Commuting with a bike has never been this popular. According to the statistics, in 2017, there were over 47 million cyclists in the US, and the number is still increasing.
As people are getting more conscious, both environmentally and medically, cycling is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation. And with this increasing popularity, more and more people are looking for a pocket-friendly commuter bike.
In this post, we shall look at the best commuter bikes under $500. But before we get into the details of the best budget bikes for commuting, it is crucial to understand what a commuter bike is.
Simply put, a commuter bike is a bike that you can use to commute for varying distances.
It can be a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid bike, but since a commuter bike is used for commuting to work or covering longer distances, the best commuting bikes are designed to offer greater comfort and durability to the riders.
You can find a variety of commuter bikes with features such as flat pedals, narrow saddles, disc brakes, and minimal gearing. Some of them are foldable, while others can provide speed as high as 30 mph.
Regardless, the idea behind commuting bikes remains comfort for the riders. Below we take a look at the best commuting bikes under $500.
Best Commuting Bikes Under $500 – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best Cruiser: Schwinn Wayfarer Hybrid Retro-Styled Cruiser
- Material: Steel frame
- Weight: Around 40 pounds (when fully assembled)
- Brake Type: V-Brake
- Maximum Weight Limit: 300 pounds
- Gears: Shimano 7-speed
- Best For: Commuting to work and cruising around the city
With a retro-style frame, a stylish look, a comfortable ride, and of course, with the quality name of Schwinn, this Schwinn’s Wayfarer Adult Hybrid Retro-Styled Bike is our top pick for the best commuting bikes.
This bike is slightly heavier than other road bikes. However, unlike a typical cruising bike, it is lighter in weight. With this feature, you can enjoy a more comfortable ride, even on rough terrains.
Moreover, a suspension fork and a 7-speed gear mechanism ensure a smooth commute even on bumpy surfaces. If you are looking for the best bike for the urban commute or for the best bike for commuting to work, Schwinn’s Wayfarer Adult Hybrid Retro-Styled Bike should be your choice.
This bike is ideal for commuting to work, running errands, and cruising around the city. The 700C size wheel provides a comfortable ride to adult riders with a height ranging from 5’4″ to 6’2″.
- One of the top, most affordable best commuting bikes available in the market.
- A retro-steel frame adds more to style and less to weight, making it ideal for a faster commute.
- A classic rear derailleur for easy and consistent gear changing mechanism.
- Precise stops due to rear linear-pull brakes.
- Includes a lifetime warranty (for as long as you own the bike).
- The seat feels uncomfortable for a few riders.
RUNNER UP: Sixthreezero Around The Block Women’s Beach Cruiser
- Material: Steel
- Weight: 34 pounds (can weigh more when fully assembled)
- Brake Type: Front and rear handbrakes
- Maximum Weight Limit: 300 pounds
- Gears: 4 different speed options
- Wheel size: 24” and 26” wheel size to cater to women of varying heights
- Best For: Casual commute
The Sixthreezero Around the Block Women’s bike is the perfect cruiser for any journey. Specially designed to meet the needs of women with varying heights, this bike with an upright style, allows you to keep your back and shoulders straight as you commute.
Additionally, the dual spring saddle and wider cruiser handlebars with foam grips provide extra comfort as you ride the bike. Moreover, the steel structure makes this bike a rough and tough option for commuting over longer distances and demanding trails.
To give a more appealing look, you can find this bike in a variety of colors, but with each color, the components are blacked out for added style.
- Cater to women of varying heights.
- Gives a variety of speed options that are developed to cruise over different terrains and cover different distances.
- It is safe for commuting on a variety of outdoor adventures.
- Is not assembled.
- When fully assembled, the bike can weight more than 38 pounds.
- Suitable for shorter commutes.
Best Folding: Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike
- Material: Aluminum
- Weight: 37 lbs
- Brake Type: V-Brake
- Maximum Weight Limit: 300 pounds
- Gears: Shimano 7-Speed
- Best For: Multi-stop commutes
Schwinn is undoubtedly a well-known name in the cycling industry, but of course, its name is backed with high-quality products. With a weight of just over 35 pounds, this aluminum bike is a little heavier compared to other 20-inch folding bikes, which makes up for its strength and durability.
But this is one of the folding bikes that riders around the world want to experience. This versatile and efficient bike offers a comfortable ride even to tall riders despite its small wheel size and maneuvering handlebars.
Additionally, the bike is designed to hold as much as 250 pounds. Perhaps one of the most favorite features of this Schwinn folding bike is its convenient carrying case.
