Folding vs full-size e-bikes: which is better for commuting?

Electric bikes are great, but it’s the beginning and end of your journey you need to consider first before buying one

Folding vs full-size e-bikes
(Image credit: Brompton/Rad Bikes)

I’m always on the lookout for easier ways to do things, and when it comes to getting from A to B, electric bikes are brilliant. They make light work of short hops and, thanks to battery power, are also excellent for longer days out or for taking on hilly terrain without a problem and without breaking into a sweat.

However, as you’ll see from the selection in our best electric bike guide, there’s a dazzling choice of both regular full-size models and folding ones to choose from. If you’re keen to get an electric bike, perhaps for a daily commute or for getting to and from school or college, it’s well worth looking at either option as they’re both great solutions.

In fact, you’ll find that a full-size or folding electric bike will get the job done with ease. The issue is usually what you do with the bike before and after your journey, which is why a folding e-bike can be a sensible choice if you’re stuck for space or a secure on-site location.

Compact solution

Personally, I do prefer a full-size electric bike, like the Rad Power Bikes RadWagon 4, because they’re generally better and more enjoyable to ride, especially if your journey is on the longer side. The downside is that despite the fact that bikes aren't really all that big, they are an awkward shape to store out of the way. If you live in a flat, that’s an issue which can become a real pain over time.

That’s why I think going down the route of a folding e-bike can make an awful lot of sense. Folding e-bikes are getting better than they were too, with some great models worth considering. A top-of-the-pile selection might tend to be the Brompton Electric, which is the go-to commuter model for many. Not for me, though. I might be in the minority, but I still find its folding mechanism a little difficult to get my head around. It’s probably just me.

Xiaomi Mi Smart folding electric bike

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Affordable foldable

Nope, for me, I’ll take something like the Xiaomi Mi Smart, which is arguably less pleasing to the eyes, but it works and comes in at an affordable price than, say, a Brompton Electric. Nobody wants their bike to be stolen, but at least there’s not quite as much value to worry about if you’re leaving it locked up in a compound somewhere on a school or college campus. 

Weirdly, I’ve also recently tried the Vello Gravel, which is just that, a folding bike that can take on gravel or off-road tracks and trails (it's not electric, though). This quirky two-wheeler is also worthy of inspection if you need to get to work or school via less-than-pristine cycle paths, thanks to its chunky wheels and meaty, very grippy rubber.

Gocycle G4i

(Image credit: Gocycle)

Quality ride

However, if you've got the luxury of a decent budget and also the reassurance of somewhere safe to keep your ride when you get to the end of your journey, I'd say give the GoCycle G4 a try. This super cool folding electric bike features some of the best design features in the business. Better still, it's a dream to ride and doesn't feel like a folding bike at all.

Sure, it costs a sizeable chunk of change, but it is, to my mind, one of the best folding bikes out there. You can store it very easily, plus there's the added bonus that you won't be all hot and sweaty when you rock up to class or work, either. Job done. 

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.