Commuting is the most accessible form of cycling, and for many people, replacing the car or bus with a bicycle is their introduction to cycling. These are the ten best commuting bikes we've tested in the past year.
There are no rules about what sort of bike you can commute on. You can literally use any bicycle you want, which is why you see such an assortment in the cities, towns and countryside across the UK. And that is reflected in this category; we've got adventure bikes, touring bikes, purpose-built city bikes and a few others added into the mix. The bike you choose will depend on the distance, terrain and nature of your commute, your riding style and whether you want to use it for more than commuting, such as long weekend rides. Many people get into cycling through commuting with half an eye on longer cycle rides in the future, and that's why a road bike can be a good choice.
Despite the apparent differences, we reckon there are some key features that people buying a bike for commuting will be looking for: value for money, easy handling, comfort, durability, reliability and versatility. These ten bikes demonstrate the variety of choice available and demonstrate that that whatever your commuting needs you should be able to find a good bike to meet them, and there’s everything from affordable first road bikes to single speed, adventure bikes and even a “super commuter”.
Vitus is a brand from the past that slipped away, but online retailer Chain Reaction Cycles resurrected it with a 'direct to market' ethos along the lines of Canyon and Rose. What this means is that it can bring very good bikes to the marketplace at very sensible prices.
You’re getting a really good bike for the money: we had no complaints with the aluminium frame, carbon fork and Shimano Sora groupset. The Razor offers a responsive ride while one of Shimano's entry-level groupsets has become 9-speed and very much refined. For its weight, the Vitus responds well to rider input. Acceleration and climbing are slightly better than expected of a 9.5kg bike, especially if it's already rolling – though pushing off from a standing start can be a bit of a grind. The stack to reach ratio comes in at 1.44 which is a little bit on the racy side; most race bikes are around the 1.4 mark, with an endurance machine we'd be looking more at the 1.55 mark. (Stack and reach are the vertical and horizontal measurements from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube.
Making it ideal for commuting is the inclusion of mudguard mounts and the long reach brake calipers providing plenty of clearance for them. This 2016 model is still available and being discounted at the time of writing.
Why it’s here: Ideal first road bike, and with the ability to use mudguards it would make a great quick commuter too
The Mango Point R bagged a spot on the Commuter awards last year, and it’s put in another consistent performance to find itself once again featured. The top level model tested here comes with a full Shimano 105 groupset and upgrade brakes and tyres making it a really compelling package, with a performance that will satisfy both a new and experienced cyclist. Road bikes make great commuter bikes; fast, nimble and light for beating the traffic, and this one has rack and mudguard mounts so you can shield yourself from rain soaked roads and carry some essentials into the office.
Mango has gone down the Mike Burrows (think Giant TCR) route of using just three compact frame sizes to fit the majority of people, which means they are a little longer in the top tube than most. The fact that it's designed to take full mudguards also increases wheelbase length. The frame itself is pretty impressive for the money, with smooth welds and internal cable routing belying its entry-level price tag. It looks much more expensive than it actually is. Come the weekend you can head out into the hills for a longer ride. And at the top of writing, the bike we reviewed is being discounted so you can grab it for just £669. That’s a bit of a bargain really.
Why it’s here: An impressive take on the beginner's bike, and shows that weight has little to do with all-out performance
The Verenti Technique Tiagra may look like a nineties throwback thanks to its paintjob but the spec list is bang up to date with a hydroformed alloy frameset, tapered headtube, full carbon fibre fork and Shimano's latest Tiagra 4700 groupset.
Road bikes obviously make great commuting bikes, especially for longer distances or you want to be able to explore longer cycle rides as the weekend. From the online behemoth that is wiggle comes the Verenti Technique, and it’s ticking all the boxes if you’re looking for a commuting bike. Mudguards aren’t hugely popular with road cyclists but for commuting they’re hard to beat, ensuring you don’t arrive in the office completely covered in road grime. Verenti has utilised the space in the frame and fork to fit some sensible 28mm Continental Ultra Sport II tyres.
The tidy aluminium frame isn't as refined as some we've been testing lately, but it’s purposeful and puts in a sprightly performance. And the new Shimano Tiagra groupset is a great addition. The Verenti offers everything that a new rider could possibly need and keeps offering more too. The bike responds to what you put in so as you become more confident and start to ride harder and faster the Verenti just takes it all in its stride replying with that same stable, surefooted ride. If you like the look of this bike, wiggle still has stock of the 2016 model and it’s currently been discounted.
Why it’s here: Excellent value for money first road bike, audax machine or year-round commuter
Affordable road bikes have long been the ideal fodder for commuting bikes, but we’re increasingly seeing adventure and gravel bikes take over as the popular choice. Disc brakes and bigger tyres are obvious attractions especially given the poor state of most of the roads, and hydraulic disc brakes are a revelation in the rain. The Mustang Elite is one of the more affordable bikes in Raleigh's new gravel bike range. For £1,000 you get an aluminium frame, and it's a smart looking thing with a swoopy top tube and big tyre clearance, fitted with TRP hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM's Rival 1 drivetrain.