- It completely folds down into a compact package.
- With multiple gear options, you get an exciting ride that does not tire you out.
- When not in use, the luggage rack makes a great handle for carrying this bike.
- Tires may wear out and need some enhancement in the near future.
- Difficult to carry due to its weight.
RUNNER UP: unYOUsual U Transformer Folding City Bike
- Material: Steel frame
- Weight: around 32 pounds
- Brake Type: Front and Rear V-brake
- Maximum Weight Limit:
- Gears: 6-speed Shimano
- Best For: Commuting in a highly urban setting and exercise
If you are looking for the best bike to commute in an urban setting, then the unYOUsual U Transformer 20” folding bike is among one of the top choices.
It features a six-speed Shimano gearing system that makes it easier to switch between gears and adjust to slopes as you commute around the city. The 20″ heavy-duty wheels that are 1.75″ wide come from reputable wheel manufacturer Wanda and are sturdy and puncture-resistant.
The t-type, 22” wide handlebars are slightly adjustable and can be detached when you plan to fold and store your bike. Moreover, the handlebar is just one of the many other components of the bike that can be adjusted for a comfortable commute.
Though this bike is ideal for the urban commute, it is also one of the best choices for riders who use bicycles for physical activity.
- Adjustable seat and handlebars for extra comfort.
- Minimal out of the box assembly.
- Light in weight compared to other 20” folding bikes.
- It can be easily folded, transported, and stored.
- The seat is not in a comfortable position and needs to be lowered.
ALTERNATIVE: Schwinn Adapt 1, 2, and 3 Folding Bike
- Material: alloy
- Weight: 32.6 pounds
- Brake Type: V brakes
- Maximum Weight Limit:
- Gears: 7-speed Shimano (Adapt 1), 8-speed Shimano (Adapt 2) and 9-speed Sram (Adapt 3)
- Best For: On-the-go riders
Schwinn Adapt folding bikes are perhaps the best cheap bikes for commuting. While Adapt 1 and Adapt 2 are a great choice as well, but the third version is an excellent choice for frequent riders.
And when you do not plan to use this bike for commute, you can simply reduce it to a compact size and store it in the thick nylon bag that comes with this bike. You will get this nylon storage bag with all three Adapt versions.
Overall, the three versions have pretty much similar designs and features, with the exception of speed options. Specifically, the Adapt-1 has 7 speeds, Adapt-2 comes with 8 speeds and Adapt-3 has 9 speeds.
Moreover, with all three types, the bike goes with a carrying rack that supports you as you hand out around the town. And one of the most interesting features of this bike is the availability of the rear derailleur that assists riders to climb up on any surface.
The bike is made up of an alloy that gives strength and smoothness to the bike. Also, the tires with full wrap fenders are more durable and resistant compared to the tires of other folding bikes.
- Convenient folding and storage.
- It comes with full wrap fenders that give a boost to visibility.
- The bike comes with a thick nylon storage bag for extra protection when it is not in use.
- The handlebars and the seat post cannot be adjusted.
- It may be difficult to carry excess weight.
How to Find the Right Commuting Bike?
A lot of consideration goes into finding the right commuting bike. After all, a commuting bike is something that you are likely to use more often. So, you are not likely to use it for commute if it is a chore in the first place.
The key is to ensure that you choose a bike that is comfortable and durable. Here is a guide that will help you make the right choice when it comes to commuting bikes.
And even if you have no previous experience of bikes, keeping in mind the following considerations, you will be better positioned to make an informed decision.
Know Your Lengths
The distance you intend to cover using your commute bike is one of the critical considerations that will affect your choice for a commute bike.
With a change in length, there is a change in the general requirements of your bike because different types of bikes are designed to handle different conditions, including terrain and distance.
And if you plan to use your bike for long commutes, you need to choose a bike that can handle your desired distance while ensuring that you end up with a comfortable ride.
One of the simplest ways to know the distance you will cover is to be aware of the cycling conditions in your city. Now make a tentative plan of the commute distance. Do you want to commute to and from work only? Do you plan to use your bike over the weekend?
Keeping this information in mind, calculate the distance you may cover in a day. If you are riding less than three miles a day, any commuting bike would fit your need.
But if you are planning to riding on more distance (up to six miles), you will have to pay special attention to the height of your bike and the seat. For a distance of nine miles or more, you will need a bike with better efficiency.
