If neither skin-tight clothing nor tearing down mountainsides appeal to you much, then maybe a fitness bike will suit your cycling needs? After all, not all cycling has to be done in lycra or with 150mm of suspension and sometimes just going for a pedal around the park, riding out for a cup of coffee or simply running errands can be a refreshing change of pace. Not to mention, commuting by bike is by far the most fun means of getting to work.
With municipalities around the world beginning to open up, there has never been a better time to hit the road on two wheels. Not only can you get a bit of exercise and your daily dose of fresh air, but you can also explore your neighbourhood or city, to find the hidden gems you may have missed stuck in the driver seat, or on public transport.
Read on for our favourite fitness bikes, or skip to the bottom for essential things to know.
Best fitness bikes
Belgian fitness bike with big wheels
Wheel size: 700c | Gearing: 10-speed | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
While the stalwart Belgian brand Ridley is best known for its high-performance race bikes, they know a thing or two about making bikes which are less about watts and more about taking in the scenery. The Tempo frame sees design features reminiscent of the Fenix endurance road bike, albeit with a more upright riding position and flat bars.
The frame itself is made from triple-butted aluminium, with a carbon fork and dropped seat stays to maximise comfort while the 700c wheels and tyres make for an efficient ride. A 1x10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain with an 11-36t cassette and 38T Truvativ crankset means there is plenty of gear range, while hydraulic disc brakes will keep your speed in check. There are rack and fender mounts throughout the frame, and Ridley makes the bike in a dropped top tube version too.
Vitus Dee 29
Vitus Dee 29 is a big wheeled bike that's ready for adventures
Wheel size: 29in | Gearing: 7-speed | Brakes: Cable actuated discs
With a geometry reminiscent of an old school MTB hardtail, the Vitus Dee 29 is a big-wheeled utility bike that can take you past where the pavement ends. Rolling on 29in wheels, the 2.1in WTB Nano tyres are lightly treaded and tarmac friendly; making for minimal rolling resistance on the pavement, but still offering much-needed grip on soft surfaces.
The frame and fork are made from 6061 T6 aluminium, and feature rack and fender mounts galore. Cables are routed externally with full-length housing for easy maintenance and max lifespan. Shimano's Tourney 1x7 drivetrain cycles through the gears and cable-actuated discs provide plenty of power and braking modulation.
Octane Kode Commuter
The drop bar fitness bike simplified
Wheel size: 700c | Gearing: Single Speed | Brakes: Cable actuated disc
The fewer moving parts a bike has, the fewer things there are to break or push out of alignment and it's this simplicity that we love about the Octane Kode drop bar Commuter. With only one gear there are no derailleur hangers to bend, or shift cables to stretch and the 42Tx14t gear combo has a freewheel so you can coast, though it's definitely best suited to flatter rides. The frame does have provisions for a geared drivetrain if you decide your riding warrants a bit more range down the line.
With five sets of bosses, the bike can be well kitted out and the drop bars provide for a slightly lower riding position while also allowing multiple hand positions. The Octane rims are tubeless-ready, though the 700x40c Kenda Kwick tyres are not, while mechanical disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power.
Bombtrack Arise Geared
The perfect companion for those looking to take the fun route
Wheel size: 700C | Gearing: 11-speed | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
Bombtrack calls the Arise Geared a modern grocery getter and forward-thinking explorer. The bike comes stock with a sturdy Bombtrack Deck front rack, and the frame and fork are made from 4130 double-butted CroMo, with thru-axles front and rear.
The brand has opted for flat bars,hydraulic disc brakes and 160mm rotors, meaning when you grab and handful of lever they will work with minimal or no upkeep. A Microshift clutched rear derailleur wrangles the chain, and a 10-speed 11-42T cassette means you can take the fun route to the grocery store — you know the one with a single track. 700C tyres mean the bike will be efficient over long distances, and the 40C Kenda Flintridge tyres roll well and stand up to plenty of abuse; they are tubeless-ready too.
Cannondale Treadwell 2
Best for those who like to track their rides
Wheel size: 650b | Gearing: 9-speed | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
Cannondale's Treadwell features a kinked top tube to create standover height and has what the brand classes as an 'easy geometry,' along with a zippy ride quality when compared to other fitness bikes and hybrids.
