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Best commuter bikes 2023: Get to work in style with a practical city bicycle

Cycling to work will save you money and keep you fit, so why not saddle up with a brilliant commuter bike?

If you’re sick of spending your daily commute crammed into overcrowded buses or trains, then commuting to work by bicycle is a great alternative. There’s no better way to start the day than with some gentle exercise, plus you can save money on petrol or public transport costs and do your bit for the environment in the process. So buy the best commuter bike you can afford and you won’t look back.

With millions of people making the switch to pedal-powered commuting, the bicycle industry is paying increasing attention: you can now take your pick from a huge selection of bikes specifically designed for commuting purposes. These aim to be both easy to ride for beginners as well as efficient for riders who need to tackle longer commutes.

At their best, commuter bikes are fast, low-maintenance models. In addition to fittings for mudguards and luggage racks, they often include integrated lights and features to improve security when you’re locking up your bike. There is some crossover with hybrid bikes, which we’ve covered specifically in our best hybrid bikes roundup, but the models below all provide commuting-specific features which will make your journey safer and easier.

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Best commuter bikes: At a glance

How to choose the best commuter bike for you

How do I get a bike that fits me?

A commuter bike is one you’ll be riding day in, day out, so it’s essential that it fits you comfortably. For most riders, the perfect bike and frame size will be one that provides a reasonably upright riding position – you don’t want to feel cramped at all, or too stretched out – this will make it more comfortable to ride, especially when you’re wearing casual clothes, and will also provide a good line of sight through traffic.

If you’re not sure which size will suit you best, then sling a leg over some bikes in a shop. Once you find a few that you like the feel of, make a note of the frame sizes and then look up the manufacturers’ geometric specifications for the bikes – this will allow you to more easily compare bikes between different brands.

The most important specifications to look for are “reach” – the distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the head tube – and “stack” – the distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the top tube. Both are measured in millimetres. So, when comparing bikes, if these figures are similar then, barring any big differences in stem length and bar width, the bikes should give a similar fit. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a large frame from one manufacturer will fit you as well as a large from another brand.

Which features should I look out for?

Frame material: Most bikes will use aluminium for the frame as this offers a good balance of low weight and high strength, plus it isn’t too expensive.

Tyres: These really define a bike. Narrow and slick tyres roll quickly, but will limit you to paved surfaces. Broader tyres are happier on bumpier terrain, and their additional width can increase ride comfort and help support extra cargo. Tyres with chunky tread will allow you to safely venture off-road and along grimier canal paths, although you’ll be slower on the tarmac.

Brakes: Disc brakes are now almost universal on better-quality bikes. Not only are they more powerful and consistent, but they require less maintenance. Disc brakes fall into two categories: those operated by cables and those that are hydraulic. Hydraulic models are generally more effective and need less upkeep, but both types are vastly better than old-school rim brakes.

Gearing: Some bikes will use a single rear derailleur to provide a range of gears, whereas others combine front and rear derailleurs to double or triple the number of gears available. Obviously, more gears can be better – especially if you live somewhere hilly – but the extra components require more maintenance and can make shifting more complicated. However, another option is a hub-based system – these offer a limited range of sequential gears but require very little attention to keep running.

Extras: There are lots of potentially useful things to look out for: racks for carrying panniers, mudguards to fend off the backsplash, and kickstands to aid with parking are all valuable things to have. The same goes for lighting: some bikes may come with USB rechargeable lights, whereas others may come with lights that are dynamo-powered and so won’t need recharging. Remember, you’ll pay a premium for anything you want that isn’t included with the bike as standard. It’s also worth considering if you want to add racks or a child seat. If so, a sturdier frame and wider tyres may be a good combination to cope with the extra weight.

How much do I need to spend?

First, it’s well worth enquiring at your workplace to see if they have a Cycle to Work scheme. There are various types of these, with differences in how they operate, but generally they allow you to pay for your bike in monthly instalments deducted from your pay packet. As it’s paid direct from your salary, you’ll claw back a substantial amount of tax and National Insurance, too.

Even if that isn’t an option, you don’t need to spend big to get a good bike. If you aim to spend at least £400, you should get a commuter bike that’s robust and fun to ride. Spend less though, and you’re more likely to run into mechanical issues. Not only is this annoying, as cheap parts wear out quicker, it can represent a false economy in the long run.

The flip side to this is that it doesn’t always pay to overspend either, as high-end componentry can be costly to replace. Also workaday bikes often end up spending a lot of time outside, increasing their risk of being stolen. While, of course, insurance is one solution, we don’t think there’s much benefit in paying considerably more than £1,000 for your new commuter bike.

There are also many accessories that the average commuter might want to consider purchasing as well. These include a helmet, tools, locks, lights, panniers, child seats, and pumps. It’s best to look at your new bike and its accessories as a whole, so it’s wise to leave some of your budget aside for these items.

