History, what history? I bet you thought folding bikes were a recent development introduced by some cool brand in the 70’s. You’d never guess it but folding bikes have been around since the late 1800's and just like anything that old they have some great stories to tell, so settle in as we take you through the glorious past of the foldable bicycle.
Just so things don’t get confusing we’ll define what a folding bike is for the purposes of this article. We’re not talking about collapsible bikes or bikes that you have to dismantle and reassemble. We’re referring to the style that actually fold up, pretty much exactly the same as the ones we ride today.
The honour of the first official inventor of a folding bike goes to a Mr Emmit G Latta who way back in 1887 filed a patent and then immediately sold the idea to the Pope Manufacturing Company and guess what, they never built it!
To get a working model into production we need to fast forward a few years to when the Captain Gérard folding bike began life. In 1890 Captain Gerard, the leading French advocate of military cycling and the commander of the cycling company designed a folding bicycle that soldiers carried on their backs over rough terrain. After much testing it was decided that the folding bicycle was good for wartime use.
The bike was also a hit with the general public with a retail store opened in 1895 in Paris to sell the bike to a very interested public.
The Faun folding cycle was the next major development and is important in our history journey as it uses the same folding mechanism as most modern fold up bicycles do today. The bike hails from England around 1896 and featured a folding handlebar.
You may start to notice a war theme begin to appear here. Check out some of these classic photos from history.
Post war period folding bicycles went quiet with no real interest from either the public or companies. This period of disinterest lasted until the 60’s and 70’s when brands like Moulton, Raleigh Twenty and Bickerton Portable exploded onto the market. The Raleigh Twenty inspired a generation of designers with the shape and lines being instantly recognised in today’s models.
The 1980’s can be described as the beginning of the golden period of folding bikes. 1981 Brompton Bikes began production and one year later Dahon was born with the first Dahon bikes going to market in 1984. Both of these companies continue to dominant the market today with some beautifully designed models being released on what seems like a yearly basis.