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feature Recommends Bikes of the Year 2023/24: the best folding bikes

Find out which folding bikes we rate highest for commuting and more – from Brompton, B'Twin, Carrera...

It’s time to check out the very best folding bikes that we’ve reviewed on and our sister sites over the past year.

Folding bikes are a diverse bunch, but the one common denominator is that you can pack them down for hopping on the train, tossing in the boot of your car, or whatever – so you can do part of your commute by bike and part by some other form of transport. A compact fold can also come in handy if you have limited storage space at home or work.

> Check out the Recommends Electric Bikes of the Year 2023/24

Some folding bikes get you from A to B on flat urban roads with the minimum of fuss but they’re no great shakes for anything beyond that. It can certainly be handy if a folder is fun – and comfortable enough – to ride out of town too. The ability to do more than one job adds value.

We’ve reviewed both electric and non-electric bikes on and ebiketips over the past year, and that’s reflected in our awards. We’ve judged each on its merits, considering handling, comfort, durability, reliability, versatility, and value. 

The ability to stand up to everyday use and abuse is vital here, while mudguards and racks add practicality. Naturally, we’ve also looked at how easy it is to fold down each bike and lug it about. After all, that’s a key part of the job.

Only bikes we’ve reviewed over the past year can be included in any of our Recommends Bikes of the Year categories. If a brand doesn’t send us a particular bike, we can’t review, rate, or recommend it.

The prices quoted below were correct at the time of our original reviews; they’re the prices we based our findings on. Keep in mind that prices may have changed, and specifications could have been updated in some cases.

Right, with all the housekeeping sorted, let’s find out which bikes impressed us most.

5. Estarli e20.7 Original Pro £1,350

Estarli e20 Riding 1 (1)

We’re kicking off our countdown with the Estarli e20.7 Original Pro, a fun and dependable electric folder that’s great for bombing across town and exploring further afield. It’s a neat bike at a very good price.

Equipped with 20in wheels and strong Schwalbe tyres, the e20 is surprisingly stable for a folding bike and handles the weight of the motor and battery well. Tight turns are a breeze, and there's no wobbling even at higher speeds.

In the urban environment, which is the e20’s natural home, it performs exactly as you want it to. It’s nimble enough to weave through rush hour traffic with ease, and the low-down punch of the motor allows you to bridge gaps between cars effortlessly. The 18kg all-up weight brings a level of stability on wet roads, while the disc brakes provide controlled power.

The e20 offers a comfortable and upright ride position that gives you plenty of confidence. The one-size-fits-all design accommodated 1.8m-tall reviewer Stu Kerton well, providing a balanced weight distribution.

As well as roads, the e20 tackles gravel tracks, byways, and canal paths enthusiastically. Above the 15.5mph motor assistance limit, it rolls along smoothly on the flat, although you will notice the weight on climbs where your speed hasn’t dropped enough for the motor to kick in. 

Made from 6061 aluminium alloy, the frame is strong and the finish is good. The e20 folds down quickly and easily to measure 450mm x 660mm x 845mm, so it’s compact enough to lift on and off a train or fit into the back of a car.

Powered by a 250W motor in the rear hub with 40Nm of torque, the e20 provides smooth acceleration, while the Shimano 7-speed gear system is functional and reliable. Stu found that the 259Wh battery would provide a range of 24-28 miles between charges when riding on full power, although he was only using assistance on the climbs and when pulling away.

The Pro model includes extras like a rear rack, lights, and mudguards, making the e20 a year-round machine out of the box.

The Estarli e20.7 Original Pro combines affordability, reliability, and an enjoyable ride experience. While there are some concessions to make the price point, the core elements deliver where it matters most.

Since we published our review, the Estarli e20.7 Original Pro has been superseded by the 20.7 Comfort Pro. The ‘Pro’ bit of the name means it has a rack, mudguards and lights, so this is the equivalent model to the one Stu rode. It’s priced at £1,480.

Why it’s here A neat little package for not a huge amount of cash
Read the review 

4. Brompton Electric P Line £3,775

Brompton Electric P Line (1).JPG

From one electric folder to another… The Brompton Electric P Line Urban offers the UK brand’s benchmark foldable design with a dose of pedelec motor power. 

The Electric P Line uses a Brompton-designed front wheel hub motor system with an app that allows you to adjust power levels easily without reaching over the handlebars. Weighing in at 13.3kg, it is Brompton's lightest e-bike, making it a dream for multi-modal travel.

Brompton has integrated weight-saving features from the non-electric P Line, including a titanium rear triangle and a new 4-speed derailleur that’ll help you get up hills. The bike comes with a practical Roller Rack that provides a stable base upon which to rest or roll the folded bike, the ability to be moved around either fully folded or halfway down, and Continental Contact Urban folding tyres that are fast and resistant to punctures.

The 16in wheels can make the Brompton feel a little twitchy, but you soon get used to that and the bike is a lot of fun. The motor provides a decent level of power and takes the pain out of most hills, and the torque-sensing power delivery is smooth and responsive. The 312Wh battery gives you a range of around 30 miles.

