City, urban, commuter, cargo, utility, folding, and e-fill in the blank—call it what you will. Your commuter bike has a job to do, and only you know what that job entails. So whether you need to haul a ton of crap, make a quick run for some essentials, need an alternative to public transportation, load up the kids and get out of the house, or get off your ass and grab some fresh air, you need the right bike, and we have it right here.
What Kind of Commuter Bike Do You Need?
Just as there is no one type of commute or commuter, there is no singular type of commuter bike. It used to be a typical city bike could be described as having upright geometry, flat pedals, minimal gearing, skinny tires, and a comfortable seat (not as oversize as that of a cruiser bike, not as narrow as a road saddle). But thanks to new technology and a greater demand to live a two-wheeled lifestyle, the category is sprawling. Depending on the size of the city in which you dwell, the types of roads—or off-roads—on which you’ll spend most of your time (and how long that time may be in a given day), how much or how little cargo you plan to haul, the size of your budget, whether or not your commute is multimodal, what your idea of “maintenance” means, how quickly you need to get from A to B, and even your fitness level, it’s important to choose the right bike for the job. Answer these questions to find it.
Want, Need, Afford—You Don’t Always Get All Three
As with most things we buy, our final decision is based not only on what we want but also on what we can afford—and somewhere in the middle is the best option for the money and for the type of riding you do. So while a $6,000 custom commuter bike might make you starry-eyed, there are plenty of sub-$1,000 options that fit your needs. And while a $500 city bike is easier on the wallet, it might not offer the best features for longer commutes or those with mixed terrain. By now, you should have a pretty good idea of where you stand. One of these bikes should meet your needs and your budget.
How We Tested These Bikes
Our team of experienced testers spent many hours and miles using these bikes for their intended purpose. We’ve commuted to and from work on them, used them to run errands, put their passenger-hauling capability to work, ridden them in annoying traffic, loaded them up with groceries and beer, tested how easily the folding bikes fold (and ride), and run the e-bikes’ batteries down to officially see how long they last on one charge. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, handling, value, reliability, fun, and aesthetic appeal to come up with this list of bikes that will best serve the needs of anyone looking to get from point A to point B quickly, efficiently, comfortably, and in style.
―FAST BUT UNDERSTATED―
Cannondale Bad Boy 3
The Bad Boy is Cannondale's fast riding city and urban commuter. Sporting the brand's signature Lefty fork, the Bad Boy 3 stands out from the crowd while also featuring a fully blacked-out look designed to blend in. It's an interesting mix, but works perfect for the Bad Boy. Other features include a Shimano Altus 2x8-speed drivetrain that provides a wide gear range, powerful Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and 650b wheels that blend durability and speed.
―BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK CITY BIKE―
Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1
Co-op Cycles is REI's house brand of bikes that offer some of the best value on the market. For $600 you get a lightweight aluminum frame and fork, Shimano 24-speed drivetrain, a nice Selle Royal saddle, and fast rolling 700x40c tires. The CTY 1.1 is offered in two colors and four sizes for the standard frame style, and three sizes in a step-through variant. If you are looking for an amazing deal and a well featured bike, this is your ticket. Best way to buy it: Available on rei.com website right now or at your local REI store.
―RETRO CITY COMMUTER―
Electra Loft 7D
From across the street you might easily mistake the Loft 7D for a 1970's vintage Schwinn or Raleigh, but when you get up close you will see it is a thoroughly modern around town bike. Electra combined retro styling and modern parts into one heck of a package. The springer saddle is comfortable to ride, the mustache bars put your hands in the right position, and the 7-speed Shimano drivetrain shifts smoothly. On top of that, the Loft 7D comes with fenders and a chainguard. The Loft 7D is also available in a step-through frame option. Best way to buy it: Currently available at rei.com or from your local REI store.
―TIMELESS CLASSIC REVIVED―
To celebrate its 125th anniversary, Schwinn collaborated with frame builders at Detroit Bikes to recreate a limited-edition cruiser inspired by one of its most iconic models: the 1965 Schwinn Collegiate Deluxe. The Michigan-made chromoly frame is available in both step-through and straight top tube variations with the original Campus Green paint job. It comes with a comfortable seat, shiny fenders, a kickstand, and—to celebrate the anniversary—a book on the history of Schwinn bikes. The 8-speed, grip-shift drivetrain offers a range of gears for cruising and climbing. Wide, 38mm tires keep you rolling smoothly down the bike path or boardwalk so you’ll feel as cool as you look on this stately emerald ride. Best way to buy it: Available at Walmart.com in step-thru model. Standard frame currently sold out.
