Best comfort bikes 2023: a guide for happier leisure rides
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Comfort hybrid bikes are becoming increasingly popular as more of us are choosing two wheels to make short distance trips to the shops, to go on exciting little pursuits into the countryside or to beat the traffic jams into work.
Styles of hybrid bikes and components fitted can vary significantly, with options ranging from those built for fitness gains to those more comfort oriented.
We have compiled a guide to the comfier hybrid bikes out there on the market, but first...
What is a comfort bike?
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Calling a bike a 'comfort bike' somewhat infers that other bikes are not comfortable. This is not strictly correct. Rather the geometry and contact points, such as handlebars and saddles, of certain models of road and hybrid bikes are just more suited to riders who already have many miles under their belt.
If you are not used to riding a bike, holding yourself in the unusual position a bike bends and forces you in can cause pains and strains. Instead of putting up with these annoying aches in your first miles aboard a bike, a comfort bike presents a compelling alternative.
>>> Feel more comfortable, ride faster and prevent injuries with a physio led bike fit
A comfort bike can make the shift from not riding a bike at all or just a few miles a week to more regular rides, as the name suggests, a more comfortable affair. That said, comfort bikes are not just for beginners who are first entering the cycling world. For those who have niggling or persistent injuries, or are just generally not as flexible, a comfort bike has a much more suitable geometry.
>>> How to set your saddle height: a beginner's guide
By keeping your posture upright these bikes are designed to ensure maximum comfort when riding, which in turn helps reduce lower back pain and neck pain.
The bikes tend to have a step through frame or a sloping top tube which makes it a lot easier to mount and dismount from the bike.
Front fork suspension also often features on comfort hybrid bikes to help dampen the vibrations of bumpy and pothole ridden roads.
More features of comfort hybrid bikes are detailed at the bottom of this page.
How to make cycling more comfortable
A comfort bike is not the only way of achieving a more pleasurable and enjoyable riding experience; there are other areas of your equipment and clothing you can look at to see significant improvements.
Saddles sores are an uncomfortable by-product of cycling that can be caused by a saddle that isn't right for you or shorts that don't fit properly.
Choosing the perfect saddle for you can take work but we have a handy guide - see it here
While a large proportion of cycling comfort comes from finding a quality saddle, investing in a pair of padded cycling shorts is also important as it is what sits directly between the saddle and the most delicate part of your body.
You should also avoid wearing underwear under padded cycling shorts because these interfere with the purpose built padded shorts that are designed to wick sweat and moisture away from the body. The extra layer of underwear is likely to lead to painful chafing as the seams and material are ill-suited and inappropriately placed.
Along with choosing the right pair of cycling shorts and a saddle, a generous helping of chamois cream will help eliminate friction between your skin and clothing, thereby preventing saddle sores and increasing ride comfort.
Using a foam roller on your quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves after riding your bike can also aid recovery and stave off injury.
Best comfort bikes
Boardman MTX 8.6
The handling and position on this offering from Boardman are tailored for control and comfort. With its upright geometry the roads and traffic ahead are clearly visible which means there's no need to strain to see properly and stay safe.
Its 63mm travel suspension fork smooths out the ride, and this is paired with Schwalbe's Tyrago tyres which are 35mm wide and also puncture resistant.
Boardman say the MTX saddle that is fitted on this bike was developed using pressure mapping technology with industry experts, with comfort specifically in mind.
The Joni from Isla Bikes boasts a low-step through design for mounting and dismounting with utter ease.
It's very low gearing makes climbs more achievable - spinning in a tiny gear is much more comfortable than having to get off the bike and push the bike up the hill.
Instead of a front suspension fork, the Joni features a more expensive carbon fork that is both lightweight and incredibly comfortable.
Liv Alight 2 City Disc women's specific bike
Flat handlebars are combined with a women's specific relaxed geometry in Liv's Alight 2 City bike, providing pedalling comfort that doesn't compromise efficiency.
Its geometry provides a stable, confident ride feel, and the choice of smaller sizes for women will ensure you are investing in a bike that properly fits - which is an essential for ride comfort.
This model has been fitted with Liv's Sport Comfort saddle and hydraulic disc brakes that do not need to be squeezed to death for instant stopping power.
With a kickstand attached, it's easy to park up without having to balance it precariously against railings or an object in your vicinity.
Focus Crater Lake 3.9 Step Through
With a step-through frame there’s no need for any acrobatics when mounting and dismounting, while the high front end puts you in a relaxed and stable position when riding. There’s a wide range of gears so you won’t be grinding away as soon as the gradient tips up on this comfort bike from Focus.
