The key to choosing the best commuter bike is ensuring that it is comfortable and practical for the type of riding you intend to do.
Therefore, your optimum bike for commuting could be a flat-bar bike, for example a hybrid or mountain bike, or a drop-bar road or gravel bike.
We’ll talk you through the variables and recommend bikes in each category that earned the approval of our expert reviewers.
You’re unlikely to commit to regularly commuting to work by bike in all weather conditions if it’s a chore in the first place, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you choose the best commuter bike for you.
What’s the best commuter bike?
What type of bike you choose to ride to work will depend on a number of factors, including journey distance, terrain, where you live and your taste in bikes.
To help make your decision easier, we’ve done our best to explain how eight common types of bike fare when turned to commuting duties.
It’s also worth mentioning that, with a little modification, most bikes can be made into great commuters – with the addition of full-length mudguards to ward off foul weather, some kind of luggage-carrying capability and lights for year-round visibility.
With these affordable modifications, your languishing, older bike may be a prime candidate for resurrection as a commuter. But it’s important to safety check your bike before jumping back on your two-wheeled Lazarus.
Hybrid / flat-bar bikes: the best all-round commuter bike
Hybrids are best thought of as a hardy road bike that takes some influence from mountain bikes, borrowing its off-road cousin’s flat handlebars and a more upright, traffic- and comfort-friendly position.
Like a road bike, modern hybrids are usually built around 700c wheels. However, the tyres are often wider than a road bike’s – but usually not as wide as a mountain bike – allowing you to traverse rough roads and gravel paths comfortably, especially with the best gravel bike tyres.
Most hybrids are built with a rigid fork, but some are also sold with cheaper suspension forks. While the idea of suspension may seem appealing, be wary because most models are equipped with low-end forks that are heavy and tend to add little to the comfort of the bike.
Cheaper hybrids will usually come with rim brakes, while the best hybrid bikes will be equipped with disc brakes. Disc brakes offer more powerful, predictable and reliable braking, regardless of the weather, than rim brakes and are definitely something you should look out for. Talking of weather, the best waterproof jackets for cyclists make a damp commute considerably less miserable.
Hybrid bikes also offer almost unrivalled versatility, with many bikes bristling with bosses and mounts for every accessory imaginable. This makes them an ideal candidate for conversion to other duties, such as touring.
It’s also worth looking out for hybrids that include accessories. Adding on mudguards, a rack and lights is expensive, so these packages often present value for money.
If you are a beginner looking for a bike for general use or are a dedicated commuter who favours an upright position in traffic, a flat-bar hybrid is likely to be the perfect choice for you.
Pros: Fairly quick; hugely versatile; confidence-inspiring upright position
Cons: Not the lightest or most comfortable bike for longer distances
Three of the best hybrid commuter bikes, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best hybrid bikes for commuting. Head to our full list of the best hybrid bikes for more.
Canyon Commuter 7
- £1,749 / $1,699 / AU$2,649 as tested
Besides being a joy to pedal, the Canyon Commuter 7 comes equipped with commuting accessories, such as dynamo lighting, a rack and mudguards. The Gates belt drive shifts well and cuts down on chain maintenance.
Cannondale Treadwell EQ
- £849 as tested
The Cannondale Treadwall EQ has a front rack, which can carry up to 10kg, plus panniers and rack mounts for extra luggage. Its mudguards are fairly protective, brakes are good and gearing suitable for town riding.
Carrera Subway 2
- £350 as tested
The Carrera Subway 2 ticks many commuter boxes. Mudguards, racks and bottle cages can be attached to its alloy frame, while hydraulic disc brakes, 650b wheels and wide tyres complete a bargain package.
Electric bikes: best if you need a hand up the hills
As technology has matured and their adoption has become widespread, particularly in continental Europe, there’s absolutely no denying that electric bikes have become an increasingly dominant force in the cycling market.
While the proponents and haters of ebikes will forevermore debate whether or not they have a place in the cycling world, we at BikeRadar are big fans of them.
Not only do they open up cycling to a more broad audience, but the best electric bikes also enable more experienced cyclists to cover far greater distances than would otherwise be possible.
This ability to cover ground easily really comes into its own when turned to your commute; with the helping hand that an electric-assist ebike affords – assist is the key phrase here. It allows those who live out of town to consider riding long distances to work, even with a heavy load.
We highlight the word assist because one of the great misconceptions surrounding electric bikes is that they do all the work for you, which is not the case. Electric bikes can improve your fitness.
