A folding bike may be the most convenient mode of transportation on two wheels.
It can get you from point A to point B just as readily as a full-size bike, but you can stash it in a car trunk, tuck it under a desk, or store it in a closet, on a boat, or inside an RV or van.
To suss out which folding bike does it all best for most commuter riders and utilitarian users, we pedaled and shifted, folded and unfolded, and carried and maneuvered 13 popular models from nine manufacturers.
After our 85-plus hours of research and testing, the well-designed Dahon Mariner D8 edged to the front of the pack, combining a comfortable ride and easy folding with good-enough components, all for a reasonable price.
Dahon Mariner D8
This eight-speed bike hits the high notes for a commuter folder: a smooth ride, an easy-to-use folding mechanism, and a rear rack and fenders.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $1,000.
The eight-speed Dahon Mariner D8 offers the features and performance most commuter cyclists may want in a folding model, all in a practical, affordable package. First, the Mariner D8 is comfortable to ride, going smoothly over bumps and shifting fluidly up and down hills. Second, it folds and unfolds quickly, and it latches securely into both modes.
Its design also addresses practical concerns: The Mariner D8 has fenders to thwart rainy-road splashes onto clothing, a rear rack to carry stuff, and the option for a frame-mounted front bag. Finally, although its price has gone up since we first tested it, this bike remains a decent value. As with full-size bikes, with folding models you generally get what you pay for. Priced at around $950, the Mariner D8 is a good-quality folding bike with the features you need.
Tern Link D8
Tall riders may especially like the Link D8’s adjustable handlebars—and everyone can appreciate its higher-end components, such as the puncture-resistant tires. Not all of our testers liked the way the bike folds, though.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $750.
The eight-speed Tern Link D8 provides a few upgrades over the Mariner D8 that may suit taller riders. And now that the Mariner D8 and the Link D8 are the same price, you no longer have to pay more for the latter’s higher-end components. Our test riders raved about the proprietary handlebar stem, which allows both height and angle adjustment via two simple quick-release levers. One bike expert praised the design of the front brake, which is mounted close to the frame to reduce snagging, as well as the “top-shelf” puncture-resistant tires.
Still, our testers’ reviews were mixed regarding the way the Link D8 folds, which positions the handlebars outside the folded package; some testers found this setup easy to manage, but others preferred the tighter package of the Dahon model. The Link D8 also comes with a similar rear rack and front bag-mounting option as the Mariner D8.
Brompton S6L 6-speed
If folding size trumps all, the notably compact Brompton leaves the competition in the dust—as does its price.
For some shoppers, the number-one criterion is how small a folding bike can get. The Brompton S6L elegantly transforms into a package that shaves 3 inches off the height, 2 inches off the width, and 8 inches off the length of the folded Mariner D8 (and even more off the dimensions of the Tern D8), making for an easier carry. Even so, a Brompton manages an “I’m almost riding a full-size bike” experience on the road. The handlebars, gearing, frame type, accessories, cargo options, and paint job are all customizable—for a price. The S6L, as it came to us in 2017, retails for $1,590 on the Brompton site. At the time of writing, the very similar Brompton M6R that we tested in 2021 is priced at $1,690 from Clever Cycles, in Portland, Oregon, and at $1,730 on the Brompton website.