- Owning a commuter bike is a cost-effective and fitness- and environmentally-friendly way to run errands or cruise around your neighborhood.
- When shopping for a quality commuter bike, look for one that's comfortable to ride, versatile enough to handle a variety of casual terrain, and can handle a broad array of weather and road conditions.
- Our top pick, the Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Franklin 3, features an attractive upright design good for visibility and comfort, has high-quality parts, and is available in several different styles.
Editor's note: Due to fluctuating stock, some of the recommendations on this list are either temporarily out of stock or currently back-ordered. We will update this piece with new information when we can.
Working from home, I miss having the opportunity to commute to work. Depending on the weather, I used to roller skate or bike the roughly 13-mile trek each day. Sure, it took a bit longer than driving but I started the day on a positive, energetic note and was in the best shape of my life.
More cities are now encouraging their residents to commute by bike, creating bike-only lanes in urban areas. Therefore, now is the best time to use a bike to get around town, run errands, or just enjoy some time outside.
How to shop for a commuter bike
The most important consideration when buying a commuter bike is comfort. If riding a bicycle isn't enjoyable, then you're never going to keep at it and it'll just collect dust. Fortunately, when you purchase a bike online, retailers often work with local shops to assemble the bike and provide the necessary final tweaks to ensure the fit a proper fit.
Online purchases also give you the option of assembling the bike on your own. In my experience, it's worth the extra money to have a professional do it. The experts have the right tools, plenty of experience, and will likely finish the job in a fraction of the time it'll take you.
How we test
In our testing of commuter bikes, we chose to focus on affordable entry-level bicycles. This means that each option in this guide is non-electric and costs less than $700. We also wanted to make sure that, within those parameters, each bike was able to perform well across these four categories: Ride experience, maintenance demands, comfort, and value. Specifically, here's how each category contributed to which bikes ultimately made it into the guide:
- Ride experience: A commuter bike isn't going to wow you with its off-road prowess or on-road speed, but it should still be fun to ride. This means looking at how well it handles city riding as much as cruising through the park or taking a ride through your neighborhood. We also looked at how each bike's handling affected its ride style, and if it's something we actually looked forward to riding, no matter if we wanted to go to the store or break a quick sweat.
- Maintenance demands: Recurring maintenance costs are inevitable but it'd be nice not to have to get something fixed on your bike every other month. Though commuter bikes may not be pushed to their limits while simply riding to a local coffee shop, we still pushed the tested models to their limits to see if any components were unnecessarily stressed or showing signs of wear and tear.
- Comfort: Perhaps the most important aspect of a commuter bike (and most bikes, in general) is how comfortable it is. If it's not something that's pleasant to ride, you're not likely going to want to ride it very much. Comfort also extends not just to the seat but the handlebar shape and type of material used on the grips.
- Value: A combination of the categories before it, value looks not just at how much a commuter bike is but if it's truly worth the sticker price. It's always better to spend more for quality and durability once than to spend less more often.
If you're looking to spend more, we recommend considering an electric bicycle. With e-bikes, you can get as much or as little help as you want on your commute. This is especially helpful if you encounter hills on your route or you just want to get home quickly after an exhausting day. Don't be confused: An e-bike provides powered assistance but you still need to peddle.
The following guide features bikes that have a track record of durability, comfort, and minimal maintenance demands.
Here are the best commuter bikes:
- Best commuter bike overall: Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Franklin 3
- Best versatile commuter bike: Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Bike
- Best bike for longer commutes: Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike 700C Wheel Bicycle
- Best commuter bike under $300: Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike
- Best full-featured commuter bike: State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike
Updated on 9/16/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on how to shop for a commuter bike and included a rundown of how we tested each pick, checked the availability of all recommended bikes, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
The best commuter bike overall
If you want a comfortable, attractive commuter bike that comes fully assembled, the Brooklyn Bicycle Co. Franklin 3 is a smart solution that's built to last.
Brooklyn Bicycle Co. focuses on building bikes that are designed for durability, comfort, and style. This focus is apparent in the Franklin 3. The step-through frame makes mounting your bike effortless regardless of what you're wearing, and it's made of lightweight steel so you can easily carry the approximately 33-pound bike up and downstairs.
The rear hub and shifter are made by Shimano, one of the top names in the industry. And, the bike comes with puncture-resistant tires. Both the saddle and grips are made of vegan leather for maximum comfort.