While the Electric P Line faces plenty of competition, its practicality and the iconic Brompton fold make it stand out from the crowd. Yes, you have to pay a premium price, but this model is Brompton’s best yet. It’s a tempting option for regular train-bike commuters who can afford it.

Why it’s here Titanium lightness and a decent dose of electric assist are now added to Brompton's legendary foldability
Read the review 

3. B’Twin Tilt 900 folding bike £499.99

2022 BTwin Tilt 900 folding bike - riding 3.jpg

The first non-electric model in our countdown, the B'Twin Tilt 900 is an efficient and comfortable folding bike that’s equipped with a highly respectable Shimano Sora drivetrain. 

The ride on offer here is good, especially once you get beyond the Tilt 900’s twitchiness at slow speeds. It cruises along nicely, and seated acceleration is good. Climbing is solid too, although reviewer Matt Lamy didn’t find it quite as responsive on hills as on flat roads.

The frame’s comfort – thanks in part to a small amount of give from the central hinge – adds to the overall ride experience. The front-end is stiff and that’s noticeable if you hit a pothole, but the bike handles well on smooth and moderately rough roads.

The mid-frame folding mechanism is straightforward enough. Once you get the hang of it, you’re looking at about 15 seconds to fold or unfold. When folded, high-strength magnets prevent the frame from opening, and B'Twin also throws in a set of folding pedals.

You can’t go far wrong with Shimano Sora components. B'Twin has opted for a single 52-tooth double-guarded chainset that’s sensible for a folding bike, although the 9-speed 11-28t cassette is just a tad highly geared.

Sizing might be a concern for taller riders – 1.83m tall Matt maxed out the seat post height – and some people would prefer disc brakes to the rim brakes fitted here. Even so, with the reliable Shimano Sora drivetrain and extras like lights and mudguards, the B'Twin Tilt 900 is a very capable bike at a good price.

Why it’s here Very competent and comfortable folding bike that won't leave riders disappointed, especially at this price
Read the review 

2. Carrera Intercity Folding Bike £380

2022 Carrera Intercity Folding Bike - riding 3.jpg

Into the top two, and the Carrera Intercity is a trusty companion for those quick dashes to and from the station and carrying aboard your train. While it might be a little heavy at 14.2kg, this bike comes with mudguards, a rack, and an attractive price tag. It’s an excellent choice if your budget is limited and the bike sections of your journey are fairly short.

With quick handling, the Intercity is great at dodging potholes and gives a sporty vibe to your ride – which isn’t something we often say about a folding bike. The upright riding position might feel a tad cramped for taller riders and/or longer journeys, but it does mean you get a good view of what’s happening in the traffic around you.

Reviewer John Stevenson found folding and unfolding to be a breeze once the stiff hinge had loosened up a bit. It packs down to a compact 83cm x 64cm x 35cm.

The Intercity’s gear setup, with a 52-tooth chainring and an 11-32 cassette, is a practical choice for urban rides. The MicroShift trigger shifters provide crisp changes and the anonymous V-brakes might not be pretty, but they work. Puncture-resistant Kenda Kwest tyres offer reliability and the folding pedals add convenience.

If you’re looking for a bike that’ll get you to the train station and then fold down and stow away with minimal fuss, this is an excellent, low-cost option.  

Why it’s here Very competent and comfortable folding bike that won't leave riders disappointed, especially at this price
Read the review 

1. Brompton C Line Explore £1,640

roadcc recommends awards 2023-24 - Folding Bike of the Year - Winner

Top spot goes to the Brompton C Line Explore, the best folding bike that we’ve reviewed in the last year. Most folding bikes are practical urban workhorses, but the Brompton is much more than that.

It’s a surprisingly good climber, cruises at an impressive speed, and provides enough comfort even for long rides. On top of that, it’s superbly practical, and the folding design is the best in the business. 

The Brompton immediately proved to reviewer Matt Swaine that it was nippy and a lot of fun. It jinks around potholes beautifully and allows you to take corners at speed. With three gears in the Sturmey Archer hub and another two via a derailleur, you can tackle long hills easily enough and also eat up the miles on the flat.  

The C Line Explore offers comfortable rubber grips, responsive brakes, and reliable puncture-resistant Schwalbe Marathon Racer tyres.

2022 Brompton C Line Explore - folded 2.jpg

Most people will buy a Brompton for commuting, and it does that superbly. It weaves through traffic with agility, and the folding process is a breeze. Beyond that, though, the C Line Explore is great for rides in the country and even mini-adventures. Take it on a train journey and see what you can find at the other end.

Priced at £1,250, the Brompton C Line Explore strikes the perfect balance between performance, versatility, and good looks. While it’s a significant investment, it is worth every penny, earning its place as the ultimate folder for those who want to head off on fun rides as well as commute by bike.

Why it wins The ultimate folding commuter bike that offers handling, comfort and gears to go much further
Read the review 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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