Best commuter bikes: Flat bar, folding and electric options

A man in brown trousers and a navy jacket cycles to work on a Brompton folding bike
(Image credit: Future)

The best commuter bike for you will depend on how you usually get to work. If your commute is shortish and flattish, a pedal-powered hybrid bike is an inexpensive, durable option that will get you a workout and a comfortable ride to work.

If you're going further or have a more hilly route, one of the best electric bikes for commuting might be the answer, as it will make your ride easier. Most will give you plenty of range for multiple rides without needing to recharge, and many include wired-in lighting so you don't need to worry about separate batteries.

If your commute includes public transport, meanwhile, the best folding bikes will make things a lot easier. Some operators may only allow a folding bike to be carried at peak times. You could get the best of all worlds with the best folding electric bikes.

Below are our picks of the best commuter bike options. If you're after more advice, head to the bottom of the page for our buyer's guide to what to look for in the best commuter bikes.

Best commuter bikes available today

You can trust Cyclingnews Our experts spend countless hours testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

(Image credit: Mildred Locke)
The best commuter electric bike for those who use more than one type of transport

Specifications

Gears: 1 x 6
Claimed weight: 17.4kg
Sizes available: One-size fits all

Reasons to buy

+
Super compact when folded 
+
Lightweight for an e-bike 
+
Elastomer vibration-dampening
+
Removable battery comes in a backpack

Reasons to avoid

-
Front-wheel drive systems can be a handful to control
-
No luggage rack as standard

For a long time, Brompton bikes have been the gold standard in folding bikes. Their reputation for reliability, handling, and how compact they are when folded away is second to none. This electric version takes everything we know and love about these quirky little bikes, and adds a 250-watt front-hub-based pedal-assist motor, complete with a removable 300Wh battery pack.

Even with its 17.4kg weight, claimed range doesn't suffer. There's also the newer P Line Electric available, which shaves around 2kg off the bike's weight. If you don't need a motor, Brompton options include the T Line, which drops the weight as low as 7.45kg.

Depending on how you ride, and the assist level chosen, you can expect as much as 80km. When you aren't riding, the battery is easy to carry in the included bag and there's even USB charging for phones and tablets as you move from riding to transit and back again. 

Read more: Brompton Electric C Line full review.

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Vitus Mach 3 VRS

Best fast commuter bike for those who enjoy the thrill of the ride

Specifications

Gears: 2 x 9
Claimed weight: 11.24kg (M)
Sizes available: XS-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of mounts for luggage and fenders
+
Lively handling
+
Decent weight

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly unconventional looks may be divisive

Coming out of Wiggle/Chain Reaction Cycles' in-house brand Vitus, the Mach 3 VRS is a flat bar road bike, which Vitus says is for the "urban adventurer". Marketing speak aside, the Mach 3 VRS has dropped chainstays and rolls on 38mm Vee G-Sport skinwall tyres. It will be a comfortable ride, even over rough roads. 

The 6061 ATC aluminium frame is heavily hydroformed for sharp handling and efficient pedalling. There is internal cable routing and heaps of mounting points for mudguards, racks and water bottles. 

That focus on efficient pedalling will continue to pay dividends even when taking advantage of all the mounting points and the fork has a tapered steerer tube for increased front-end stiffness. Vitus has specced a Shimano Sora R3000 9-speed drivetrain and hydraulic stoppers for confident braking, regardless of the weather.

Best commuter bike: Tern GSD S10

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Tern GSD S10

The best commuter e-bike for heavy-haulers

Specifications

Gears: 1 x 10
Claimed weight: 27.1kg
Sizes available: One Size

Reasons to buy

+
200kg carrying capacity
+
Bosch Cargo Line motor with 85Nm of torque
+
Four-piston brakes
+
Folding handlebar

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy but motor helps offset the weight
-
One size only

While Tern is best known for its folding bikes, the GSD S10 doesn't fold in half, but the handlebars do fold to make it a bit smaller for storage. It also uses a Bosch Cargo Line motor with 400% assist support.

With a max load of 200kg, the low-slung aluminium frame can haul kids, groceries, cases of beer, and whatever else you want without sacrificing stability. The included 400Wh battery is said to have a range between 50-110km, depending on how much stuff you're carrying, and can be upgraded to a 900Wh power pack for additional range. 

The bike rolls on 20in wheels and the frame uses stout tubing and Boost hub spacing. Between the 1x10 Shimano Deore drivetrain and 85Nm of torque on offer from the Bosch drive unit, you should be able to ride the GSD up any hill, fully loaded. When you crest said hill and start to gain speed going down the other side, the four-piston Magura MT5 brakes and 180mm rotors will easily bring you to a safe stop.

