There is a corner of the bike market that is exploding in popularity right now and it’s folding electric bikes. Until recently, ebikes and folding bikes were, well, a little uncool. Electric bikes were clunky and under-powered with huge batteries and cumbersome motors. And, folding bikes? They were just some weird machine that your Great Uncle Ted bought out of a catalogue, spent weeks assembling, rode it once…and then pushed it to the back of the closet never to be seen again.
Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash
Thankfully, times change. The motors and batteries used on ebikes have got smaller, lighter and waaay more powerful (all of which are very useful for folding ebikes) and folding bikes themselves are now the favorite mode of transport for all the hippest hipsters in town.
The love child of these two trends, folding ebikes, are one of the hottest things on the streets today. You’ll see city workers zipping to the office on them, RV owners stowing them in their vans for vacation excursions, and billionaires taking day trips from their superyachts astride them.
There are lots of options available for great folding ebikes, and at a wide range of different prices. So, whether you’ve got a billionaire’s budget or something a little more modest, there’ll be a fantastic bike for you. Let’s dive in and take a look.
How to choose a folding ebike
When you start looking at folding electric bikes you’ll see that there’s lots of different features to choose from. How much do they fold up by and how easy are they to fold? What size is the battery and how powerful is the motor? How cool will you feel on it when you’re cruising along the boardwalk with your Ray Bans on and the ocean breeze gently tousling your hair?
Let’s check out the details on each of these now.
Portability is a combo of folded size and weight. A folding ebike that packs up small, but is so heavy that it will break the bathroom scales, is no use to us. Similarly, a bike that is light-as-a-feather, but huge and cumbersome even when folded, isn’t going to be any good either.
What we’re looking for is that sweet spot of an ebike that is small enough when folded to be stowed wherever we need it to be (inside a closet, under the desk, tucked in a locker on your superyacht). And, at the same time, light enough that you can lift it out of wherever it’s kept, up and down stairs, in and out of trains, etc.
Portability is important when it comes to folding ebikes, but a bike that packs up to a tiny size won’t be any use if the designers had to sacrifice all the e-power in order to make that happen.
We need a compact bike with plenty of oomph and that oomph is provided by the motor and battery. For both of these it’s worth looking for bikes that have the electronics provided by long-established ebike tech names, such as Bosch or Shimano. These companies have been manufacturing ebike parts for many years and they know how to produce high quality and reliable power supplies. Also look out for mileage range estimates that will enable you to get the distances that you’ll need to travel. These estimates depend on a great number of factors (including rider weight and terrain) but they’re a useful guide as to what you might be able to expect from the setup. Bear in mind that you can help to squeeze out maximum juice from the battery by doing your bit to help pedal and not just sitting back and letting the ‘pedal assist’ motor do all the hard work – as appealing as that might be at times!
Let’s face it, when you’re choosing a folding ebike for your morning commute, your weekend jaunts in the RV, or to add to your boat toys collection, you want a bike that’s going to enhance your coolness factor.
And, with the choice available these days, there’s ample opportunity to add style points as many of these ebikes look awesome. Cool paint jobs, slick folding techniques and integrated LED lighting systems.
If you’re a billionaire superyacht owner, one of these folding ebikes will complete your floating paradise. If you’re not (yet) a billionaire superyacht owner, you’ll look like you already are.
Best folding electric bikes
So, let’s take a look at ten of our favorite folding electric bikes. There’s a wide variety of prices and styles available to suit all here. Some have a stripped-back design that will appeal to the minimalists amongst us, some are loaded with gadgets for the tech aficionados.
Don’t be put off by the budget price of the Swagtron EB7, take a close look and you’ll see that this is a folding ebike with a spec that punches well above its weight category. The EB7 has a whole suite of juicy features to catch the eye. Looking at the folding first, you’ll see that the bike has an easy (and fast) 3-stage process, turning it from the bike above to a tiny 16.5×25.9×29.5 inches. All in less than the time it takes to say, “Wow! That’s a compact folding ebike!”
Add in the disc brakes, rear suspension, and space-saving 350W rear hub motor and it’s easy to see why this is a quality contender.
Pros: Small but powerful, suits riders from 4’10” to 5’10”
Cons: Over 5’11” and you’ll need to choose another bike, only a 15-19 mile maximum range
Typical price: $880
This is a great looking (and performing) little ebike and it represents great value for money. But, there are a couple standout features that really set it apart from the rest. Firstly, can you see the battery? No…? Normally, this is something that’s bolted onto the rear of the bike or slung on the downtube. Those options are fine, if not exactly elegant. With the Nemo, however, Qualisports have integrated the battery into the seatpost which not only looks better but keeps the weight distribution satisfyingly balanced. The bike is also one of the lightest in the category, at only 30lbs, and this has a number of benefits. Low weight means that the battery has less work to do and so it will be able to keep pumping out power for longer. Low bike weight also makes it easier to lift and carry the bike on and off your superyacht when the crew have their day off.
Pros: neat design with battery stored in seat post, low bike weight
Cons: max torque is only 40Nm
Typical price: $900
Jupiter Defiant Fat Tire eBike
Bikes and beaches are not exactly a match made in bike heaven for a couple reasons: standard tires will tend to sink into the sand, and pedaling along through a soft surface like sand is never easy on the thigh muscles. So, when you have an urge to cruise along the local beach, in your bikini or board shorts, flip flops and sunglasses, you need to reach for a bike like the Defiant from Jupiter Bikes. eBike power so you can cruise almost effortlessly along and Kenda fat tires to help you float on top of the sand rather than sink deep into it as you would on a normal bike. Then you can fold your Defiant up for safekeeping whilst you go for a cooling dip in the ocean – ah, bliss!
