State Bicycle Co Wulf

The Best Commuter Bikes of 2021

Looking for a dependable commuter bike that will make your transit time more enjoyable and smooth? We found a handful of awesome bicycles to support a variety of daily commutes and riders — including setups under $1,000.

When it comes to picking a commuter bike, there’s a surprising amount of options. Do you want a bike that will get you to and from the office and happy hour looking fly? Or do you prefer a bike that’s also rideable on trails in your local open space, parks, or national forest lands?

Do you need it to store easily, or be easy to repair? With all of these considerations in mind — and with an eye toward a range of prices — we rounded up a few fantastic commuter options.

Whether you’re just embarking on a commuter lifestyle or looking for a new everyday ride, it’s possible to get a great commuter bicycle for just a few hundred bucks. Or you can invest a higher amount for a more novel, techier, plusher setup.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:

Best Commuter Bikes Less Than $1,000

Basic Commuter: Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Step-Through Bike

co-op cycles cty 2.1 step-through bike

Co-op Cycles, REI’s in-house bike brand, has come a long way in a few short years. After retiring the Novara brand, REI rebooted its cycling program and now offers sturdy bikes at reasonable prices. Not to mention, a bike purchase includes free tuneups and a dividend back if you’re a Co-op member.

The CTY 2.1 ($799) offers a perfect, basic, no-frills commuter bike with wide Kenda tires (40 mm) and Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes for good stopping power. It comes with Shimano 24-speed shifters that are easy to use and repair if needed. Meanwhile, the aluminum frame keeps the weight relatively low, even if you opt to add fenders or a rack to carry work gear.

Specs
  • Frame: Aluminium
  • Number of Gears: 24 (3×8 drivetrain)
  • Suspension: Front suspension with 63mm fork travel
  • Wheel Size: 29 in.
  • Tire Width: 40 mm
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Weight: 30 lbs. 15 oz. (size M)
Pros
  • Low crossbar for easy step-through
  • Bump-absorbing front shocks
  • Front shocks lock out for a more rigid ride
  • Many gears
  • Good for mild dirt trails
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Not a top hybrid option for rougher mountain bike trails

Check Price at REI

Coolest Commuter: Brooklyn Bicycle Co Bedford 8 Speed

brooklyn bicycle co bedford 8 speed

If you prefer a bike that will look like art in a small apartment, the Brooklyn Bicycle Co Bedford 8 Speed ($580) is it. This bike has eight speeds to help urban riders save sweat while pedaling rollercoaster routes.

There’s a traditional diamond-shaped and durable steel frame plus serious style points. It’s a great option for San Franciscans or Manhattanites with commutes to work in hilly or flat areas and small spaces for bike stowage.

Sleek army green paint, along with a comfortable vegan leather saddle and grips, helps this bike pair with anything. But its burly, puncture-resistant 32mm tires can handle city streets and cobblestones.

This bike is great for budget shoppers thanks both to its $580 price tag and the fact that Brooklyn Bicycle Co offers monthly financing.

Specs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Number of Gears: 8 (1×8 drivetrain)
  • Suspension: None
  • Wheel Size: 29 in.
  • Tire Width: 32 mm
  • Brakes: Pull-brakes
  • Weight: 26-31 lbs. (size S-L)
Pros
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Handles hills
  • Excellent price
Cons
  • Don’t choose this one for a road cycling workout
  • Not ideal for off-road mountain biking

Check Price at Brooklyn Bicycle

Off-Road Commuter: Trek 820 WSD and Trek 820

 

Trek 820 WSD and Trek 820

That’s right — you can still score big-name bikes at low prices if you know what to look for. Trek’s 820 ($470) is the perfect intro off-road bike that will pedal comfortably to the office, but will remain poised for action if you want to get a little “sendy” on the ride home.

The steel frame has a suspension fork with 75 mm of travel, fit for reasonable rough areas and modest trails, plus wide 26-inch tires. The Shimano Tourney 21-speed drivetrain provides power. For women, their version has a step-through design to ease hopping on and off.

Mounts for fenders and rack are ready for accessories to haul gear on the commute. Bontrager, Trek’s house brand, rounds out components like bars and the saddle, and Tektro provides pull-brakes. (Unfortunately, it’s hard to find good disc brakes at this low of a price point.)

