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Five Great City Commuter Bicycles: Best Budget Options

Updated on December 30, 2016
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Five Great, Affordable Urban Commuter Bicycles for 2017

Just about everyone enjoys a good bicycle ride, but not all bikes are made equal. If you live in a big urban center like me, you need a ride that's versatile, comfortable, light and durable. The best city commuter bicycles combine all of these elements and make commuting to work and casual urban riding a real treat.

If you've got a limited budget, finding a reliable yet inexpensive bike for city riding is a difficult task. There's a lot of conflicting information, and bike shops aren't getting any cheaper. It is possible to find a good quality urban commuter bicycle that you'll enjoy riding, it just takes a bit of digging.

This article is written to help you out with that task. I'll be reviewing a few of my favorite inexpensive yet great city commuter bikes that just might suit your needs. Each one has good reviews and components, and offer a great value despite the low price. I'll talk about the pros and cons of each bicycle. But first, I'll list a few 'must have' features that will improve your city riding experience.

Must Haves for Good City Commuter Bicycles:

OK, we're almost to the city commuter bike reviews. Feel free to skip ahead if you're getting impatient!

If you're after a good quality urban commuter bicycle, you'll want to make sure it works well for the type of riding you're likely to run into. Here are a few features that make city riding easier to do. Look for these qualities in your bike and you're sure to be happier and use it more often.

Mid Width Tires with Moderate Tread:

You want to make sure the tires you ride on are suitable for the wide range of terrain you'll be riding on. Cement, pavement and asphalt can be demanding, and beyond that you'll be riding on grooved surfaces, brick, grass, gravel and more. You don't want tires with deep tread because it will slow you down, but you also don't want super thing tires necessarily. Good quality city commuter bicycles have tires of medium width with a light amount of tire tread depth.

Upright Riding Position:

A good urban commuting bicycle requires the rider to have a good amount of visibility when riding, and also lets the rider be seen by vehicles. An upright riding position is a great quality to look for. It'll keep you comfortable in your commute, and will let you have a good view of the road and upcoming hazards.

At Least 3 Gears:

I'm not bashing on fixed gears, but practically speaking, the best urban commuter bicycles have at least 3 gears to work with. Unless your city is 100% flat, you'll probably need a bit of gearing variance every now and then. Bonus points for internally geared hubs, the clean lines, ability to shift at a standstill, and lower maintenance make them worthwhile.

Critical Cycles 7 Speed Urban Commuter Bicycle

Critical Cycles is an affordable, newer brand of bikes that's had great success with their line of fixed gears. They've branched into the city commuter bicycles, and this one combines a very affordable price with good riding qualities and components.

It's got a basic but strong TIG welded steel frame, and the 700c x 35 Kenda Kwest tires have the right balance of width and tread for good city riding. It actually has a sealed bearing bottom bracket and headset. The 7 speeds are more than enough to tackle the occasional hill or flat stretch. It even comes with a built-in rear luggage rack for cargo or pannier bags, and a front battery operated headlight. I love the retro inspired design, and it comes in a looped step through frame, if you prefer it.

Schwinn Discover Bicycle for City Riding

Schwinn has produced an excellent bicycle in the Discover that's geared towards urban and commuting riders, and it's got a lot going for it (beyond the very affordable price tag). It comes in both a men's and women's frame and boasts a very comfortable upright riding setup along with good looks.

The frame is 6061 aluminum, and the derailleurs are Shimano front and back, offering a range of 21 speeds to play with. The grip style tension shifters are accurate and let you adjust to avoid clicking of gears. It's pretty loaded in terms of accessories, and it comes with fenders and a luggage rack on the rear. It's just screaming for a basket if you wanted to install one.

It has an 18" frame for the men's bike, and a 16" for the women's. The seatpost and handlebar stem are widely adjustable to on your height and requirements. It even has a front fork to reduce bumps, and the wider 38c tires are great and perfectly treaded for this style of ride.

