but it doesn’t have to be that way. The ride experience will undoubtedly be different than a normal commuter bike but the best folding bikes (and those featured in this guide) don’t feel so different that it’s like learning an entirely new hobby. After all, it should be just like riding a bike. 

Build quality: Folding and unfolding a bike presents a new kind of wear and tear not typically associated with bicycles, so build quality is vital. Each bike’s hinges and joints should be able to hold up to literally thousands of folds/unfolds without showing much degradation.

Value: Most folding bikes do carry with them a more expensive price tag than a standard commuter, though the price is often a reflection of the advanced engineering required to make it a quality bike that also happens to fold into itself. For value, we considered the previous four categories as a sum of their parts, and how that reflects the final sticker price. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best bike locks

  • A reliable bike lock should give you the peace of mind to leave your bike almost anywhere and that it’ll still be waiting for you when you return. 
  • The best locks do this by using thick steel shackles or cables that are hard to cut through, making the act of actually stealing a bike an arduous (or impossible) task.
  • Our top pick, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini Bicycle U-Lock, features anti-theft protection, is easy to mount to your bike, and has a useful double-bolting system.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you live in the country or in a major metropolitan area, there’s no bike lock system capable of stopping a well-equipped thief. However, there are a number of locks that will either slow down or completely discourage a criminal.

Though some thieves will try to drill the lock, the most common way bikes are stolen is when someone cuts through a lock’s shackle, cable, or chain. Of these options, the shackle of a U-lock is the hardest to cut through. The thicker the steel, the longer it takes to get through. Also, if the lock has a double bolt system, a potential thief would then need to make two cuts to free the bike.

But bike locks aren’t exactly a one-size-fits-all type of device. While some offer bulked-up protection for a wide range of use cases, others are designed for when you just need to quickly lock your bike or as a full-on attachment to your bike frame – and we’ve tested dozens of them. 

Over the course of several different rides, including mountain bike trips, e-bike outings, or just casual rides around the neighborhood, we tested locks from brands like Kryptonite, Hiplok, and Lobster Lock, intent on finding the best. Here are our favorites. 

Here are the best bike locks:

Updated on 12/22/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on how we test bike locks, added more to the copy for the Hiplok DX and the Lobster Lock, checked the availability of each recommended bike lock, and updated the prices where necessary. 

Best bike lock overall

kryptonite mini bike lock

If you live in a high crime area, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini Bicycle U-Lock does an excellent job of warding off criminals and protecting your bike.

Pros: Takes longer to cut through than any other lock

Cons: Small, heavy

Kryptonite is the top name in the bike lock industry. That’s why we’ve included three of its locks in our guide. One of the factors that set Kryptonite apart is its Anti-Theft Protection Offer. Basically, when you get your lock, you must register it with the company right away. Then, if your bike is stolen while it is covered by the anti-theft protection, the company will pay to replace your bike. For the Fahgettaboudit Mini, the first year of registration is free. After that, it is $24.99 for five years of coverage.

The New York Fahgettaboudit Mini offers the highest level of security of any of Kryptonite’s locks according to the company. The shackle is made of 18-millimeter hardened “MAX-Performance” steel. For extra security, the crossbar has an oversized hardened steel sleeve. The lock comes with three keys, which disengages the lock using a high-security disk-style cylinder. The cylinder is protected by a sliding dust cover. And, the center keyway is designed to make leverage attacks difficult.

Best budget bike lock

best budget bike lock titanker bike lock cable

For less than $15, the Titanker Bike Lock Cable is an affordable alternative that offers a variety of locking options.

Pros: 10,000 possible combinations, four-foot reach, flexible

Cons: Cable is relatively easy to cut

The Titanker Bike Lock Cable is made of flexible steel cables that measure a half-inch in diameter. The 4-foot cable is covered with PVC coating and recoils back into its original shape when not in use. The four-digit combination lock has 10,000 possible passcodes. This lock is the lightest option in this guide at 11.2 ounces, and it mounts to your bike with the provided bracket.

The cable design offers flexibility in what you can lock a bike to, and the combination key is also convenient. While a lock is a good deterrent in general, this option doesn’t offer the level of protection as the other locks on this list. Still, the thick cable should deter most thieves.  

Note: We previously recommended the UShake Bike Lock Cable, which is nearly similar to the Titanker option. Although many reviewers also recommended the UShake, that lock is not available at the time of posting.

Best D-lock bike lock

HiplokDX3

The Hiplok DX is a heavy-duty D-lock designed to keep your bike secure no matter where you lock it up, and its lightweight design makes it easy to throw into a backpack or even to wear on your person.