At $470, it’s comparable with big-box store mountain bike options, with the Trek brand (and R&D department) backing it. Even if you can find a cheaper mountain bike at Walmart, this one is well worth the few extra bucks.

Specs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Number of Gears: 21 (3×7 drivetrain)
  • Suspension: Front suspension with 75mm fork travel
  • Wheel Size: 26 in.
  • Tire Width: 2 in.
  • Brakes: Pull-brakes
  • Weight: 33.4 lbs. (size M)
Pros
  • Solid for tackling mountain biking and urban commutes
  • Front suspension
  • Excellent price for durable off-road design
Cons
  • Hand-controlled brakes are not as responsive as hydraulic brakes

Check 820 WSD Price at Trek BikesCheck 820 Price at Trek Bikes

Classic Fixie: State Bicycle Co Wulf

state bicycle co wulf

 

Can’t stop, won’t stop: the fixed-gear aficionado motto. Nothing beats the simplicity of a fixed-gear bike, nor does anything else provide the same commuter-chic style. A perfect example? The $325 stealthy matte black fixie from State Bicycle Co.

The Wulf is the brand’s base model, but it’s designed to blend in and look unobtrusive when you need to lock it outside of a dive bar. Yet it still looks classy enough to hang on your wall or walk into your office.

It comes with a flip-flop hub, meaning if you prefer to run it single-speed (and coast) and use standard brakes (included with the bike), that’s an option.

Plus, while many brands don’t offer extra-small fixed-gear models, State Bicycle Co actually carries frame sizes from 46 to 58 cm. That’s great news for the shorties out there. The bike also comes with a 5-year warranty for any manufacturer’s defects on the frame and fork.

Specs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Number of Gears: Single-speed or fixed
  • Suspension: None
  • Wheel Size: 29 in.
  • Tire Width: 25 mm
  • Brakes: Pull-brakes
  • Weight: 26-31 lbs. (size S-L)
Pros
  • Extra-small frame option for shorter folks
  • Affordable commuter
  • Looks sharp
Cons
  • Some bikers prefer greater gear variety

Check Price at State Bicycle

Best Pricey Commuter Bikes

Best Folding Bike: Tern Node D7i Folding Bike

tern node d7i folding bike

If you commute partially by train or bus, a folding bike can make your life a lot easier. There are plenty out there that could make this list for under $200 — but you get what you pay for, and folding bikes are pretty complicated.

Shell out more cash for a well-established brand like Tern, and you’ll spend $1,299 for the entry-level Node D7i. But you’ll get a bike that doesn’t break down halfway through the workweek.

The aluminum frame comes equipped with Shimano components and offers seven speeds. Its main difference from pricier folding bike models is simply that it’s a bit heavier, weighing in at just under 32 pounds. But that’s not too tough to lug onto the bus or train.

And if you buy the Node D7i through REI, you also get a free tuneup in the first year of riding. The folded dimensions are 39x86x84 cm.

Specs
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Number of Gears: 7 (1×7 drivetrain)
  • Suspension: None
  • Wheel Size: 24 in.
  • Tire Width: 1.9 in.
  • Brakes: Pull-brakes
  • Weight: 31 lbs. 3.2 oz. (size M)
Pros
  • Folds up for easy storage at home
  • Fits well in a compact car or on the RV
  • Great for commutes that include bus and train rides
  • Pricier
  • Internal gear hub helps commuters avoid grease stains
Cons
  • Some commuters might desire more gear options

Check Price at REI

Best Cyclist Splurge: Surly Disc Trucker 

surly disc trucker

If you talk about bombproof bikes, the Surly name will almost certainly come up in conversation. These bikes are built to last no matter what you put them through.

True story: GearJunkie reporter Molly Hurford’s first cyclocross bike was a borrowed 5-year-old Surly Cross Check that’s still being passed around to young riders in New Jersey 12 years later.

For a cyclist looking for a bike that can handle anything from gravel grinding to long cross-country tours or a simple 2-mile commute, the Surly Disc Trucker ($1,949) is a great option. The steel frame might be heavy, but it will outlive any carbon frame on the market — this is a bike your grandchildren can inherit. And the Trucker is Surly’s touring bike, so it’s ready for racks and fenders for optimal commuting and adventuring.

