If you’re looking for a bike for commuting that will keep you rolling from home to work (and anywhere else) on a daily basis with minimal maintenance, then there are several options on the market.
The ideal commuting bike for you depends heavily upon the nature of your commute: are the roads smooth? Are you planning on trundling through your local park? Or combining a stint on public transport?
To help you wade through the huge volume of choice on offer in the cycling world, here’s a look at some of the most popular bike styles favoured by commuters…
Good for: Urban riding, gentle off-road if you choose one with wider tyres
Hybird bikes are the most popular commuting option. They’re a mixture between road and mountain bikes – often combining a lightweight aluminium frame with slick yet wide tyres and dics brakes.
There are many different styles of hybrid bike – some are closer to mountain bikes and come with suspension and wide tyres (35c+), whilst others are effectively road bikes with flat handlebars (with tyes around 25-28c).
The more rugged your ride, the closer to the mountain bike end you should go – but if you’ll be mainly cruising on city streets then you might as well bypass the weight of suspension and beefy tyres and opt for a more nimble cousin of the road bike.
> Check out the best hybrid bikes here
Triban RC500 flat bar – £499.99
An aluminium frame which is almost identical to the drop bar road version – meaning it’s built to be quick and nippy. A carbon bladed fork drops the weight and there’s plenty of gears.
Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike – £450
The Sirrus is a fast selling hybrid range from Specialized, with an assorted range at various prices.
We tested out the entry level version, which sports an aluminium frame, steel fork plus triple chainset and rim brakes.
Canyon Urban 8.0 hybrid bike – £1749
This one is just a little bit more pricey than the conventional hybrid bike! However, if you want a bit of luxury on your commute, this could certainly be it.
A lightweight aluminium frame with carbon fork, this machine is designed to offer a nimble ride. Shifting comes from a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub, which offers plenty of variability in resistance without the mess and grime of external derailleurs. It’s all powered by a Gates belt drive system, again protecting your trousers and slimming down on maintenance.
There’s hydraulic disc brakes, plus comfy 35c Schwalbe Kojak tyres. To add some extra compliance, you also get Canyon’s carbon fibre VCLS seat post, which splits the load to reduce vibration.
Good for: Commutes with a train journey in the middle
Folding bikes are ideal if you’re combining your journey with a train ride. Doing so can drastically cut down your travel time, giving you the chance to ride to a faster train station or cut out the walk each side.
The nature of the folding bike also means you can pop it under your desk at work, removing the risk of bike theft associated with the alternatives.
Folding bikes come in all sorts of wheel sizes. The smaller the wheel size, the easier it’ll be to get the bike on a train, but a bigger wheel will be quicker.
Folders are also popular among those who want a bike they can take on holiday with them with ease – in the boot of the car or back of the caravan.
>> See the best folding bikes here
B’Twin Hoptown 320 folding bike – £179.99
An entry level option from Decathlon, the B’Twin Hoptown comes with six hub gears and offers plenty of adjustment when it comes to saddle height, so it’s perfect for sharing.
Brompton Bikes – from £995
The market leaders, Brompton, allow you to spec your own folding bike with the ideal handlebar type, gear set up and accessory selection. The bikes fold quickly and easily via a clasp at the centre.
Tern Verge X11 folding bike – £2399.99
A top of the line version, ideal if you’re looking for marginal gains in your journey from home to station. The frame is built around 22 inch wheels, and disc brakes – the greater diameter makes for faster rides but means the folded unit isn’t quite as small as traditional options.
Good for: Carrying luggage and flat roads
The traditional town bike, sometimes called a Dutch bike, sit up and beg or step-through. These bikes are often designed with practicality at front of mind and speed a little bit further down the list of demands.
Expect features such as hub gears – which require a lot less maintenance, chain guards to keep muck off your trousers, kickstands, dynamo lights and built in racks.
These bikes put the rider in a very upright position – so you can ride one with a bag slung over your shoulder with ease, and they carry luggage well.
Dutch bikes often feature a limited number of gears, and are pretty heavy compared to the majority of other options (expect around 13kg). The additional weight means they often feel very stable – but they’re rarely a good choice if you live somewhere particularly hilly (though there are electric options out there).
Pinnacle Californium 2 women’s hybrid bike – £395
The Californium 2 comes in at 13.5kg, with 32c tyres which offer a wide contact patch for a stable ride.
A chainguard and kickstand provide a nod to practicality, and a sturdy, genuinely useful basket comes as standard.
Bobbin Brownie 7 – £445
Bobbin have a long history of producing stylish Dutch bikes, and the Brownie 7 is their signature model. The newest models come in at 13kg and have seven gears, swept back handlebars and Bobbin’s own sprung saddle for additional comfort.
Good for: Speedy commuting on flat roads
A singlespeed bike has one chainring and one rear cog – amounting to a single gear represented in inches. This means that you need to pick a gear which will enable you to cover the terrain you have in mind – somewhere between 65 inches and 75 inches works best for people commuting on flat roads but the ideal really does depend upon your cadence and leg strength.
