The 5 best commuter bikes, for running errands around town or getting to work

  • Commuter bikes offer a cost-effective and fitness- and environmentally-friendly way to run errands or get around town.
  • The best are comfortable to ride, handle a variety of casual terrain, and hold up in an array of weather and road conditions.
  • Our top pick, Brooklyn Bicycle Co.’s Franklin 3, has a comfortable, upright design and features high-quality components.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Editor’s note: Due to fluctuating stock, some of the recommendations on this list are either temporarily out of stock or currently back-ordered. We will update this piece with new information when we can.

Working from home, I miss having the opportunity to commute to work. Depending on the weather, I used to roller skate or bike the roughly 13-mile trek each day. Sure, it took a bit longer than driving but I started the day on a positive, energetic note and was in the best shape of my life.

More cities are now encouraging their residents to commute by bike, creating bike-only lanes in urban areas. Therefore, now is the best time to use a bike to get around town, run errands, or just enjoy some time outside.

But it seems as though just about every bike brand offers not just one, but multiple versions of something dubbed a “commuter.” To help, I’ve tested a number of the top commuter bikes from companies like Brooklyn Bicycle Co., Priority Bicycles, and Schwinn to find the best currently available.

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:

Best 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.

Editor’s note: Brooklyn Bicycle Co. says that it plans to restock the Franklin via its website in late Spring. 

Best 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.

Best electric

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

Best under $300

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.

Best full-featured

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.

How we test commuter bikes

In our testing of commuter bikes, we chose to focus on affordable entry-level bicycles. This means that each option in this guide is non-electric and costs less than $700. We also wanted to make sure that, within those parameters, each bike was able to perform well across these four categories: Ride experience, maintenance demands, comfort, and value.

Here’s how each category 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. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best folding bikes

  • Folding bikes offer riders the chance for recreation and exercise even if they have limited storage space around their home, place of work, or at school. 
  • This style of bike does tend to be more expensive than standard frame bicycles but they can also be stored much more securely, thus minimizing loss via theft.
  • Some brands offer electric versions of folding bikes capable of cruising at speeds around 20 MPH and that have ranges reaching nearly 50 miles between charges, making them ideal for urban commuting.
  • Our top pick, the Tern Node D7i Folding Bike, feels like a standard framed bike, offers a smooth ride, and even has a built-in light that makes it great for night riding.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Over the years, folding bikes have grown from a small niche part of the greater bicycle market into an established, respected category. Though manufacturers have produced this type of bike for well over a century (and even issued them in limited numbers to troops during both World Wars), folding bicycles are only now gaining mass-market appeal as more health- and eco-conscious consumers turn to cycling as a better way to commute, run errands, and recreate.

This growth in popularity means that there are more and better folding bike options available than ever before, making them worth more than just a passing consideration. Even Connor Swegle, co-founder of Priority Bicycles in Manhattan, NY, has long been a fan of folding bikes, despite Priority not offering any in its lineup.

“[Folding bikes are] a great solution for so many commuters,” Swegle told Insider. “They’re perfect for people storing a bike at work or who have limited storage space at home. If they don’t have a bike room at work or a garage, a bike they’re able to just carry or tuck away is ideal. As people look to cut down on the amount of other transportation they use, folding bikes are one of the best options.”

To help those in the market for a folding bike, we tested models from brands like Tern, Brompton, and GoCycle to find the best currently available for a variety of use cases. At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some tips on how to shop for a folding bike and the other models that almost made the cut, as well as insight into our testing methodology.

Here are the best folding bikes:

Updated on 1/5/2021 by Rick Stella: Updated the sections on how to shop for a folding bike and the testing methodology we used, checked the availability of each recommended bike, and updated the prices and links where necessary.

Best folding bike overall

Tern Foldable Bike

The Tern Node D7i Folding bike rides almost like a standard fixed frame bike, easily handling mile after mile of varied terrain.

Pros: Stable ride on varied terrain, built-in lighting system, suitable for adult riders of all sizes

Cons: Expensive, large for the category

If you want a folding bike that feels like a regular bike, the Tern Node D71 folder is your best bet. With 24-inch wheels, a seat post that raises to accommodate an adult of above-average height, and adjustable handlebars, you might forget this bike actually folds down to half its size.

For that smooth, steady ride that approximates a standard bike, you’ll be paying a good deal of cash given this folding bicycle‘s nearly $1,100 price tag. But there are myriad features that add value to add up to a fair price.

