If you’re looking for a dedicated commuter bike to ride to work or around town on errands, you’re likely looking for a bike in a lower price range, but that will never let you down. Commuter bike styles vary widely, from step-through frames and full-fender bikes to ultra-simple fixed gears.
This list is by no means exhaustive—there are thousands of bike models that fall into the “commuter” category if you broaden the definition. Here, we’ve rounded up the models that have been tested and found to perform consistently, are worth the price tag, and have a little something extra to recommend them…
Check out our list of the best commuter bike options for 2021, and if you’re still fuzzy on the type of bike you need or how to buy one, scroll down for our buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions.
BEST OVERALL: Specialized Sirrus X 2.0
Everything you need, nothing you don’t. This bare-bones hybrid bike is simple and at a glance, doesn’t look like anything fancy. But for a commuter bike that’ll be locked outside all day, that’s a plus…it won’t attract attention. And the lightweight, shaped, and butted aluminum frame will stand up to the elements (though it does have a steel fork on this model).
What we like about the Sirrus X 2.0 is that it could get you to work at a leisurely pace, but can also haul ass when you’re running late for a meeting. We appreciate that comfortable cruising but sporty handling combination. Use the rack and fender mounts to add more capability as needed.
The 1×8 wide-range MicroSHIFT Advent drivetrain is surprisingly good and keeps things really simple, yet with enough gear range to scoot up the climbs and hammer the flats. Wider, mildly aggressive tires make this a great fitness bike for groomed bike trails and riders who enjoy taking those secret dirt shortcuts now and then.
- Type: Hybrid
- Drivetrain: MicroSHIFT 8-Speed
- Brakes: Promax F1 hydraulic disc
- Weight: 27.3 pounds
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Color: Black, Dove Gray, Dusty Coral, Gloss Clay
- Extras: N/A
- Price: $775
PROS: Great balance of budget and performance
CONS: No fenders or other extras
BEST BUDGET: State Bicycle Co. Core
The Core line from State Bicycle Co. offers minimal design in a fixed gear or singlespeed bike, with plenty of choices in terms of colorways. If you’re looking for an entry to singlespeed riding for getting around a flat-ish area, it’s hard to beat these $300 4130 chromoly (steel alloy) bikes.
The bike comes with a flip-flop hub, meaning it can convert from singlespeed, where the caliper brakes become necessary to stop but coasting is possible, to fixed gear where you slow down by slowing your pedaling. This style of bike is a bike messenger staple because of its simplicity: No gears or shifters to deal with, and when using the fixed gear side of the hub, even braking is simplified. And the State Bicycle Co. steel bike is great value for the price.
We also love that as you purchase the bike online, you can add extras for a one-stop shop if you’re in a hurry—though we wouldn’t necessarily choose those specific extras if we were being picky. You can opt to add lights, locks, flat-repair kits, and fenders as add-ons. You can also upgrade to swankier pedals and saddles.
- Type: Fixed/singlespeed
- Drivetrain: 44×16 singlespeed gearing
- Brakes: Caliper brakes
- Wheels: Aluminum
- Weight: 24.5 pounds
- Sizes: 46, 50, 54, 58cm
- Color: Too many options to list
- Extras: None (but optional to buy lights, locks and fenders as add-ons)
- Price: $300
PROS: Great price, fantastic range of colors
CONS: Fixed gear riders or brave singlespeeders only
BEST FOLDING BIKE: Oyama Skyline in7B
Admittedly, February 2020 wasn’t the best time to post an article about how to take a bike on a cruise. But at the time, we didn’t know what the future would hold—and the ability to take a bike on a cruise ship (and manage to not get grease on any of the sheets in a small cabin) was a good test of how the Oyama Skyline in7B would work in an office or dorm room setting.
Equipped with an internally geared 7-speed Shimano Nexus hub and Belt drive, our editor found that it had a reasonably good gear range for tackling rolling hills or headwinds. The Belt drive was a major bonus: no exposed gears, chain, or grease means easy storage whether on a cruise ship, cubicle, dorm, apartment, subway, or bus.