Complicated though it does sound, once you’ve got the right gear sorted, singlespeeds are beautifully simple and having one cog does drastically reduce the maintenance required. As a result, singlespeeds are favoured by city centre commuters using mostly flat roads.
Some singlespeeds use a fixed gear – and are called ‘fixie’ bikes for short. This means that, like a track bike, there’s no freewheel. You can’t coast, and have to pedal constantly. Slowing down means applying pressure to the pedals – though to ride on the road legally you must have a working front brake.
Fixed bikes are often used by cycle couriers – they enable quick and nimble movement, once you know how to operate the pedals.
If you’re not sure if you want a fixed or freewheel singlespeed, you can buy a bike with a flip-flop hub – one side has a fixed-gear sprocket, and the other a freewheel, allowing you to swap between the two.
Charge Plug 0 singlespeed bike – £429.99
A long standing favourite with an aluminum frame and steel fork, large volume 38c tyres and a 42T chainring with 16T rear cassette (69″ gear).
Entry level road bikes
Good for: Longer commutes and enjoying on the weekend, too
There’s nothing stopping you using your standard road bike for the commute – and if you’re already a dedicated roadie using your bike for weekend and leisure rides then it makes sense to get still more use out of it.
Endurance road bikes make some of the best commuters – in that they offer a slightly more relaxed position and often come with disc brakes – which work much better in the wet.
Skinny tyres on a standard road bike mean they’re more suited to good, paved, tarmac roads – so the road bike isn’t the perfect choice if you want to amble along some canal paths – though the cyclocross or adventure bikes below might be an option.
Boardman 8.9 Carbon road bike – £1000
Boardman’s Team Carbon has stood at the Ride to Work £1000 threshold for years, and it’s the platform that ferried Nicole Cooke to Olympic victory in 2008. Now redesigned and called the ‘8.9 Carbon’, this bike has far from ceased to impress.
The frame and fork are both carbon, with Shimano Tiagra shifting and Tektro brakes plus own brand. A full bike comes in at 9.05kg, which is fairly light at this price point.
Cyclocross bikes / adventure road bikes
Good for: Giving you the freedom to commute off-road
Cyclocross bikes, adventure bikes and gravel bikes are all designed with rugged riding at front of mind. Wide tyres, mud clearance and disc brakes make them ideal for commutes that might take you off the beaten path – into the local woods, even.
‘Cross bikes are fit for proper races in the mud – since cyclocross races are generally under an hour, the bikes don’t always have bottle cages and almost never have eyelets for mudguards or pannier racks. However, if you travel light and want a nimble ride you can take off road.
Gravel and adventure bikes are a bit more road ready – with a lower bottom bracket and often narrower tyres.
It’s common to see people commuting on mountain bikes – and this makes sense if you’re commuting on proper trails. However, if you’re mainly on the road, the suspension and knobbly tyres are likely to slow you down through added weight and unnecessary bouncing.
Boardman ADV 8.9 – £1000
The ADV from Boardman is designed to tackle rugged terrain whilst still feeling fast enough on the road. When we tested the 9.0 model, it got a 9/10 and earned a place in the Cycling Weekly Editor’s Choice awards.
This model comes with Shimano Tiagra shifting, and hydraulic disc brakes.
Features to look for in a bike for commuting
Your requirements will vary depending upon the routes you’re using, and the amount of luggage you’re carrying.
However, popular considerations worth bearing in mind are:
- Hub gears: Most bikes these days use derailleur gears, which means an external derailleur pushes the chain between cogs on the cassette and chainrings. A hub gear keeps the cogs inside the hub – which means they’re not exposed to grime and dirt, cutting down on maintenance
- Chainguard: These tend to feature on Dutch bikes, and are good if you plan to ride in your civvies on a regular basis.
- Disc brakes: Not essential, but disc brakes offer faster stopping – especially in the wet so if you plan on commuting in traffic, regardless of weather, they’re useful.
- Mudguards: No one wants to arrive at work with a wet bum – and mudguards will deflect the spray as you go. They also stop grit getting into the mechanism of your bike, too.
- Wide tyres: Road bikes traditionally come with 23mm tyres, though 25mm rubber is more popular these days. These will feel speedy, but wider tyres are more comfortable and provide a greater contact patch with the ground, creating greater stability.
- Pannier racks: A lot of commuters prefer to go with a backpack, but if you want to carry quite a load, panniers will take the weight off your back – but you can’t use them without a rack so eyelets for one will be important.
- Gears: If your journey involves some hills, then you’ll want a greater number of gears so that you can spin up them with a lower level of resistance. A compact (50/34) chainset and wider ratio cassette (11-28 or 11-32) are components to look for. If you’ve got fewer hills, then a bike with less gears should be fine, and will require less maintenance.