If you’re looking for the best 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? Will it include a spin down your local bike path? Or combining a stint on public transport? Will you be aiming to buy via the Cycle to Work scheme? If you are looking for a commuting bike that is built for speed, then a fitness bike may be the best option for you.
To help you wade through the huge volume of choice on offer in the cycling world, here’s a list of our favourite commuting bikes, followed by an explainer on the styles available to you.
Best commuter bikes
Specialized Sirrus 2.0
With a flash ‘Gloss Hyper Green’ paint job, Specialized Sirrus hybrid is made the brand’s A1 Alloy butted aluminum and is the perfect commuting companion. The bike rolls on 700c wheels so it will cover ground with haste, and with room for 42mm wide tires, rough roads and dirt paths challenge the resolve of your hands or posterior. There are rack and fenders mounts on the dropped seat stays and the fork, and there are bosses for two bottles inside the main triangle. For those who are vertically challenge, there is a step through version too.
A 2×8-speed Shimano Acera / Tourney drivetrain guides the chain across the gears, and a chainguard at the front prevents greasy dropped chains. Specialized also make an ‘X’ version which features a Microshift 1×8-speed drivetrain, and is spec’d with burlier tires. When it comes times to drop the anchors hydraulic disc brake provide oodles of breaking power, while also requiring almost no maintenance.
Pinnacle Lithium 3 2020 Men’s Hybrid bike
With an aluminum frame sporting both mudguard and pannier mounts, the Lithium 3 ticks two major boxes for a versatile commuter bike. The Tektro hydraulic disc brakes provide powerful and modulated braking even in wet conditions, whilst the 3×8 drivetrain offers sufficient gears for even the steepest of hills.
Trek Domane AL 2
The Domane is Trek‘s endurance platform proving for a more upright geometry that is easier on your back and neck, while also providing stable ride characterists. As you would expect for any bike to be used as a commuter, the frame features rack and fender mounts galore, and is compatible with with Trek’s Blendr accessory mounting system. At this price point it’s a surprise to see a composite fork and Trek has spec’d its IsoSpeed Carbon Fork which swoops out towards the dropouts better absorb bumps and vibration before it gets to your hands.
With a Shimano Claris 2x8speed drivetrain and the bike uses dual-pivot rim brakes, though if you’re after disc stoppers it will cost you a bit extra.
Buy now: Trek Domane AL 2 at Trek for $879.99
Cannondale CAADX 1
Cannondale‘s veritable CAADX is one of our favorite gravel and cyclocross platforms. While it was initially designed as a full bore CX racer, the geometry is plenty stable enough to tackle long days on washboard gravel, or big commutes over a variety of surfaces.
The CAADX 1 is built up with Shimano’s new GRX 400, 10-speed drivetrain which features hydraulic disc brakes brakes and a clutched rear derailleur to prevent the chain from bouncing off the chainrings. The GRX brake levers also have a rubberized coating to enhance grip with the rain begins to fall. Unlike many similar CX bikes, the CAADX 1 has bosses for two water bottles, a rear rack and a removable chainstay bridge to allow for full coverage fenders.
Buy now: Cannondale CAADX 1 at REI for $1,600
Carrera Subway 1
At a slightly more budget friendly price point, the Carrera Subway 1 also offers 24 gears and disc brakes. However, hydraulics are sacrificed here in favor of cheaper mechanical disc brakes. These don’t have quite the same power and modulation as a hydraulic system, but still perform better in the wet than traditional rim brakes.
Canyon Commuter Sport 8.0 hybrid bike
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 aluminum 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.
B’Twin Tilt 500 folding bike
There are several B’Twin Tilt models available, all of which follow the same folding system, adjustable bar and saddle height, to make them ideal for sharing. The B’Twin Tilt 500, as pictured above, sits in the middle of the range and comes with a single chain ring at the front and Shimano 7-speed rear cassette.
Top of the range is the B’Twin Tilt 500 Folding Electric bike, which as its name clearly suggests is an electric version, and is only currently available in the UK. The £749.99 model promises a range of up to 35km per charge (terrain, rider weight etc. depending) as well as the 6-speed cassette.
Brompton M3L 2020 folding bike
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 hinge at the centre.
There are three ranges to choose from, and now includes an electric version, albeit for a premium price of £2595 / $3499. The M3L has the M-shaped handlebars which are comfortable for commuting and comes with three gears.
