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Whether you’re looking to cut down on your carbon emissions or find your new favorite past-time, cycling is a fun and sustainable form of transportation. Riders hop on bikes for many reasons: as a form of exercise, a relaxing hobby, a competitive sport or a way to get from home to the office. And bike companies design models for every type of cyclist. So much so that, when you begin your search for the best bikes, you’ll encounter dozens of options, features and capabilities.

All that means it helps to narrow down your options. Kristin Mayer, founder of cycling apparel company Betty Designs, suggests you consider a few key criteria. First, choose what kind of surface you like to ride on. “This will help you narrow down what type of bike you need,” Mayer explains. For example, if you ride on flat and hilly pavement, you’ll want to search for a commuter, road bike, or e-bike. If you prefer dirt roads or trails, you may want to choose one of the best mountain bike or gravel bikes.

Then, consider your goals. “Do you want to cruise around and be comfortable? Or are races more of your thing?” Mayer asks. If you value comfort over speed, cruiser bikes can be a great option for flat regions. But if you’re training for a race, a road or gravel bike with a more aerodynamic design will suit you better.

Last, decide if you want advanced features (like a dropper post for mountain biking or a lightweight carbon fiber frame) or if you just need the basics. This will help you determine your budget. For example, if you’re concerned about bike weight and want to reduce impact on your joints, you may want to spend the extra money on a carbon frame.

If you plan to ride your bike frequently, Kyle McFarland, a USA Cycling certified coach of White Pine Athletics, suggests you think of your bike as a “long-term investment that will receive a ton of abuse and, ultimately, be responsible for your health and safety.” Now that you’ve honed in your search, you can zero in on the best model for you. Read on for our picks for the best bikes you can buy today.


Best Commuter Bike

A Fun And Affordable Way To Get From Point A To Point B

REI’s CTY 1.1 Step Through is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an entry-level commuter bike. It’s made for riding around on pavement, with a 24-speed drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes for quick stopping (even in rainy conditions) and a low crossbar to make getting off and on easy. Its sturdy aluminum frame is lightweight, so it’s easy to maneuver and carry up stairs, should you need to.

Despite the reasonably affordable $649 price tag, it has some quality components, including Shimano shifters and derailleurs, as well as beefy 40mm-wide tires which make it versatile and able to handle a variety of road surfaces with ease. As an added bonus, REI offers free adjustments on all bikes for one year after purchase.

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Best Road Bike

A Versatile Road Bike Built for Distance Riding

When you’re ready to move beyond casual rides and start training distance and speed on pavement, a road bike will be the best fit. Cervelo is known for designing high-quality, modern racing bikes, but you don’t need to be going for a PR to appreciate the lightweight carbon frame and aerodynamic design of the Caledonia Ultegra.

With so many road bike options out there, it can be confusing to know what type of bike to get because each is designed with a specific goal in mind. “You will see words associated with the bike’s geometry like performance, race or endurance,” says cycling coach Garret Seacat of Absolute Endurance. “On race and performance bikes, you’ll be more bent over to get into an aerodynamic position compared to an endurance bike, where you’ll be slightly more upright with the bars a little closer.” The Caledonia Ultegra is an endurance racing bike, so you get a bike designed for long-distance comfort, without sacrificing speed.


Best Mountain Bike

Ready For All Your Great Adventures

If you’re looking for that Goldilocks mountain bike that can handle a variety of trails and conditions, this one is it. Lightweight, maneuverable and with the right amount of suspension, it can climb challenging terrain and glide over rocky paths easily. Despite being a short-travel bike (which is usually idea for smooth trails and headed uphill), Santa Cruz made this bike to mimic the engineering principles of their longest travel bikes. The result is a suspension that’s supremely stable and supportive, even on harrowing descents.

It’s also worth noting that Santa Cruz offers riders a variety of build options, with both aluminum and carbon frames, so you can mix and match until they get the bike that best fits their riding style and budget.


Best eBike

Easy, Breezy, And Oh So Pretty

MOST POPULAR

VanMoof has something of a following amongst gear heads, and it’s easy to see why. Sleek and stylish, this e-bike boasts four speeds, making hills nearly as easy as straightaways. A Class 3 ebike, it can go 20 miles per hour at top speed but has a fully integrated hydraulic braking system, so it’ll stop on a dime, even in poor weather conditions. There’s also a turbo boost button for a little extra oomph, but it’s whisper quiet.

Depending on how you ride it, VanMoof has an impressive range of 37 to 93 miles (a top-end number that beats much of the competition). There’s even a built-in security system that immobilizes the rear wheel and sets off an alarm through a mobile app, making it that much harder to steal—but has a tracking system in case someone does make off with your wheels.


Best Gravel Bike

Fast And Light, More Than Capable On Rough Terrain

Gravel bike sales skyrocketed in the last two years and it’s easy to see why: their hybrid nature makes them a great option for cyclists looking to maximize their time on both dirt and pavement. And the Ibis Hakka MX does not disappoint. It’s equally at home during mixed-terrain adventures, gravel races or long-haul bikepacking trips. This gravel grinder features 650b wheels, which “typically allow for even wider tires, moving the rider closer to mountain-bike style tires, explains McFarland. “This can increase traction and comfort and decrease the likelihood of flats on chunky terrain.”