You still have to pedal on an ebike and will invariably tire yourself out riding one, you’ll just do it over a far greater distance than on a regular bike.
Of course, there’s a weight and price penalty to pay with an ebike, but the technology that powers them is becoming ever more accessible.
While we don’t want to speculate too much, we can totally foresee modern, ultra-reliable ebikes becoming a truly viable car alternative in years to come.
With that in mind, for those who live far away from work, it’s definitely worth considering whether ditching the car, and the associated cost of running one, and investing in an electric bike is a viable option.
Pros: Possible to cover great distances, even when loaded; very efficient; a true car alternative
Cons: Heavy; must be recharged; expensive (for now)
Three of the best electric commuter bikes, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best electric bikes for commuting. Head to our full list of the best electric hybrid bikes for more.
Canyon Pathlite:ON 5
- £2,499 / €2,699 as tested
The Canyon Pathlite:ON 5 excels as a commuter bike, boasting an impressive spec that includes mudguards, integrated lights and a great drivetrain.
Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0
- £2,600 / €2,999 / $3,500 as tested
The lithe Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 has a big range and its motor, while not the punchiest, delivers power smoothly.
- £1,998 as tested
The VanMoof S3’s comfortable and intuitive ride combine with a considerable range and efficient shifting to create an excellent-value electric bike. Mudguards and integrated lights and lock are a bonus for urban riding.
Folding bikes: best if your commute involves public transport
Most often built around diminutive 16in or 20in wheels, folding bikes, as the name suggests, fold down into impressively small packages that can be stored just about anywhere at either end of your journey.
The best folding bikes are also ideal for those who don’t intend to ride the entire way to work and plan on completing part of the journey by public transport – or, if you prefer the trendy word of the moment, those who prefer to go ‘multimodal’.
A folding bike won’t handle like a regular bike due to its use of small wheels and the inevitable compromise that creating a packable bike demands. They also tend to feel pretty sluggish on the road, but how likely is it that you’ll be regularly razzing around the streets at full gas during rush hour on a folding bike anyway?
While some folding bikes are built around larger wheels, they don’t fold down nearly as compact as their small-wheeled brethren, so some trains and buses won’t accept them, making these only really useful when space is a premium at home or work.
The undoubted market leader here is Brompton, with an incredibly clever design that has become something of a modern classic. The British company’s newest model, the Brompton P Line, is the lightest yet. However, there are lots of interesting options from other manufacturers too, such as Tern.
If convenience, easy storage and the ability to travel on public transport trump all, a folder is likely the right choice for you.
Pros: Incredibly convenient to store and travel with
Cons: Not as sprightly, confidence-inspiring or comfortable as a ‘full-sized’ bike
Three of the best folding commuter bikes, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best folding bikes. Head to our full list of the best folding bikes for more.
- £1,395 as tested
The MiRider ONE is a folding singlespeed electric bike that nips around town. The battery’s range is a respectable 70km and the bike, although not light, folds up neatly.
Brompton P Line
- £2,100 / $2,750 / €2,550 as tested
Despite weighing a willowy 10kg, the speedy Brompton P Line remains practical. It has a front carrier rack and folds up easily.
- £3,999 / $4,999 as tested
The GoCycle G4 handles better than many folding bikes, both on- and off-road thanks to wide tyres and suspension. Its motor has plenty of power too.
Road bikes: best if you’re riding a long distance on roads
For those who plan on travelling long distances, road bikes can make a great commuter.
Built for use on tarmac, the best road bikes are for riding long distances fast.
However, a road bike subjected to constant abuse from potholes, poor weather and rough terrain will inevitably deteriorate quicker than a hardier bike. But given appropriate care and regular maintenance, it will, of course, last for years.
You’re unlikely to want to spend a fortune on a road bike dedicated to commuting, and even bikes as cheap as the £600 mark can make great and dependable rides. Just make sure that whatever you choose has mudguard eyelets, a dependable groupset and a strong, high spoke-count wheelset.
While carbon will offer the lightest and stiffest ride possible, value for money (which a cheaper alloy or steel bike may offer) and longevity should be your primary concerns. If you do decide to go for a carbon bike, greater care should also be taken when locking it up.
On the subject of locks, it’s worth noting that thieves really do love a road bike, so invest in one of the best bike locks. This will save on stress and potential heartbreak in the long run. Remember that if you opt for a particularly bulky lock you can always leave it attached to your bike rack at work.
Finally, most road bikes will come with lightweight and fast-rolling tyres. While these will feel great on a fast Sunday ride, the best road bike tyres are likely to be far more puncture-prone than a sturdier tyre, and you’ll probably want to swap them out for the best winter road bike tyres for commuting.