For instance, a built-in lighting system keeps you safer when riding at night and won’t ever require a change of battery thanks to an internal power hub that siphons your kinetic energy to keep the lights on. Seven gears allow you to easily make your way uphill and make cruising along on level ground a breeze. 

At 33 pounds, it’s also light enough to be easily carried up a few flights of stairs. It does still feature a rugged enough design that makes it suitable for occasional off-roading, too.

On-road, you might find yourself wishing for a few more gears, as any avid cyclist might find themselves easily pedaling along even in seventh gear. Of course, with the benefits of those larger-than-average wheels for a folder so too comes a folding bike that’s still a bit clunky when folded down.

But for the person who wants both convenience and a solid, reliable bike, the Node D7i is a great choice.

Best folding bike for commuting

Ubike Lifestyle

The Bike USA Ubike Metropolis Folding Bike is easy enough for riders of any experience level to enjoy and stable and responsive enough for urban cycling.

Pros: Ships 90% assembled and requires minimal maintenance, easy to adjust seat and handlebars, durable alloy frame

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 250 lbs, pedals not durable enough

If you need a bike that’s reliable and nimble enough to get you across town, then the Ubike Metropolis is for you. While not the right choice for a cross-country tour, given its moderately-sized 22-inch wheels and its three-gear hub, this bike is perfect for the daily grind.

Those 22-inch wheels might not be great for open road cycling but they do allow for deft turns and plenty of control — they take up less space when the bike is folded, too. Though three gears isn’t many, it’s all you need for the city. Just use first gear when going uphill, second for most of the commute, and third on those rare open breakaways when you need some speed.

Twin hand brakes allow for quick stops while the durable frame and smooth, responsive gear system provide safe and comfortable riding on a variety of road surfaces. 

Rider weight is limited to 250 pounds, and watch out for occasional issues with loose pedals. Overall, this is a fine choice for the urban commuter who wants to travel to and fro under his or her own steam.

Best ultra-compact folding bike

Brompton M6L Lifestyle

You could ride your Brompton M6L Folding Bike for mile after mile and then fold it up and stick it anywhere from a car trunk, a closet shelf, or a mid-sized suitcase.

Pros: Packs down very small, responsive ride, weighs just 26 pounds

Cons: Expensive, folding mechanisms take a while to master

The Brompton M6L is one seriously compact folding bike. So compact, in fact, that you’re able to fit it in a suitcase and check it onto a plane (no special bag required). Maybe you want to tuck it into the trunk of a Mazda Miata or carry one under each arm while your partner handles the grocery bags. At 26 pounds, and with wheels just 16 inches in diameter, this is the most compact folder we’ve seen. 

With that small size comes this guide’s largest price tag (for a non-electric bike, at least) and to be honest, this bike is a bit frustrating initially.

The process of unfolding the M6L for use and for folding it down after a ride is a multi-step process that can be confusing and annoying the first few times you do it. But once you master its hinge and locking mechanism, you’ll be able to get it set up or packed down in less than a minute. 

The M6L features six gears, twin hand brakes, and smooth pedaling action. Riding feels safe and natural despite its small tires, which allow for plenty of agility and are able to handle most urban and suburban terrain with ease.

Best affordable folding bike

Vilano Urbana Lifestyle

If you want to cover a few city blocks a few minutes faster, then the Vilano Urbana Single Speed Folding Bike is a great choice at a great price.

Pros: Great low price point, very lightweight and compact, easy to ride

Cons: Maximum rider weight of 200 lbs, single-speed not ideal for hills

When you are paying well under $300 for a bike, you can’t expect it to do very much. This is why you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fact Vilano’s Urbana folding bike works fairly well within the context of those expectations. This bike isn’t all that fast, it’s far from rugged, and after a 15-mile ride, you’d probably be sore and ornery. But none of those define the purpose of this folding bike.

The Urbana is a perfect example of what Connor Swegle meant by a last-mile solution. This bike weighs just 21.5 pounds and folds down into dimensions of one by two by three feet, making it extremely easy to carry. This lets you finish your journey with ease and at speeds many times greater than you’re able to walk.

As a single speed bike, the Urbana might not be great for a hilly city like San Francisco, but it’s easy to ride and a good deal of fun given how light and responsive it is. And while rider weight is limited to 200 pounds, the bike’s seat and handlebars can be raised or lowered to accommodate users of varying heights.

If you’re watching your budget, concerned about storage space, and looking to make your short commute more efficient and enjoyable, you’re looking in the right place with this one.

Best electric folding bike

Gocycle Lifestyle

The Gocycle GX folding e-bike zips along at 20 miles per hour and covers up to 40 miles on a single charge, so it might replace a car just as easily as it replaces a subway or bus commute.