But a gravel bike isn’t just a road bike with beefier tires. The Ibis Hakka MX was designed with a longer geometry and a slacker angle of the head tube (the tube that runs to the front wheel) than a road bike. These features “allow for a slightly more upright riding position, more responsive and stable handling on off-road surfaces and a more comfortable ride,” says McFarland.


Best Bike For Women

A Daily Rider At A Great Price Point

Although women don’t need to invest in a women’s-specific bike, there are some benefits to buying one. “Women have different proportions than men and, sometimes, women have a hard time finding a bike geometry that fits them well” explains Mayer. “So look for brands that offer women’s specific bikes.” Liv Cycling is one of these brands. While they have dozens of models from road bikes to mountain bikes, the Alight 2 Disc bike is a mid-range hybrid option that’s perfect for daily cruising and commuting because of its sleek design and upright riding position.

It comes equipped with reliable Shimano components and accessory mounts so you can add fenders, racks, or a kickstand depending on whether you use your bike for grocery runs or commuting during the rainy season. The aluminum frame is lightweight, and the hydraulic disc brakes (which are usually reserved for higher price point bikes) will instill confidence if you ever have to screech to a stop.


Best Folding Bike

For City Riders Who Need A Compact Bike

If you’re looking for a folding bike, chances are you’re trying to save on space. Whether you need to fit your bike into your tiny home, load it into the trunk of your car, or bring it with you when you board the subway, Brompton’s highly compact designs can meet the demands. It’s ready to ride straight out of the box—well, after you unfold it and pump up the tires.

With high-quality brakes and puncture resistant tires, the C Line Explore is ideal for commuting and everyday riding. While some folding bikes feel unstable because of their small tires, the long wheel base of this model adds stability and finesse to your ride. It also comes with fenders and a front attachment point so you can add a bag to your bike.


Best Cruiser Bike

Perfect For Leisurely, Flat Riding

Cruisers bicycles are built to be comfortable to ride and easy to maintain. They often have a wide handlebar, knobby tires and a cushy seat. You’ll frequently see them on boardwalks and in beach towns because they’re engineered for a fun, relaxing ride, in which you get to sit up straight, rather than hunched over like you’re going mountain biking. 

And all of that is very true of this charming cruiser from Electra, so it’s perfect for your leisurely pedaling. Although you won’t win any speed records, the single-speed drivetrain keeps maintenance to a minimum, and the rear coaster brake is intuitive to use even if you haven’t been on a bike since childhood. This bike also features a full-length chainguard so you stay protected from chain grease during your ride. Plus, you can choose from six cheery colors, including Beach Bronze and Spring Green. 


Best Kids Bike

Affordable, Durable, Easy To Use

While it may be tempting to pick up something from a big box store just in case your kid quickly outgrows the bike or doesn’t treat it with proper care, don’t do that. Superstore bikes are often heavy and aren’t built to withstand child play (or wipeouts)—you’re better off getting something of a higher quality.

The aluminum frame of this REI Co-op bike is lightweight, making it easy for kids to maneuver but also durable enough to handle whatever they happen to throw at it. It also has both coaster and hand brakes, so your little ones can easily graduate to a big kid bike. And here’s a clever little twist: It comes with a sticker pack, so your kid can make it their own. All in all, it’s a good beginner bicycle, and like all bikes sold through REI, it comes with free adjustments for a year from purchase.


Best Bikes FAQs

What is the Difference Between a Mountain Bike and a Road Bike?

Bikes come in a variety of styles, and each type is built for a specific purpose:

  • Commuter/hybrid bikes are all-purpose bikes that blend speed and comfort. They often fit a range of tire widths and offer a slightly upright pedaling position for added comfort. Most commuter bikes come with the option to attach fenders and racks to accommodate for weather conditions and uses.
  • Road bikes are built for speed, so they generally have large, skinny tires, narrow handlebars and an aerodynamic frame design. Road cyclists tend to ride in a more bent over, rather than upright, position to reduce drag.
  • Mountain bikes are made to travel over singletrack trails and rocky terrain so their frames have a unique geometry and clearance for much larger and wider tires. Additionally, while road bike frames are rigid, mountain bikes have suspension to cushion the impact of rocks and bumps. Hardtail mountain bikes have suspension in the front fork only, while full-suspension bikes have it in the front and rear.
  • Gravel bikes are rigid frame bikes that blend aspects of mountain bikes and road bikes. They have a more slack head tube geometry for an upright, more stable riding position. They also offer more clearance than road bikes for wider tires, but usually not as much clearance as mountain bikes. As gravel bikes don’t have suspension, they are often made from shock-absorbing materials such as carbon fiber.
  • Cruisers have a very narrow use and are designed for leisurely, comfortable rides. They are known for their tall handlebars and plush seats which put riders in a relaxed, upright position. Many cruisers have single speed drivetrains (you can’t shift gears), so they are best suited for flat terrain.

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