Folding e-bikes are the ultimate in convenient green transportation and can get you from A to B with the minimum of fuss
If you need an e-bike that can be used at each end of a long train commute or you’re short on storage space, a folding e-bike could be the answer.
Rather than worrying about using a regular bike and having to leave it locked up somewhere, a folding bike can be taken on public transport and, even better, can be safely stowed under a desk at your final destination.
However, it’s not only commuters who can benefit. Folding e-bikes are great for anyone who lives in a flat or small house, too. Once stowed away, a folding e-bike can take up a surprisingly small amount of space and be kept safely indoors.
How to choose the best folding e-bike for you
Which features should I look out for?
With any folding bike, including folding e-bikes, the main concern is how small it will be once folded and how heavy it is. To ensure their bikes are as compact as possible, the majority of manufacturers opt for small diameter wheels.
The most popular size is 20in as this provides a reasonable compromise between speed, comfort and overall folded size. Some go larger or smaller and both options have benefits and drawbacks. Larger wheels means a more comfortable ride but more bulk when folded away. Smaller wheels mean a more compact package but also a twitchier, harsher ride.
As you will be carrying a folded bike at some point the overall weight needs to be considered, too, especially for folding e-bikes, where the battery and motor create an additional load. As with all things cycling, the cheaper the bike, the more it will weigh.
The length of time you expect to ride on each journey will also impact your choice. For short journeys a single-speed bike will be fine. For Longer journeys or hilly locations, a range of gears will be beneficial.
And before making your final choice, it is also worth considering how much you plan to use your folding e-bike. If you plan to ride all year round, consider models that have mudguards or at least mounting points for them. Similarly, built-in lights will be beneficial for year-round riding, especially if they run off the same battery as the bike’s motor.
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How much do I need to spend?
Folding bikes are inherently more expensive than regular bikes and the cost of a battery and motor push the price up further.
Entry-level, electric-assist models can be found for less than £1,000 and for a bike you use only occasionally, this might be all you need to spend. However, if weight or comfort, smart features and range matter to you, you’ll probably need to pay more. The best electric folding bikes can cost as much as £4,000.
How we test
E-bikes are becoming an increasingly popular way of getting around our cities but not everyone has the space to store a full size machine, so we test every folding bike just as rigorously as we do full size machines.
First and foremost, we test and assess the motor response, hillclimbing, battery range and overall ride characteristics of each product so that you can confidently buy an e-bike that will suit you and your purposes.
But, more important than this, we also thoroughly test the folding mechanism of each machine, folding it and unfolding it multiple times to make sure we have a good feel of how easy (or not) the process is to carry out and how durable the mechanism itself is.
And because not every folding e-bike is easy to move once it’s folded, we also look at this element closely, paying particularly close attention to the weight. This is especially important for a folding e-bike, given how much the battery and motor add over a normal folding bike. It’s no good having a compact folding machine if it’s awkward to move around and difficult to lift.
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The best folding e-bikes to buy in 2023
1. Decathlon B’Twin 500E: The best value folding e-bike
Price: £900 | Buy now from Decathlon
Representing extraordinary value at less than £1,000, the Decathlon B’Twin 500E is an electric folding bike that costs less than many full-size e-bikes. The 500E may be low priced but that does mean it comes in at the heavier end of the folding bike scale at 18.6kg.
It’s been rebranded since we first tested it (it used to be called the Tilt 500) but it remains the same bike at heart with an unbranded 250W brushless hub motor at the front helping to keep the cost down. Built into the rear wheel, this is supplied with electricity by a 24V, 7.8Ah battery that lives within the frame. Depending upon which of the three riding modes you use, and how much you use them, you can expect a range of up to around 20 miles per charge.
To help you make the most of the power assist, the Tilt includes a Shimano Tourney six-speed transmission. Braking is taken care of by a pair of V-brakes which are effective, but an obvious cost-cutting exercise.
The good news is that front and rear LED lights and mudguards over the 20in wheels are all included as standard. The use of 20in wheels is a good compromise: they’re small enough to keep the bike compact when folded but not so small that they fall into potholes or make the bike feel twitchy when ridden quickly.
Read our original Decathlon B’Twin Tilt 500 review for more details
Key specs – Weight: 18.6kg; Motor: 250W (rear); Range: Up to 20 miles; Number of gears: 6
2. MiRiDER One: The best value folding e-bike with suspension
Price: £1,595 | Buy now from Amazon
Given the funky design of the MiRiDER One with its chunky aluminium frame and some nice specification choices, it’s surprising to discover it costs relatively little (£1,595). This really is good value for money considering you get a frame that not only integrates the battery but also offers simple rear suspension to counter the harsh ride of the small 16in wheels.
Now consider that the 36v, 7Ah battery features Samsung cells and the wheels are shod with high-quality Schwalbe Green Compound Road Cruiser tyres and the bike starts to look like good value.
The 250W motor built into the rear wheel offers industry-standard maximum assistance of 15mph and the handlebar-mounted control lets you select five different levels of assistance. There’s also a thumb throttle for when you need a little extra boost such as pulling away from traffic lights.
If you only use the lowest level of assistance, you can get close to the suggested maximum range but, if you find yourself using maximum assistance a lot to make up for the lack of gears, the time between charges soon drops.
