As you may know, I recently moved from LA to the Seattle area. I live in downtown Bellevue and found that (unlike my home in LA) nearly everything I needed could be reached without getting in my car. I also learned that parking in Seattle sucks and thought that a small folding bike could be quite handy as a range extender. I wasn’t sure on what I wanted but when I saw this folding bike by MINI online, it quickly entered my shopping cart.
The MINI Folding Bike is $548 and sold directly by MINI. I’ve even seen a dealer carry them, so it might be worth calling one if you don’t want to order online. MINI likes to think that the bike has been perfectly tailored for the MINI Cooper but it’s simply a modified Tern Link Uno. The interesting thing is that the MINI counterpart is actually $100 cheaper. Surprising to see something sold by a car dealer that is a value proposition. The model I have has the lime paint scheme, which MINI charges an extra $65. Seems a bit like a ripoff, but it’s totally worth it.
The bike certainly has a presence and I’ve gotten a few thumbs ups while stopped at a light next to a MINI. The highlighter green paint and massive MINI logo stand out of the crowd - so don’t park this bike in shady neighborhoods.
I’ve never been a big fan of MINI and lost all respect in the brand when they started producing cars like the Countryman and Coupe. But for some reason, I’m strangely drawn to this MINI reincarnated as a bike. It almost feels like a more honest representation of the brand than some of the new models. I also find it interesting how the bike is a much more modern gesture than the forced retro appearance of its automotive counterparts.
The overall quality of the bike is superb. The frame is made from relatively light aluminum (or some alloy) and the MINI logo is painted and not a sticker.
In typical narcissistic automotive fashion, the bike is littered with MINI logos and badges everywhere. My rule for seeing no more than one logo at a time does not work here at all.
I do appreciate the Union Jack though.
Like every other folding bike, the MINI has a three-step folding mechanism. It’s easy to learn but a bit tedious in repetition.
The bike completely collapsed. It fits into most car boots, making in an excellent range extender. I’m convinced that it may even be able to squeeze into something like the Cayman - but Boxster? Not happening. By the way, notice how the bike is able to stand by itself using the post of the seat. Nice.
MINI includes a small bag mounted under the seat. It’s supposed to be for a carrying bag for the bike but I use it to carry my lock. Why? It’s because...
... the bag sucks. It’s really thin and almost feels like it’s going to rip open at any moment. A trash bag is a good analogy. I don’t see any use for this.
What makes me really appreciate the MINI Folding Bike is the quality of the hardware. The latches and levers for folding are all machined out of metal and feel - for the lack of a better word - German. What I find particularly great is how stiff the bike feels when riding. Flex in the handle post and frame often ruin the folding bike experience, but not here. As usual - great components go a long way.
The front and rear wheels feature magnetic plates to keep the bike together when folded. Details.
One thing that concerned me immediately is how the paint seems easily chipped. My bike arrived with a few chips due to poor packaging (thankfully received a small refund) and chips in high contact areas like the frame’s hinges are probably unavoidable. Thankfully MINI does includes a bottle of touch-up paint.
The bike comes with a Selle Royal Royalgel saddle. I personally find it to be overly contoured and too squishy.
Removing the saddle and its post reveals a surprise: a built-in tire pump. It’s brilliant. It’s perfectly adequate for quick fills and pumping is made easy as the seat becomes a soft handle. What I find strange is that the MINI doesn’t mention this feature anywhere in their documentation. If I were them, I’d advertise the heck out of this.
EDIT Someone emailed me this hilarious photo. I guess MINI does advertise the feature. ;)
The pedal and kickstand are also of good quality.
The MINI comes with a supremely comfortable BioLogic handles. Gear shifts are also comfortable though the grip design is aesthetically atrocious.
MINI opted for 8 speeds which is well above average for a folding bike. I do wish that the gear shifts were a bit smoother though. By the way, the chain is Teflon coated to protect against dirt accumulation.
Though it doesn’t make too much sense, the MINI is equipped with Schwalbe Kojak tires. They’re completely slick and designed specifically for speed. I think something with more off-road grip would have been more practical for everyday use.
The brakes are by Avid and feel solid. Though I’m sort of wishing it had disk brakes, I’ve found that these are perfectly capable at emergency stops.
The road is where you realize how well put together the bike is. The frame is very stiff and the bike handles brilliantly. There’s nothing that flexes or rattles and all the controls are light, making it ideal for the city.
I purchased Knog Beetle lights to comply with the law. I like simple silicone casing and they’re much brighter than you’d expect.
MINI includes a KLICKix adapter on the front of the bike to attach different accessories. I bought a small basket for quick grocery trips. I had initially thought the adapter looked stupid and removed it but now realize the utility of it.
This is by far the best bike I’ve ever owned and I’ve come to realize that a compact bike is mandatory for urban life. I respect full-sized bikes but the appeal of this is that you can carry it in your car or stow it away in a closet. If you've been thinking of getting a well-made folding bike, you can't go wrong with the MINI Folding Bike. There are cheaper options out there but you're truly getting what you're paying for here with no premium for the MINI branding.