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Specialized Sirrus X

The best commuter bike for those that want to take on rougher tracks

Specifications

Gears: 1 x 9
Claimed weight: 11.4Kg
Sizes available: XXS-XL

Reasons to buy

+
High-end aluminium frame 
+
Off-road capable with 700x42mm tyres
+
Hydraulic disc brakes

Reasons to avoid

-
Frame lacks stiffness
-
Gear shifts can be a bit clunky

Made with Specialized's high-end A1 aluminium, the Sirrus X is a lightweight, capable, hybrid bike that borrows plenty of technology from its more performance-driven family members. Based around upright geometry, the dropped chainstays, 27.2mm seatpost and 42mm tyres do well to absorb impacts, while the Body Geometry touch-points are specially designed to maximise comfort. 

There is a range of specs, with the Sirrus X 3.0 equipped with a MicroShift Advent 1x9 drivetrain, which includes a clutched rear derailleur to hold the chain taut, even over the bumpiest of road surfaces. With an 11-42T cassette at the back, the 40T narrow-wide chainring will not only help you ascend any grade, but also prevent the chain from falling off.

Orbea Vibe H30 product image

(Image credit: Orbea)

Orbea Vibe

The best commuter bike for subtle electric assistance

Specifications

Gears: 1 x 10
Claimed weight: 13kg
Sizes available: S-XL

Reasons to buy

+
10 speed gearing 
+
Mahle X35 electric system
+
Optional range extender available

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery can’t be removed for charging or be replaced

The Orbea Vibe H30 is one inconspicuous-looking electric bike. Using the Mahle X35 rear hub drive system, the battery is hidden inside the frame. There's plenty of electric power on tap but it looks identical to a standard bike frame. The rear-hub-based drive unit offers 40Nm of torque and 250 watts of pedal assist for fast starts and cresting hills.

To make the frame, Orbea turned to hydroformed aluminium and paired it with a carbon fork. There are short chainstays for a nimble feeling bike and extra bracing where necessary. Forged dropouts help keep the rear hub motor contained and a two-piece forged bottom bracket handles the weight of the battery. There's room front and rear for up to 45mm of tyre clearance for a comfortable ride and you'll find mounts for fenders and racks. 

Trek FX 1

(Image credit: Trek)

Trek FX 1

The best commuter bike for frame and brake options

Specifications

Gears: 3 x 7
Claimed weight: 12.6kg
Sizes available: S-2XL

Reasons to buy

+
Can choose between rim and disc brakes
+
Can choose between frame types
+
Well priced for a big name brand

Reasons to avoid

-
Entry-level spec is quite basic

If you're looking for a wide range of choices for frame shape and material, gearing and brakes, the Trek FX 1 range is a good option. It comes in a crossbar and step-through "Stagger" model and, although the base spec is equipped with rim brakes, you can upgrade relatively inexpensively to mechanical disc brakes. Head further up the FX range for higher specs and lighter bikes.

The base level bike does all that's needed for most commutes though, with the mounts needed to add a rack and mudguards for all-weather use. You can even add Trek's DuoTrap sensor to keep track of how far and how fast you've ridden.

(Image credit: Courtesy)

Cannondale Quick 4 Disc

The best commuter bike for high visibility

Specifications

Gears: 1 x 9
Claimed weight: 11.6kg
Sizes available: S-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight frame 
+
Micro Suspension
+
Reflective logos
+
XXL for taller riders

Reasons to avoid

-
No XS option

The Cannondale Quick 4 Disc is a versatile flat-bar road bike that is perfect for running errands, or as a tool to help you get fit. Made from Cannondale's SmartForm C3 alloy, there are loads of rack and fender mounts, and the rear end sees the brand's SAVE micro-suspension. 

All of the cables on the Quick are hidden out of harm's way inside the frame, and the Tektro hydraulic brakes provide superior power and modulation to their rim-brake counterparts, with less maintenance. Cannondale has specced the Quick 4 with a MicroShift nine-speed drivetrain, complete with a clutched rear derailleur. The ultra-wide-range 11-42T rear block is mated with a 38T wide-narrow chainring for ultimate chain security and plenty of gear range.

And to keep you lit up in low-visibility conditions, all the logos on the bike are reflective, and both tyres feature a reflective stripe on the sidewall.

Aventon Level electric Commuter Bike product image

(Image credit: Aventon)

Aventon Level

The best commuter bike for American riders who want maximum assistance

Specifications

Gears: 1x8
Claimed weight: 62lbs
Sizes available: S-L

Reasons to buy

+
28mph top speed
+
Inexpensive
+
Front suspension
+
Included rack with high carrying capacity

Reasons to avoid

-
Big and heavy

In the US you can use much more powerful electric bikes than you can in Europe without any special licensing. The Aventon Level Commuter maxes out what's possible with a 750-watt (peak) rear hub motor and a throttle for easy stop and start or more help when you need it. Power for the motor comes from a lithium-ion 48V, 14Ah (672Wh) battery that looks integrated but remains removable. There's power on tap for a 28mph max speed, up to 40 miles of range, and carrying capacity for up to 300lbs including the rider and anything on the included rear rack. 