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―BELT-DRIVEN FIXIE WITH A FLIP-FLOP HUB―
The Ace is Priority’s fixie with a touch of class. It’s designed for commuters who like a little pep in their daily ride but aren’t fans of bike maintenance. Recreational-focused riders will do fine with the easier gear ratio and budget-friendly parts of the $499 Ace of Clubs (which also comes in a Pantone limited edition for a fifty bucks more). Performance-minded riders will appreciate the Ace of Spades for its carbon fork and seatpost, and higher gear ratio. Both models feature a flip-flop hub with a cassette body and fixed thread that lets you easily swap between fixed and freewheel cogs with a standard bottom bracket tool. And all adult Priority models use a quieter, cleaner, less-mess Gates belt drive instead of a traditional chain and cassette. A 680mm-wide, flat handlebar and 28mm WTB ThickSlick tires round out this clean-looking, stylish city fixie. Best way to buy it: All sizes of both the Spades and Clubs are in stock and ready to ship.
―OFF-ROAD-DETOUR READY STEEL MIXTE―
Marin Larkspur 1
The Larkspur 1 is a comfortable, cruisy, mixte-inspired bike that delivers big doses of fun. It’s built around a tough steel frame and fork that’s not scared of rough paths or pub crawls. The hydraulic disc brakes, 1x drivetrain, and Vee Tire wide knobby tires on 27.5-inch wheels are borrowed from mountain bikes and add to the Larkspur’s go-anywhere capability. Most people will probably use it as a townie, and it’s great at that, too. Its step-through frame lets you rest at stoplights with your feet on the ground. Best way to buy it: Find it now through a local dealer or online retailer.
―VERSATILE CITY/COMMUTER BIKE―
Brooklyn touts the Lorimer as a “versatile commuter bike that’s just as ideal for running errands as it is for working up a sweat on city streets.” It has a Shimano Acera 3x8 drivetrain (a user-friendly, entry-level mountain bike group often found on hybrids and commuter bikes), puncture-resistant 700x32mm tires, and a springy, double-butted chromoly steel frame and steel fork. Comfort features include a wide, squishy saddle that fits more rear-end real estate; easy-to-use, integrated Shimano EZ Fire Plus shifters and brake levers; and Brooklyn Bicycle Co.-branded parts like a flat bar, flat alloy pedals, and comfy ergo grips. You won’t find fenders, racks, or a kickstand on this bike—then again, you won’t find these features on most bikes at this price—but all the eyelets exist should you choose to add stuff later. It’s a cool, reliable commuter that won’t shy away from unforeseen challenges and that’s happiest on pavement, hard-packed gravel paths, and park loops. Best way to buy it: In stock and shipping.
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―CHEAP, SUPER-COMFORTABLE CRUISER―
Specialized Roll Low-Entry
With one of the lowest step-through frames in the business, the Roll Low-Entry is ideal for anyone who’s ever been apprehensive about swinging a leg over a top tube or being able to touch their feet to the ground at the last second. Beefy 650b x 2.3-inch tires roll smoothly on the road but come to your rescue when the pavement gets sketchy or a gravel detour piques your curiosity. Its upright geometry puts you in a position that takes strain off your neck and back and lets you take in the sights around you, but isn’t ideal for steep climbs up winding mountains. Nor is the Shimano 7-speed drivetrain, but that’s not what this bike is for. It’s also not for going fast. But for what it is, a $535 cruiser bike with mounts to add a rear rack, and a head tube tall enough to hang a pretty deep basket off the BMX-style handlebar, the Roll Low-Entry can double as a daily cruiser and around-town grocery-getter. Best way to buy it: Find it through a local dealer or retailer.
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―INTEGRATED DATA AND ROUTE TRACKING―
Cannondale Treadwell EQ Remixte
This subtle and stylish cruiser is also a capable commuter or fitness bike. Its geometry sits somewhere between upright and aggressive, meaning it’s comfortable for a full day of errands but puts you in a slightly forward position to run those errands quickly. The aluminum frame and 27.5-inch wheels with fat, street-style tires offer a plush ride on both paved and unpaved surfaces. The top-of-the-line EQ model (shown here) features fenders and a front cargo rack. From the moment you start pedaling the Treadwell EQ, the integrated Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ wireless-compatible Cannondale wheel sensor (developed with Garmin) begins recording data such as speed, distance, time, calories burned, and ride routes that you can view in real time or later using the Cannondale app (download it for free). Best way to buy it: Find it through a local dealer or retailer.