Plus, it can fit fatter 62mm tires on 26-inch wheels or 41mm tires on 29-inch wheels, making it extra gnarly if you want. But it will still offer a smooth, comfortable ride if you’re wearing a business suit.

Specs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Number of Gears: 27 (3×9 drivetrain)
  • Suspension: None
  • Wheel Size: 26 or 29 in.
  • Tire Width: 41-62 mm (high-width of 2.4 in.)
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Weight: 27.9 lbs.
Pros
  • Extremely durable
  • Fits wider tires for stability and snow
  • Good bike for commuting and long tours
  • Great handling
  • Fork has a triple-pack mount
Cons
  • On the pricier end of our list
  • Not many color options

Check Price at Surly Bikes

Best Spec’d Commuter: PRIORITY 600

priority 600

We get it — sometimes you just don’t have time to build out the perfect commuter bike. If you’re in a busy area and just don’t have time to equip your bike with all of the bells and whistles you need to feel safe, secure, and dry on your way to work, consider splurging on the PRIORITY 600 ($2,299).

Priority 600 All-Road bicycle
No Chain, No Derailleur, 12 Speeds: Priority 600 First Look

With its jet-black finish, unassuming geometry, and absolutely silent ride, the Priority 600 commuter bicycle won't turn many heads. But it quietly houses the latest in cycling tech and boasts Porsche DNA. Read more…

With its jet black finish, unassuming geometry, and absolutely silent ride, the Priority 600 commuter bicycle won’t turn many heads. But it quietly houses the latest in cycling tech and boasts Porsche DNA.

The 600 is PRIORITY’s all-road model, capable of tackling the commute even if a road is torn up by construction. It has a sealed, weatherproof, internally geared 12-speed Pinion gearbox PRIORITY claims is equivalent to a traditional 30-speed bicycle. It’s a unique system that’s closer to an automotive transmission than a traditional derailleur.

Turning the wheels, the Gates Carbon Drive belt provides a rustproof alternative to a bike chain, so this bike is ready for the worst spring showers. Meanwhile, Tektro’s hydraulic disc brakes mean you’ll be able to stop on a dime, even if there’s unexpected black ice on the road.

And 27.5-inch Road Plus tires from WTB feel like normal road tires on pavement, but offer plushness that makes the bike great for mellow trails or gravel rides as well. Lastly, the 600 comes with full fenders, front and rear lights, and reflective paint details, so you don’t need to add to your budget installing extras.

PRIORITY is an especially good choice if you need your bike yesterday. Easily the simplest buying process on this list, all PRIORITY orders ship the same day. And if you have a local VeloFix branch, you can use code “velofix600” for free VeloFix white glove delivery.

Specs
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Number of Gears: Gearbox, 30-gear equivalent
  • Suspension: None
  • Wheel Size: 27.5 in.
  • Tire Width: 1.9 in.
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Weight: 30 lbs.
Pros
  • No chain to manage, rust, or sling grease
  • Super-low maintenance
Cons
  • Premium price

Check Price at Priority Bicycles

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Commuter Bike

As you dream up your commuter bike, consider three big factors: where you’ll ride, how you’ll use the bike, and your budget.

Overall Terrain

For those who need to commute strictly on road and paved bike paths, consider how hilly the routes will be. Will you need to climb often, up steep sections, or for long periods? Will you mostly cruise across flats? The more gears in your drivetrain, the more versatile your bike will be for various inclines.

Also, think about the condition of the ground. Is the pavement smooth? Will there be a smattering of potholes, cracks, or sidewalk drops? Some riders might also need or prefer to pedal dirt roads, gravel, and hard-packed or bumpy trails during their commute.

If you’ll be covering a wide mix of turf, you might want to look at bikes with wider tires and front suspension to help absorb the jolts and provide more stability. You can also opt for front suspension that locks out, so you won’t waste energy on the glassier pavement. Otherwise, slightly narrower tires and a fully rigid frame feel good at high speeds on smooth paths.

Primary Purpose

No matter where you intend to ride, make a purchase that supports the conditions and how you pedal the majority of the time. That way, you’ll be comfortable and have fun in the saddle.

