A folding bike by definition is equipped with at least one hinge that allows pieces of it to be tucked behind other parts. They’re easy to spot: small tires, high seats, riders who look like a cross between Pee-wee Herman and a circus clown. Despite the bikes’ slight ridiculousness, some want a model that can be carried to the office (to avoid arriving drenched in sweat) and later unfolded for pedaling home; others like getting out of the city with one that’s easy to pack. While most manufacturers offer a folder, only a few are worth the investment. To figure out which ones ride (and fold) the best, Gersh Kuntzman, editor of Streetsblog, a cycling and public-transportation site, took a bunch out for a whirl. He picked his top four that cost less than $1,500. Impressively, his favorite foldable bike of the bunch, the Brompton M6L ($1,499), seen above, compresses to one-third of its size — many just fold in half.
The Best: Brompton M6L
Weight: 25.8 pounds
Brompton is a folding-bike-only company, and its dedication to the category shows: Every part of this bicycle has been engineered for maximum compactness. Not only does the bike compress to one-third its size, but the seat post itself locks the bike together so it won’t come apart as you carry it. Even the greasy chain gets folded into the middle to avoid staining your clothes. My test model was built out with six speeds, a bell, and fenders, putting its cost right at our $1,500 cap. But Brompton has started offering a throwback $995 model, the B75, which is almost as good (it’s built with older parts but promises a similar riding experience). Still, the Brompton has its quirks. Users must let up on the pedals slightly when shifting (like with Citi Bikes), but you get used to it. The gear shifters take time to figure out (requiring flipping levers with both hands while reducing pressure on the pedals). But its folding mechanism justifies any minor inconveniences. And it’s easy to tote when unfolded: The underpadded seat balances perfectly on your shoulder.