To meet the low price, point gears have been omitted. In general, every day riding the use of the five levels of assistance can compensate for this but on longer hills you’ll start to notice the bike’s 18kg weight. This is also noticeable when it comes to carrying the folded bike. The good news is that, while partially folded, the MiRiDER can still be pushed along, to save you having to carry it.
Key specs – Weight: 17.7kg; Motor: 250W (rear); Range: Up to 45 miles; Number of gears: 1
3. Brompton Electric: The most compact folding e-bike
Price: From £2,995 | Buy now from Pure Electric
Ask most people to name a folding bike and the chances of them saying Brompton are high. For many years now the British designed and built bikes have been the folding bike of choice of numerous commuters and the range now extends to include electric versions.
The steel frame of the latest Brompton Electric C-Line is the same as that used on the regular version and is one of the best folding frames available. One of its unique features is that, when the bike is completely folded, the drivetrain is in the middle, which means no worries about an oily chain marking your clothes when you need to lug it around.
While 16in wheels, such as those used on Brompton bikes, may not give the smoothest of rides there is a small amount of suspension at the rear, a polyurethane block between the rear frame section and the main frame taking the sting out of bumps.
The use of the same frame design as regular analogue Brompton models also dictates the location of the motor and battery and it isn’t the most elegant of arrangements, with the 250W brushless motor mounted in the front wheel hub and the 8.55Ah lithium-ion battery fitted in a bag that mounts to the front of the bike.
Like all e-bikes sold in the UK, the Brompton is limited to a top speed of 15mph and, depending on which of the three levels of assistance you use, delivers a range of between 20 to 40 miles on a single charge but, if you need something that’s compact and easy to carry, there aren’t many others better.
Read our full Brompton Electric review for full details
Key specs – Weight: 16.6kg (two-speed), 17.3kg (six-speed); Motor: Brompton (front); Range: 25-50 miles; Number of gears: 2 or 6
4. Gocycle G4: The best high-end folding e-bike
Price: £3,399 | Buy now from GoCycle
At £3,399 the Gocycle G4 is at the expensive end of the folding e-bike scale. However, the price tag does get you an awful lot of high-tech design and engineering. The frame, for instance, is made up of a combination of aluminium, moulded plastic composite and magnesium while the single-sided front fork is carbon fibre. It is also worth noting that the frame has been designed in such a way that it is suitable for a wide range of rider heights. The higher the seat is set, the further away it is from the handlebars and this helps keep everything in proportion.
The use of such a range of materials in the frame doesn’t translate to an extremely lightweight bike. The 17.6kg is acceptable but you wouldn’t want to spend too long carrying it when it is fully folded. Fortunately, the G4 can be pushed along by the saddle, even when folded and then, when it’s time to store the bike, the seatpost and saddle can be easily removed and packed inside the folded package to reduce the space it occupies.
It’s not only the flowing lines of the G4’s frame that sets it apart from other folding bikes; there are also single-sided, moulded wheels. The 20in rims carry Gocycle’s proprietary tyres, which are said to be inspired by the design used on MotoGP racing motorcycles, and have a larger volume that makes for a very comfortable ride.
Those wheels also incorporate a 250W motor at the front and a three-speed Microshift hub gear at the rear. There’s a torque sensor for smooth power delivery, and the motor has a choice of three riding modes that change how much rider input is needed before the assistance comes into play. Round it off with a smartphone app that acts as a dashboard and even allows you to design your own power delivery profiles and you have one of the most advanced electric folding bikes on the market.
Real our full Gocycle G4 review for full details
Key specs – Weight: 17.6kg; Motor: G4drive 250W (front); Range: Up to 40 miles; Number of gears: 3
5. Tern Vektron Q9: The most practical folding e-bike
Price: £3,000 | Buy now from Tredz
When it comes to folding bikes, Tern has chosen to take a slightly different route than most manufacturers and the £3,000 Vektron Q9 is a case in point. Yes, it’s an electric bike that folds but it is also capable of more than most folding e-bikes. As standard, it comes complete with an Atlas V Rack fitted to the rear, which is capable of carrying up to 27kg and is compatible with several styles of aftermarket child seats. If you need to carry even more cargo there’s Tern’s Luggage Socket at the front of the frame that allows an accessory rack to be easily fitted.
That carrying capacity does, however, mean that the Vektron Q9 is not a small package when folded, nor is it one of the lightest at nearly 22kg. Then again, this is not a bike that would be the first choice for commuting; instead, it’s an e-bike that could be considered a replacement for a second car and, once folded, can be stored securely in the home without taking up as much space as a regular cargo bike. Think of it in those terms and it makes much more sense.
Given the high price, it is good to see an Active Line Plus motor from the well-known and respected German brand, Bosch, mounted in the middle of the frame. Along with the battery sloped over the back wheel, this helps to keep the bike’s centre of gravity low, aiding stability, even when the bike is heavily loaded.
If you want to get the most from Tern’s Vektron Q9, however, it might be worth considering investing in one of the accessory battery packs. These range in capacity from the standard 8.2Ah 300Wh battery up to 13.4Wh 500Wh, which will help to considerably increase the range.
Key specs – Weight: 21.9kg; Motor: Bosch Active Line Plus; Range: 35-70 miles; Number of gears: 9