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
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best commuter bikes, for running errands around town or getting to work

  • Commuter bikes offer a cost-effective and fitness- and environmentally-friendly way to run errands or get around town.
  • The best are comfortable to ride, handle a variety of casual terrain, and hold up in an array of weather and road conditions.
  • Our top pick, Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s Franklin 3, has a comfortable, upright design and features high-quality components.

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Editor’s note: Due to fluctuating stock, some of the recommendations on this list are either temporarily out of stock or currently back-ordered. We will update this piece with new information when we can.

Working from home, I miss having the opportunity to commute to work. Depending on the weather, I used to roller skate or bike the roughly 13-mile trek each day. Sure, it took a bit longer than driving but I started the day on a positive, energetic note and was in the best shape of my life.

More cities are now encouraging their residents to commute by bike, creating bike-only lanes in urban areas. Therefore, now is the best time to use a bike to get around town, run errands, or just enjoy some time outside.

But it seems as though just about every bike brand offers not just one, but multiple versions of something dubbed a “commuter.” To help, I’ve tested a number of the top commuter bikes from companies like Brooklyn Bicycle Co., Priority Bicycles, and Schwinn to find the best currently available.

At the bottom of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to best shop for a commuter bike, as well as the testing methodology I used in narrowing down which bikes ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best commuter bikes:

Best overall

The Franklin

If you want a comfortable, attractive commuter bike that comes fully assembled, the Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Franklin 3 is a smart solution that’s built to last.

Pros: Assembly is included in the price, beautiful design, durable construction, comfortable to ride

Cons: Only three speeds

Brooklyn Bicycle Co. focuses on building bikes that are designed for durability, comfort, and style. This focus is apparent in the Franklin 3. The step-through frame makes mounting your bike effortless regardless of what you’re wearing, and it’s made of lightweight steel so you can easily carry the approximately 33-pound bike up and downstairs.

The rear hub and shifter are made by Shimano, one of the top names in the industry. And, the bike comes with puncture-resistant tires. Both the saddle and grips are made of vegan leather for maximum comfort.

The Franklin 3 is a three-speed bike, but there are also single-speed and seven-speed options. The bike comes in small/medium or large. And, it’s available in five colors: ivory, matte coral, gloss black, sea glass, and cardinal red. If you’d prefer a top tube that is closer to parallel with the ground rather than the step-through frame, check out the Bedford 3.

Editor’s note: Brooklyn Bicycle Co. says that it plans to restock the Franklin via its website in late Spring. 

Best for beginners

cyclecooprei

The Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 offers a smooth ride, excellent maneuverability, and is light enough to store in your walk-up apartment.

Pros: Comfortable seat, easy for novices to operate, locking front suspension fork, excellent customer service

Cons: Expensive

After a hiatus from the bicycle space, REI launched Co-op Cycles in 2017 with the goal of providing fun and freedom on two wheels. As the name suggests, the CTY 2.1 is specifically designed to be used in the city.

Several of the parts come from top names in the industry, too. The crankset, shifters, derailleurs, rear cogs, hydraulic disc brakes, and brake levers are Shimano. The hubs are Joytech. And, the chain is KMC Z8.

The suspension fork features a locking mechanism so you aren’t bouncing around while riding on smooth surfaces. And, there’s 360-degree reflectivity to keep you visible both day and night, though you’ll still want lights.

This is the main bike I use for fitness and when tooling around town. From the moment I picked it up to test, I was blown away by REI’s customer service. I had to drive about an hour away to get to the closest store, and they were insistent on making sure it fit me correctly.

The CTY 2.1 is also incredibly responsive. On one ride, the brakes reacted quickly, saving me from crashing into a car that pulled out of a drive without looking. And, I have no problem handling the windy trails in my city. The biggest negative for me is that the pedal reflectors fell off after 400 miles.

Best electric

PriorityCurrent

The Priority Current is a low maintenance e-bike that delivers a smooth, easy ride, and its 50-mile electric range 

Pros: Can handle a variety of terrain, has a 50-mile range when fully charged, rides smoothly and doesn’t feel like it’s jolting you when first pedaling, requires very little maintenance

Cons: E-bikes are expensive, the fenders can rub on the tires if nudged out of place

If you’re often commuting long distances or live somewhere near a number of hills, I highly recommend considering an e-bike. The pedal-assistance native to e-bikes makes biking, be it to work, the store, or just around town, a much more pleasant experience (plus, who doesn’t like showing up to where they intend to go not covered in sweat?). 

