As a road cyclist, I’ve kept folding bikes at a safe distance. In my defense, I’ve never had a need for one. I’ve either always had access to garages to store bikes, or, as is the case now, live in the Netherlands where the majority of us ride sit-up-and-beg bikes, which are parked haphazardly on the street.
Folding bikes make lots of sense in big cities like London or New York, where commuters use more than one mode of transport to reach their destination. It takes the hassle out of having nowhere to securely park your bike, and means you can use other forms of transport like trains to complete the bulk of your journey.
Ebikes are equally alluring for the modern commuter. They can dramatically reduce the amount of effort required to reach your destination, and in my experience, are the difference between arriving with all the style of a techno-sartorialist or a hot sweaty mess.
Putting the two together must lead to something incredible, right? A fun, flexible, and useful tool that gets you to where you’re going with no need to worry about where to store it when you get there. Sounds like a winning combination. But is it?
I’ve been riding the folding ebike from GoCycle, the GX, on the streets of Amsterdam to see for myself whether folding ebikes could be the ultimate companion for today’s commuters.
Let’s start by looking at the ebike and how it folds
As I’ve already said, the GoCycle GX is a folding ebike. Its origami-like features are taken care of by a substantial hinge in the middle of the frame. Another slightly smaller hinge allows the steerer tube and the handlebars to fold down, and the seat post can be removed using a thumb screw. It’s all wonderfully simple.
Despite being sent a bunch of instructional videos from GoCycle telling me how it all works, I never had to refer to them. The first time unfolding the bike probably took between 30 seconds and one minute, by the end of the week I got it down to around 15 seconds every time.
I’d be confident that anyone with the ability to solve a basic puzzle could figure out how to unfold the GoCycle without assistance. But of course, be sure to follow the safety guidelines and check the hinges are securely locked in place before riding.
There’s also a neat double-legged kickstand, which means you can stand the GX up without having to lean it on anything. The stand works when the bike is folded or unfolded, making it a very useful feature when it comes to storing the bike indoors.
It’s a head turner
I’m lucky enough to have ridden quite a few expensive and flashy bikes in my time, but riding the GoCycle turned the most heads. In fact, on one of my first rides, a young boy let out an uncontrollable “woah” as I whooshed past effortlessly.
It clearly passes the looks test, but its design isn’t just visually appealing, it’s thoughtful from a functional standpoint too.
After a couple of weeks of riding the GoCycle, I spoke to the company’s founder and former McLaren Cars engineer Richard Thorpe, to understand the engineering behind the GX.
The bike is reminiscent of designs from legendary bike builder Mike Burrows, and there’s a reason. Both Thorpe and Burrows design bicycles with a blank sheet of paper in front of them and draw influence from the world of motorsport. They eschew convention in pursuit of building no compromises bicycles for a given purpose.
Thorpe tells me GoCycle’s aim is to build a bike that’s perfect to live with. So let’s see if it succeeds.
Most modern bicycles use a diamond frame shape. It’s a design that is realistically about as good as it’s ever going to get and was invented by John Kemp Starley back in 1885.
Despite remaining largely the same in structure, Starley’s design has been refined to the point that it’s now virtually impossible to make it significantly better than it already is. Unless, you start from scratch and completeley redesign the bicycle, from the ground up.
Burows has designed all sorts of bikes including racing bikes, town cycles, and recumbent bicycles. In many of his designs, he favors monoblade forks and singlesided drivetrains, for weight savings and improved aerodynamics.
Monoblade bikes have just one fork and the rear wheel is attached only at one side using a stub axle hub. It’s built on engineering principles common in motorsport, and is also the design that GoCycle uses. It makes perfect sense when you consider Thorpe’s background in automotive design.
Singlesided drivetrains and forks look unconventional and it always feels weird to look down and see components missing, but it works.
For GoCycle, following these design principles allows it to remove unnecessary weight. It also helps the bike fold down to a more compact size than it would do otherwise. Folding down the GoCycle and carrying it up a flight of stairs is easy and uneventful. As it should be.
As a small bonus, if you get a puncture, the bike’s tires and inner tubes can be replaced without having to remove the wheel, which makes servicing and maintenance quite easy.
But for me, the singlesided approach just makes the bike look cool and futuristic — it’s what turns heads. There aren’t many monoblade bikes in existence, and the ones that are, are some of the coolest bikes ever made. Now, the GoCycle is one of them.
One of my other concerns with folding ebikes is that they would be under powered or not have decent range due to design constraints that could limit battery and motor size.
That’s simply not the case here. Also, because the bike can fold down so easily, bringing it inside to charge isn’t a hassle at all. Fully integrated ebikes that don’t have removable batteries will never be able to compete on these terms.
GoCycle says that riders can get about 40 miles of range out of the GX, of course it all depends on how much effort the rider puts in and how you set up the bike too using the accompanying app, which we’ll get to later. I regularly got at least 30 miles per charge, and I was using in its highest power mode most of the time.
Conventional ebikes do tend to have greater range, but they also can’t fold down and be brought inside easily to charge. Whilst 40 miles is great for daily use, it does mean you need to keep it topped up with electricity.