It has a lightweight alloy frame, and it comes with fenders and a rear rack with integrated bungee strap, and the folding process was a literal snap. If you’re a part-time commuter, meaning you use public transport to get partway to the office before riding it in, this folding bike is a great option for you.
- Type: Folding
- Drivetrain: Shimano Nexus
- Brakes: V-brakes
- Wheels: 20″ with Schwalbe tires
- Weight: 40 pounds
- Sizes: One size
- Color: Black
- Extras: Fenders
- Price: $1049
PROS: Belt drive and folding bike equal no muss or fuss at the office
CONS: Not speedy
BEST COMFORT COMMUTER: Trek District 4 Equipped Stagger
If you’ve ever spent time in a European city, you likely noticed that there were thousands of casual commuting bikes lining every street. The Trek District 4 Equipped Stagger resembles these bikes, but it’s packed with features that make it one of the most well-equipped, fun bikes for your commute. It even uses a Shimano dynamo front hub to power your lights.
This editor admittedly struggled on the first ride: Unlike a repurposed road bike, MTB or fixed gear, this bike is built for comfort, not speed. Running late? You won’t be able to put much extra power down. But if you’re riding with the intention of not getting sweaty in your work clothes, or you’re just enjoying a casual ride, this bike is perfect.
After the initial adjustment—and a rainy ride—it was clear that the internal hub, the full fenders, and the pedal-powered front and rear lights are perfect for a commute. Even on a muddy day on the bike trail heading downtown, there was no mud spray, and the Gates CDX drive meant no need to clean a chain.
Also worth noting: This bike is burly. Compared to many bikes that top out at 250 pounds for the weight limit, this bike is rated for riders plus cargo up to 300 pounds.
- Type: Step-through
- Drivetrain: Shimano Alfine
- Brakes: Hydraulic disc
- Wheels: 700c Bontrager alloy rim with Bontrager H2 Comp tire
- Weight: 34 pounds
- Sizes: Small, medium, large
- Color: Black
- Extras: Full fenders, rack, dynamo, lights, bell
- Price: $1700
PROS: Built-in extras like full fenders, self-charging lights, and a bell make this bike ready to commute
CONS: Pricey, not speedy
BEST VERSATILE COMMUTER: Surly Cross Check
If you’re considering buying a bike that can do most things, the Surly Cross Check is easily the most versatile bike on this list. Want to do a road ride after work? Gravel on the weekends? A swap of the handlebars (to something like the Surly Corner Bar) and change of tires can morph this bike into a gravel grinder, a decent road bike, or a decent cyclocross build. This editor raced a Cross Check on the cyclocross course for years, even in the elite field, and loved it.
Of course, the versatility means that it’s not the perfect commuter. It doesn’t include any bells and whistles, though it does have eyelets to easily mount racks and fenders if you want to make it more weatherproof. At $949, we can forgive the fact that it doesn’t have disc brakes—though that does mean it’s less ideal for cyclocross racing than it would have been 10 years ago. That said, these bikes are pretty bombproof: That cyclocross-racing this editor did? That was 15 years ago, when the bike had already been passed through several racers. It’s still being passed around a junior team in New Jersey to this day.
Last thing worth noting: It comes in sizes ranging from 42 to 64cm, a huge spread. It’s rare to find road-ish bikes available under 50cm, so this is a great option for many women, kids, and shorter men.
- Type: Road/Cyclocross
- Drivetrain: Microshift Acolyte Xpress
- Brakes: Tektro cantilever brakes
- Wheels: Clearance for up to 42mm tires
- Weight: Frame is roughly 5 pounds, depending on size, and fully built up, the bikes are roughly 27 pounds
- Sizes: 42, 46, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64cm
- Color: Blue-black
- Extras: None
- Price: $949
PROS: Great price for a versatile bike, huge range of sizes
CONS: Not ideal for wearing business clothes while riding, no disc brakes
BEST COMMUTER-SLASH-BIKEPACKER: Salsa Journeyman Sora 700
If you want to spend a bit more and you’re thinking more about bikepacking trips on weekends after long workweeks, check out the Salsa Journeyman Sora 700. The bike is ready for racks and fenders if you want to add them, and features a unique geometry with a sloping top tube that will actually make it easier to wear work clothing while riding.
