When you’re short on storage space and itching to feel the wind blowing through your hair, folding bikes are your best friend. 

By Megan Falk
Updated December 22, 2020
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Woman folding up her folding bike on the sidewalk
Credit: klebercordeiro/Getty

Along with people who own HGTV-level outdoor pools, it’s hard not to envy those who cruise around town on shiny, smooth-riding bicycles in the blistering heat of summer. While you run down the sidewalk in the name of cardio, zigzagging through sweaty, slow-moving crowds and leaping over dog poop, the bikers glide past you with ease, the cool wind blowing through their hair and their only worry being which smoothie place they should stop by to refuel. 

But when you live in an apartment that can barely fit a full-sized bed or a condo with zero storage space, you might think owning a bike isn't even an option.

The answer: Folding bikes. These innovative rides function as full-sized bikes when completely expanded and compact into a tidy package that’s roughly the same size as your latest Amazon Prime order, so you can pack them away practically anywhere. Shove the bike under your bed next to your holiday decorations, tuck it next to your vacuum cleaner in the hall closet, or keep it in the backseat of your tiny Volkswagen Beetle—it’ll fit.  

Most folding bikes are designed with 20” wheels—the standard size for BMX bikes that can do serious tricks—compared to 26” wheels (the standard size for mountain bikes) or 27" (the standard size for many road bikes), according to Montague Bikes. While the wheels are ideal for moves and easy storage, know that your folding bike probably won’t ride *exactly* like the full-sized one you used to have. Your turning radius will be smaller, which means your steering will be more sensitive (i.e if you try to turn around 180 degrees, your wheels will turn more sharply in that direction, so beware of face plants.) Riding up hills can also be more of a challenge, and rocky terrain will feel rougher than if you were using a bike with full-size wheels. Plus, you'll travel less distance for every pedal stroke. (Related: The Easy-to-Understand Guide to Buying a Bike Online)

That’s not to say you can’t tackle a trail or hilly bike paths, though. These fan-favorite folding bikes can handle anything you throw at them, from trails in Southwestern deserts and beach boardwalks to National Parks and city roads. Shop folding bikes below and enjoy the ride.  

Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike with 20” Wheels

Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike with 20-inch Wheels
Credit: Amazon

Folded size: 29.5” L x 29” H x 19” W

Weight: 33lbs

With its vintage-style curvature and black, silver, and white color options, this Schwinn folding bike is one of the best looking on the market. And according to reviewers, it’s also the best basic 20” foldable bike with commuter features. The bicycle has a rear rack to carry your briefcase, groceries, or picnic essentials, as well as a kickstand to keep your bike upright while you pop into the neighborhood coffee shop.

Another perk? This folding bicycle is small enough to tuck away in the closet once you finish your ride, but when it’s fully expanded, it’s still large enough to be comfortable for those who top six feet, according to one shopper. You don’t need to worry about getting grease all over your winter coat while it’s in storage, either. The folding bike comes with a nylon carrying bag to keep your ride—and everything it touches—protected.

If you’re hoping to take this bad boy for a spin on some well-kept bike paths, good news: Even people who haven’t ridden in two decades approve of the folding bike’s off-pavement capabilities. “The gears work smoothly, and as the rest of the world knows, are handy for even slight grades,” said a 67-year-old reviewer. “If you live near a trail or bike path, get this little gem.” (Related: How Finally Learning to Ride a Bicycle Helped Me Overcome My Fears)

Goplus 20'' Folding Bike

Goplus 20'' Folding Bike
Credit: Amazon

Folded Size: 32.5” L x 24” H x 12.5” W

Weight: 32lbs

At just $300, this folding bike offers the most bang for your buck. The Goplus folding bike arrives on your doorstep 98 percent installed—all you have to do is attach the pedals, reflectors, and bell. Once unfolded, both the seat and handlebar can be raised or lowered to fit your height, so you won’t have to ride in uncomfortable positions (that your spin instructor definitely wouldn’t approve of).

As for safety, the folding bike is equipped with reflectors on the pedals and wheels for night-time riding, and the tires are made from aging-resistant rubber that won’t lose traction on wet pavement. And while reviewers can’t stop raving about how sturdy the bike is, it does weigh a hefty 32lbs, so if you plan on storing your folding bike in a fifth-floor walk-up, expect a bit of a strength training workout on the climb. 