British brand Raleigh has put together a good package in the Mustang Elite, and it's a really capable and versatile bike. It's right at home on the commute, with the frame accepting mudguards and a rear rack if you need or want them. It's fine on the weekend club ride and for sneaking in a couple of steady hours on a Sunday morning before lunch. Unless you really need the low weight and speed of a conventional race-inspired road bike, the Raleigh Mustang might actually be a more suitable choice. The SRAM 1x11 groupset provides all the gears you really need on a commute, even a hilly one, and the disc brakes bring the bike to a controlled and rapid stop. The Schwalbe G-One open up your route options, and impress on the road and let you add towpaths and bridleways to your ride home.
Why it’s here: The Mustang Elite is affordable, adaptable and accessible – a good buy for the money
If it’s a dedicated city commuting bike with all the extras like mudguards and lights that you want, then the Hoprider 520 from B’Twin is a superb choice. The BTwin Hoprider 520 comes with everything you need to pootle round town, to the office or the shops or just round the park for exercise. It's not the lightest hybrid ever, but it's very well specced for the money.
For the same price as a Zone 1-9 Monthly Travelcard in London, you get a really well-designed bike that has been carefully considered for the demands of daily city cycling. We like the mudguards and chainguard for keep road spray at bay, the rack for attaching a bag, and the integrated front and rear lights. The ride position is adjustable and while not the lightest bike on the road, it rolls along nicely once you get it moving and its Continental Touring Plus tyres are very puncture-resistant thanks to a thick band of rubber under the tread. The other practical touches make this a superbly liberating bike. The chainguard and mudguards mean you can ride in regular clothes. The built-in dynamo lighting means you don't need to find lights or keep them charged. There are mounts on the seatstays for a frame lock, a highly recommended add-on. Get a key-retaining model and you don't even have to find your key; it's there in the lock until you close the shackle.
Why it’s here: Great value, practical round-town package with no need to add lights, rack or mudguards
Singlespeeds, with their lack of expensive parts to wear out or go wrong, are ideal for the demands of commuting throughout the year. There are five models in Charge's Plug line, a range of bikes with what the brand from Somerset calls 'all-road' geometry, meaning room for on-trend large volume tyres and rack and mudguard mounts, making them ready for either commuting or epic adventures, or both, and everything in between.
This, the cheapest model, is certainly a distinctive looking bike - a more subdued matte black is also available if you want to go under the radar at the traffic lights. Under the pink paint is a smartly designed aluminium frame. The frame comes with mudguard mounts front and back and rack mounts at the rear as well, with bolts either side of that bulging wishbone seatstay. There are twin bottle mounts should you wish to venture far from taps and pubs. The Plug has plenty of room in the frame and fork for the supplied 38mm Kenda tyres, though you could fit fatter in there without mudguards if you wanted. Knobbly 'cross rubber road.cc favourites Surly Knard 41s fit in both ends happily if you wanted to go chunky and off-road, as well as any of the new wave of voluminous gravelly tyres.
The Plug 1 is just perfect for smashing through the city. What you might lose in speed and acceleration over the trendy skinny-tyred fixie-singlespeed bikes you definitely gain in being able to straight line through the usual bumps, potholes and urban detritus with cheery alacrity. And if you wanted to take the short-cut through the park, maybe go down those steps or skip along a snicket, then those large-volume Tendrils are spot on for the job of sneaking the cheeky way to work. The bike positively encourages a wandering behaviour, to be honest.
Why it’s here: Simple and fun cyclo-cross bike that can mix rough commuting with off-road exploring – but that gear would need sorting
If your commute takes place primarily in a city, then the Reid Blacktop is a really good bike for the job, and at £380 it’s not going to break the bank. The aluminium frame and fork is tough and durable and the black paint finish and matching graphics give it a very understated appearance, it definitely goes under the radar. Keeping the task of cycling easy and simple, Reid has gone with a Shimano Nexus 3-speed hub with a single chainring and a chain guard to keep the oil away from your trousers. It works well, gears are easily changed with the grip shifter and the range is very usable. If you live somewhere very hilly then you might find it a touch over geared, but a chainring swap won't cost you much if it's a real problem. Obviously, the 3-speed hub doesn't have either the gear range or the close ratios of a derailleur system, but it's simple, cheap and durable.
It's a fun bike to ride, the Reid. At 11.7kg it's hardly a lightweight but it's still good to punch away from the lights and the steering is on the lively side of neutral, which makes it good for flicking through traffic. It's not twitchy, though, and 40mph descents don't require any more than the usual amount of care. The position of the bike is just right: not too racy, but not too sat up either. It fits the nature of the bike: the Blacktop is a bike that likes to be thrown about a bit. You can cruise about on it at no great speed, but it's more fun if you're putting a bit more effort in. That all makes it a simple and durable city bike that's fun to ride.