This bike has mechanical disc brakes, a huge upgrade from the Cross Check’s rim brakes. Choose between flat or dropped handlebars, and 1x or 2x drivetrains. And opt for 700cc or 650b wheels, depending on whether you want to run road or mountain bike tires. The standard model comes with dropped bars and 700c wheels, though.
- Type: Road/Bikepacking
- Drivetrain: Shimano Sora
- Brakes: Promax Disc
- Wheels: Formula with WTB Riddler tires
- Weight: 24.6lbs for 55.5cm
- Sizes: 50, 52, 54, 55.5, 57, 59.5cm
- Color: White
- Extras: None
- Price: $1199
PROS: Great price for a versatile, adventure-ready bike
CONS: None, really
BEST RETRO FLAIR: Bombtrack Arise Tour
We love a bike that looks like it requires riders to sport a handlebar mustache and three-piece suit to ride it, but that is fully equipped with all the latest and greatest in bike tech. Enter the Bombtrack Arise Tour, a 4130 Chromoly-tubed navy bike with tanned leather accents that looks antique but definitely isn’t.
The bike is designed for light touring or heavy-duty commuting, with plenty of rack space to store your work supplies. This is ideal if you’re planning to commute on hot days since you’ll avoid a sweaty back from a backpack. Or pack your clothes and change at work. Either way, you won’t have to shoulder your books, laptop, etc…just put them in a pannier bag.
The pre-mounted lights are powered by a dynamo hub, so you don’t need to worry about plugging anything in. And of course, full fenders keep you dry on rainy days. It even comes with extra spokes integrated into the frame!
- Type: Road/Touring
- Drivetrain: Ames sub-compact 30 / 46 T crankset and 11 – 42 T cassette
- Brakes: TRP Mechanical disc
- Wheels: WTB with Vee Tires in 38 and 40mm
- Weight: 32.4lbs for medium
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
- Color: Navy
- Extras: Front and rear racks and lights
- Price: $1565
PROS: Amazing vintage style but smooth, fully upgraded & modern ride
CONS: Pricey, bar-end shifters might be an adjustment for some
Buyer’s Guide for Commuter Bikes
After scanning this list of our top bikes, you may be torn between whether you need a hipster fixed gear or a Euro-style step-through commuter. But don’t just go on looks alone: Here’s what to think about as you pick the bike that’s right for you.
Style. We dig into this more in the FAQ section below, but clearly, there is a huge range of options in terms of commuter bike style. Rather than just picking the one that looks the coolest to you, consider the distance and climbing profile of your commute. If you have a three-mile flat route, a singlespeed might be your lowest cost/lowest maintenance perfect choice. However, if you have a 10-mile hilly route to work, something geared is going to be crucial for most riders.
Price. Obviously, bikes aren’t cheap. Though comparatively, commuter bikes are in the cheaper category compared to road, MTB, or gravel bikes! Still, you can see from this list that prices can range from a few hundred dollars to nearly two thousand, depending on the style and components. For some, price may be no object. For those on a budget, consider choosing a bike with less frills—like a single speed—that has a low price tag, rather than opting for a bargain bike from a big box store – it might come with all the bells and whistles, but it’ll likely break down faster in the long run and cost you more to maintain.
Weight. Are you going to need to heft the bike up five flights of stairs to bring it into the office? If so, weight might be a factor. But if you’re rolling from your garage into the first-floor bike parking at your building, the weight may be less of an issue.
Components. Look at the spec list and try to find the best price/value compromise, usually somewhere in the middle of the range. You’ll have fewer breakdowns and maintenance issues if you can spend a bit more on the components, but rarely do commuter bikes require the latest/greatest/lightest options.
Extras. Consider what extras come with the bike, and what extras you’ll need to buy to add to it. (This can factor in when considering the price.) Some bikes come with built-in lights (and Trek & Bombtrack’s bikes even have a hub that powers them!). Some bikes have full fenders—important for if you’re riding to work or school rain or shine. Others are pretty bare-bones, but that might be good if you’d prefer to pick your own add-ons, or already have lights/fenders/racks.