Pros: Heavy-duty yet lightweight design, 14mm steel shackle prevents theft

Cons: Locking area might be small for bikes with bigger tires

Hiplok is one of the who’s who in the bike lock industry (we’ve written about, and loved, its Z-Lok) thanks to its wide selection of dependable products. With the DX, Hiplok not only offers one of the most heavy-duty D-locks on the market, but it challenges the Kryptonite lock that nabbed our top spot. 

What makes the DX particularly stand out is its rugged and durable design, led by a double deadlock and 14mm hardened steel shackle that would take nothing short of a tank to break through it. This means you should feel comfortable locking up your bike anywhere and can rest assured it’ll be there waiting for you when you’re reading to ride again. 

It’s also one of the most lightweight locks we’ve tested and can just as easily slip into a backpack or affix to our belt loops without seeming like we’re dragging an anvil. The DX offers up a sizable locking area, as well, which can easily slide through your tire and around a pole. 

At $90, it’s not a budget pick, but with bike locks, you pay for premium quality (and the assurance you won’t have to spend hundreds on a new bike). Hiplok offers a lifetime warranty, so that $90 investment should last you a very long time. — Rick Stella

Best U-lock/cable bike lock combo

kryptonite  bike lock 2

The Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard Bicycle U-Lock w/4-foot Flex Cable is one of the most affordable locks, and the 4-foot cable makes locking up easy.

Pros: Easy to use, lightweight, inexpensive

Cons: Only requires one cut to defeat

The design of the Kryptolok Standard Bicycle U-Lock is fairly similar to the Kryptonite locks we covered in previous slides. It has a center keyway, high-security disc-style cylinder, reinforced hardened crossbar, and a hardened MAX-Performance steel shackle. However, there are some key differences. The shackle is 13 millimeters thick, the U-lock is 4 x 9 inches, and there is not a double locking mechanism.

Kryptonite rates the security of the Kryptolok as 6 out of 10 (versus 9 for the New York Standard and 10 for the Fahgettaboudit Mini). The company states that it should be secure enough in rural areas, in the suburbs, and when traveling with your bike on a car rack.

Remember to register your bike lock with the brand immediately after you purchase it to take advantage of its theft protection program.

Best on-bike bike lock

Screen Shot 2020 09 01 at 3.17.34 PM

The Lobster Lock permanently attaches to your bike frame so you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to grab a lock on your way out the door.

Pros: Attaches to your bike permanently so you’ll never forget a lock, easy to lock/unlock, inexpensive $75 price tag

Cons: Can rattle on your bike a little bit while riding

We’ve all been there: You’re getting ready for a ride, you’ve packed a backpack, grab your helmet, and jet out the door. As you get to your destination, you realize it; you forgot your bike lock. Now, you’re left with a decision, do you leave the bike there and quickly run inside to get what you need, or do you ride back home? With the Lobster Lock, those forgetful moments cease to exist.

Thanks to a design that allows you to permanently attach it to your bike’s frame, the Lobster Lock goes wherever your bike goes, all day, every day. By attaching to where you’d put a water bottle cradle, the lock is able to stay out of the way enough to avoid hindering you as you ride, yet is perfect for attaching to a bike rack (including through your wheel, too).

Using the lock is easy, too. By simply unlocking it with a key, two arms swing out from the base and attach to each other to create the lock. When you’re reading to ride again, just unlock the two arms from each other, fold them back into the base, and lock it again with the key. Simple as that. 

Also, don’t think you have to sacrifice the water bottle cradle — it basically acts as an extension of that area as you’re able to affix a cradle to the lock itself. That’s a ton of convenience packed into one bike lock. — Rick Stella

How we test bike locks

Each of the following bike locks went through several rounds of field testing to make sure they not only provided a reliable method for locking up our bike but that they were easy to use, weren’t a pain to lug around, and offered enough value regardless of their price tag. Specifically, we looked at these five categories: Ease of use, durability, security, and value. Here’s how each category factored into what locks made the cut:

  • Ease of use: Using a bike lock shouldn’t be a headache each time you lock and unlock your ride. This means that it should be easy to affix to a bike rack while still being able to secure valuable parts of your bike (i.e. the wheel) without it feeling like solving a Rubik’s cube. 
  • Durability: What good is a bike lock if it starts to fall apart mere months after you purchase it? Bike locks take a beating, whether it be while getting throwing into a backpack or vehicle, someone attempting to disassemble it, or being stored at home in a garage or closet. You want any lock you purchase (especially since you’re spending hard-earned cash) to last you several years, at the very least. 
  • Security: If a bike lock is easy to break into, then what’s the point? A reliable bike lock should be able to stand up to a variety of bike-stealing methods and not only continue to protect your bike but be able to continue to live up to its namesake. 
  • Value: Value isn’t just about how much a bike lock costs — it’s more about how much return you get on your investment. If you pay a premium price, you should expect premium features. This is sort of like the sum of all the categories before it (while still considering its sticker cost). 
Read the original article on Business Insider