Why it’s here: Simple and durable city bike that's fun to ride and easy to winterise
Gravel and adventure bikes, as they’re variously called, make ideal commuter bikes. They combine all the elements you want from a cyclocross, touring and endurance bike and wrap them up in a go-anywhere bike that’s ideal for any sort of commute. The versatility of the Norco is enabled by the 35mm Schwalbe Tyrago tyres - they are fast and smooth on the road and can tackle gravel, mud, grass and dry earth with aplomb. If you were going to have just one bike for everything except racing, the Search would do the job, though you might want a second set of wheels to save faffing with tyre changes for road-only rides. It'll cheerfully handle anything from tarmac to well-surfaced singletrack and from the commuting run to days out exploring lanes and dirt roads.
The Search's tidily welded double-butted aluminium frame has lots of thoughtful touches. One of the cleverest is the Flip dropouts. Undo a fixing bolt and an aluminium piece slides out with a threaded hole for mudguards so you can tidily fit both a rack and mudguards. Up front there are mudguard eyes hiding inside the fork legs.
The Norco offers a stable ride, with the beefy carbon fork and thru-axle providing a very precise front-end - it goes where you point it with no twang or wander - but the bike is as forgiving of mistakes as it's reasonable to expect of a drop-bar bike without mountain bike-style fat tyres.
For 2017, the sub-£1,000 Search Alloy Tiagra has, as the name suggests, Shimano's Tiagra groupset, with TRP Spyre cable disc brakes. If you want Shimano 105, as found on the 2016 bike we reviewed, then you're looking at the £1,399 Search Alloy 105 Hydro. The hydraulic brakes on that bike offer a control upgrade that justifies the extra cost.
Why it’s here: A go-anywhere bike that's great for 'accidentally' getting lost in the wilds, and an ideal candidate for commuting
B’Twin makes some of the best affordable road bikes, and last year the Triban 520 walked off with the best commuting bike of the year, and it’s another strong appearance from the company this time around. A smartly executed aluminium frame with a carbon fork provides a light and responsive ride and it’s impressively comfortable. For commuting, you might want to be able to fit mudguards and racks, and the frame duly comes equipped with them. The new 540 is also available with flat bars which for many commuters might be a more useful option than drop bars, which are only really necessary for racing.
The Triban 540 is a pleasure to ride, whether you're on smooth new tarmac, decaying and rough road surfaces or, to my surprise, over some particularly toothy London cobbles. But this makes sense when you check the seat tube – proudly proclaiming that the bike was designed in Lille and tested on the (relatively close) roads and cobbles of Flanders. It shows. Thanks to these design features, the bike is stiff enough to react well to bursts of power, while out of the saddle it's easy to get into a rhythm to climb or accelerate out of a corner. It's so comfortable, and fun rides felt shorter than they actually were.
Although the 540 is marketed as providing a Shimano 105, BTwin has reduced costs by putting a Tiagra 12-28 cassette and Prowheel Ounce 721 compact 50/34 chainset on the frame. It doesn’t negatively effect the performance; gear changing was easy, if not totally effortless. We did really appreciate the clearance for up to 32mm tyres, so if you find the 25mm stock tyres a bit underwhelming that would be a prime upgrade for further increasing comfort. The bike is decked out with all the mounts for fitting mudguards and a rear rack.
Why it’s here: A pleasure to ride whatever the road surface, with an excellent spec for the money
And winning the Commuting Bike of the Year is the 2016-17 is the superb Whyte Wessex.
In reality, each of the bikes in this commuting category fulfils its remit extremely well, and each will appeal to different cyclists. If you want a “super commuter” then look no further than the new Whyte Wessex. What’s a super commuter? It’s our term we've coined for a high-end bike that has all the practicality for commuting, from mudguards to disc brakes and easy handling, but can double up as weekend mile muncher or sportive conqueror. It’s a bike that can turn its hand to any sort of riding (well, apart from racing) and the Whyte Wessex was the highest scoring such bike we tested this year.
You’d expect a British company to completely nail a bike that is perfectly suited to British riding, and Whyte has done just that with the new Wessex. A sporty looking carbon fibre frame and fork with a distance and commute friendly geometry, ample clearance for 30mm tyres with full tubeless readiness, and of course disc brakes. There are also mounts for which Whyte has designed its own sleek ‘guards, which come fitted on the bike for an optional upgrade cost, and we like that they fit seamlessly with the bike and we had no squeak or rattle issues during testing.
The geometry of the Wessex allows for a comfortable riding position that's just right for country or city commuting or both. Whyte has used a long fork to provide the necessary wide tyre and mudguard clearance but has kept the head tube short. The get-up-and-go response of the bike is incredible. That it can on the one hand travel along at a serene pace with ease and then react so positively to more aggressive riding, and be as fast as you like, is a big appeal of the Wessex. It's no slouch, that's for sure, yet it's as comfortable as you like if a relaxed cruising speed is your highest ambition for a cycle ride.
As a package, it comes together really well. It's very much a bike of the moment. It meets the needs of British cyclists wanting a dependable and reliable bike for riding in all weathers, and the equipment is smartly chosen to ensure it delivers brilliant performance and reliability. If you want a bike for daily commuting and also want a bike that you can enjoy on the weekend, the Wessex is an outstandingly good bike. And that’s why it’s our Commuter Bike of the Year.
Why it’s here: A British designed bike that is perfect for year-round British road cycling and commuting
Read our review for the full story on the Whyte Wessex.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.