Some bikes are well-made for the sport of road cycling or downhill mountain biking or comfortably moseying around small towns. Commuters aren’t that.

We’ve summarized a handful of diverse commuter bikes made for simple, efficient, dependable trips from point A to point B. Some of these designs are also a match for riding easy or moderate trails or for long bikepacking tours.

If you need to transport cargo on your bike, you’ll need to get one with mount points so you can add racks.

man riding priority 600 commuter bike in street
(Photo/Priority Bicycles)

Define Your Budget

As with any big purchase, you’ll need to determine the boundaries of your budget. The goal should be to buy the best bike you can afford, so it’s hopefully one you’ll love and use for many years. With commuter bikes, you get what you pay for.

Higher-end bikes are sometimes expensive because of better-quality components like lighter and stronger frames, longer-wearing parts, or nicer wheels. They can also be pricier because they’re decked out with extra accessories like the lighting and fenders on the Priority 600. Or, they’re novel and more complicated to create like the Tern Node D7i Folding Bike.

The right bike is the one that provides the maximum comfort and functionality for your daily travel. It should also fit your bandwidth and ability for maintenance (some pricier bikes can be easier to maintain).

A commuter bike can last many years and therefore should be seen as a long-term investment. Buy a bike that fits your budget but also offers room to accommodate the terrain you’ll need to cover on your way to and from work.

Be sure to contemplate any additional accessories you’ll want to purchase such as fenders, racks, lights, or upgraded seats and pedals.

Retail vs. Online Purchase

If purchasing your new bike locally, you’ll often have the option to demo the bike before you buy it. Professionals will be on hand to offer additional recommendations and swap out certain components to better suit your skills and ambitions.

However, if you live in a rural, remote area without a bike retailer nearby, you’re in luck — purchasing online is easier than ever. Many brands have polished up their customer service for direct-to-consumer sales, so you can reach out with questions about the fit and components.

If you can’t demo a bike, make sure the manufacturer offers a no-questions-asked return policy. If a bike is the wrong size, you’ll want to be able to swap it out without getting charged.

Rigid Frame

A design without suspension is called a rigid bike. These static frames are generally less expensive compared to other frames. They provide stability if you need to haul weight on your bike frame like groceries or equipment for work because the firmness eliminates bounce.

Hardtail Bike

A hardtail bike has front suspension but no rear suspension. The front shock compresses and extends as you ride to absorb uneven contours. Hardtails are more expensive than bikes without suspension but cheaper than full-suspension bikes.

Hardtails are a great option for routes with a mix of smooth and bumpy pavements, lots of curbs, or uneven dirt paths. Hardtails can be a good choice for both road commutes and mountain bike trails, as long as the rider doesn’t mind not having a full-suspension configuration.

Full-Suspension Bike

There are no full-suspension bikes on our list. For the sake of comparison, a full-suspension bike has both a rear shock and a front shock to absorb the bumps and drops you encounter while mountain biking.

Full-suspension bikes help both wheels stay on the ground through the bumps, which offers stability and control, especially at higher speeds. Though full-suspension bikes offer lots of benefits, they’re often not necessary for riders just beginning to leave the pavement.

Frame Materials & Weight

Commuter bike frames are typically made out of aluminum or steel. Steel is heavier and lasts longer, but aluminum is also a durable option. The commuter bikes on our list range from 26 to 34 pounds.

Drivetrain & Gears

These days, most commuter bikes come with a 1x drivetrain with a single chainring in the front and a range of gears in the rear. This kind of configuration means you will have one shifter instead of two, which simplifies things and makes space in your cockpit for a dropper post and other options.

Some bikes, like the Trek 820 and Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Step-Through Bike, have a 2x or 3x drivetrain. That means there will be two or three chainrings in the front plus the range on the rear. Ultimately, this provides the rider with more gear options controlled with two shifters mounted to the handlebars.

The commuter bikes with gears in our guide feature anywhere from seven to 30. The best setup depends on how much climbing you’ll need to do versus straightaways as well as personal preference.

Single Speeds

You’ll also come across single-speed bikes, a design with one gear and no shifters. Not all single-speeds are the same.