Even with all the power, Aventon keeps things smooth. The big 27.5" tyres go a long way but there's also front suspension with 75mm of travel. When you need to fill up the tyres, the Level makes it easy by sticking to the more common schrader valve and when it's time to stop, the big 180mm disc brake rotors are up to the task.

How to choose a commuter bike

Here are a few things to think about when choosing the best bike for commuting and our advice on what to look for.

What type of bike should I look for?

If you are looking for the best commuter bike for your needs, the first thing to think about is the type of bike that you want.

Are you happy to pedal yourself or do you want electric assistance? Even the best low priced e-bikes will inevitably cost more than a pedal-only model. They'll be heavier too and potentially require more maintenance. On the other hand, they'll make hills and longer commutes a lot easier and your peak effort should be lower, so you'll arrive feeling cooler and less tired.

A folding bike or folding electric bike is a lot easier to store and to take on other modes of transport but, like an electric bike, will usually be heavier than a hybrid. You also need to think about how easy the folding mechanism is to operate.

Folding bikes tend to be less stable than hybrid bikes and trickier to ride longer distances. Their smaller wheels give a less comfortable ride, although many include suspension to help.

Which bikes are low-maintenance?

Moving parts need to be maintained, and bikes have a lot of moving parts that can wear out and/or fail. Unless your destination has some sort of bike-parking facility, it's more than likely that your bike will spend extended periods locked to a rack at the mercy of other commuters, passers-by, and the elements – so on a commuter bike, the fewer moving parts, the better.

First and foremost, we would recommend avoiding suspension forks on commuter bikes unless they're high quality units. While they will be listed as a stand-out feature as you scroll through a bike's description, the forks specced on commuter bikes are usually cheap and don't offer much in the way of shock absorption. They are heavier and more expensive than a rigid fork, and are in danger of seizing over time anyway without regular maintenance. A carbon fork might be a better option to help make the ride smoother.

Gears, shifters and derailleurs are also moving parts that need to be maintained. If you live somewhere flat and can get away with a single-speed, you have fewer parts to fail or look after. Internally geared hubs are a great solution, but they do add to the weight and price tag. If you think you will need gears, look for grip shifters instead of trigger shifters; again, they are simpler and have fewer moving parts.

Are e-bikes worth it?

E-bikes have made commuting more accessible to the masses because the bike will offer a bit of extra oomph to help you get to your destination faster, or up over that big hill at the end of your street. Many of the above choices include a motor, although there are often non-assisted versions of the same bike in manufacturers' ranges if you can get along perfectly well without.

The drive unit and battery add weight, complexity and cost to a commuter bike and can be hard on drivetrain components, too. The additional power does add another level of utility to your bike, though, meaning that you can carry much heavier loads – or zip around without breaking a sweat.

For more on electric bikes, read our guide to the best electric bikes for commuting, which has more advice on buying an e-bike and electric bike regulations.

How much does a decent bike cost?

Price is always a bit of a contentious topic when it comes to commuter bikes, because most people don't want to drop a big wad on a bike that's likely to have a tough life. Still, if you buy a super-cheap bike, don't be surprised when parts break. 

At the same time, spending a couple of grand on a commuter bike is probably overkill – unless you're looking at an e-bike, as the drive unit and battery add a significant cost.

As a ball-park figure, spending between £500 and £800 can get you a decent quality commuter hybrid bike with disc brakes, decent gearing and good quality finishing kit. Just be sure to keep it well maintained and get it serviced regularly.

Check out our guides to the best budget hybrid bikes and the best hybrid bikes under £500 for low cost options. We've also got a guide to the best women's hybrid bikes if you're looking for a bike designed specifically for women riders.

Which frame material is best?

Steel, aluminium and carbon fibre will be the main three materials you will come across when looking at commuter bikes. Steel is tough, and usually relatively inexpensive, but it's also subject to corrosion and can be heavy. 

Aluminium is lighter, durable and not subject to corrosion, but it's also more expensive and can have a harsh ride quality, although bike makers will aim to avoid this. 

Carbon is the premium frame material of all bikes, but for commuters, we would recommend you steer clear. While it's light and stiff, it's comparatively fragile and could be damaged by locks, racks or other commuters. It's also more expensive than other options.

A carbon fibre fork is worth looking for though as it will typically make for a more comfortable ride than one made of aluminium or steel.

What accessories should I buy for commuting?

If you're new to cycle commuting, there are quite a few extra items that you should budget for, in addition to your bike.

We've put together a handy commuter bike accessories checklist, so you can check what you might need. We have lots of other commuter product guides as well, including the best commuter helmets for safe cycling, best cycling backpacks and saddle bags to carry your essentials, best bike lights and best bike locks to help keep your new bike safer from thieves.

Don't neglect your clothing needs either, starting with a waterproof jacket.

Paul has been on two wheels since he was in his teens and he's spent much of the time since writing about bikes and the associated tech. He's a road cyclist at heart but his adventurous curiosity means Paul has been riding gravel since well before it was cool, adapting his cyclo-cross bike to ride all-day off-road epics and putting road kit to the ultimate test along the way.