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The 6 best commuter bikes of 2021 for any budget

Biking is a cost-effective, healthy, and fitness-friendly way to run errands or get around town. Here are our 6 favorite commuter bikes. ...

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Commuter bikes offer a cost-effective and fitness- and environmentally-friendly way to get around town.
  • The best are comfortable to ride, handle casual terrain, and withstand various weather conditions.
  • Our top pick, Brooklyn Bicycle Co.'s Franklin 3, has a comfortable, upright design and features quality components.

The concept of a commuter bike is simple: A functional, comfortable bicycle that's capable of getting you to and from work, the store, around your neighborhood, wherever. These bikes should be something that can be relied upon in a variety of terrain and weather conditions while also being something you actually enjoy riding. In short, they need to be practical, comfortable, and functional.

Despite commuter bikes falling into the category of one-definition-fits-all, there's still a wide range of bike style fit for a variety of riders and ride styles. Perhaps you'd prefer an electric commuter bike that has on-board pedal assistance that makes longer commutes easier to manage; maybe you only have a few hundred dollars to spend. Whatever your desired use case or budget, there's a commuter bike appropriate for all of it.

As a resident of Brooklyn, New York, and the fitness and outdoors editor for Insider Reviews, biking is my preferred method of transportation (even over the subway when I can help it). Because of this, I've been on every version and iteration of commuter bike there is – and to help you figure out which are best, I've rounded up five of my favorites below. These include bikes from known brands like REI Co-Op and Schwinn but also features commuters from smaller companies like Brooklyn Bicycle Co. and Priority.

At the bottom of this guide, I've also included some tips on how to best shop for a commuter bike, as well as the testing methodology I used in narrowing down which bikes ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best commuter bikes:

How we test commuter bikes

The best electric bikes 4x3

The commuter bikes featured in this guide were tested (aka ridden) to determine how well they performed across these four categories: Ride experience, maintenance demands, comfort, and value.

Here’s how each category specifically 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. 

The best commuter bike overall

The Franklin

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.

Pros: Assembly is included in the price, beautiful design, durable construction, comfortable to ride

Cons: Only three speeds

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

The best commuter bike for beginners

cyclecooprei

The Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 offers a smooth ride, excellent maneuverability, and is light enough to store in your walk-up apartment.

Pros: Comfortable seat, easy for novices to operate, locking front suspension fork, excellent customer service

Cons: Expensive

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.

The best electric commuter bike

PriorityCurrent

The Priority Current is a low maintenance e-bike that delivers a smooth, easy ride, and its 50-mile electric range 

Pros: Can handle a variety of terrain, has a 50-mile range when fully charged, rides smoothly and doesn’t feel like it’s jolting you when first pedaling, requires very little maintenance

Cons: E-bikes are expensive, the fenders can rub on the tires if nudged out of place

If you’re often commuting long distances or live somewhere near a number of hills, I highly recommend considering an e-bike. The pedal-assistance native to e-bikes makes biking, be it to work, the store, or just around town, a much more pleasant experience (plus, who doesn’t like showing up to where they intend to go not covered in sweat?). 

My favorite e-commuter is Priority’s Current, which also happens to be Insider Reviews’ top choice for all e-bikes in general. The Current offers 50 miles of range on a fully charged battery, handles a variety of terrain with ease, and is just an all-around joy to ride. The fact it needs essentially no routine maintenance makes it an even more attractive option. 

The bike itself is a Bosch-heavy setup, featuring a Bosch motor, battery, and head unit — and its reliance on one brand for these components is a huge reason why maintenance is so simple. It has five different pedal-assist modes, so I’m always able to easily customize exactly how much oomph I want it to provide, and it has a top speed of 28 mph of assisted speed which always seemed like more than enough. 

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Current is its price — though e-bikes hardly ever fall into the range of “budget.” But it’s more than just a simple commuter and can be something you’re able to reliably ride for a long time. — Rick Stella, health & fitness editor for Insider Reviews

The best customizable commuter bike

Person on commuter bike

State Bicycle Co.’s Core line of commuters is a customization dream as the site allows you to tinker with the pedals, handlebars, saddle, and other components to create an entirely unique-to-you bike.

Pros: Tons of customization options online, features a durable steel frame, comes in a variety of colors, costs less than $400 even with add-ons

Cons: Not all add-ons are always available, tires aren’t suitable for much off-the-beaten-path riding

The Core line of bikes from State Bicycle Co. is the epitome of what a commuter should be: Durably built, easy to ride, and customizable to the max. When first purchasing a Core, the State Bicycle Co. site gives you the ability to choose from a variety of add-on options such as the type of pedals you want, the saddle it comes with, and whether you want to add lights or a lock (among others). These options truly let me make a commuter bike that was wholly my own. 

Riding the Core is just as fun as digitally assembling it, too. Though I wouldn’t recommend taking it on anything rougher than flat dirt road, it does still handle uneven streets or sidewalks with ease (plus, what commuter is much of an off-roader anyways?).

For casual neighborhood riding, the Core has become my go-to. It weighs less than 30 pounds, so it’s easy to walk into my apartment, yet its steel frame still feels durable despite the lightweight. I’ve nicked it a few times on railings or metal fences and it’s never taken any damage, nor did it seem like hitting it much harder would do much either. 

The one aspect I couldn’t ignore immediately after learning about the Core was its price. With most builds clocking in under $400, the base model with no add-ons runs for just $300. That’s a hell of a price for as solid a commuter as this is — and it’s something that offers a high amount of return on investment.

If you like the idea of customizing your own commuter bike, and want something that’s highly durable and fun to ride, I can’t recommend the Core line from State Bicycle Co. highly enough.

The best retro-style commuter bike

Schwinn bike

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.

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

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.

The best full-featured commuter bike

State_Bicycle_Co_ _Amazon

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.

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

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.

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.

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 pedal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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