Even though it’s a folding bike, it’s strong, robust, and rigid. So much so, I had to let some air out the tires to provide a more cushioned ride. That’s a very reassuring feeling for a bike that folds in half and has hinges in the middle of the frame.
When it comes to the bike’s handling, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting great things. Usually the compromises of riding a bike that folds rear their head in how it handles. However, when speaking to Thorpe, he reinforced on multiple occasions, that the GoCycle is designed to be no compromises.
If you really look for them, the downsides of the GX being a one-size fits all folder do make themselves known in its riding dynamics. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to the GoCycle, but comes as a result of building a bike that’s designed to fit a wide range of riders of all shapes and sizes.
The impressive part here, is that one GoCycle can cater for a range of riders of differing heights. Thorpe explains that using a very steep seat post angle, you can affect the reach and saddle height dramatically at the same time. Allowing one frame size to work for a majority of riders.
For the majority of people, the GoCycle will fit and handle well, and I’m certain they will adapt quickly. However, for me, I found it to be a bit of an “inbetweener,” and this is me being very critical, so take this with a grain of salt.
It felt a bit “inbetweeny” because the steering is direct and fast, which makes it feel sporty and agile. The electrification also makes it feel like a much faster bike than it would otherwise be too, which all contributes to an exciting ride.
However, compared to the sporty steering, the seating position feels a little too relaxed. I often struggled to decide whether to push on swiftly to my destination or sit up and enjoy the ride.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderfully fun bike to ride, as I’m sure all ebikes are. But it had a double-edged personality. Some might love it for its flexibility, others might find it takes a little longer to get used to. For me, I would have preferred a more aggressive position (lower handlebars) or slightly slower steering.
Like I said, I’m being incredibly critical here, and am using honed race bikes and relaxing Dutch town bikes as my points of reference. In reality, folding ebikes operate between these two spectrums, for what it’s worth the GoCycle handles well, for a bike that can fold in half.
As with many other high-end ebikes, the GoCycle also comes with an accompanying app that lets you tune how the GX lays down its power, limit its top speed, and gathers data about your rides.
Fundamentally, bikes are the wonderfully joyous liberating tools of transportation that they are because of their simplicity. So I’m often weary that apps can overcomplicate things.
Thankfully the GoCycle app is simple and helpful.
Within the app the rider can tailor how the motor applies power using a collection of presets or by setting their own custom parameters.
Two of my favorite presets were the eco-mode to preserve battery, and the city mode that works well in stop/start traffic. If presets don’t work for you, there’s also a custom mode that lets you adjust when and how much power kicks in.
With a bit of trial and error, I was able to tune the GoCycle to compliment my riding style around town to improve range, whilst making my journeys a little easier too.
What’s more, the ebike works without the app. Just switch it on, and it will default to the most recently synced settings. I do appreciate “set and forget” features like this.
Ok, so what’s the price?
I’ve managed to make it this far without mentioning the GoCycle’s price. With a heavy sigh, I have to say: it’s not cheap.
The GoCycle GX retails at £2,899 ($3,299). On face value, that sounds like a lot. Though, in this unique category of folding ebikes, it’s not an insane price and can be considered competitive.
The real kicker though, that I would like to see change, is that it comes with no accessories.
GoCycle kindly threw in lights (a legal requirement in Amsterdam), mudguards (an absolute must), and a front-mounting bag on my test rig. If you ask me, the lights and mudguards should come as standard, but on their own will cost another £165. The front pannier costs £150, but you could live without that if you had to.
Without these accessories I’d have got wet feet, would have had to wear a backpack to carry luggage, and wouldn’t have been able to go out after dark. But with these accessories, the GoCycle is a complete tool for urban living — it’s the total package.
Is it a good buy?
Folding bike legend Brompton offers an electric folder for around £2,600 ($3,400), and utility bike specialist Tern has its powerful mid-drive Vektron S10, which retails at £3,400 ($4,550). If you’re really on a budget, Raleigh makes a simple folding ebike, the Stow-E-Way that retails at £1,350 ($1,805).
If you ask me, none of these are as much of an all-rounder as the GoCycle, though. And with the accessories, it’s pretty much the everything the multi-modal city commuter needs.
The Brompton is a modification of its iconic folding bike, and the Tern is much heavier with its mid-drive motor and big battery. (My colleague Napier Lopez will be reviewing the Brompton folding ebike soon, so be sure to check back for his thoughts on that one.)
The GoCycle is a wonderful balance of simplicity, usability, and functionality. Considering these characteristics, I’d say Thrope’s objective of building a “no compromises” bike for life, is on the money. It’s easy to fold, light, and simple to maintain. It’s an ebike that would fit into anyone’s routine with ease.
While there are ebikes with greater range, and more luggage carrying capacity, none of these fold or look as eye catching as the GoCycle.
If you’re in the market for a folding ebike, the GoCycle should definitely be toward the top of your shortlist. I know it’s on mine.
SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.
Published December 18, 2020 — 09:00 UTC