Although our tastes in saddles can differ greatly, the one here has been chosen to be the most comfortable fit for the most people.
Hydraulic disc brakes provide powerful and controlled braking; they also require relatively little maintenance so you can spend more time riding and less time servicing.
Front suspension and plump tyres help to smooth out the ride and absorb any jarring bumps rather than transferring them to your wrists.
Marin Kentfield CS1
Specifically designed for comfortable and relaxed casual rides and commutes, the Kentfield bikes are a great choice for comfort and what's more they come at a very reasonable price.
Placing riders in a neutral, upright position the CS1 provides ample control when riding, while its 38mm tyres will give you a cushioned feel on the move.
A wide range, triple chainring set up has plenty of choice for whatever hills and downhills are thrown at you with it's 21 gears.
Raleigh Detour women's specific bike
Incredibly easy to mount, in whatever you are wearing to cycle, the Raleigh Detour offers a comfy riding position as well as 42mm wide tyres for smooth ventures.
Although it doesn't come with hydraulic disc brakes like other models for pure braking comfort heaven, the alloy V-brakes will still perform valiantly and for the Detour's low price this exclusion is to be expected.
Merida Crossway 100
Although the crossbar is higher than others on this list, requiring a little bit more flexibility when mounting and dismounting, this bike from Merida really excels when it comes to comfort. A front suspension fork is coupled with a suspension seatpost for a smooth and shock-free ride.
There are mounts for a pannier rack, mudguards and a kickstand, or you can leave it unadorned for a lightweight and more efficient ride. Even when loaded up, you shouldn’t have a problem with hills though, as there is a broad range of gears which offer significant help. While the hydraulic disc brakes will keep you in control as you come down the other side.
Features of a comfort bike
A bike doesn't require all of the features below for it to count of a comfort bike, but these are the components manufacturers tend to focus on when designing and building a bike for a comfort haven.
Typically suspension is found in the front fork of a comfort bike and it is installed to smooth out the often imperfect surface of Britain's roads - although this does come at the sacrifice of efficiency and speed. If you want a faster ride that's still comfortable, missing out this component is recommended as you can find comfort from focusing on other areas.
Wide range gearing
It can be extremely uncomfortable and bad for your knees to grind it out in an oversized gear. It is important to be able to pick a suitable gear for both your cycling ability and the challenging gradients of the roads. This is easier with a wide range cassette and a triple crankset for gears to choose between.
Coming to a halt when riding can be achieved with either rim brakes or disc brakes. Disc brakes are the more expensive option because they provide significantly superior stopping power - you will really be able to feel the difference.
Disc brakes will make life a lot easier and more pleasant for your hands when riding. No more clenching the brakes with all your might to stop in time for a junction.
Hydraulic disc brakes also require less maintenance than cable actuated mechanical ones- you only need to make sure the pads are replaced before they’re completely worn down.
>>> Disc brakes or rim brakes for commuting: what to choose
Wider tyre width
Wider tyres are comfier as they can run at a lower pressures, which means they can absorb the bumps of the road better.
Getting the right tyre pressure is also important for comfort. On the tyres there will be a minimum tyre pressure figure detailed – this should be met at all times when riding. However if the resistance is feeling a bit sluggish, you can up the pressure for a faster ride – although you will feel the road more.
Finding the best tyre pressure is about discovering a balance, between comfort and speed, that feels right for you.
A track pump with a pressure gauge can help you pump up your tyres to your preferred tyre pressure time and time again.
Contrary to what you may believe, a larger, cushy-looking saddle is not actually the most comfortable.
Brands fit comfort bikes with saddles that tend to offer the best support and comfort to the majority of riders. But if you are still experiencing discomfort with one of these saddles it worth checking in for a clinical bike fit, one that includes saddle pressure mapping as part of the process.
Your saddle soul mate is determined by the type of riding you’re doing and your physiology – including flexibility, core strength, sit bone width and soft tissue distribution – which means the perfect saddle varies significantly from person to person.
I’ve been hooked on bikes ever since the age of 12 and my first lap of the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit in the bright yellow kit of the Hillingdon Slipstreamers. For a time, my cycling life centred around racing road and track.
But that’s since broadened to include multiday two-wheeled, one-sleeping-bag adventures over whatever terrain I happen to meet - with a two-week bikepacking trip from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia being just the latest.
I still enjoy lining up on a start line, though, racing the British Gravel Championships and finding myself on the podium at the enduro-style gravel event, Gritfest in 2022.
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