The power a cyclist can transfer into a single-speed bike is determined by the front chainring and rear cog’s circumference and the number of teeth. The number of teeth on the front divided by the number in the rear gives us a ratio, which is a metric used to understand the overall cadence and ability to accelerate or maintain speed. For instance, the State Bicycle Co Wulf has a 44×16 gear ratio that allows for easier acceleration.

Fixies

A fixed gear bike, or a fixie, is a specific type of single-speed bike. The drivetrain of a fixie has one gear, and it’s fixed to the rear wheel so the rider has to continuously pedal if the wheels are in motion. There’s no freewheel mechanism.

Wheel Size

Commuter bikes are generally fitted with 24-, 26-, 27.5-, or 29-inch wheels, which refers to the diameter. You’ll often see 27.5-inch wheels referred to as 650B, and 29-inch wheels are known as 29ers or 700C.

The wheel size can change how a bike feels for the rider. A larger wheel diameter can feel more stable and has more surface contact and traction, which can be good for choppy ground and snow. It’s also heavier. A smaller wheel (and narrower tire) is lighter and better for higher speeds on smooth ground.

Wheel size is a major contributor to the way a bike will ride, but it isn’t everything. The frame and kinematics of any bike work together with wheel size to offer different strengths and characteristics. For this reason, wheel size on its own isn’t a good reason to choose a bike, especially for newer riders.

Tire Width & Tread

The tire widths on our selected commuter bikes range from 25 to 61 mm wide. In comparison, most road bikes are outfitted with tires that have a 23-30mm width. Above 30 mm, the width is better for gravel. Even more, 50-58mm tires (which are 1.9 to 2.3 inches wide) are good for cross-country tours when you’ll likely encounter uneven surface areas.

Tire width for mountain bikes ranges from about 2.3 to 2.5 inches, while fat bike tires are even wider. That said, there are no hard and fast rules, and tire choice depends a lot on rider preference.

Tires with deep, rough tread will grip the terrain better than smooth tread, but smooth tread tends to be lighter and faster. Wide tires also tend to be heavier, and they roll with greater resistance. However, extra width can be an asset for riders looking for stability and a more forgiving ride.

Maintenance

A few basic maintenance practices will prolong the life of your components and boost your bike’s performance (and your fun). Lube your drivetrain regularly with bicycle-specific lubricant. Bike lube cleans the chain by removing grit and grime while also reducing wear and friction.

It’s best to leave lube on the chain overnight. Before you ride the following day, spin the pedals backward while you hold a rag against the chain to remove excess lube and sludge.

Hardtails should have their suspension systems serviced in a bike shop every 30 hours of riding. Other components that should be checked and serviced regularly include cables and brake pads.

Make sure your tires have adequate air in them before every ride. Each tire has a recommend psi (pound-force per square inch) printed on its side. Generally, you’ll want the tire to feel like a ripe orange — firm but squeezable.

FAQ

What Is the Best Bike for Commuting to Work?

There are lots of high-quality commuter bike brands to choose from. Some of the big-name brands that are well-known and reputable include Trek and Surly.

Instead of the brand, try to focus on what your needs are as a rider. The best commuter bike will suit the domain where you ride, fit your budget and maintenance needs, and feel fun to pedal where you live and play.

How Much Does a Good Commuter Bike Cost?

The price of commuter bikes vary a ton. On this list, we’ve considered value, quality, and pros and cons to compile the best options between $325 and $1,300.

Some bikes maintain an affordable price tag and still include high-quality features like disc brakes and front suspension. We consider the bikes on this list to be a good bang for your buck.

How Do I Choose a Commuter Bike?

Consider the region where you’ll be riding your bike to and from work or around town. When the landscape is full of hills, you’ll want more gears to help make the climbs easier.

If the terrain is smooth and you intend to carry gear on your bike, a rigid bike is a good choice for agility and stability. Rough topography — like potholes and chunky, deteriorating pavement — is handled well by front suspension and wider tires that help absorb the unevenness.

You’ll also need to determine a budget for your new bike. If you intend to carry items on the bike frame, look for a bike that has mount points for accessories, so you can add racks and fenders.

Some top-tier bikes have special features like the sealed, weatherproof, internally geared 12-speed Pinion gearbox on the PRIORITY 600 — but they come at a premium.


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