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The actual first inventor of the folding bike may never be known with absolute certainty, but there are a few contenders.Interestingly, perhaps preceding the folding bicycle, was the folding tricycle since there are a few references to them dating from the 1880's from such companies as Bayliss Thomas in England and The Pope Manufacturing Company in the U. Englishman William Grout is often given credit for inventing the first folding bike in 1878 but from most accounts, his bicycle (a penny-farthing design pictured below) had a folding front wheel and a frame that disassembled. on September 16, 1887 and it was issued on February 21, 1888.
The problem was that this bike was deeply flawed and basically didn't work.
A complete telling of the story is in a book entitled "Charles Morel - constructeur dauphinois sous la troisième république".
Since it is in French, here's the short version: Charles Morel, a wealthy French industrialist, became enamored with the relatively new bicycle craze and devised of a folding bicycle and built a prototype in 1892.
First things first though, you can't have a folding bike without the invention of the bicycle itself.
So a very short history lesson on the bicycle is in order.
However, this sketch was later determined to be a forgery, though many historical accounts written before this forgery was discovered still credit Da Vinci as the inventor of the bicycle.
There were a few "pre-bicycles" invented before the appearance of what one would recognize as a bicycle.The Draisienne (below) had steering but still no pedals.In 1860, Frenchman Ernest Michaux and his brother Pierre added a crank and pedals to the front wheel of their "Velocipede" (below) and we have what starts to look like a bicycle that we all would recognize.There have been many who have laid claim to the invention of the folding bike.Humorously, a bike manufacturer (who shall remain nameless so as to not unduly embarrass them) audaciously claims on their website to have produced the world's first folding bike in 1973.These large wheeled bicycles were also called "ordinary bicycles".