Pros: Fast and long-range, quick and easy folding, daytime running lights for safety, easy and comfortable ride

Cons: Very expensive

Folded up, Gocycle’s electric folding bike occupies roughly the same amount of square feet as a desk chair. Unfolded and underway, it cruises along with a top speed of about 20 mph and has a range of around 40 miles — or even more if you opt for the battery upgrade. You can also track your battery life (AKA range) and speed on the LED display set between the ergonomic handlebars of this capable e-bike.

For all the complexity you might expect from an electric folding bike that’s fast and long-range, it’s the simplicity that sets Gocycle’s GX apart.

Take, for example, the fact all wiring and tubes are completely internal, without anything sticking off the hand brakes or snaking around the frame. Then there’s the simple three-speed mechanical shifter for when you’re pedaling yourself. And finally, not only are height adjustments quick and easy, but the bike folds down in less than 30 seconds.

There is one drawback, however, and you surely saw it coming: Its price. This ebike costs $3,299, or more than a perfectly decent used car. But you can’t fold up a car and bring it on the elevator or tuck it in a closet. 

What else we considered

LumosHelmet thumb08

While the folding bikes above are some of the best out there to be sure, depending on your budget, your interests, or your aesthetic preferences, there are other units to consider, and these are a few more bikes that almost made the cut.

Vektron D7i: The Vektron D7i is a great ebike with almost the same range and speed as the Gocycle GX, and it costs a good deal less. And while that was almost enough to earn it the ebike slot on our list, the exposed tubing, chain, gears, and other components were what kept it as our also considered. In terms of design, this bike comes up just a bit short, though for performance and price, it’s well worth you considering it, too.

SwinX Children’s Folding Bike: For a kids’ folding bike, the SwinX’s model is a fine choice because it can be used by most kids anywhere from preschool to age 10 and can be fitted with training wheels.

Oyama CX8: If you want a folding bike that comes equipped to carry a bit of cargo, consider the Oyama CX8 Folding bike, which comes with a rear rack perfect for a backpack, briefcase, or well-secured bag of groceries.

How to shop for a folding bike

You have to consider first and foremost what cycling experts refer to as use case. This means considering how, when, and where you plan to use your folding bike. 

If your bike is purely for commuting, then an electric folding bike might be the best choice. Do keep in mind that an e-bike (outfit with a burly battery) might be too heavy if you have a third-floor walkup apartment.

Those looking for recreation and exercise may want to consider one of the larger folding bikes that approximates the feel of a standard bicycle. And if you’re only concerned about what Swegle calls the last mile solution (i.e. getting from a subway stop to the door) then a smaller, more affordable folder is perfectly fine.

But folding bikes aren’t cut out for everyone. If you have plenty of storage space, intend on logging a few century rides, or you’re looking to spend less than $500, a folding bike likely isn’t for you.

 

How we test folding bikes

Each bike featured in this guide went through several rounds of testing to see how well it performed across five different categories: Ease of use, portability, ride quality, build quality, and value. Here’s what we looked for specifically across each category.

Ease of use: Perhaps the chief concern over whether a folding bike is worth the investment or not is how easy it is to actually fold when you’re done riding and unfold when you’re ready to take it out. Most have their own unique learning curves but the best should take only a matter of a minute or two to unfurl and a similar amount of time to stow.

Portability: When folded, these bikes should be easy to carry and stow, and shouldn’t be as cumbersome as a normal bike. The way in which these bikes fold into themselves is an important consideration of its portability, as is its weight and whether it can slide into a closet, needs dedicated garage space, or can sit in a hallway without forcing you to climb over it each time you walk past.

Ride quality: With a non-traditional shape comes the likelihood of non-traditional ride quality — but it doesn’t have to be that way. The ride experience will undoubtedly be different than a normal commuter bike but the best folding bikes (and those featured in this guide) don’t feel so different that it’s like learning an entirely new hobby. After all, it should be just like riding a bike. 

Build quality: Folding and unfolding a bike presents a new kind of wear and tear not typically associated with bicycles, so build quality is vital. Each bike’s hinges and joints should be able to hold up to literally thousands of folds/unfolds without showing much degradation.

Value: Most folding bikes do carry with them a more expensive price tag than a standard commuter, though the price is often a reflection of the advanced engineering required to make it a quality bike that also happens to fold into itself. For value, we considered the previous four categories as a sum of their parts, and how that reflects the final sticker price. 

Read the original article on Business Insider