Pros: Quick; efficient; great fun
Cons: Not the sturdiest
Three of the best road commuter bikes, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best endurance road bikes. Head to our full list of the best endurance road bikes for more.
Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2
- £3,499 / $3,900 / €3,499 as tested
The Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 handles and rides superbly while remaining comfortable. Discrete mudguard mounts bolster practicality. Spec highlights are carbon wheels shod with 32mm tubeless tyres and Shimano’s Ultegra groupset, including hydraulic disc brakes.
Simplon Kiaro Disc
- £4,406 / €4,529 as tested
The Simplon Kiaro Disc’s frame smoothes harsh surfaces and its tidy internal cable routing complements an aero front end. Mechanical Ultegra groupset and DT Swiss wheels round off a quality, reasonably light build.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RL
- £4,000 / €4,499 as tested
The 2022 Cannondale Synapse retains previous models’ classy ride and deft handling while boosting tyre clearance to 35mm and integrating lights. The old mechanical Ultegra groupset and average wheels diminish the value, however.
Gravel/adventure/cyclocross bikes: best if you want to ride far on bad roads
Primarily, on the best gravel bikes, clearances are improved so that chunkier gravel tyres can be fitted, smoothing out the ride on broken surfaces. The wheelbase of a gravel bike is also often considerably longer than a road bike, with the head angle also often slackened in a bid to ease handling over rougher terrain.
Most gravel bikes are fitted with disc brakes, with only a few now available with cantilever or V-brakes.
Gravel bikes are designed with versatility in mind, with most having provisions to mount mudguards, racks and multiple bottle cages. Combined with a road-like fit, these bikes make excellent commuter bikes for those who have to contend with poor roads or even light off-road detours.
Dedicated cyclocross bikes tend to lack these commuter-friendly provisions and also usually feature a more aggressive fit than their all-road minded cousins, but still make great commuter bikes with some modifications.
Pros: Incredibly adaptable with a fast and comfortable ride
Cons: Not as quick on tarmac as a road bike, but more suitable for commuting overall
Three of the best gravel commuter bikes, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best gravel bikes. Head to our full list of the best gravel bikes for more.
Boardman ADV 9.0
- £1,800 as tested
The Boardman ADV 9.0 is a bargain carbon gravel bike specced with Shimano GRX parts and Panaracer GravelKing SK tyres. It’s adept on trails and no slow coach on tarmac.
Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by
- £2,949 / $2,849 / AU$4,249 / €2,699 as tested
The Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by is the gnarlier sibling of the Canyon Grail gravel bike. This carbon-framed off-roader has massive tyre clearance, lots of mounting options and bargain spec.
Kinesis Tripster AT
- £1,850 (mudguards extra £60) as tested
The Kinesis Tripster AT’s fantastic frame has stacks of practicality, such as mounts and huge tyre clearance, and still provides thrills. The brakes and 1x drivetrain from SRAM perform well.
Mountain bikes: best if you commute on truly rough terrain
The upright riding position and sturdy nature of the best mountain bikes have long made them a popular choice for commuters.
While a mountain bike’s stock knobbly tyres are great if your commute follows an off-road route, they will add a considerable amount of drag when riding in town. If you plan on using a mountain bike solely for commuting, we’d recommend that you fit slick tyres to unleash its full potential.
We would also recommend that you steer clear of full-suspension or trail mountain bikes if your main aim is commuting because you’ll just be paying for a load of technology that you’ll never really use.
Instead, look for a cross-country bike, even one that’s fully rigid, and as with everything else, ensure it has all the mounts you need to make the bike more commuting friendly.
Pros: Upright riding position; super-durable
Cons: Heavier than other options; slow on tarmac; not the most versatile
Three of the best mountain bikes for commuting, as rated by our expert testers
This is a small selection of the best mountain bikes. Head to our full list of the best mountain bikes for more.
Boardman MHT 8.9
- £1,000 as tested
The Boardman MHT 8.9 is a phenomenally fast hardtail mountain bike. Its low weight, hardy tyres and rack mounts mean it can double as a commuter bike.
- £1,100 as tested
If your commute does take in rough trails, the Calibre Bossnut will cope better than almost anything. Its outstanding componentry make it the best full-suspension bike for just over £1,000.
Voodoo Bizango Carbon
- £1,000 as tested
The Voodoo Bizango has a fine-looking carbon frame and excellent spec for the money. It’s an admirable XC performer that will do much more.