City commuting by bicycle is a slightly different experience to many other types of bike commutes and so it needs special attention in terms of getting the right bike for the job.
As such, what is the best bike for city commuting? Depending on your route/area, here are some of the best bikes:
- Flat rides through traffic: Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike
- High crime areas: Brompton folding bike or VanMoof S3 hybrid bike
- Combining with public transportation: Brompton folding bike
- Making yourself heard above the traffic: VanMoof S3 hybrid bike
- Riding with a suit or dress: Pegasus Premio Speed Wave Ebike
Now that we’ve looked at some examples, before looking at them in more detail, let’s also think about all the other elements involved in choosing a city commuter bike to ensure you get the best one for your journey.
Although tempting to go extremely high end on price, it might not be the best option for a city commuter bike.
This is said on the grounds that cities often have higher rates of bike theft and therefore spending a small fortune on a commuter bike might make it more attractive to thieves.
The secondary effect of this might be that you feel less inclined to use it given that it is a precious item and you are indeed scared of losing it (which is a fair point in quite a few urban environments!)
So I suppose the ideal price range for a city commuter bike is one where you would not feel absolutely dejected if it were stolen, or simply could not afford to replace it.
You could also look into used bikes on Craigslist as these can mean a higher quality bike for a lower cost, obviously with the trade-off that they have already had some wear and tear.
However, if you really want a high-quality bike and feel the need to spend on a premium bike, then the next section on security can offer some more insights on how you could go about this.
As touched upon above, understanding the security of your bike is also crucial to finding the best city commuter bike for your needs.
If you have a secure place to lock your bike with high foot traffic and lots of visibility, then this might not be such an issue. You can go for high-quality locks and feel fairly safe in the knowledge that your bike should be just fine.
You can also see many more tips on how to make your bike theft-proof in this dedicated guide I prepared to help you secure your investment.
I’d also suggest speaking to other cycle commuters at your work or institution to get a feel for how likely theft of a bike might be before you buy, just to have a reality check.
You can also assess the lock-up spaces or points available for how safe they appear just from your own assessment before buying a bike for the city.
If you do not like what you see and think that your bike would not be safe, then to counteract this, you could consider either a Brompton folding bike or a VanMoof S3 (electric or standard).
Brompton folding bikes are a great option for city commuters for several reasons.
The first is that because they fold up so quickly, easily and compact, you can take them just about anywhere. They will fit under your desk at work, on public transportation anywhere around the world and are therefore always by your side. This gives you the peace of mind that, although they are not the cheapest bikes, having it with you at all times makes a Brompton almost ‘unstealable’.
The second reason Brompton folding bikes are great for city commuters is because their compact size also means that they are well suited to inner-city apartments and dwellings, often with limited space. This means that you will not have any storage issues with your Brompton once you get home from work, either.
Added to the above is that Bromptons are of extremely high quality and have a reputation for being extremely well engineered, so you know that you will be getting a bike that lasts an extremely long time.
The other most secure bike in this range is the VanMoof S3, which comes as standard or electric and is a classic hybrid style bike. This bike has been named one of the most advanced bikes in the world in terms of its in-built security features.
VanMoof have made this bike so that the owner needs to unlock it digitally via the app. From there, its safety features kick in.
For instance, it has a lock-down mode that locks all wheels and pedals if anyone other than the owner tries to move or carry it. Going into the next mode, it then sets off an alarm just like that in a car if the person does not back away or leave the bike within a few seconds (which comes after it growls at them!).
VanMoof also have the added offer of ‘peace of mind’ protection which is their dedicated service to go out and ‘hunt’ your bike if it gets stolen using the GPS tracker built into it, even with regular updates on their YouTube channel, as you can see in the vide below. Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Last point to note about VanMoof bikes is that, if you want one but think that they are too expensive, then they offer them on a rolling monthly subscription basis at a very reasonable price. This means that you can have all the benefits of their high-tech bikes without the commitment of the premium price point.
If you need to carry multiple bags on your city commute, then a hybrid bike with a pannier rack is a good option.
I suggest a hybrid here since they have the option to add pannier racks, or rear racks. Having this extra rack can then give you the flexibility to add more bags or cargo to your bike, meaning less sweat and strain for your back.
I currently used the Specialized Sirrus hybrid bike with pannier rack for my commute and it’s been a reliable and positive riding experience for the last 2 and a half years, hence it comes recommended.
This bike is also at the lower end of the quality bike price range, at around $600 depending on the model, so it should be affordable to most city bike commuters.
I should that all Brompton folding bikes also come with the option adding panniers and a front bag, so they can definitely be considered in the if you want the small size with cargo capacity.
If you are looking for the right kind of bags or panniers for your city commute, then check out my in-depth gear guide on the best bike bags with recommendations for each type of ride.
You will also get a lot from a city bike that serves more than one purpose, beyond just riding back and forth to work. For instance, could you do the grocery shopping as part of your bike commute? Or how about getting around town to sporting or social activities by bike?
If you think about the other activities you might like to do by bicycle, then the bike you choose can have
Another reason for a hybrid in the city is that they also usually have flat pedals, making them easy to ride in sneakers or formal shoes, unlike the clip-in pedals on most road bikes.
OK, so much of this was covered in the earlier section on security, which cited Bromptons folding bikes as the best option for city bike commuters with size as a concern in that they:
- fold up in the most compact way of any bike currently on the market
- can be stored under or next to a desk at work or college
- can easily be stored in city apartments with limited space
- can be taken on public transportation anywhere
So that just about sums up the ultimate city bike for those with size constraints. Onto the next!
As we are talking about city bike commuting, then it seems fair to assume that you will have mostly good quality roads and surfaces to ride on.
However, if you live somewhere hilly like San Francisco, then an electric bike is definitely the way to go. This is because their pedal-assist motors will help you get up hills with a little less effort, making you less hot and sweaty in the process.
Therefore, for a city bike commute with hills, the VanMoof S3 electrified, electric Brompton or the Pegasus Premio Speed Wave e-bike would all be good choices, depending on the other factors discussed in this article.
The type of clothing you will be doing your city commuting in can also affect your choice of bike, mainly in the type of frame you choose.
An electrice bike like the Pegasus Premio Speed Wave is a good bet if you plan to either ride through the city in your suit or in a dress.
This is because it has a lower ‘step-through’ frame that allows you to get on or off very easily in the said clothing without risking ripping your pants (suit) or any loss of dignity (dress).
That said, the ever-versatile Bromptons are also a good bet if riding in formal clothing or a dress, with the electric version again offering an electric assist while the bikes themselves have an extremely low frame for stepping on and off easily.
If you are going to be riding through dense rush-hour traffic, then there are a few more points to consider for choosing your bike.
The first is speed. I say this because an electric bike can maintain higher speed for longer, which is something that can give you a boost in confidence when trying to hold your own in the rush-hour traffic.
Specifically, the VanMoof S3 electrified has a boost button that can give you an injection of speed to help you fly along, or to give you a hand from a standing start at stop lights.
Another point to consider is making yourself heard above the din, which again comes back to the VanMoof S3 electrcified. This is because it has an incredibly loud bell that makes car drivers, including taxi drivers, sit up and take notice.
I should add that I say this from experience having had a test ride on the S3 electrified around Coven Garden in London from their brilliant store there. I was amazed at how much more confident I felt riding through the traffic with both the boost button and the loud bell at my disposal – and I couldn’t stop smiling and chuckling to myself while doing it!
Alternatively, you could spend a small amount on buying an extra loud bike bell to have the same effect with any other of the bikes listed in this article.