Whether trying to live a healthier lifestyle or just tired of paying high gas prices, a commuter bike may be the answer to your prayers. These bikes are sturdy, well-built, and come in a variety of speeds and styles to choose from. Which type is the best commuter bike for you depends on what type of riding you plan on doing, and the type of terrain, and traffic, you’ll be dealing with every day.
What is a Commuter Bike?
A commuter bike is a lightweight bike that can easily move through the tight spaces of traffic. They come with a variety of gear ranges, from single speed to numbers in the double digits. Commuter bikes also come in a few different styles and a variety of features for you to choose from.
These are styled like a mountain bike, with a more relaxed and back-friendly upright riding position. They usually don’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but instead sport a clean, sparse frame that can be adapted to include rear racks or bags, as well as lights and water bottles.
The tires are usually thicker than other styles, with a bit more tread for traction on all types of surfaces.
These are lightweight bikes that are nimble and fast, perfect for weaving around parked cars in heavy traffic. The tires are usually thinner as well for less resistance, but are not as great on rougher terrain.
These also have the higher handlebars that keep you upright when riding. Wider tires give you more traction and have a higher resistance to flats than the thinner ones. These bikes are more versatile than the others, allowing you to go from the smooth city streets to the rougher terrain of a trail.
The issue with these bikes is that they are heavier than the other styles, so carrying them up the stairs to your home or office is not as easy.
Meant to be the answer for those who want their bike to take them from the streets to the trail, the hybrid is a mix of a road and a mountain bike. The wheel size is in the middle range, usually about 26 inches, with a variety of gear choices, brakes types, frame materials, and handlebars.
Whatever you plan to use your bike for, the hybrid can be bought, or made, to suit those needs.
Why Choose a Commuter Bike?
Whether for your health or for the planet, there are a variety of reasons to choose a commuter bike, including:
- Saving money on gas, car maintenance, taxi or bus fees, etc.
- Saving time on commutes, since traffic jams will no longer be an issue
- More exercise by riding every day to work or school
- A smaller carbon footprint
- It can be used for commuting during the week and fun riding on the weekends
- You can attach as many, or as few, accessories as you need, including rear racks, handlebar baskets or bags, fenders, lights, reflectors, bells, and water bottle racks
- With a few different styles of commuter bikes to choose from, you’ll always find one that meets your needs
It may be hard to know which type of commuter bike will best suit the area you plan to use it in, so we’ve reviewed a few different brands and bike styles to help make your search a little bit easier.
Top Picks in the market
Weight: 38 lbs
Dimensions: 20 inch frame, fits riders from 5’ to 6’2”
Specific Features: Aluminum frame, Shimano 7-speed external derailleur, 700 x 38C wheels with double-walled rims, front and rear handbrakes, rear rack, leather saddle with matching grips
Best Use: City streets, hard-packed trails
Sixthreezero Explore Your Range Hybrid Bike is great for commuting to work or school and hitting the trails with your buddies on the weekends. The frame is made of lightweight aluminum, painted a stylish matte black. With the 7-speed external derailleur, you have your choice of longer distance rides or a more leisurely trip if you aren’t up to a hard trek.
There are front and rear brakes for fast and easy stopping ability. The seat and handlebar are perfectly positioned to keep the rider upright, with their head high. A rack over the rear wheel gives you the option of adding a basket when you need to carry larger items, or left empty to reduce any additional weight.
The saddle is made of synthetic leather, with matching classically stitched handgrips. The 700 x 38C wheels have double-walled rims, giving you a smooth ride on cement streets or hard-packed dirt trails. This bike comes almost fully assembled and includes the necessary tools to finish the job in about an hour.
Related: Sixthreezero also makes an Explore Your Range Women’s Hybrid Commuter that is almost exactly like the Men’s, only with a 17-inch frame and painted teal instead of matte black.
Dimensions: 50 cm (small), 54 cm (medium), 58 cm (large)
Specific Features: Steel frame, Shimano 7-speed drivetrain, Shimano rear derailleur, RevoShift grip shifters, Wanda 700 x 35C tires, front and rear alloy brakes, synthetic leather saddle, steel rear rack
Best Use: Commuting to work, riding to school, riding in the park, hilly or flat areas
The frame of Critical Cycles Beaumont Urban City Bike is made of steel and is designed in a classic diamond shape that keeps you in an upright riding position during your ride. The Wanda 700 x 35C tires have excellent traction, gripping the surface of the road during your ride, even on uneven surfaces or in damp conditions.
The Shimano rear derailleur combined with the RevoShift grip shifter gives you easy control over your gears, though some have complained that the shift function on this bike is a bit clumsy, missing first gear and jumping one or two further than it is supposed to. The front and rear alloy brakes keep you fully in control of your speed at all times.
This bike comes almost fully assembled, and though the instructions are not as clear as some would like, it is easy to assemble in a very short time. Unfortunately, there have been a number of complaints about faulty parts, including brakes, pedals, and gear shifters, with little support from the manufacturer.
This isn’t the case on every bike, and part of the problem could be due to damage during shipping, as some bikes have shown up to customers doors with bent frames and rear racks. Others who have purchased this bike have had few or no issues, and rave about the features and stylish look of this bike.