It comes with a lot, and the price is so affordable you can splurge on a few extra items, like locks and helmets and fenders. If you read the customer reviews you'll see how many other people were pleased with this excellent urban city commuter bicycle.


Sonoma Chainless Urban Commuter Bike

This bicycle by Sonoma is one of the best city commuter bicycles because of its primary features: it's chainless and runs on a shaft drive system. Shaft drive bicycles are every bit as capable as conventional chain driven models, but they're also quieter, cleaner and require less maintenance and cost.

Beyond the obvious benefits of the drive, this is still one of the top bikes for city riding. The light and strong 6061 aluminum frame provides an upright riding position, and the wide (38c) tires and front shocks help absorb the bumps and debris you might encounter. It runs on a 3-speed internal hub that is quiet and smooth to shift, and provides a great gearing range for typical urban riding situations. All of this for less than $400.

Dahon Vibe C7 Folding City Commuting Bicycle

If you're riding in an urban environment, chances are you live there too. A great bicycle style for city riding is the folding frame. Dahon is a major name in high quality folding bicycles, and this is a great example of an entry level folder that has a lot of perks for a city commuter.

The C7 gets its name from the 7 speeds that it comes with. The compact Shimano shifters and derailleur are of good quality for the price, and you can fold the whole thing up in about 15 seconds once you're accustomed to the process. The frame itself is aluminum alloy, which is light enough to make stowing it away no problem. It's a big, well known brand with a great warranty coverage.

A lot of people are concerned about the smaller tires. Believe me, the Vibe C7 is very efficient and comfortable for an adult of any size. The smaller tires mean your top end speed is a bit lower, but that's not usually an issue in urban environments. I recommend this bike and most other Dahon folders as some of the top choices for urban commuter bicycles out there.

Diamondback Insight 2 Urban Hybrid Bike

The Diamondback Insight 2 Performance is a versatile urban city commuter bicycle that reviews well and is built for the city riding environment. On top of being a great bike it its own right, it performance tuned components and a aerodynamic frame, making this a city bicycle that's a blast to ride.

The 6061 butted aluminum frame is very light and strong, and the oversized aero tubing looks great too. The crank set is Shimano, and there are 24 speeds to play with on this bike. The double walled Equation 700c alloy rims are a bit thinner than the rest of the bikes reviewed here, so this is definitely a good choice for pavement and road riding.

The whole bike is tuned for fun and performance. Little touches like the rapid fire shifters and semi-aggressive riding stance make this a really nimble bike to ride, and you'll just love the acceleration you can achieve. Diamondback is a great brand, and this urban commuter bike will last you a long time.

It's available in frame sizes from 15 inches up to a massive 23 inches, so it's perfect for men and women of any size.

Folding Bike Poll:

Would you consider a folding bike for your commuting needs?

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Commuting to Work and Back in Comfort

When you go to the bike shop, you might be tempted by the slick looking carbon road bike, or by the cute folding cycle. I'd encourage you to remember what's going to make you happy over the long run: an upright riding position, a good number of gears, and versatile tires.

Just because you're investing in a commuter bicycle doesn't mean it can't be the best looking thing on the block. There are a lot of good looking urban bikes for sale these days that have a nice combination of user friendliness and beautiful design.

My personal recommendation? Vintage style bicycles are making a big resurgence, and that's a trend worth paying attention to. There's nothing quite like a throwback, classic bike, and they usually have all the ingredients necessary for a capable urban ride as well.

Because frame materials and manufacturing quality vary greatly1, I would encourage you to pay attention to the fit, finish and component quality. That said, A vintage styled bike is a nice, stylish choice for both male and female riders.

Another piece of advice for any commuter bicycle setup: be sure to invest in a bike rack and pannier bags / some other kind of storage. Commuting by bicycle is a lot more comfortable if you have convenient storage options!

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

What are your requirements for a good urban commuter bicycle?

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