With BMX inspired flat bars and an aluminium frame, the bike features urban armour bumpers to protect the tubing from dings when you lean your bike against a pole or rack. Cannondale also specs a speed and cadence sensor and an intellimount stem which will securely hold any SP connect compatible phone case, so you can track your rides through the Cannondale App. The Treadwell 2 features 1x9 speed drivetrain and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes and rolls on 650b wheels and 47mm tyres.
Specialized Turbo Vado SL
Best for getting around at speed
Wheel size: 700c | Gearing: 10-speed | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
The Turbo Vado SL is the latest addition to Specialized's range of e-bikes. The flat bar hybrid fitness bike tips the scales at a feathery (for an e-bike) 15kg and features the brand's SL 1.1 motor system, which can output up to 240 watts of assistance and 35nm of torque — the max speed will vary depending on where you live. Claimed to last over 100km of riding, a 320Wh battery is integrated into the downtube and is controllable with the Mission Control App.
The frame itself is made from the brand's E5 Aluminium and features reflective graphics. The Turbo Vado SL 4.0 doesn't get the future shock treatment, however, if you're after a smoother ride (and more grip) Specialized say you can swap the 700x42C tyres for 650b wheels shod with 47mm tyres.
Cannondale Bad Boy Alfine 8
All black everything
Wheel size: 650b | Gearing: 8-speed internal | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
The most striking feature of the Cannondale Bad Boy is, of course, the Lefty Lightpipe Fork. Borrowing some of the technology from its mountain bike forks, the stanchions only run down the left side of the wheel. The fork uses a double crown making it ultra-stiff for precise steering and has an integrated LED light strip for improved visibility. Blending in with the blacked-out paint job are reflective logos that light up under artificial light, like car headlights. Also borrowed from the brand's mountain bikes is the internal cable routing setup.
The bike rolls on 650b wheels and tyres, the file tread 40mm WTB Byway tyres provide a comfortable ride over rough terrain, but aren't draggy or noisy on the pavement. With hydraulic disc brakes and an internally geared Shimano Alfine belt drive drivetrain, the only maintenance the Bad Boy will require is making sure there is air in the tyres.
Tern Eclipse X22
One of the fastest folding bikes you can buy, both to fold and ride
Wheel size: 26in | Gearing: 11-speed | Brakes: Hydraulic disc
Not everybody has room to store a stable of bikes, but that doesn't mean that two-wheeled transport is out of reach. Tern's Eclipse X22 finds the right balance between folding capability and riding efficiency. With 26in wheels and tyres, the bike is vastly more energy efficient over long distances than its smaller wheeled folding cousins, but still compacts down to 38 x 90 x 81cm.
The geometry is also considerably more aggressive than many folders, and it boasts a 2x11 Ultegra drivetrain and Shimano SLX hydraulic disc brakes.
Fitness bikes explained
1. Where are you going to ride?
Are you planning to explore gravel paths, drainage ditches and maybe even incorporate some light singletrack in your ride? Then a skinny-tyred city bike will probably leave you with gravel rash and a sore shoulder or hip. In the same vein, if you're just planning paved outings something with fat knobby tyres is only going to slow you down.
2. Standover height
For the vertically challenged among us, sometimes standover height can be an issue. If this is you, consider a bike that offers a dropped tube model, this will give your undercarriage a bit of breathing room when your feet are on the ground.
3. Disc brakes
It's well established that disc brakes offer superior braking across the board. They come in cable and disc actuated versions; the former is cheaper and easier to adjust, while the latter requires zero maintenance and more power. Cable actuated discs will also require the pads to be adjusted as they wear down, while hydraulic brakes will do this automatically.
4. Materials vs cost
Fitness bikes come in all different price ranges, but just like everything else in cycling, you get what you pay for. However, as you move into the upper ranges, the returns on investment are diminishing.
If you're looking at many thousands of dollars on a fitness bike, it might be a good idea to reevaluate your priorities, as you can get a fantastic ride for well under a grand. If all of the bikes you are leaning towards cost the better part of a used car, your money might be better spent on a more traditional road bike.
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