According to the last U.S. Census, “…the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased roughly 60 percent over the last decade, from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period“. And when you consider how many urban communities are investing in road sharing projects to support more bicyclists, then you may understand why the commuter bicycle market is exploding. People are looking for ways to be healthier and ways to live eco-friendly. Riding a bike to work achieves both!
Here we look at the 5 best types of bicycles that are most popular for commuting in urban environments. That’s not to say these bikes are not suburban-worthy or able to trek across rural landscapes. They certainly are! But, these 5 bicycles are sometimes referred to as lifestyle bikes – bicycles built and/or marketed to fit a certain lifestyle or activity
Keeping it casual with a cruiser
If you’d like a comfortable and casual commute back and forth to work, then a retro-style Cruiser bicycle would be a perfect choice. Cruiser bikes are noted for fatter tires, upright sitting position, and straightforward construction. Most commonly available in 3-speed and single-speed versions, a Cruiser is considered a middle- to heavy-weight, non-touring, and non-racing type of bicycle.
What you get with a Cruiser is a large, comfortable seat, old-fashioned coaster brakes, and a low entrance price even on well-known makers like Huffy, Verdict, and Schwinn.
Consider a vintage style Cruiser with wood trim, funky colors with matching fenders, and an attached, weaved basket to carry your lunch. Cruisers are not great if your commute involves hills, rough terrain, or when you need speed and agility to maneuver around traffic.
The simple life of a city bike
When you’re ready to ditch your motorbike for a commuter bike that is built for comfort while wearing business clothes – then a city Bike is your go-to ride. Similar to a cruiser, a city bike will usually have upright handlebars and seating. But these bikes feature options and accessories that are great for commuters who may be wearing office attire:
- Chainguard to keep pants legs clear
- Fenders to catch dirt and mud
- Rear-wheel skirt guard
- Generator-powered lights
- internally-geared rear hub
City bikes are built to provide a practical form of transportation and are also known as a utility bike, European bike, or a classic bike. If your trek to work is not very long and is relatively flat, then a city bike is a good option
The touring bike for long, urban treks
Touring bikes are built for riding long distances and you will find manufacturer’s styles for mixed terrains, urban roads, expeditions, and even sport touring. A touring bike is still a good option for commuting, but they are made to be more robust for long-distance riding which means they are heavier. Touring bikes have drop handlebars and typically feature lower gear ranges.
Don’t worry about strapping a briefcase, lunch, and a second set of clothing into a carrier for a touring bike because they can handle the heavy load. Road touring bikes will have 26″ or 27″ wheels and multiple mounting points for carrier racks and panniers.
Choose a road bike when you need speed
Road bikes have narrow tires, are built for speed and agility on smooth pavements. If this resembles how you’d like to commute – then a road bike is a lighter, trimmer, and faster option over a touring bike. The slimmer wheels, lack of suspension, and lightweight frame make them uncomfortable on trails and unpaved roads. A road bike will feature either a triple, double or compact crankset and up to 27 gear shifts.
So, why would you choose a road bike for an urban commute to work? Two reasons – fitness and speed. If you use bicycling as a form of exercise, then a road bike is a good choice. With the wide selection of gears, you will travel faster on level pavement, mount hills much easier, safely careen downhill, and arrive at work having spent less energy than you would have if riding other bicycle styles.
The best of both worlds: hybrid bikes
Still can’t decide? Then consider a Hybrid bike that combines the best features of a mountain bike and a road bike for a comfortable ride for short-distance commuting. Some features of a hybrid bike include:
- Large, padded seats and upright handlebars
- Provides a fairly smooth ride on pavement
- Good grip and cushion on unpaved trails
- Medium-width tires with a semi-smooth tread
- Good front suspension to smooth out road bumps
When choosing a bike for commuting, don’t discount the smaller name brands that are focused on putting out a quality product over sales numbers. These include Liv, Giant, Linus, Raleigh, and Geekhouse Bikes.
If you prefer to stick with the tried-and-true manufacturers that are still around, consider Fuji Bikes or Shimano (Japanese), Huffy or Trek (American), Schwinn (German), and high-performance bicycle maker, Mongoose.