Know Your Tires
As mentioned earlier, commute bikes need to be comfortable and durable, and perhaps one of the most important features that affect the comfort of your commute bike is tires.
While it is reasonable to have large, narrow tires for a quick ride, speed alone should not be your primary consideration. Since you have to use your commute bike often, you should give enough thoughts to comfort.
In general, wider tires distribute your weight and the weight of your bike more evenly, so you feel fewer bumps as you ride your bike. Moreover, they offer a better road grip that makes it easier to handle turns along the roads.
How your tires perform on the road also depends upon the terrain and weather conditions in your area.
If you live in an urban setting with smooth roads and little or no precipitation, narrower tires will give you the ride you desire. But if you live in an area that experiences rainfall throughout the year and has an uneven trail, then go for a commute bike with wider tires.
When choosing a commute bike, make sure you know whether your tires are clincher tires or tubeless tires. In the case of clincher tires, it is important to have adequately inflated tires for a smoother trip.
Suspension May Help But Not Always
Theoretically, bikes with suspension systems provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.
But in reality, that is not always the case. While suspension systems are designed to work against bumps and shocks that come due to uneven road conditions, the quality of the suspension system and not the system per se determines the protection against a bumpy road.
So as you head out to invest in a commuting bike, make sure you inquire about the quality of suspension system installed on the bike.
For a comfortable ride, go for bikes that have high a quality suspension system. Having a non-functional suspension system makes your ride uncomfortable and makes it more difficult to pedal the bike.
Rim Brakes or Disc Brakes – Which Ones are Better?
Almost all modern commuter bikes come with brakes that are meant to control speed and uneven surfaces.
For this purpose, most bikes come with rim brakes or disc brakes. It is essential to know the difference between the two, so you can make a more informed choice when choosing your commuting bike.
Rim brakes are generally less inexpensive than disc brakes and operate by applying pressure on the inside of the tire through a rubber-coated clamp.
While rim brakes are a cheaper and more lightweight brake option, this type of brake system is more likely to slip in case of wet conditions. Additionally, it often brakes with an inconsistent force.
On the other hand, disc brakes are much more efficient and work in the same way as the disc brakes of a car. Therefore, they are heavier and more expensive compared to rim brakes.
Moreover, they are durable brakes that offer consistent force over a long period. However, for a commute on smooth surfaces, rim brakes are generally sufficient to meet your needs, and you do not need a heavier system such as disc brakes.
Make Comfort a Priority
Cycling can be an uncomfortable activity unless you invest in a bike that values your comfort. And when it comes to commuting bikes, comfort becomes an even more important factor. No matter how fancy your bike is, if it is not comfortable, it is not worth it.
So find something that is comfortable and to do so you will have to check the bike yourself. Do not rely on a review alone. Make sure you take a test ride before you invest in one. Only when a bike is comfortable, you can squeeze your desired performance out of it.
Commuting Bikes FAQ
How Are Commuting Bikes Different From Others?
While it is common to assume that commuting bikes are the same as some of the other types of bicycles, such as road bike and mountain bike, the reality is quite different.
A commuter bike is quite different from others. It is designed in a way that it continues to provide stability and durability over a longer period. Moreover, unlike other types of bikes that offer different features, all the features of a commuting bike are specifically designed to provide comfort to the rider.
Typically, a commuting bike is built from aluminum, carbon or steel and is generally more robust and heavier than road bikes.
With straight handlebars and wider tires, commuting bikes are not only excellent for daily commute but are a great choice if you want to cruise through graveled paths of the old city areas.
As mentioned earlier, commuting bikes often come with straight handlebars. The idea is to provide a better grip and more support to your wrists. With straight handlebars, you also maintain the right posture that makes your ride more comfortable as you cruise through the roads.
Moreover, commuting bikes come with wider tires and suspension systems, making it easier to deal with the ups and downs of the streets as you commute.
However, you must choose a commuting bike with a high-quality suspension system. Having a suspension system is important, but the quality of the suspension system matters the most.
In all, commuting bikes are different from all other bikes because all the features are designed to provide comfort to the rider. Also, since riders use this type of bike for everyday commute, commuting bikes are far more durable than other bikes.
How Fast Are Commuting Bikes?
Unlike road bikes which are designed to provide speed, commuting bikes are aimed at providing comfort. So commuting bikes are not as fast as road bikes, but they are definitely a faster way to reach your destination when compared to cars.
On average, the speed of riders riding on a commuting bike varies between 11 mph and 18 mph. This means that an 8 miles journey can take anywhere between 25 and 45 minutes. However, there are other factors that will affect your speed.