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―FEATURE-PACKED ALL-SEASON COMMUTER―
With a sealed, 12-speed Pinion Gearbox (inspired by an automotive transmission system), Gates Carbon Drive belt, full-coverage aluminum fenders, and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, the Priority 600 is an all-season, all-weather—not to mention low-maintenance—commuter. Head- and taillights are powered by the Dynamo hub, which also has USB-charging capabilities, and 360-degree reflective decals on the aluminum frame help the rider see and be seen. WTB Horizon 650b Road Plus tires can easily transition from smooth pavement to gravel bike paths. Best way to buy it: Pre-order now for November 30, 2021 shipment.
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―EXCELLENT VALUE CITY BIKE―
Civia Lowry Step-Thru
The aluminum-frame Lowry is a simple city bike for someone with an entry-level paycheck and a third-floor studio. It does not have disc brakes or wide tires. Its drivetrain isn’t internal or belt-driven. It’s just a classic city bike with pretty paint and nice-looking features—like stitched grips and saddle; small-diameter, round alloy tubing; a swept-back city handlebar; and rubber-topped pedals. At 25.8 pounds (for a size medium, 7-speed), lugging it up and down apartment steps is no biggie—and there’s some wiggle room to add fenders and a rear rack, should you so desire. The Lowry is also available in a step-over frame as a singlespeed for $399. Best way to buy it: Find it through a local dealer or retailer.
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―BEST PARTS SELECTION―
The Acme is fast like a road bike, sturdy like a mountain bike, and smooth like a Cadillac. It’s as capable for slow, solo cruises as it is for fast, fitness days. From top to bottom, front to back, every part on this modest commuter bike is handpicked for quality: Alex rims, Cane Creek headset, Gates belt drive, Kenda tires, Shimano shifters, SRAM brakes, Spot-brand leather saddle and grips. Yet, like a movie star who chooses to stay out of the limelight, the Acme doesn’t need to flaunt itself to prove itself. Best way to buy it: Available on Spot’s website right now.
―AFFORDABLE CARGO COMMUTER―
This long-tail hauler isn’t equipped with a motor like many cargo bikes are, which is how it can be offered at such an affordable price (e-cargo models can run anywhere from double the price of the Envoy up to six grand or more). You’ll have to put your work in on climbs, though, especially if you’re carrying cargo. But rest assured, the 8-speed Sunrace cassette with an easy-spinning 34-tooth cog combined with a 42/32/22 chainring up front will still get you where you need to go—just not as quickly. If you plan to use this bike for its intended purpose—hauling stuff—make sure your typical routes aren’t littered with steep climbs. You also get fenders and a set of roomy, removable panniers (with a convenient carrying handle) with your purchase, and Mongoose outfits the Envoy with components from its in-house brand Xposure, another way it keeps cost down. Best way to buy it: Order it today; it’s currently in stock.
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Electric Commuter Bikes and E-Folding Bikes ―BEST SINGLESPEED―
Rad Power RadMission 1
The most affordable e-bike in Rad Power’s collection right now—and one of the most affordable e-bikes currently on the market—is the RadMission 1, a city bike with commuter potential. For $999 you get a stripped-down single-speed that moves along at 20 mph with a throttle to help you get up to speed or to the top of punchy hills. The 27.5 x 1.95-inch-wide Kenda Kontact tires are slightly narrower than the 2-inch or wider tires we typically see on commuter e-bikes, but they were wide enough to feel speedy and provide comfort on pavement and bumpy bike paths. Best way to buy it: Buy now from radpowerbikes.com
―BEST FULL OPTIONED COMMUTER―
Aventon hit a homerun with the Level. It has some great performance, is spec'd smartly, comes out of the box almost 100% ready for commuting use, and is priced well. We would most certainly recommend the Level to any commuter or recreationally oriented rider looking for great value, performance, and function in an e-bike. The Aventon Level checks off almost every one of the necessary boxes in what I look for in a purpose-built commuter bike. This bike forces Aventon’s competition to get on their level. Best way to buy it: Buy it now on Aventon.com.
