Smallest Folding Bikes (When Folded): Top 5 Most Compact
Cyclists aren’t typically renowned for being streamlined.
Garages full of bikes, drawers full of spare innertubes, cans of WD-40 lined up alongside the shampoo bottles: it’s a messy affair.
There is, however, one alternative.
Super-compact folding bikes offer all the benefits of cycling without any of the demands on your space. The smaller the bike, the easier it is to store at home or the office, especially for those without garages or gardens. They’re also ideal for commuters whose journeys involve more than one mode of transport. With some models (like the ones we’ll explore below) folding up smaller than a briefcase, hopping between trains and buses is simple.
Below, we rank some of the smallest folding bikes available right now, and explain why a compact size is an enormous draw.
We’ve all been there: clutching your bag to your chest on a crowded commuter train, as the doors open to let more passengers in. Now, imagine this scenario plus a bike! Small folding bikes excel on busy commutes. Their compact nature means they can be stowed away in luggage rucks, or under seats, or even in a large suitcase. This is especially true for models with zippy 16 inch wheels.
Bikes which fold down very compactly are also great for multi-modal journeys. That means journeys which involve switching between different forms of transport. They can be folded and unfolded with ease, and taken seamlessly on buses, trains and even, in car shares.
The benefits don’t end once you get to the office either. Instead of needing to rely on potentially unsecure bike parking, compact folding bikes slide neatly under your desk. With some models costing upwards of a thousand pounds, it’s reassuring to have your trusty set of wheels close by, where you know they’re safe.
The single downside to super-compact folding bikes is wheel size. A standard issue with smaller wheels is a lack of stability, as well as an increased rolling resistance. You have to pedal harder to travel the same distance as on standard city bike.
Will It Fit?
We ask a lot of folding bikes. We want them to be sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear of a standard commute, but tiny enough to slot into a range of spaces. Throughout its lifetime, a folding bike might find itself on the luggage rack of a train, riding a double-decker, folded in a car-boot, or even stowed in the hold of Boeing 747. That’s before we even consider how easily it will slide under our desks in the office.
Here, we address a range of folding bike storage concerns.
Can a Folding Bike Fit in a Car Boot?
A compact folding bike can absolutely fit in a car boot. With some models folding up as small as 50cm tall, they can be laid flat or stored upright in nearly any car, including two-seaters. If you’re worried about your bike scratching your boot space, you can also buy straps to keep it steady.
Can a Folding Bike Fit in a Suitcase or Backpack?
Unfortunately, no. A folding bike won’t fit inside a backpack – unless you’re using a hiking backpack. Even the smallest models are normally just too large for this to be practical. You’ll need to buy a specialised bag instead. Most folding bike can, however, fit inside hold suitcases (and hand luggage with some airlines).
Can a Folding Bike Fit Under a Desk?
The answer is a definite yes. Folding bikes definitely fit under all desks. The smaller they fold, the more leg space you’ll have. Given that folding bikes are famous as commuter bikes, it’s important that they fit seamlessly in any office environment.
Most Compact Folding Bikes
Here, you’ll find Discerning Cyclist’s thoughts on the five most compact bikes on the market right now. We’ve ranked them by their volume (height x width x depth) when folded, as this is how your average car manufacturer will list their boot size. However, there’s a graph too that will give you a sense of scale for each model.
We also cover a range of price points so whatever your budget you can find a nippy, zippy set of wheels for your commute.
Smallest Folding Bikes [Top 5]
Most Compact Folding Bike
Weight: 10.9 kg
Wheel Size: 24”
Folded Size: 58.0 x 63.5 x 23.0 cm
Folded Volume: 84,709 cm3
- 🇬🇧 £2,364
- 🇺🇸 $2,690
- 🇪🇺 €2,699
Helix’s founding story is a uniquely twenty-first century one.
The brand began as a Kickstarter scheme, producing a limited run of these robotically-welded, laser-cut, titanium bikes for its supporters.
Now a fully-fledged brand and regularly sold out, it’s quite possibly the smallest folding bike in the world. We’re impressed that Helix haven’t compromised on spec to achieve these dimensions. With a ten-speed Shimano derailleur, 24-inch wheels and sharp disc brakes, it reportedly rides like a road bike twice its size.
Ultra-lightweight – tipping the scales at 19lbs – it’s also great fun to take around the city. Those big wheels can roll even when the bike is collapsed, meaning it can be pushed along pavements and station platforms.
Science buffs will also be interested to learn that they’re riding the only bike ever to be welded in an argon chamber. This allows for a far greater control over temperature and humidity than in your standard workshop.
Anyone wanting to get their hands on the Standard – or its even lighter sister model – might have to practice a little patience, though. Although Helix ship to practically every country, the Canadian-made bikes are out of stock until late 2022.