My favorite e-commuter is Priority’s Current, which also happens to be Insider Reviews’ top choice for all e-bikes in general. The Current offers 50 miles of range on a fully charged battery, handles a variety of terrain with ease, and is just an all-around joy to ride. The fact it needs essentially no routine maintenance makes it an even more attractive option. 

The bike itself is a Bosch-heavy setup, featuring a Bosch motor, battery, and head unit — and its reliance on one brand for these components is a huge reason why maintenance is so simple. It has five different pedal-assist modes, so I’m always able to easily customize exactly how much oomph I want it to provide, and it has a top speed of 28 mph of assisted speed which always seemed like more than enough. 

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Current is its price — though e-bikes hardly ever fall into the range of “budget.” But it’s more than just a simple commuter and can be something you’re able to reliably ride for a long time. — Rick Stella, health & fitness editor for Insider Reviews

Best under $300

Schwinn bike

The Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike is a great entry-level alternative if you want to give bicycle commuting a try without spending a lot of money.

Pros: Affordable, relatively easy to assemble, attractive, comes with fenders and rear rack, lifetime limited warranty

Cons: Several of the parts come from no-name manufacturers

For under $300, you get a lot with the Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike. The bike comes partially assembled and finishing the job is easy enough for a novice, so you may not need to spend extra for expert help.

There are both back and front fenders to protect you from the grime the tires might kick up. And, you can carry your work items using the included rear rack. The frame is made of steel and features a cool retro urban style. The spring seat provides a comfortable, upright ride. Schwinn backs the quality of this bike with a lifetime limited warranty.

Best full-featured

State_Bicycle_Co_ _Amazon

The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with everything you need to commute in all types of weather so you don’t have to worry about purchasing extras a la carte.

Pros: Attractive appearance, comes with all you need to start commuting to work, handles an array of road conditions

Cons: Hard to assemble, complaints about flimsy parts

The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with a rear rack, a front basket with drink holder, fenders, and a chainguard. These features all help get you and your work gear from point A to point B while protecting you from debris and water your tires may kick up. Like our top pick, the Franklin 3, this is a Dutch-style bike, which means you ride in a more upright position for greater comfort and visibility.

There are three styles of the City Bike: The Keansburg, The Elliston, and The Rylee. The main differences are the colors, though The Rylee’s frame has a step-through geometry, while The Elliston and The Keansburg have top tubes that are more parallel to the ground.

How to shop for a commuter bike

The most important consideration when buying a commuter bike is comfort. If riding a bicycle isn’t enjoyable, then you’re never going to keep at it and it’ll just collect dust. Fortunately, when you purchase a bike online, retailers often work with local shops to assemble the bike and provide the necessary final tweaks to ensure the fit a proper fit.

Online purchases also give you the option of assembling the bike on your own. In my experience, it’s worth the extra money to have a professional do it. The experts have the right tools, plenty of experience, and will likely finish the job in a fraction of the time it’ll take you.

If you’re looking to spend more, we recommend considering an electric bicycle. With e-bikes, you can get as much or as little help as you want on your commute. This is especially helpful if you encounter hills on your route or you just want to get home quickly after an exhausting day. Don’t be confused: An e-bike provides powered assistance but you still need to pedal.

How we test commuter bikes

In our testing of commuter bikes, we chose to focus on affordable entry-level bicycles. This means that each option in this guide is non-electric and costs less than $700. We also wanted to make sure that, within those parameters, each bike was able to perform well across these four categories: Ride experience, maintenance demands, comfort, and value.

Here’s how each category contributed to which bikes ultimately made it into the guide:

Ride experience: A commuter bike isn’t going to wow you with its off-road prowess or on-road speed, but it should still be fun to ride. This means looking at how well it handles city riding as much as cruising through the park or taking a ride through your neighborhood. We also looked at how each bike’s handling affected its ride style, and if it’s something we actually looked forward to riding, no matter if we wanted to go to the store or break a quick sweat.

Maintenance demands: Recurring maintenance costs are inevitable but it’d be nice not to have to get something fixed on your bike every other month. Though commuter bikes may not be pushed to their limits while simply riding to a local coffee shop, we still pushed the tested models to their limits to see if any components were unnecessarily stressed or showing signs of wear and tear. 

Comfort: Perhaps the most important aspect of a commuter bike (and most bikes, in general) is how comfortable it is. If it’s not something that’s pleasant to ride, you’re not likely going to want to ride it very much. Comfort also extends not just to the seat but the handlebar shape and type of material used on the grips. 

Value: A combination of the categories before it, value looks not just at how much a commuter bike is but if it’s truly worth the sticker price. It’s always better to spend more for quality and durability once than to spend less more often. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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.

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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. 

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