Tern Eclipse X22 folding bike
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 26 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.
Tern Node D7i folding bike
While we all love a bit of flashy kit, if you’re after a folder from Tern that is a bit more practical, the Node D7i might just be the ticket. It has a rear rack, fenders and even a dynamo powered light. To keep maintenance to a minimum Tern opted for a belt driven Shimano Nexus internally geared hub, and with the 24in wheels allow the bike to cover plenty of ground while still folding small enough to fit under your desk.
Buy now: Tern Node from REI for $1099
Creme Cafe Racer Man Doppio Bike
With a standard double triangle design, the Creme Caferacer Man Doppio bike is built around a lugged steel frame, giving it a classic look. Af first glance it may look like a single speed, however hidden inside the rear hub is an internally gear Shimano Nexus Speed drivetrain. Fenders, a chain guard and a front rack come standard, and so do dynamo powered front and rear lights.
Pendleton Somerby Hybrid Bike
A faithful iteration of a timeless classic. The 7-speed cassette and V-brakes lend themselves to straightforward serviceability. Whilst the fenders and chainguard serve to protect you from the grime of the roads and drivetrain. Coming with a pannier rack already attached, the Somerby is ready for carrying loads straight from the get-go.
Bergamont Belami N7
The Belami N7, on the other hand, offers far more in the way of bells and whistles. It comes with a hub dynamo powering front and rear lights and hub gearing for ease of maintenance. In terms of the contact points, the suspension seat point and adjustable stem make for a comfortable and adaptable cockpit.
Creme Vinyl Uno Bike
The Dutch brand has been designing city bikes for just over ten years, with the Vinyl Uno one of its single speed offerings.
A steel frame and fork is teamed with rim brakes, a riser flat bar and a 46/17T flip flop hub. This is a pretty big gear to push, especially up hill, so it’s worth adding a bigger sprocket and longer chain to the shopping basket if you’re planning to ride somewhere with a few hills.
Boardman SLR 8.6
Boardman’s entry level road bike packs the desirable features of a commuter bike that are lost on the higher end models. The SLR 8.6 comes with mudguard and pannier mounts, as well as a threaded bottom bracket.
All models come with women’s versions featuring women’s specific contact points.
All bikes in the range come with an aluminium frame, and at this price point you get a carbon bladed fork and Shimano Claris 16-speed shifting. Tektro is responsible for the braking and the whole bike comes in at around 10kg.
Boardman ADV 8.9
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.
Styles of commuter bikes
Hybrid and fitness bikes
Good for: Urban riding, gentle off-road if you choose one with wider tires
Hybrid 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 tires and disc brakes.
There are many different styles of hybrid bike – some are closer to mountain bikes and come with suspension and wide tires (35c+), whilst others are effectively road bikes with flat handlebars (with ties around 25-28c). We are also seeing a select few hybrid and fitness bikes adopting smaller 650b wheels which allow for super plump rubber that eats up rough roads and paths.
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 tires and opt for a more nimble cousin of the road bike.
Check out the best hybrid bikes here
Good for: Commutes with that also utilize public transport
Folding bikes are ideal if you’re combining your journey with a train or bus 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 on either side.
The nature of the folding bike also means you can pop it under your desk at work, meaning it won’t subjected to the elements or bike thieves who’d like to ruin your day.
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 vacation with ease – in the trunk of the car or back of the camper van.
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.
Dutch, comfort and cruiser bikes
Good for: Carrying luggage and flat roads
The traditional town bike, sometimes called a Dutch bike, cruiser, sit up and beg or step-through. These bikes are often designed with practicality in 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 pant leg, 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).
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 tires, 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. The bottom of the top tube on most ‘cross bikes is also flat so it will sit comfortable on your shoulder, ideal if you have to navigate a few sets of stairs on your commute.
Gravel and adventure bikes are a bit more road ready – with a lower bottom bracket and often narrower tires.
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 tires are likely to slow you down through added weight and unnecessary bouncing.
Singlespeed and fixed gear bikes
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 favored 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.
Fixes are often used by bike 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.
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 street clothes 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 and fenders: 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 tires: Road bikes traditionally come with 23mm tires, though 25mm rubber is more popular these days. These will feel speedy, but wider tires 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) crankset 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.