Storage. Do you have space to stash another bike at home? Some bikes—fixed gears and folding bikes—take up minimal space, while burlier hybrids and commuters can take up a huge amount of room. At work, will you be able to keep your bike inside somewhere (in your office or a storage area) or will it be locked outside? If it’s locked outside, consider the area you’re in. A burly lock can deter bike thieves, but if bike theft is a major issue near you, a less expensive bike (plus a good lock and bike insurance) might be a smarter option.
Frequently Asked Questions about Commuter Bikes
What is a commuter bike?
There are a few bikes that can be considered part of the commuter bike category, which is why the options above look so different and vary so much.
- Hybrid: Most traditional commuter bikes based on a more Euro style are hybrid bikes. They typically have step-through or lower frames for ease of straddling the bike in dress pants or a skirt, a wider saddle for short ride comfort, higher handlebars so you’re sitting more upright, and thicker, puncture-resistant city tires.
- Singlespeed/fixed gear: The commuter bike of choice for bike messengers (and, in the early aughts, hipsters). They’re great commuters because they have so few components to take care of, they’re lightweight, and in cities, they’re great options for shorter, flatter commutes.
- Folding bike: A folding bike is a hybrid commuter’s best friend. For hybrid commuters, part of the journey happens on a bus, train or car, then you hop on a bike for the second part. A folding bike is often the only kind of bike allowed on trains or subways during peak hours, and it’s great because you can bring it into the office with you.
- Drop bar bike: These look like a road bike, but usually have mounts for racks and fenders. The handlebars are usually flared outward a bit. The tires won’t be quite as thick as on a Hybrid, but they’ll be lighter and faster. These are great bikes for riders who want to ditch the gear and explore on weekends or ride gravel and need one bike to do it all.
Do I need a commuter bike?
Honestly, no. Many people opt to simply use their current bike, an old bike that they no longer use for fun riding but still functions, or they’ll buy a cheap used bike to ride around town. This editor used her mountain bike from when she was 13 as her commuter bike until very recently. These older bikes are often great because you’re less worried about bike theft when locking a 19-year-old bike outside. Plus, you know all of its quirks, like the fact that it gets stuck between gears when pedaling on any incline. Alternatively, you may just use your current road, mountain, gravel, or cyclocross bike as your commuter. That’s completely allowed.
What kind of commuter hybrid bike frames are there?
There are two main types of frames that commuter bikes are designed with: a step-through and a more standard double-triangle road-style frame. Some bikes will fall somewhere between a step-through style and a road style frame, with a sloped top tube to allow for easier on/off access while wearing work clothes.
What kind of bike do I need for a commute?
While this list is made up of bikes technically designed for commuting, another style of bike might suit different types of riders. Think about your average day and what would be the easiest for you.
For instance, commuters who ride the train or bus for part of their commute before pedaling the final stretch may prefer a folding bike that can be stored under a seat. For longer commutes, a road bike (and a full change of clothing at the office) might be faster and more efficient.
Alternatively, for longer commutes or for riders who need a bit of a boost, an e-bike might be ideal…just remember that they’re a lot heavier and really hard to lug up stairs. And if you live in a small apartment or you’re on a tight budget, your best option for a commuter bike might simply be whatever type of bike you prefer to ride when you’re riding for fun. Don’t feel like you’re locked into a strictly “commuter” option, consider your needs and how you prefer to ride.
What accessories do I need for bike commuting?
We generally recommend having:
- Bag/pannier (rather than briefcase, purse or backpack) that attaches to the bike
- Helmet (Here’s our recommendations for the safest helmets)
- Lock (Stay tuned for our full roundup of the best locks for every type of rider)
- Fenders, either a simple clip-on rear fender to avoid the worst splatter on wet days, or a full permanent set on the front and rear
- Extra tube, mini-pump, tire levers, multitool (and any tools required to remove wheels if needed—some bikes will require a wrench to remove the wheel)
- Front and rear lights, for both rainy days and late nights at the office…though we recommend using flashing front and rear lights at all times to improve your visibility to drivers. Some bikes we list have integrated lights that charge through the bike’s hub. For the rest, here’s our list of the best bike lights for all types of riding.