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How We Tested Best Folding Electric Bikes

Monday October 17, 2022
folding electric bike - we buy every bike we review in order to run our own independent...
We buy every bike we review in order to run our own independent performance tests uniformly on each model.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

After purchasing each model in our line-up, we put our testers to work. Every bike is ridden 35+ miles while running through our testing gauntlet. We systematically evaluate these folding e-bikes across six separate metrics. This article explains our testing methods, and what we look for in each bike we test.

Ride


In short, this metric examines how enjoyable each model is to ride. Many factors are at play here, including comfort and features, as well as bike design, geometry, rider position, and the quality of the components. We test each model to learn how they handle at speed, while turning, and on varied surfaces. We also look at how smoothly the brakes and shifting operate, as well as how the wheels impact our urban cruising. We set up obstacle courses to ride through at various speeds and run the bikes back to back to assess them side by side. We look at stability speeding downhill and comfort when heading back up.

We also test comfort by having riders of different sizes pedal each bike, and take notes on handlebar width, grips, seat comfort, and body position. Our testers measure the range of adjustments possible on each model to see how adaptable they are to different-bodied riders. Features are not forgotten, as they play into the user experience while in the saddle. Extras like lights for enhanced safety and visibility, fenders to keep you dry and mud-free, and cargo racks are assessed. How all these factors come together to make the rider's experience satisfying is the culmination of this metric.

folding electric bike - the swagcycle's handling suffers from its tiny wheels and very...
The Swagcycle's handling suffers from its tiny wheels and very compact geometry, as seen here navigating our figure-eight obstacle course.
Credit: Laura Casner

Range


To test Range, we perform a standardized range test on the same course with the same rider for all of the bikes. The same rider is used so that weight is consistent across all bikes tested. We start each bike on a full charge and ride until the battery runs completely dead. The range test is recorded using the Strava mobile application to record distance traveled, elevation gain, average speed, and elapsed time. Further, this test is performed using the throttle-only to remove the variable of rider input. This test gives us the low-end results of range performance as it does not utilize any power coming from a pedaling rider, with the aim of leveling the playing field.

folding electric bike - we measure each bike's range in a throttle-only test, using the...
We measure each bike's range in a throttle-only test, using the exact same course and the same rider each time.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Power


We test this metric by measuring top speed, acceleration, and overall power output using the throttle and the pedal assist modes. The acceleration test involves only the throttle, timing how long it takes to go from a complete stop to the bike's top speed (without utilizing pedal assist) on a flat, open road. We repeat this test several times for consistency and record the average time. The uphill power test involves riding up the same hill near the GearLab headquarters. Again using only the throttle, we observe how well the bike handles the hill and how much it slows down in the steepest segments. This uphill speed test also gives us a good idea of the torque/relative power of each model.

While testing pedal assistance, we check how many modes there are and how well they work. We assess the difference between each model, whether it is gradual or jumpy. We also note how much pedaling is required before the power kicks in, and how long it continues after we stop pedaling. We also measure top speed while using pedal assistance, and how much effort from the rider is required to meet the top speed.

folding electric bike - speed, acceleration, and overall power output are the focal points...
Speed, acceleration, and overall power output are the focal points of our Power metric.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Portability


For our Portability metric, we weigh each bike on our scale for consistency. Each bike also gets collapsed to its smallest folded size and measured. We also pick up each bike and load them into the backs of different vehicles and carry them up a flight of stairs to examine the ease or difficulty of handling each one in its collapsed format. The lighter the bike and smaller the size, the more easily portable and storable it is, and vice versa.

folding electric bike - our testers collapse and deploy each bike multiple times throughout...
Our testers collapse and deploy each bike multiple times throughout testing to gauge their portability.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Interface


The Interface metric has a lot of variation due to each company's approach to a bike's controls, display, and battery. We measure the display, how easy the data is to read in bright and dim lighting, and investigate how customizable the displayed data is. We use the controls while riding the bike to assess their intuitiveness and ergonomics. The battery is assessed for its ease of use and removal for charging and security purposes.

folding electric bike - we remove and replace the batteries multiple times to assess how...
We remove and replace the batteries multiple times to assess how easy or difficult these mechanisms are to use.
Credit: Laura Casner

Assembly


To analyze the Assembly metric, we time ourselves unboxing and setting up each model. We take note of the quality of packaging in terms of how well it protects the bike during shipping. We take inventory of all the included parts, accessories, hardware, and tools included and/or needed for assembly, and we closely follow the included instruction manuals. We assess how assembled the bike comes from the factory, the ease of assembly, and which adjustments are necessary to the bike, derailleur, brakes, wheels, handlebars, and seat before the bike is ride-ready.

folding electric bike - we time how long it takes to assemble each bike from its shipped...
We time how long it takes to assemble each bike from its shipped condition at our GearLab headquarters .
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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