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The best commuter bikes you can buy in 2023

1. Elops City 920: Best-value commuter bike

Price when reviewed: £600 | Check price at Decathlon This speedy city runaround from Decathlon’s Elops brand comes with almost every extra you could want. Based around an aluminium frame and fast-rolling 32mm tyres, it’s fast and light. The riding position is moderately racy, too, with a low front end and narrow bar that are perfect for nipping in and out of traffic.

It’s the extras here that really make the difference, however. You get mudguards, a chain keeper and neatly integrated lighting built into the front and rear of the bike. The lights can be charged via a USB cable and kick out enough light to get you noticed.

The bike’s mechanical parts are also of good quality and should need minimal maintenance. They include a set of wet-weather-competent cable disc brakes and simple 8-speed Shimano Altus gearing. All told, the Elops is a good pick for daily use.

Key features – Wheel size: 700 x 32c; Frame material: Aluminium; Gears: 8-speed; Brakes: Cable disc; Extras: Integrated rechargeable lighting, mudguards

Check price at Decathlon

2. Vitus Mach 1 Nexus: Best low maintenance commuter bike

Price when reviewed: £260 | Check price at Wiggle At the heart of the Vitus lies Shimano’s excellent Nexus three-speed hub. This is the same hub used in public rental bikes worldwide – not least London’s so-called “Boris Bikes” – and it offers incredible durability and a simple-to-use trio of sequential gears. The result being you spend more time riding your bike and spend less money on regular maintenance.

Stopping the bike are Shimano’s splendid MT400 hydraulic disc brakes. These are very powerful, well suited to use in the rain, and also unlikely to require much attention. You will need to buy your own rack and mudguards, but it’s good to find a complete set of mounting points included.

Holding all these bits together is an aluminium frame designed around 650b wheels – these are slightly more manoeuvrable than the larger 700c wheels you’ll find on other bikes here. These peppy wheels combine with frame geometry that’s relatively relaxed, and this makes the bike able to take on multiple types of terrain.

Key features – Wheel size: 650 x 40c; Frame material: Aluminium; Gears: 3-speed internal; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Extras: N/A

Check price at Wiggle

3. Ridgeback Supernova Eq: Best luxury commuter bike

Price when reviewed: £1,200 | Check price at FreewheelThis high-end hybrid from Ridgeback is an unabashed luxury option. The low-maintenance Shimano 8-speed Alfine hub gear system is the perfect all-weather, low-maintenance choice, and the hydraulic disc brakes and robust wheels are just the ticket, too.

Based around an aluminium frame and fork, the bike rolls swiftly and confidently on its 40mm tyres. Made by Schwalbe, the generous tyre width strikes a good balance between comfort and speed, while reflective bands and robust puncture protection make them perfect for urban riding.

The bike’s integrated lighting is a masterstroke – the lights are powered by a Shimano dynamo hub, so you’ll never be caught out by the setting sun. The same goes for the weather, with full-length mudguards fitted as standard. Finished off with a rack and kickstand, the Supernova offers everything you need for an enjoyable commute.

Key features – Wheel size: 700 x 40c; Frame material: Aluminium; Gears: 8-speed internal; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Extras: Dynamo lights, mudguards, rack, kickstand

Check price at Freewheel

4. Boardman MTX 8.9: Best commuter bike for enjoying at the weekends

Price when reviewed: £1,000 | Check price at HalfordsThis nifty hybrid employs a lightweight suspension fork to smooth your progress, regardless of the conditions. Relying on a clever air spring system, it can be made rigid with the flick of a switch for the occasions when it’s not needed. This means you’ll be able to get to work efficiently and still have the option to take it on tougher trails at the weekend.

The rest of the parts here are equally sensible. They include Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and a Deore 11-speed drivetrain. Thanks to the wide-ratio cassette, you’ll find all the gears you need without the extra hassle of a front derailleur. And, at 35mm across, Schwalbe’s Tyrago tyres are happy venturing on mixed surfaces and also feature kevlar protection to cut down on punctures.

Finished in glossy metallic paint and with smooth welds, this bike isn’t just well equipped, it’s lovely-looking too. A great all-rounder.

Key features – Wheel size: 700 x 35c; Frame material: Aluminium; Gears: 11-speed; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Extras: Suspension fork and seatpost

Check price at Halfords

5. Brompton C-Line Urban: Best folding commuter bike

Price: £1,250 | Check price at Brompton

Not everyone is lucky enough to have the room for an enormous bike in their home. For those who live in cities, space comes at a premium, and anything that can save on it will be worth taking into consideration. Brompton’s folding bikes offer a nifty solution to this problem: when the bike is not in use, it can simply be folded away for easy storage. This also means it’s easy to transport in a car, on the train, or anywhere else you might want to take it.

The C-Line is Brompton’s classic folding bike. It features a carrier block to the front for attaching bags, an integrated bell, reflectors, and three different handlebar configurations depending on how upright you like your riding position. It also has a two-speed gearing setup, which is great in terms of its simplicity and low maintenance, but may be something worth bearing in mind if you live in a hilly area.

Key features – Wheel size: 349 x 35c; Frame material: Steel; Gears: 2-speed; Brakes: Rim; Extras: Mudguards

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