The Franklin 3 is a three-speed bike, but there are also single-speed and seven-speed options. The bike comes in small/medium or large. And, it's available in five colors: ivory, matte coral, gloss black, sea glass, and cardinal red. If you'd prefer a top tube that is closer to parallel with the ground rather than the step-through frame, check out the Bedford 3.
Pros: Assembly is included in the price, beautiful design, durable construction, comfortable to ride
Cons: Only three speeds
The best versatile commuter bike
The Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 offers a smooth ride, excellent maneuverability, and is light enough to store in your walk-up apartment.
After a hiatus from the bicycle space, REI launched Co-op Cycles in 2017 with the goal of providing fun and freedom on two wheels. As the name suggests, the CTY 2.1 is specifically designed to be used in the city.
Several of the parts come from top names in the industry, too. The crankset, shifters, derailleurs, rear cogs, hydraulic disc brakes, and brake levers are Shimano. The hubs are Joytech. And, the chain is KMC Z8.
The suspension fork features a locking mechanism so you aren't bouncing around while riding on smooth surfaces. And, there's 360-degree reflectivity to keep you visible both day and night, though you'll still want lights.
This is the main bike I use for fitness and when tooling around town. From the moment I picked it up to test, I was blown away by REI's customer service. I had to drive about an hour away to get to the closest store, and they were insistent on making sure it fit me correctly.
The CTY 2.1 is also incredibly responsive. On one ride, the brakes reacted quickly, saving me from crashing into a car that pulled out of a drive without looking. And, I have no problem handling the windy trails in my city. The biggest negative for me is that the pedal reflectors fell off after 400 miles.
As our high-end pick, it is the most expensive option on our list.
Pros: Comfortable seat, easy for novices to operate, locking front suspension fork, excellent customer service
The best bike for longer commutes
The Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike 700C Wheel Bicycle is a versatile commuter that's great for both running errands and enjoying a casual ride around town.
What sets the Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike 700C Wheel Bicycle apart from the other bikes in our guide is its versatility. As an adventure bike, it works well off-road. Yet, it's also designed for speed and comfort for longer commutes. The front rack fits multiple panniers so you can easily transport your lunch, laptop, and a change of clothes.
The Elroy features Shimano derailleurs, a 14-speed micro shift and brake combo, a durable steel fork, and a sleek alloy frame. In some areas, Amazon arranges to have an expert assemble the bike for an additional $85.
Or, you can take it to your local bike shop if you don't want to do it yourself. In my own experiences, I had trouble adjusting the disk brakes and ended up turning to a professional to finish the job.
Pros: Great for riding on roads and off, integrated frame bag, large front rack, 14 speeds
Cons: Assembly is an additional charge
The best commuter bike under $300
The Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike is a great entry-level alternative if you want to give bicycle commuting a try without spending a lot of money.
For under $300, you get a lot with the Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Bike. The bike comes partially assembled and finishing the job is easy enough for a novice, so you may not need to spend extra for expert help.
There are both back and front fenders to protect you from the grime the tires might kick up. And, you can carry your work items using the included rear rack. The frame is made of steel and features a cool retro urban style. The spring seat provides a comfortable, upright ride. Schwinn backs the quality of this bike with a lifetime limited warranty.
Pros: Affordable, relatively easy to assemble, attractive, comes with fenders and rear rack, lifetime limited warranty
Cons: Several of the parts come from no-name manufacturers
The best full-featured commuter bike
The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with everything you need to commute in all types of weather so you don't have to worry about purchasing extras a la carte.
The State Bicycle Deluxe 3 Speed City Bike comes with a rear rack, a front basket with drink holder, fenders, and a chainguard. These features all help get you and your work gear from point A to point B while protecting you from debris and water your tires may kick up. Like our top pick, the Franklin 3, this is a Dutch-style bike, which means you ride in a more upright position for greater comfort and visibility.
There are three styles of the City Bike: The Keansburg, The Elliston, and The Rylee. The main differences are the colors, though The Rylee's frame has a step-through geometry, while The Elliston and The Keansburg have top tubes that are more parallel to the ground.
Pros: Attractive appearance, comes with all you need to start commuting to work, handles an array of road conditions
Cons: Hard to assemble, complaints about flimsy parts
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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]
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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]
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