P.S. it’s also great for mud and snow too, though you’ll need to swap out the swimwear.
Pros: Electric motor and fat tires are a perfect combo for soft surfaces like sand
Cons: Bike needs to be folded to remove battery
Typical price: $1300
Rad Power RadMini Step-Thru 2
Billed as North America’s largest electric bike brand, the company founders have been building ebikes since 2007, and they’ve just been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Companies. Rad Power have a great range of models available and it’s easy to see why they made the Time list. The RadMini Step-Thru is my favorite from their bike range and there are a few reasons for this. The ride style is comfortable and upright and, with the step-through design, will suit a wide variety of riders – standover height is only 16”, so there’s no need to tilt the bike to one side for mounting/dismounting. The rear hub motor keeps the bike compact, but doesn’t lose power as a result – there’s 750W to play with and the 48V battery will take you up to 45 miles on a single charge. There’s also a whole heap of thoughtful features, such as fenders, sturdy folding hinge mechanism, and front suspension.
Pros: Great power and features, including a low standover height for easy boarding
Cons: Step-thru design won’t be to everyone’s taste
Typical price: $1500
Tern Vektron D8 Folding Electric Bike
Tern are a relatively new kid on the block, having been launched in 2011, but they actually have a much longer heritage in the folding bike market. The company’s two founders being the wife and son of industry legend, David Hon, creator of Dahon bikes, who have been producing folding bikes for 30-plus years.
And that experience shows with the Vektron D8. Unlike some folding bikes which can feel a little flimsy, the Vektron looks and feels like a ‘proper’ bike. There’s an aluminum frame, Shimano brakes and drivetrain, and 1.95” Schwalbe tires to soak up the bumps in the road. The Bafang mid-drive motor and 400W battery deliver a great 80Nm of torque for the ascents, 20mph max speed, and up to 56 miles range. Despite all that, it still packs up to nice compact size. One useful spin-off of the folding ability is that the bike is good for riders of a big range of heights – from 5’3” to 6’5”.
The Vektron D8 is an excellent option to consider.
Pros: a folding bike that feels like a ‘proper’ bike, good power and range, folds to a compact size
Cons: heavier than some of the ultra-compact folding ebikes
Typical price: $2800
Looking for a folding ebike with rugged good looks? Then look no further than the QuietKat Voyager. If you’ve heard of the QuietKat brand before it’s no great surprise. They’re well known for their range of stealthy ebikes used by hunters in getting to and from hunting spots, without the noise and smell that a gas-guzzling truck would produce. The Voyager is their first folding ebike and it’s worthy of consideration if your cycling trips are going to take you deep into the backcountry. Plenty of power, teamed with off-road tires and a handy rear rack.
Pros: Rugged good looks with plenty of power under the hood
Cons: Not the smallest when folded
Typical price: $2900
Many years of surviving the mean streets of London, England, has created the Brompton Electric. Its non-electric big brother, the classic Brompton, has always been the steed of choice for the pin-striped, bowler-hatted London gentleman fighting through the crowded streets on his morning commute into the City. The Brompton Electric is his newer steed, because fighting the crowds at rush hour is fun, but doing it with an electric boost makes it a whole lot funner.
Pros: 2-speed ebike is only 36 lbs, optional fast charger takes 2hrs for a full charge
Cons: great for the mean (paved) streets, but not equipped for off-road adventures
Typical price: $4300
With a look that’s reminiscent of the USS Enterprise, the G4i from GoCycle is certainly a futuristic machine. The aluminum frame is light, strong and keeps everything tucked away neatly. So, there are no oily cogs, derailleurs or chain to give you greasy smears on your calves or slacks. Folding mechanism is smooth and the rear suspension is a welcome addition on bumpy terrain. My favorite aspect is probably the Formula One-inspired dashboard display integrated into the handlebars, giving all the info you need such as speed and battery level.
Pros: Futuristic design and clever features
Cons: Integrated design makes DIY repairs more tricky
Typical price: $5000
Tern HSD S+
The second bike on the list from Tern and the first to feature this innovative folding mechanism. Instead of a hinge on the frame as many bikes have – folding the front wheel back towards the rear – this has a handlebar that folds to one side and a seatpost that drops right down. This means that the HSD S+ has a substantially different folded shape to other bikes, being long, low and skinny vs something that’s closer to a cube shape. That can be useful if you have a storage space that matches up, for example behind the couch. Unfolded, the HSD is a great ebike with lots of handy features such as the rear rack and integrated fenders.
Pros: innovative folding mechanism
Cons: won’t suit all storage spaces
Typical price: $5500
Tern GSD S00
Launched in 2018, the GSD is a great long-distance cargo-hauling machine. With a similar folding mech to the HSD above, the GSD folds into a low and skinny shape. Unfold it and it can pretty much take anything anywhere. Kids? No problem on the rear rack. Groceries? Same. I’m willing to bet that the GSD is going to go down a storm for pizza delivery duty. Even if those pizzas need to be delivered far away – choose the upgraded 1000W battery option and Tern claim that you should be good for up to over 120 miles.
Pros: Awesome folding ebike for long-distance touring or food delivery
Cons: A heavy machine at 77 lbs
Typical price: $6200
Ben Jones is a lover not a fighter, a cyclist not a DIY-er, and the founder of BicycleVolt a handy resource for cyclists from Tour-de-France wannabees to those just starting out on their bicycling journey.