Cheap Folding Electric Bikes that Don’t Suck

Ness Icon
Ness Icon Electric Bike

If you’re in the market for a folding electric bike but don’t want to spend a lot there’s lots of options but are all good options? Well…this article lets you know what to look for when choosing a good folding ebike that should satisfy your needs for several years to come.

Things to look for are brand name components for brakes, shifters, derailleurs, batteries, and motor. Most electric bikes are built from many of the same components.

For example, Bafang is a very popular brand for electric motors. If your Bafang motor konks out on your off-brand bike, you’ll likely be able to find a replacement. Same is true if Shimano gears, derailleurs and such are used.

For batteries, you’ll want to make sure you can get replacements in the future. Samsung and LG and common brands for electric bike lithium-ion batteries. Typically, batteries that aren’t hidden in the frame of the bike are easier to find since they’re more universal.

Less expensive folding ebikes will likely come with 36 volt batteries which is okay if you’re going to be traveling on mostly flat ground and you’re under 150 lbs or so. I’ve ridden on folding ebikes with 250 watt motors and 36 volt batteries and they zipped me right along just fine, even up hills.

Your results might be different if you’re in a mountainous area or are heavier.

In most cases, I would recommend to look for 48 volts but 36 volts might be enough for your needs. Amp hours are also important. Volts translate into power or speed, while amp hours pertain more to range or distance.

I wouldn’t advise going lower than 12 amp hours in most cases. 12+ amp hours and above will give you decent range on most electric bikes. By decent, I mean close to 30 miles if you’re not using the throttle a lot.

Obviously, pedaling along with the bike using pedal assistance from the motor will be capable of longer distances. Rider weight, terrain, tire type, wind, tire pressure, riding style, and other factors play into how much speed and distance a bike is capable of.

I would recommend getting a bike with front suspension. It adds a little weight but it’ll be much more comfortable to ride.

Above is an example of an unbranded electric bike sold on Amazon. I happened to have seen this on Alibaba too, a Chinese wholesale site. Just know that many electric bikes, actually most, are manufactured in China. They can then be branded by an American ebike company who might request a few changes made such as the type of brakes that are used, tires, etc.

If you haven’t noticed, a lot of folding electric bikes look an awful lot like each other and this is the reason why.





There are higher quality, more custom folding electric bikes out there but in this article I’m focusing on those under $1200.

As for the above mentioned bike found on Amazon, I’ve looked over the specs and it looks decent. The battery is removable and not proprietary, the derailleur is made by Shimano, and many of the other components look like standard components I would expect on an affordable ebike. It’s not branded but you could probably find replacement parts for it. Don’t quote me on that but I’m assuming that is probably the case.

The price is getting pretty close to name brand bikes however and if you’re going to spend that much you might as well get a bike from a well-known, established company like RadPowerBikes, or Lectric which has one of the best affordable ebikes out there.

So, let’s make a checklist of what to look for when shopping so you pick a big that isn’t going to suck now or in the future.

  1. Does the bike use recognizable brand name components? (brakes, shifter, derailleur, tires, motor, battery)
  2. Is the bike sold by an established company?
  3. Is there a warranty and return period?
  4. Can you find replacement batteries or other components easily?
  5. Can you find reviews of the bike online?
  6. Can you find the brand’s website online?
  7. Does the bike come with a warranty?
  8. If you are buying a lesser known brand, are you buying through a reputable site that can help you if the bike is defective or damaged?

Money doesn’t come easy for most of us so there’s no point throwing good money away at a bike you won’t be happy with a year or two from now, even if it doesn’t cost much.

I want you to have a bike that is going to be both reliable and enjoyable for several years to come, so here’s some affordable folding ebikes that might be worth looking at.

Ecotric Dolphin
500 Watt Brushless Geared Motor
36 V / 12.5 Ah Battery
20″x4″ Tires
Max Speed 20 MPH
Pedal Assist and Throttle
Mechanical Disc Brakes, 160mm
7-Speed Shimano Derailleur
18-23 Mile Range Using Electric Only
Warranty: 18 months
View Price and Availability on Amazon

While the brand names of the motor and battery isn’t listed, I’m still fairly confident this would be a good choice for an affordable first ebike since it is offered by an established company.  There aren’t any proprietary parts that will be impossible to find if the company goes out of business either.  I have no reason to believe that Ecotric will go out of business but the company that I bought my first electric bike from, Ness Bikes, did go under, and I was left with a bike with no customer support.

I think Ecotric is here to stay for quite some time and for a bike well under $1000, this particular folding ebike has some decent specs.  I think many first time ebike buyers would be happy with it.

Another folding ebike that you can usually find for less than $1200 is from Rattan. 





Rattan LF (Step-thru)
500 Watt Brushless Motor
48 Volt / 13 Ah Battery 
20 ” x  4″ Tires
Max Speed About 25 MPH
Sizing Suitable for 5’4″ – 6’4″; min seat height is 31.4 inches so those under 5’4″ could probably ride it.  I’d double check with the seller to make sure.
Pedal Assist and Throttle
Mechanical Tektro Disc Brakes
7-Speed Shimano Derailleur
Range: Not provided but I would imagine around 40 miles
Warranty: 1 year all-inclusive
View Price and Availability on Amazon


 

The Rattan LF has specs that are comparable with the RadMini.  I also think it looks kinda cool!  It would be a tough choice between it and the RadMini.  You’ll save a couple hundred dollars, if not more on the Rattan and have a bike with about the same ride and capabilities.  

Are brand names always better?  Not necessarily but it’s easy to find replacements when and if they’re ever needed.  Then again, you can switch out brakes yourself and upgrade them to something better if you want to fairly easily.  As long as the electrical components are solid, the rest of the bike is just like any other bike.  

If your budget is limited or you’re going to be buying a couple of bikes for you and your spouse then Ecotric isn’t a bad choice.  Ecotric also sells other styles of electric bikes that might suit your needs more.  It’s a reputable brand with good reviews.

If choosing between Rattan and RadPowerBikes, they’re both reputable and well-known companies in the ebike world.  I would without hesitation recommend RadPowerBikes based upon their service after the sale.  However, they too don’t use the highest quality components either on many of their models.  That’s why their bikes are more affordable.  You’ll get a very a good bike but you might still want to upgrade certain components eventually.  

So, what if you come across a super cheap ebike at Walmart or on Amazon? Well, do your homework.  Buying through Amazon does come with some buyer protections and if it’s listed as a Prime product, it usually comes with free shipping.  Sometimes you can save money buying through Amazon rather than directly from the bike company’s website too.

You’ve already begun your homework here so you’re a step ahead many.  One thing I can be sure of is that once you’ve ridden an electric bike that is right for you, you’ll be hooked.  There’s no going back.

As for my first folding electric bike, the Ness Icon, well I sold it to a lady that fell in love with it as much as I did.  It was a good bike, just not a good company.