Your overall fitness also determines how fast you can commute on your commuting bike. If you are fitter, you can easily ride your bike faster than the average speed.
Moreover, if you are starting commuting over a bike without any prior experience, you can gradually buildup on your fitness level.
It is only natural to experience muscle fatigue during the initial few days. Still, as you get to practice more, you will notice an overall improvement in your stamina and general fitness, which will resonate at a faster speed.
Type of Roads
The type of roads on which you commute also affects the average speed. You will be able to ride faster on straight, paved roads in a developed urban area; however, factors such as traffic lights and pedestrians may slow you down.
But if you ride on country roads, road surface and elevation are some of the factors that can affect your average speed.
Do I Need Special Clothes to Commute With a Bike?
One of the most important questions that come forward when people think of letting go of their car in favor of bikes is what type of clothes they need for this type of commute.
The answer depends on many factors, including the length of your commute, weather conditions, and the type of clothing required at work. But regardless of all these factors, one thing is for sure. You will always need a helmet as you commute with a bike.
Helmets are not only required by law in some areas, but they are an essential aspect of your safety gear that can keep you safe on the road. Now let’s take a look at some of the factors that can affect the type of clothes you wear as you commute with a bike.
Length of the Commute
If you are using a commuting bike to get to work and you have to cover a short distance, you can be perfectly comfortable wearing your work clothes.
But, if you experience discomfort, even during shorter commutes, you can add a gel cover to your saddle. This can help improve your comfort level as you commute. However, if you have a longer commute, it is best to switch to bike shorts.
The weather conditions in your area can significantly affect how you dress up as you commute with a bike. If you live in an area that is hot and humid, this may raise a concern that cycling all the way to your workplace will leave you sweaty.
And it is an even bigger concern because most workplaces do not offer showers. However, even without a shower, you don’t have to smell bad.
A possible way to restrict sweating is to shower before you head out to work and ride slowly, so you end up sweating lesser. Moreover, as you get to work, allow yourself to cool down completely, wipe yourself off using wet wipes, and apply deodorant.
In case of rain is a concern, merely having a rain jacket will keep you dry. And finally, it is relatively easier to commute during cold weather. All you have to do is to layer yourself up. However, keep in mind that your body will heat up as you ride a bike, so dress up accordingly.
Type of Clothes Required at Work
If your work requires you to wear casual and semi-formal clothes, you can easily commute on a bike wearing these types of clothes.
However, if your work clothes are too formal, such as a suit pant, it is best to switch to bike shorts as commuting in delicate suit pants may be difficult even if it is a shorter commute.
In all, for shorter commutes and casual to semi-formal work cloth requirements, you do not need any special clothes. But if you have to cover longer distances and your work requires you to dress formally, it is best to have a bike short.
Bike Laws to Keep in Mind While Commuting
Bikes laws are designed to ensure the safety of riders and all those around them.
Therefore, it is important to be fully aware of bike laws and general safety guidelines. While there are different bike laws for different states, some of the general guidelines that should be kept in mind include the following.
- Make sure the tires are properly inflated, and the brakes and gears are working appropriately.
- Ensure that the seat and handlebars are positioned at the right height.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Riders should know and follow all the rules of the road, including road signs and traffic rules.
- Stay focused and beware of the bike lane.
- Ensure your visibility, especially at night.
- In the US, all bike riders need to ride on the right side of the road keeping in mind the flow of traffic. Never ride against the traffic flow.
- Use hand signals to communicate with other drivers.
While the general safety guidelines are universal, bike laws vary from state to state. Therefore, it is best to inquire about specific state bike laws and fully understand them before you start your commute with a bike.
Is Bike Commuting Dangerous?
Bike commuting comes with its own set of challenges. While it is associated with greater health benefits such as improved cardiac health and overall fitness, bike commuting comes with an increased risk of injury.
There is a 45% higher risk of injury and associated risk of admission to a hospital than all other commuting methods.
However, the damage is often not life-threatening, and in most cases, it is avoidable. Moreover, if you look at the health benefits that you can obtain simply by commuting with a bike, they greatly outweigh the associated costs.
With all the information in this post, finding a commuting bike within the range of $500 would be relatively easy. As you choose, don’t forget to take a test ride to ensure that the bike you have chosen is the best one for you.
Make sure it is comfortable and durable. After all, the entire idea behind investing in a commuting bike is to have a convenient commute for a more extended period.