Related: There is also a 7-Speed Step-Thru City bike for women, which comes in shorter 38 cm and 44 cm sizes. It is available in five colors, all different from the diamond-framed Beaumont, but that is where the differences end. The frame, wheels, and all other components of these bikes are exactly the same.
Dimensions: 20 inch frame, for riders 5’6” and up
Specific Features: High tensile strength steel frame, Kenda 700 x 28C City-Road pattern tires, aluminum and resin pedals, aluminum front and rear V-Brakes, vinyl covered saddle
Best Use: City commutes, athletic riding
Gama Bikes Alley Cat Commuter Bike is a modified version of Gama’s classic bike maintains the aggressive geometry, but in a more nimble bike. The frame is lightweight steel, with 28 inch 700C wheels that hold their momentum over uneven surfaces as easily as on smooth pavement.
With only one speed, there is no fussing with gears and shifters, so you’ll have a more relaxed ride. Front and rear four-finger aluminum V-brakes give you the control you need to slow down on sharp turns or stop quickly when needed. This also reduces any maintenance, keeping you on the road more often.
The vinyl cover over the saddle has classic stainless steel rivets, which are stylish and functional. This seat is contoured to give you the optimal riding position, while offering you the comfort of the light padding inside. Comfortable handgrips cover the aluminum handlebars.
This bike is 80% assembled when shipped to buyers. Experienced riders could assemble it themselves, but for beginners, it is recommended to have this bike professionally built to ensure the safest function.
Related: The Gama Bikes Speed Cat is a close match to the Alley Cat. It has the same modified classic frame with the larger 26 inch wheels and an identical vinyl covered saddle. The difference is the Speed Cat is a 3-speed bike. It can also be adjusted to change the height of the handle bars and the angle of the stem.
Weight: 26 lbs
Dimensions: 50 cm (small), 54 cm (medium), 58 cm (large)
Specific Features: 6061 Rust-proof aluminum frame, 700 x 32 puncture resistant tires, Shimano Altus rear derailleur, trigger thumb shifter, Tektro MD-280 mechanical disc brakes, custom security bolts, weatherproof saddle
Best Use: City riding, park riding, groomed trails
For those who are tired of having their bikes stolen in the city, the Fortified Theft-Resistant Commuter Bike is the answer. It has custom security bolts that keep all your bike’s parts, including the seat, the handlebars, and the wheels, attached and protected from thieves.
The aluminum frame and the chain are both rust-proof, so you don’t have to worry about riding in the rain or leaving your bike outside during the wet weather. The saddle is also weather-proof, so if it rains, all you need to do is wipe it down with a towel to be riding on a dry seat again. The tires are 32 inches of puncture-proof rubber that can withstand even broken glass.
Though it is only 80% assembled, there are online instructions available that are easy to follow, even for beginners. If you have any questions or issues with your new bike, the amazing customer service people at this company are excellent to the point of upgrading the rare missing parts on their bikes.
Related: There is a lighter Fortified City Commuter Single Speed bike that offers the same theft-resistance, rust-proofing, and identical frame. If you prefer a relaxed ride on flatter areas, the single speed is a much cheaper option, but for those who need the multiple speeds for more varied riding, the 8-speed bike the one for you.
Dimensions: 43 cm (extra small), 49 cm (small), 53 cm (medium), 57 cm (large), 61 cm (extra-large)
Specific Features: UrbanComfort high tensile strength steel diamond frame, 700 x 32C Wanda tires, super deep-V star rims, Shimano Altus 7-Speed derailleur, RevoShift grip shifter, alloy front and rear Promax brakes, VP freestyle pedals, KMC chain
Best Use: City riding, commuting to work, groomed trails, hilly areas, racing
The durable, hand-built, high-tensile strength steel frame of the Retrospec Mantra-7 Urban Commuter Bike is lightweight enough to travel for miles at a time on all types of terrain.
The 7-speed Shimano Altus derailleur combines perfectly with the Shimano RevoShift twisting shifters for simple, reliable, and precise response time when you need to change your speed. Because the shifters are on your handlebar grips, this also means your hands never have to let go to change your speed.
The 32-inch Wanda tires have water dispersion grooves on the tread to make wet riding easy and safe. A dual brake system keeps you in complete control of your speed and maneuvering at all times. With 5 different sizes to choose from, anyone from 4’9” to those over 6’ tall can find a comfortable bike to ride.
This bike is sold partially assembled, but the manufacturer, and those who have already bought it, recommend that it should be put together by a professional to ensure that all the components are installed and tightened properly, to ensure the safest ride possible.
Related: There is also a Mantra Fixed Gear/Single-Speed bike available from Retrospec. The Fixed Gear has a few minor differences from the Mantra-7, including smaller 23-inch Kenda Commuter tires, the BMX style platform pedals, no rear brake, a flip-flop hub, and since it is only a single speed bike, there is no need for the shifter and derailleur.
