As the world enters a new reality and many of us are returning to our offices, it’s a good moment to reinvent your commute. Whether you are on a hybrid schedule or at a desk every day, a bicycle can bring an element of joy (along with its health and environmental pluses) to getting back out into the world again.
Here we have gathered some of our favorite commuter bikes in a variety of styles and functions—folding bikes, cruisers, hybrids, gravel bikes and even some e-bikes, for those riders who would like a little help on the hills. While many of the bicycles gathered here are top-of-the-line models that will give you years of smooth rides, we have also included a few budget-friendly alternatives.
Best all-around e-bike: Cannondale Adventure Neo ($2700)
The history of e-bikes, or electric bicycles, is almost as long as the history of bicycles themselves. In the 1870s and 1880s, inventors were devising ways of connecting batteries to bicycles. Issues around batteries—above all their weight—meant that many designs remained on paper, but advances in technology especially pedal assist designs, have led to a boom for e-bikes. One source estimates that there will be 40 million e-bikes on roads around the world by 2023.
For commuters e-bikes offer some assistance when necessary. On flat stretches you can rely on pedal power while on hills or anywhere else you want a little extra help, just add a little juice. The Cannondale Adventure Neo seamlessly incorporates its battery into its lightweight step-through aluminum frame. The Bosch battery has a life of up to 65 miles and can provide 20 mph of assist. It’s ideal for both errands in the city and weekend rides.
Best budget e-bike: Propella’s Single-Speed Drivetrain ($1099)
E-bikes as a rule are serious investments and even the least expensive will be more expensive than conventional bicycles. Propella’s Single-Speed Drivetrain isn’t as sleek as the Cannondale Adventure Neo, and its battery’s range is more limited (between 20 and 38 miles) but it is relatively light at 35 pounds and is also easier on the wallet. It can be an ideal starter or occasional e-bike, and if you find yourself converted to the e-bike life you can splurge on a fancier model down the road.
Best gravel bike: Surly Midnight Special ($2225)
From the name, you might think a gravel bike is designed to be ridden on gravel paths. Thanks to their hybrid designs that combine elements of road bikes and mountain bikes, they are actually suited to all terrains. If your commute includes shortcuts through unpaved areas or along potholed roads, the wider tires and lower gearing offer stability.
Surly Bikes’ Midnight Special has an elegant old-school design while not sacrificing anything when it comes to functionality or quality. The high-volume tires allow for tire pressure to be adjusted according to the surface—let some air out for those off-road adventures and top them off when you’ll be traveling on well-paved roads. This solid and dependable bike also has flat-mount disc brakes and front and rear through axles.
Best cruiser-style bike: Marin Bikes Larkspur 2 ($1199)
Cruiser-style bikes let their riders sit tall in their seats, all the better to scan the road for vehicles while also being more visible to drivers. Cruiser bikes are generally built for comfort and not speed with wide handlebars and comfortable seats. If your commute is over well-paved roads, a cruiser is a good option.
Marin Bikes first made its name making mountain bikes, but their Larkspur 2 is designed with urban adventurers, and commuters, in mind. The step-through steel frame makes mounting and dismounting easy, even if you decide to add a basket or baby seat. Disc brakes and wide tires are some mountain-bike details that give the Larkspur 2 the ability to handle various terrains.
Best hybrid bike: Cannondale Quick / CX4 ($700)
Hybrid bikes, as the name implies, combine features from both mountain and road bikes. Most have flat handlebars, as is typical of mountain bikes, allowing for an upright ride that most commuters prefer. On the other hand, they have the lighter frames and thinner tires associated with road bikes. The result is an ideal commuter vehicle—it has the ability to handle a variety of terrains and a lightness that means pedaling to the office doesn’t feel like a serious workout.
The Cannondale Quick is a good option on paved roads, while the Quick CX 4 is more of an all-terrain option with suspension forks to absorb any bumps. The aluminum frame is light—the bike weighs 28 pounds—and the 24 gears assure a ride calibrated to every incline and terrain.
Best single speed bike: Ribble Urban 725s ($688)
Single-speed bikes are an ideal option especially if you live in a city with good-enough roads and without any hills. If you don’t have to face inclines and you will typically be riding along at a leisurely pace, skip the extra weight of derailleurs and gears. By foregoing all those extra parts, single speeds are also easier to maintain—there are fewer parts to get clogged with dirt and grease. Another advantage of these pared down bicycles is they are generally cheaper, so you can get a first-class model for the same price you might pay for an average road bike.
The Ribble Urban 725s is a marriage of simplicity and quality. There aren’t many components—a large part of the appeal of single-speed bikes—but those it does have are all top of the line. The solid steel frame is well-suited to the stresses of urban commuting. The bicycle can also be easily switched to a fixed gear one, if you want a taste of fixie life.
Best folding bike: Tern Bicycles BYB S11 ($2499)
Much like e-bikes, folding bikes have a much longer history than many people realize. In the late 19thcentury a number of inventors filed for patents for foldable bikes (though in reality many of them were less foldable than easily disassembled). In the 1960s there was another spike of interest with bicycle manufacturers in Europe and North America producing many foldable bikes and then later, in the early 1980s, models from Brompton and Dahon became popular.
The folding bike has some obvious advantages for the urban commuter—it doesn’t take up space in small apartments and rather than leave it on the street outside your office, it’s easy to break them down and bring them inside. Among the best folding bikes is Tern Bicycles’ BYB S11. It’s 30 percent smaller than other folding bikes, has 11 gears (Shimano), and Kinetix Pro X wheels.
Best budget folding bike: Zizzo Folding Bike Urbano ($430)
If Tern’s BYB S11 is more than you want to spend on a folding bike, there are some lower-cost options. Among our favorites is Zizzo’s Folding Bike Urbano. It has eight gears (Shimano) and weighs in at a light 24 pounds thanks to its LX aluminum frame. Depsite its modest price, it’s a bike capable of handling most terrains and folds up to a size small enough that it’s easy to throw into your trunk for a weekend away, as well as sliding into a corner of your office during the workweek.