ZiZZO Forte 20” 7-Speed Folding Bicycle

ZiZZO Forte 20-Inch 7-Speed Folding Bicycle in Coral
Credit: ZiZZO

Folded Size: 31" L x 27" H x 12.5" W

Weight: 33lbs

If you’re looking for a bike that will effortlessly lug all of your firewood around the campsite, the ZiZZO Forte can take on the job. The folding bike has a rear cargo rack for your gear and, overall, can support up to 300lbs—at least 70lbs more than the other bicycles on this list—yet it only weighs 29.5lbs itself. 

Thanks to front and rear fenders, you’ll stay clean and dry from any water and mud that might splash up from the wheel on a rainy day. And you don’t need to worry about the bike refolding while you ride, either. This folding bike is equipped with a “vice grip” locking mechanism, so when you put more force on the folding hinge, a second safety lock will grip the hinge even tighter.

And reviewers can’t get enough of its adorable color, extra weight capacity, and, for one shopper, ease of use. “Living near the beach, I love riding my Forte on the boardwalk in the early morning,” wrote the shopper. “I’m pleased by how easy it is to fold up and then put back together again. The quality of construction is much better than I had expected... altogether it takes me about 2 minutes to get everything ready to ride again once I arrive at my destination.” Two minutes of prep for hours of smooth riding? Yes, please.

Montague Paratrooper Folding Mountain Bike

Montague Paratrooper Folding Mountain Bike
Credit: Montague

Folded Size: 36″ L x 28″ H x 12″ W

Weight: 32lbs

You’d never expect to see a folding bike effortlessly gliding over rough terrain and beastly hills, but this one from Montague simply belongs on the trail. The Paratrooper mountain bike features full-size 26” wheels that can tackle rough ground as well as disc brakes that respond quickly and perform better in wet weather than the rim brakes used on other folding bikes. It even has a multi-functional cargo rack that can carry your camping supplies while you ride, act as a kickstand, and keep your bike standing when it’s folded. (Before you hit the trails for the first time, here's what beginners need to know about mountain biking.)

Skeptical? So were the friends of one reviewer who decided to take this folding bike out on Arizona’s desert trails. “But this bike is a BEAST,” wrote the reviewer. “It takes a beating and keeps going. I believe this bike can handle just about any trail.” Another shopper has ridden their Paratrooper about 2,500 miles (!!), 60 percent of which was off the road and through mountains, without a hitch. (Related: How Learning to Mountain Bike Pushed Me to Make a Major Life Change)

Dahon Speed D9 Folding Bike

folding-bike
Credit: DAHON

Folded Size: 31" L x 25.5" H x 12.5" W

Weight: 30lbs

Since 1982, Dahon—the OG folding bike company—has mastered the art of creating incredibly smooth, lightweight rides, and this bicycle is no exception. The Dahon Speed D9 folding bike weighs 30lbs, features an adjustable handlebar and comfy tires that are uncompromising even on the worst roads.

Where this Dahon folding bike stands out from the crowd, though, is in its quality. The gears quickly and seamlessly shift as you traverse up moderate inclines, meaning you won’t be totally out of breath by the time you reach the top of a hill. Plus, one reviewer commented on how much they loved how compact the bike is: "I really like this bike for the simple fact that I can hide it from my wife by folding it up and placing it someplace discrete. She'll never know I spent $800 on a new bike and when she does find out I can say it's something that I've had for a long time. This is a win/win for me."

ZiZZO Urbano 20-Inch 8-Speed Folding Bicycle

ZiZZO Urbano 20-Inch 8-Speed Folding Bicycle
Credit: ZiZZO

Folded Size: 31" L x 27" H x 12.5" W

Weight: 24lbs

This folding bike’s must-have cherry red color isn’t the only thing it has to offer. The ZiZZO Urbano has a wider-than-usual seat for optimal comfort on your rides and is designed to tackle the pavement, bumpy trails, and everything in between. Like the ZiZZO Forte, the Urbano has special safety features that ensure the bike stays locked while you’re in motion.

The folding bike’s biggest selling point: It weighs just 24lbs, so if you’ve got enough muscle to carry around a Shiba Inu-sized pooch, you’ll have no problem lifting this bicycle into your trunk, or for one reviewer, a plane. “We can easily fit [our two Urbanos] in the back seat of our four-seat single-engine plane, and then ride where we land,” wrote the shopper. “[We] have taken some great rides in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Big Bear Lake, Bryce Canyon National Park, and other spectacular places.”

Even if you can’t make it to the mountains of the West and the most interesting place you ride your folding bike is down the road to the ice cream shop, at least you’ll look cool and feel comfortable doing it.