Dimensions: 43 cm (extra-small), 49 cm (small), 53 cm (medium), 57 cm (large), 61 cm (extra-large)
Specific Features: Hand-built steel track frame, front and rear Promax brakes, flip-flop hub, 700 x 23C Wanda City tires, deep-v rims, VP freestyle pedals, KMC chain, riser handlebars, Pista saddle
Best Use: City streets, rough roads
The flip-flop hub on this lightweight Critical Cycles Harper Commuter Bike gives you the option of a single speed bike for constant pedaling, or a switching to more relaxed freewheel ride for coasting along without pedaling.
The riser handlebars keep you in a comfortable upright position that won’t put any strain on your back. The safety of dual front and rear brakes also give you complete control of your speed at all times. Though the thinner 23-inch tires are fine on smooth city streets or uneven surfaces, they are not great for gravel and rocks and shouldn’t be used on any rugged trails.
There have also been some issues with the tubes in these tires puncturing easily, and the rim tapes are not the highest quality, so replacing the tires and their components may be a necessity after only minimal use. This bike comes mostly assembled, but can be completed in about half an hour with the included tools.
Though the assembly is simple, those not proficient with bike maintenance should consider professional assembly, or at least inspection, to be sure that everything is installed correctly and safely. Despite the few issues this bike has, the price is low enough to still make it worthwhile to give this bike a try.
Related: The closest match to this bike is the Harper Coaster Single-Speed bike, which only has the freewheel option for more cruising. This bike has also swapped out the front and rear brake system for a rear coaster brake, which is used by backpedaling. This removes wires and other components, which means less maintenance.
Retrospec Mars-3 Hybrid City Commuter Bike
Dimensions: 50 cm (small), 54 cm (medium), 58 cm (large)
Specific Features: Hand-built diamond high-tensile strength steel frame, alloy riser city handlebars, Shimano 3-speed RevoShift grip-twist shifter, Sturmey Archer internal hub, Alloy dual caliper brake, Kenda Commuter 700 x 32C gumwall tires, KMC chain, synthetic leather saddle, urban alloy pedal
Best Use: City streets, commuting to work or school, hard-packed trails
The steel frame of the Retrospec Mars-3 Hybrid City Commuter Bike is lightweight, yet durable, with riser handlebars to keep you upright during your ride. The Sturmey Archer internal hub protects all the parts and components of the drivetrain covered, to reduce any dirt from coating them and any damage which will result in constant maintenance.
The thicker tires keep you steady and safe on all types of terrain. Dual front and rear caliper brakes provide you with the precise stopping power needed for city driving. This bike’s vintage look is enhanced by a variety of included accessories, such as a chrome headlight, matching fenders, a polished rear rack, and a mid-century bell.
The main issue with this bike is the packaging. There is very little in the way of protection for your partially assembled bike and all of its loose parts. Many customers have complained about torn boxes, dented pieces, and scratched frames from the shipping, all of which could be avoided if the bike and its parts were packaged properly.
Other than this, the bike is made from quality parts and the tools for assembly are included.
Related: Retrospec also has a Venus City Comfort Hybrid bike available, which is made of the same high-tensile steel, Kenda tires, and similar accessories, from the saddle and handlebar grips to the fenders and rear rack. The Venus is a step-thru bike, lacking the top crossbar, making it easier to climb on and dismount.
This bike is also only a single speed bike, so if you are traveling on flatter areas, and prefer a more relaxed ride, the Venus is a good option. For those more skilled riders, or those who are biking in hillier areas, the Mars is most likely the best bike for you.
Weight: 23 lbs
Dimensions: 50 cm (small), 54 cm (medium), 58 cm (large)
Specific Features: 6061 rust-proof aluminum, Promax rise handlebars, Promax dual pivot caliper brakes, 700 x 32C tires, KMC Rustbuster chain, custom security bolts, weather-proof saddle, rack and fender mounts
Best Use: City riding, commuting to work or school
Fortified City Commuter Theft-Resistant Bike is one of the safest bikes available in terms of theft prevention, thanks to its custom security bolts that hold tight to all of your bikes parts, from the wheels to the lights. The frame and chain are both rust-proof, so no matter how often you need to leave it out in the rain, it will still look as stylish as when you bought it and work perfectly on your rides.
The saddle is also weather-proof, so you don’t have to worry about damp pants when you sit down. The thicker 32-inch tires are puncture-resistant, making the damage from potholes or sharp objects on the road a thing of the past. There are mounts for a rack, for those who use their bike for shopping or other errands, as well as fender mounts to keep the dirt and mud from covering you on a less-than sterile ride.
This bike comes 80% assembled, and is easy to finish off using the online assembly instructions. If you have any issues with assembly or any of the bike’s components, the customer service representatives are helpful and easy to deal with.
Related: There is also a Fortified Theft-Resistant 8 Speed Disc-Brake City Commuter Bike that we have reviewed above. These are the only two bikes made by this company at this time.
Whether you are commuting to work in a high-traffic area, riding the smooth roads across campus, or running errands up and down the hilly streets, the variety of features of a commuter bike means you’ll have no trouble finding one to get you where you need to go in comfort and style.
If you have tried a commuter bike you think is as good as the ones we’ve reviewed here, let us know in our comments section.