Whether you’re looking for a socially distant outdoor activity for the dog days of summer or just switching up your commute to avoid public transportation, a good bicycle is an easy way to take you from Point A to Point B, while getting some fresh air — and getting your exercise in.
While many of us grew up with a one-sized-fits-all-type of bike (I.e. a “mountain bike” you’d also ride on the boardwalk or streets), a number of companies are now making dedicated commuter bikes, that are designed for a comfortable, reliable ride on the open roads.
What to Look for in a Good Commuter Bike
We looked for five things when determining the best commuter bikes:
Accessibility: How easy is it to start riding right away? We also found bikes that are easy to ride whether you’re a beginner or experienced cyclist. These bikes are built for commuting but are great as beach cruisers too.
Sturdiness: All of the bikes on our list are well-built, with sturdy steel, carbon or aluminum frames. The best bike frames are constructed to prevent wobbling while staying sleek and streamlined for speed.
Comfort: Whether you’ve got a long commute to the office or you want to take the bike on a joyride, we looked for comfortable seating and handlebars, to help prevent fatigue
Portability: A bike will always beat a car when it comes to portability, but there’s no point buying a bike if it’s too heavy to handle. We found lightweight frames that can easily be moved (say, from your storage room to the sidewalk) and portable enough to tuck away easily when not in use.
Extra Features: Some of our bikes come with thoughtful storage features or safety features, to ensure a stress-free ride.
The best commuter bikes these days have sturdy, streamlined frames that better distribute weight for a smoother, more controlled ride. Unlike “fixies” or single-speed bikes, these commuter bikes have a number of different gears along with slightly larger, grippy wheels, that make it easy to roll between different speeds, road conditions and terrains. Look for commuter bikes that come with storage racks too, so you can clip or tie your backpack or messenger to it. Because these bikes are designed for commuting, they all have comfortable seats that protect your posture even for long rides, and they’re all light enough for you to pick up and hang on a rack or to store away in your office too. We’ve even included a popular folding bike, that folds down for easy carrying and storage.
The best commuter bikes are a great alternative to bike sharing programs (the Bureau of Transportation Statistics say bike share ridership has gone down 44% since the Covid-19 outbreak hit in March). Even if you aren’t commuting to work these days, these accessible bicycles are handy for a quick trip to run errands, or for a ride around town to get some physical activity in.
We’ve rounded up five of our favorite bicycles for your next commute. These bikes are fully adjustable, so they work with any height or weight, they’re backed by solid reviews, and they’re all available for purchase online now.
1. Solé Bicycle’s Whaler II
Solé Bicycle’s Whaler II is a lightweight single-speed bike designed with commuters in mind.
It’s frame and fork are made out of Hi Tensile Steel, a strong, carbon-based material that’s ultra durable. It’s also very light, which is one of the reasons this bike weighs just 26 pounds. You’ll appreciate the Whaler 2’s weight when you’re riding and carrying it up stairs to your building, or by your desk.
Solé says the Whaler II has a “flip-flop hub,” which allows you to switch between its single speed and fixed gear modes. The ability to switch gears easily is especially important if your commute requires biking on a road with inclines and declines. The Whaler II also features both front and rear hand brakes, making it easier to regulate your speed.
The bike is available in a few sizes, ranging from 49cm (centimeters), which is appropriate for riders between five and five and a half feet, to 62cm, which can support people over six feet two inches tall. Solé recommends going to a physical bike shop for sizing if you’re under five feet four inches tall, and sizing up if your height is on the cusp of meeting the company’s size recommendation for a particular frame.
The Whaler II is available for pre-sale now, with the next restock happening in early September.
Whaler 2, $429, available at Solebicycles.com
2. Dahon Mariner Folding Bike
The Dahon Mariner D8 is a 20-inch commuter bike that folds into itself for easy transport and storage.
Its frame and wheels are made out of a lightweight aluminum that helps the D8 stay just under 28 pounds. It has an eight-speed trigger shifter, so you can switch gears with your index finger or thumb instead of having to rotate a dial. This is done in the service of having easy access to all of the bike’s features while you’re riding, so you never have to splinter your attention.
These technical details are great, but the D8’s more commuter-friendly feature is the ability to fold it completely in half. Dahon outlines the entire process on its YouTube channel, but it basically involves putting each section of the bicycle into the proper position before releasing the hinge in the middle. Once it’s in folded, you can carry the D8 by grabbing it by the center of its frame. This entire process will only take about a minute once you’ve done it a few times.
If you don’t have a lot of space in your apartment or office, a folding bike is the best (and likely only) solution for your commute. The D8 was designed to be a compact, lightweight bike that’s perfect for busy city streets. Better still, this limited-edition brushed metal color way is still in stock right now.
Dahon Mariner Folding Bike, $749, available at Amazon
3. Brompton H3L
Brompton’s H3L is an ultra compact foldable bike that builds on the reputation it established in 1975.
The bike’s frame and fork (the piece that keeps the wheels attached), are made out of lightweight steel, allowing the H3L to clock in at 26.24 pounds. Every design choice Brompton made with this bike was in service of making it easy to use for commuters. It has small wheels, which the company says makes it faster to ride. It’s got built-in mudguards to protect your pants from getting splattered with dirt. The H3L has three gears, and uses a custom shifter developed by Brompton, which allows you to switch between them using your thumb.
Folding bikes are somewhat common in the commuter bicycle category, but Brompton’s don’t just fold in half. Its seat, handlebars, and both wheels are collapsible, which creates an incredibly compact passage. If you don’t want to carry the bike, you can keep the handlebars extended and wheel the H3L like a piece of luggage. Speaking of, the bike has a front carrier block, which allows you to add an optional luggage attachment for additional storage.
Brompton’s H3L is an ultra-compact bicycle designed with the commuter in mind.
Brompton H3L, $1,397.57, available at Evancycles.com
4. Schwinn Wayfarer
Few bikes earn that coveted fellow cyclist nod of approval like the Schwinn Wayfarer. The popular commuter-style bike has been around for many years and has stood the test of time as a reliable and affordable option for both everyday commuters and leisure riders alike. The retro-inspired styling is instantly recognizable while features like a firm seat help with posture and comfort, and a rear rack lets you easily strap a briefcase or backpack to the back of your bike before hitting the road.
Schwinn Wayfarer, $299.99, available at Schwinn | Check price on Amazon here
New this fall for Schwinn: the limited-edition 2020 Schwinn Collegiate, which celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Schwinn brand. Only 500 units of this model were produced, and Schwinn says the bikes are crafted from 4130 ChroMoly steel sourced from the brand’s home state of Wisconsin. The bike is available now for $998 at Walmart.com though it’s already selling out quickly.
Schwinn Collegiate (Limited-Edition), $998, available at Walmart
5. SixThreeZero A/O Rosa
This Cali-based bike company is known for their accessible everyday bikes that work for both beginners and advanced riders alike. Their A/O Rosa Commuter Bike is made from a durable aluminum frame, with Shimano quick-fire shifters, an adjustable suspension fork and a sleek, streamlined design that the company says is built for speed. You won’t get the same performance features as some of the other brands on our list, but the hybrid tires ensure a smooth ride across all road types, while a tapered, memory foam saddle and grippy leather handles (the company says they’re “basically hand clouds”) add comfort.
SixThreeZero has the A/O Rosa classified as a “women’s bike” though with a handsome frame that supports riders up to 6′ 4″ and up to 300 pounds, we think it really works for everyone.
SixThreeZero A/O Rosa, $519.99, available at SixThreeZero