―BEST RIDE EXPERIENCE―
Specialized Turbo Vado 4.0
The latest version of the Vado is one of the best commuter bikes currently on the market. The Turbo 2.0 mid-drive motor provides a smooth, seamless, and intuitive ride feel, with power setting also being adjustable via an easy to manage phone app. All of the needed accessories for commuting—rack, fenders, and lights—come standard and the Turbo Vado is well spec'd with a smooth SR Suntour suspension fork, solid feeling SRAM brakes, and a SRAM 1x11 drivetrain. While the Vado is a bit more than some other bikes in the class, it has a very refined feel and strong dealer support. Best way to buy it: Visit you local dealer for stock and ordering info.
―BEST FOR HAULING KIDS―
Benno Boost E 10D Speed
This latest version of the original Boost, which made its debut in 2016 and impressed us with its immense utility and bold design, improves on that model without changing ride quality. It goes faster, too—the Bosch Performance Speed Cargo motor gets you up to 28 mph in turbo mode. You can haul up to 130 pounds on the rear rack and 45 on the front, and the Boost is compatible with a ton of useful accessories, including a variety of front trays, Yepp baby seats (for two), and different rail systems for your little ones to hold onto. A Bosch PowerPack 500Wh battery sits cleanly on the frame and will provide up to about 75 miles of riding—a range you can double with a second battery. The whole package rolls on 2.6-inch tires wrapped around 24-inch wheels. Best way to buy it: In stock and available to ship.
―E-CARGO WITH MASSIVE 150-MILE RANGE―
Tern GSD S10
With a 150-mile maximum range (with dual 400Wh and 500Wh batteries, $5,900), room to carry two kids, rear panniers with a 62-liter capacity, a sturdy front tray, and a claimed cargo limit of almost 400 pounds, this step-through e-bike can truly last all day and haul a helluva lot of stuff (living and nonliving). Thanks to its 20-inch wheels and compact design, the 20mph max pedal-assist GSD’s wheelbase is no longer than a standard bike. Best way to buy it: Buy now from rei.com or find it through a local dealer.
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―CHEAP E-COMMUTER WITH THROTTLE―
Aventon Pace 350
The $1,000 price level is where e-bikes can get sketchy: Lithium-ion battery technology is still pricey, so corners must be cut elsewhere to keep costs down. At $1,199, the Aventon Pace 350 is one such bike, but our test revealed it’s not too cheap to be quality. The Class 2 e-bike tops out at 20 mph, whether you get there by pedal-assist or a throttle. There’s a 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain and five levels of e-assist, giving you various pedaling options. You don’t get lights or fenders, but the Pace 350 felt totally viable for daily commuting. Want to go a little faster? The Aventon Pace 500 tops out at 28mph. Best way to buy it: In stock and available to ship.
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―FULLY LOADED, FAST E-COMMUTER―
Gazelle Ultimate T10+ HMB
This shiny-red, confident-looking commuter is as fast as it looks, with mid-upright geometry that complements its 28mph max speed. The aluminum-framed Gazelle Ultimate is powered by the latest Bosch Performance Line Speed mid-drive motor (with 75Nm of torque) and has a 500Wh battery, nicely integrated into the down tube, that lasts up to 55 miles on one charge (25 miles on turbo). A Shimano XT rear derailleur moves the bike through its 10 gears to provide you with all you need to zip uphill and fly on flats at a steady cadence. The 1.75-inch Schwalbe Energizer Plus tires—which are smoother down the center and grippier on the sides—are fairly narrow for a speed bike, but the Suntour 80mm-travel suspension fork makes up for any lost bump-absorption a wider tire might provide. Other awesome features: an adjustable stem that lets you fine-tune the angle of the handlebar to suit your comfort, integrated lock and lights, internally routed cables and wires, and a rear rack with a bungee for strapping down small stuff (think jacket, not 30-pack). Best way to buy it: Available now on backcountry.com
―BEST ALL-AROUND E-FOLDER―
The plucky, smart, and wholly British Brompton Electric feels slick, like it came out of Q’s spy shop in a Bond film. Like any other Brompton, it folds in three places and becomes very small very quickly—we got it down to 3 cubic feet of aluminum and rubber in 30 unhurried seconds. But unlike other Bromptons, this one has a 250-watt hub motor that propels it up to 16 mph. And it does burnouts. With the battery off, the bike weighs just 5 pounds more than a regular Brompton and folds to the same size, so the battery hasn’t ruined its capability as a folding bike. It also costs a staggering $3,639 ($3,499 for the two-speed model—just spend the extra $140; the gears are worth it) and ultimately makes an average-sized adult look ridiculous soaring atop its 16-inch wheels. But you won’t find a bike more portable that’s this good to ride. Best way to buy it: Find it through a local dealer or retailer.