Weight: 11.5 kg
Wheel Size: 16”
Folded Size: 64.5 x 58.5 x 27.0 cm
Folded Volume: 101,878 cm3
- 🇬🇧 £850
- 🇺🇸 $1,150
- 🇪🇺 €945
The Brompton brand is so ubiquitous the name’s almost become a shorthand for any folding bike. Yet, there’s still something to be said opting for the original.
The Brompton A-Line has a nifty volume of around 100,000cm cubed and collapses down just as in quickly as you’d except from the folding bike pioneers – in 10 seconds flat. This nifty three-speed also integrates seamlessly with the Brompton accessories set meaning that, despite its size, you can add more functionality as needed.
Brompton’s A-Line is also the most affordable of the range. It’ll set you back £800, and for that, you’ll get a set of wheels handmade in London and subject to a handy seven year warranty.
The wheel size does mean a slightly less stable ride than some of the other bikes listed here, but that’s certainly not a motivation to write it off. After all, the Brompton brand is a classic for a reason.
For UK consumers, it’s worth remembering that the A-Line is eligible for purchase with the government’s Cycle to Work scheme. This means savings of up to 40%.
3. Tern BYB P8
Weight: 12.7 kg
Wheel Size: 20”
Folded Size: 52.0 x 81.0 x 35.0 cm
Folded Volume: 147,420 cm3
- 🇬🇧 £2,300
- 🇺🇸 $2,499
- 🇪🇺 €2,299
With the Tern BYB, BYB doesn’t stand for ‘Bring Your Own Bottle’ but ‘Bring Your Own Bike’. Fittingly, Tern’s offering to the folding bike market is all about portability.
Collapsing to a maximum of height of 52cm, it’ll slip discretely alongside you on any public transport, and even fits within in Eurostar maximum cabin dimension if you fancy a Bank Holiday dash across the Channel.
Reviewers even claim that they’ve been able to check the Tern in with their hand luggage on flights to avoid any pesky bike fees.
Visually, the BYB is slightly chunkier than the Helix or the A-Line, but is still agile to ride without being too twitchy. We imagine it could navigate a busy cycle path relatively easily.
On the BYB, portability is intertwined with practicality. We can’t think of anything more useful on a city bike than a hard-wearing luggage rack, and this the Tern’s Metro Transit Rack down to a T. It’ll take up to 20kg of groceries – that’s quite the weekly shop.
All-in-all, the Tern BYB is a solid all rounder for the cyclist who needs their bike to go anywhere and do anything.
Weight: 10.9 kg
Wheel Size: 20”
Folded Size: 63.0 x 81.0 x 36.0 cm
Folded Volume: 183,708 cm3
- 🇬🇧 £307
- 🇺🇸 –
- 🇪🇺 €350
We all our want our bikes to be hard-wearing, right? But, if we’re wheeling them past the water-cooler and into the office, we want them to be beautiful too. The Spanish brand FabricBike combines functionality with stunning good looks.
First up is the Single Speed’s gorgeous minimalist design. Available in white, grey, black or silver, it pays homage to the beautiful fixies built in the fifties by the likes of Bianchi and De Rosa. It comes with leather handlebars and saddle – another nod to European cycling heritage.
This eye for detail extends to the construction too. Each frame is handwelded, and this care and attention is apparent at one glance. We also admire its ultralight and foldable nylon pedals.
Unlike some of the bikes featured here, the FabricBike is only available with hub brakes, but at £2,000 cheaper than the Helix Standard models, to ask for more would be overly critical.
The 20 inch wheels also offer, FabricBike claim, efficiency and super fast acceleration. However, unlike its competitors, it doesn’t come with a built-in luggage rack.
This is a downside on a bike that, in all other regards, will inspire downright envy in any office block.
Weight: 12.9 kg
Wheel Size: 20”
Folded Size: 66.0 x 78.0 x 44.0 cm
Folded Volume: 226,512 cm3
- 🇬🇧 £350
- 🇺🇸 $450
- 🇪🇺 €400
If you’re based anywhere in Europe, chances are you’ll have heard of the B’TWIN brand. Sports retailer Decathlon’s in-house label, it’s grown a steady following of consumers, drawn in by its affordable, durable and well-designed kit.
The BTWIN TILT 500 has clearly been built with commuter’s needs in mind. While it may not be as tiny as the Brompton A-Line, it comes complete with mudguards, kick-stand, adjustable saddle and legally required reflectors. It’s also cheap enough that you won’t feel too precious to chuck it in your boot on the weekend.
What may swing the balance, however, is Decathlon’s lifetime warranty. The retailers will replace any metal frames, forks, handlebars and stems if they’re found to be defective.
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