Best Folding Mountain Bikes

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
162 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best folding mountain bikes

Last Updated September 2020

When you think about the advantages of a folding mountain bike, it’s no surprise they’re becoming increasingly popular. On the one hand, you’ve got a style of bicycle known for its versatility and riding comfort. These bikes are just as popular in town as they are on country trails. Then you add portability. You can throw it in the trunk of your car, park away from the main traffic, and cycle the rest of the way to work. Or you can stow it in the RV and take it on vacation. If you live in an apartment, it’s a great space saver.

Though there’s a bit less variety than you find with standard mountain bikes, there are still plenty of choices when it comes to frames, brakes, and other features. Getting the right folding mountain bike for your needs takes careful consideration.

BestReviews is here to help with an in-depth exploration of the features of folding mountain bikes. If you want a quick, easy answer, we have some recommendations that cover most alternatives. If you’d like more details, we’ve compiled the following buying guide.

It’s common for a folding mountain bike to need some assembly when it arrives, fitting things like the seat, handlebars, and front wheel. It’s straightforward and the tools are often provided.

Key considerations

One of the criticisms of some folding bikes is that they’re not always as rideable as they might be. That needn’t be the case here. Buying a folding mountain bike shouldn’t mean having to sacrifice those things that make this style of bike so flexible. The important areas to look at include the frame, suspension, wheels, brakes, and folding mechanism.

Frame

The frame design on many folding mountain bikes makes them unisex. They don’t have the horizontal top tube usually associated with men’s bikes.

High-end competition mountain bike frames are made of some exotic materials, such as carbon fiber and magnesium. With folding models, you’re going to be restricted to steel or aluminum because of both cost and durability. Somewhere on the frame there is at least one hinge mechanism. While fancy composites provide dramatic weight savings, they aren’t designed for constant folding and unfolding, which can result in stress fractures. The frame on folding mountain bikes is usually substantially thicker than the frame on an ordinary bike, so there’s plenty of strength.

Steel and aluminum are affordable and relatively tough. You’ll pay a little less for a steel frame, and it’s stronger than aluminum, but it’s also heavier.  Weight is an important consideration if you’re going to lift your bike in and out of a vehicle regularly or carry it up and down a flight of stairs. Off-road, you’ll also benefit from a lighter bike, but if you only plan to ride it on the street, there will likely be no appreciable difference. 

Suspension

Even the cheapest folding mountain bikes offer front suspension, and many offer rear suspension as well. How useful it is depends on where you’ll be riding your bike. Rear suspension doesn’t do much to increase comfort on the road. Off-road you need a decent amount of travel and resistance in the spring unit or it will simply compress completely over every bump. It’s still perfectly rideable (some pros prefer a solid rear), but it won’t deliver anything extra in terms of performance. If it’s included in the price, why not? If you’re paying a premium for it, make sure it’s powerful enough to be effective.

Wheels

Although wheel sizes can vary in theory, 26-inch wheels are far and away the most common on folding mountain bikes. They’re a good compromise between straight-line stability and off-road agility. We see no reason to look for anything else.

Magnesium alloy: Mag wheels are a popular style, with anywhere from three to seven substantial spokes that mimic professional race gear. True mag wheels offer valuable weight savings, but some of those we looked at are more style than substance. It’s also worth checking the total weight of the bike. On cheaper models, mag wheels can actually add weight rather than reduce it.

Alloy and steel: There’s a lot to be said for older-style wheels with alloy rims and steel spokes. For one thing, steel spokes will bend to a degree without breaking and are often repairable. If you damage a mag wheel, the only option is to replace it.

Brakes

Brakes come in two formats: calipers (or rim brakes) and discs. 

Calipers grip the edge of the wheel rim. They’ve been around for as long as bicycles have had brakes! They’re low cost, simple, and perfectly adequate for most riders. 

Disc brakes offer improved “feel.” They’re more progressive and better in wet and muddy conditions. If you ride off-road regularly, disc brakes are certainly worth thinking about. Their drawbacks include greater mechanical complexity and usually higher cost. That said, we did find them on a couple of budget models.

Folding mechanism

It’s worth checking the exterior dimensions of your chosen bike when folded, including thickness, which some people forget. It could be important if you’re planning to store it in a cupboard or the storage area of an RV.

Split fold: This is the most popular folding mechanism for folding mountain bikes. It’s a hinge and retaining clip somewhere in the main frame tube. 

Lever: Levers are often the same quick-release type used to attach the wheels. It’s an uncomplicated and durable idea. The lever is also usually easy to replace if it wears out.

Triangle fold: Though uncommon, other folding mechanisms do exist. A triangle fold uses two hinges, which can result in a more compact package.

Electric

A few folding electric mountain bikes have started to appear, though it would be more accurate to describe them as “mountain bike style” rather than a true off-road option. These will doubtless be popular with some people, but with prices starting at $1,400 and going up from there, they don’t seem to offer any real benefit over other types of folding electric bikes.
 

EXPERT TIP

You don’t have to take a folding mountain bike off-road to enjoy one. It’s a comfortable style that’s popular with many riders who never leave the city.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you’re going to be lifting your folding mountain bike in and out of a vehicle regularly, check the weight. They aren’t all as light as they look!


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Helmet: Lixada Adult Bike Helmet
You should never ride your bike without wearing a helmet, and this model comes with a couple of extras to enhance your safety. A magnetic visor gives better visibility in bright conditions, and an LED rear light lets people see you easily in the dark. It’s comfortable and very affordable, too.

Gloves: MOREOK Cycling Gloves
Cycling gloves are often overlooked, but good ones keep your hands cool and comfortable in all conditions and improve your grip on the bike when the terrain is challenging. These have gel shock pads, breathable anti-slip fabric, and come in a range of colors to match your bike or clothes.

Folding mountain bike prices

Usually, our buying guides offer price information for inexpensive, mid-range, and expensive models. However, with one or two exceptions, folding mountain bikes fall within a fairly narrow bracket. Steel-framed models start at just under $200, and aluminum-framed bikes rarely exceed $350. There are one or two in the $500 range, but they don’t have the high spec of non-folding mountain bikes, so there seems little point in spending the extra money. We‘d pocket the difference and use some of it for a nice helmet and gloves!

Always wear a bicycle helmet wherever you ride. It could mean the difference between walking away from a crash and suffering serious brain injury.

FAQ

Q. Are folding mountain bikes suitable for tall riders?
A. Not all of them, unfortunately. Folding mountain bikes don’t usually come with different frame sizes; they’re a “one size fits all” product. Most manufacturers give some guidance, and we found several that were suitable for people up to 6 feet tall. If you’re bigger than that, a workable solution (if not ideal) is to swap out the seatpost for a longer one. The maximum weight rating may also be a factor, so don’t forget to check that.

 

Q. Does a folding mountain bike need extra maintenance?
A. No matter which model you choose, there’s going to be some kind of lever and/or hinge mechanism. If grit or dirt gets in the moving parts (which is quite likely if you regularly use it off-road), it will cause unnecessary friction and wear, so it’s a good idea to clean and lubricate it occasionally. However, as part of a general maintenance routine, it probably only adds a couple extra minutes.

 

Q. Do I need to take anything off the bike to fold it?
A. It depends on the model. A few require you to remove the front wheel. It has a quick-release lever, so no tools are required. It only takes moments, but some people do find this aspect frustrating. If you’re looking for a mountain bike that folds quickly, it’s something to look out for.

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