Cycling Workouts

7 of the Best Bikes for City Riding That Make for a Healthy Commute

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Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
Let’s be honest: public transportation has never made for a compelling commute. Whether it’s an hour-long train ride or a quick ride on a crowded bus, it’s just never as comfortable or seamless as we want it to be. This is why it's prime time to invest in a bike, so we're rounding up the best bikes for city riding to make your commute more of a breeze.

Actually, more people are zipping around on bikes than ever before—especially since COVID-19 hit and many are attempting to avoid public transit. “We saw an over 600 percent year-over-year increase in sales until we sold through an entire season’s worth of bikes prior to May 1, 2020," says Ryan Zagata, president of Brooklyn Bicycle Co. He sees three main reasons behind the influx: There are families looking for new recreational activities, fitness buffs looking for exercise, and—perhaps most important of all—commuters looking for new methods of transportation.

The convenient mode of transportation and fitness is a health pillar in Blue Zones, or the areas around the world where people live longer than the average life expectancy. "The bicycle gives people an easy, competitive lift at nearly zero cost, providing affordable adventures, a more intimate view of street spaces, and more interaction with one’s community leading to broadening social connections," says Dan Burden, Blue Zones' director of innovation and inspiration. He adds that biking can help to boost the immune system, and "connects a person to the calming effects of a nature bath." Plus it's a low-impact form of cardio.

While the pandemic may have spurred interest in bikes, it’s unlikely that this is a passing craze. Of course, there are as many different bike options out there as there are advantages to cycling, which can make shopping for one overwhelming. Loren Copsey, owner of The Daily Rider in Washington D.C., says that taking a test ride in a similar condition to what you'd be riding on is key. Keep scrolling for a few favorites that just may fit your needs.

7 of the best bikes for city riding

State Bicycle 4130 All-Road Model, $800

Photo: State Bicycle

This is easily one of the best bikes for the price on the market. Whether you’re looking to go on an outdoor adventure or just down the street, the 4130 can handle gravel, commuting, and touring. It’s also highly customizable, with both 700c or more rugged 650b wheel options, as well as an 11-speed drivetrain. As a smaller human, I particularly appreciate that the frame can accommodate riders as petite as 5’1 (of course, if you’re over six-feet, it’ll work just fine, too). While the Chromoly steel frame is extremely tough and durable, the bike isn’t terribly heavy, weighing in at around 22 pounds. The 4130 All-Road is available in two frame colors and four sizes, and starts at under $800.

It’s also worth noting that State Bicycle Co is supporting the #25MilesForJustice campaign, calling on riders to log 25 miles in memory of George Floyd and donate to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Dahon Mariner D8 Folding Bike, $700

Photo: Dahon

Dahon may be one of the most famous folding bike makers on the market, and the eight-speed Mariner D8 is one of the most affordable options you’ll find. While folding bikes tend to look and feel a bit strange, this bike is surprisingly comfortable, even over the bumpiest of city terrain. You can also choose to shift up or down as needed depending on where you’re going and what you’re going over.

Priority Bicycles Embark E-Bike, $4,000

Photo: Priority Bicycles

If you’re ready to drop some serious cash on an electric bike, Priority has a beautifully designed option that will let you ride in style. While many e-bikes look and feel bulky, the Embark motor sits beautifully on the frame of the bike, and because it’s fully sealed, you don’t have to worry about it falling victim to the elements. The Gates Carbon Drive belt drive is made of rubber and stays in a fixed position, which means fewer moving parts, less opportunity for rust, and a longer lifetime. Moreover, thanks to its continuous variable transmission (CVT) gear control, shifting from one gear to another is quite seamless—in fact, this is the same transmission system found in a number of cars. The motor will provide pedal assist for 50 miles on a standard charge, and helps you save serious energy when going uphill. With its $4,000 price tag, this bike may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking to say goodbye to your car or other modes of transportation, it might be an option worth examining.

Marin Fairfax 1, $450

Photo: Marin

For your dependable hybrid bike, you can’t go wrong with the Marin Fairfax 1. It’s a sleek, elegant bike that also gets the job done—most of the components are Shimano-made, and it offers a smooth ride across city terrain. This bike is meant for fitness road riding, commuting, and bike paths, and in all three instances, the Marin Fairfax 1 will allow you to get from point A to point B quickly and relatively effortlessly. Because the bike has shorter chain stays, it can accelerate more quickly than many of its competitors, and can also reduce the amount of effort it takes for you to climb a hill. That makes this bike particularly well-suited for cities like San Francisco, where going up and down and up and down may otherwise prove tiring on the legs.

Brompton S6L, $1524

Photo: Brompton

If you’re looking for an almost comically small folding bike, the Brompton S6L is the way to go. Though it has small tires (and really, a small everything), it’s still a serious bike, featuring six gears that allow you to handle most environments relatively well. The bike weighs in at just 26 pounds, and you can actually customize a lot of it, including the handlebars, frames, and accessories. You can even change the gearing. That said, it’s quite expensive (especially for a non-electric bike)—but if you need a bike that will fit in the trunk of your equally compact car, this could be a great option.

Jamis Coda S3, $429

Photo: Jamis

The Jamis Coda is an extremely popular bike among experts and riders alike, and it’s not hard to see why. Jamis is known best for its cold-worked, double-butted steel frames, which means that this is an extremely tough and durable piece of equipment. That said, it’s not as lightweight as an aluminum frame, which makes taking this bike up and down stairs a bit of a challenge. While this hybrid bike is best suited for city commutes, it also features low mountain bike gearing which makes pedaling up tougher terrains doable. And because you can reach pretty impressive speeds on these bikes (especially when going downhill), Jamis has spent a lot of time perfecting their brakes—the linear pull brake on this bike gives you better control over your ride.

Charge City Bike, $1499

Photo: Charge

This new direct-to-consumer bike line is made all the more attractive by the fact that there’s effectively no wait time—considering that most other two-wheeled options are sold out or on backorder, the Charge becomes even more desirable. The City Bike is likely the best option for most riders, and is ideal for on-roading to your office. The bike assembles in less than 20 minutes and is capable of getting you 50 miles on a single charge, and all for less than $1500. Riders as petite as 5’1 and as tall as 6’0 can ride comfortably on the frame, though my 6’2 partner has also managed nicely. The folding handlebars and pedals also help with easy storage, especially in cramped city apartments.

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