Best City Bike Under $500 (Year 2018)
City bikes are bicycles meant specifically for daily traveling in cities. Its comfortable design means it’s not ideal for speed or navigation, but can accommodate level terrains in many types of weather—as well as riders of different body types, abilities, and choices of clothing.
Handlebars are often curved instead of straight, and elevated so riders can sit upright, as though in a chair. Gone are the many shifts of performance bikes; since the bike is built for comfort, most upgrades focus on that arena: large seats, extra padding, and even seat backs are all common features you might find in a city bike. They’re also quite heavy compared to standard road bicycles, and sometimes have slanted top bars for easier mounting.
Our buyer’s guide will address common questions about city bikes, and features some excellent models to consider, all priced below $500.
Who are city bikes best suited for? What if I live in a suburb and travel in a mix of areas?
City bikes are meant for anyone who lives or travels frequently within a dense, urban area. They aren’t nearly as common in the United States as European cities. Switzerland, for example, has cities where 15 to 23% of daily trips are made exclusively by bicycle.
In the US, that number is less than 2% for the entire country. It’s uncommon to see Americans on true city bikes as they’re known in Europe; many utilize commuter or hybrid models, instead.
Some cities are more bike-friendly than others, so gauge yours appropriately. A lack of bike lanes might be a valid safety concern, as can faster-than-average traffic patterns or a high percentage of aggressive drivers.
For folks who live in the suburbs outside the city, look for models that focus on comfort—because you’ll be sitting a while, most likely, to get past the city limits—and speed, if the roads heading into the city are very busy with vehicular traffic.
Will a regular mountain bike perform well, too?
Technically, yes. Mountain bikes have incredible shock absorption—a must if you’ll be hopping curbs left and right during your city ride—but aren’t meant for comfortable long trips. They usually lack baskets or racks, as well.
One advantage to using your mountain bike in the city: your tires are less likely to get damaged from broken glass or debris on the sidewalks.
If you live in a particularly dirty part of the city or get tire punctures and blowouts frequently, a mountain model could solve your dilemma.
Keep in mind that tire upgrades are an easy solution to less-than-ideal bikes, as well. If your city bike has thin little pieces of rubber and you need something more plush with durability and bounce, there’s nothing wrong with swapping those wheels.
Do city bikes require special maintenance or upkeep?
While they might get more use than “recreational bikes” (bikes only used on vacations, for example), city bikes don’t require special upkeep, or additional maintenance, depending on a few factors:
- Frequency and length of your trips.If you ride your bike everywhere you’d ride a car, it will wear down the parts more quickly than someone who only rides to church on Sundays. Invest in a good bicycle pump for your tires, and keep chain lube wherever you store your bike so you can grease it up when it sounds squeaky.
- The terrain of your city. City bikes are meant for pretty level terrains: asphalt, concrete, and minimal hills and bumps. If your city has uneven surfaces or lots of litter (glass, for instance), you might have to replace the tires more often.
- Your weight. Heavier individuals might put more strain on their bike than lightweight people, especially if the bike is constructed for people who weigh less than them/they’re at the top of the weight limit (or even exceed it). Tires will need to be replaced more often in this case, too.
- Where you store your bike. If it’s at all possible, do not store your bike outside. Not only is it more prone to theft, but it’s also laid bare to the elements: ice, snow, rain, and wind. All of these can rust the components of your bike (especially the chain) much more quickly than if it was stored inside.
- How much you wash it.In general, wash your bike whenever you notice more than a slight sprinkling of dust on it—and always clean the chain if you see mud or grime caked on, since this will rust the fastest. Do not spray bikes with a pressure washer—or even a regular hose, since this can force water into the components. Instead, rinse your bike by dumping buckets of water on it. Dry with shammy cloths and allow the bike to sit in a ventilated area (or with a fan trained on the chain mechanism) to help ward off rust.
What kind of braking system should I look for?
This is partially up to preference, and partially up to the city in which you’ll be riding. Linear-pull brakes are most common, and provide adequate stopping times with a lighter weight and less cost.
Some city bikes do come with disc brakes, however, which are commonly found on mountain bikes. If you live in a very rainy, wet city, disc brakes will provide a faster response time and more stable stop overall, so an upgrade might be worth the cost.
As for preference, you can’t really tell which you’ll prefer until you try them. When testing your new bike (or a potential one), try engaging the brakes at various speeds and on as many different terrains as you can.
Regardless of their type, the braking system on your bike should make you feel safe—like you could stop on a dime in an emergency, and comfortably ease to a halt in normal day-to-day rides.
Best City Bike Under $500 Reviews
1. 6KU Aluminum Urban Track Bike Review
This model from 6KU isn’t a city bike by most European standards, but it does seem like a viable option for those riders who need to get around a crowded city—and do it quickly. Without the angled handlebars of traditional city bikes, the Urban Track from 6KU isn’t built for comfort: it’s meant to fly down the streets.
With a smooth ride, various sizes and finishes, and elements specifically chosen to make city riding easier, the Urban Track from 6KU is a great bike for people who enjoy a minimalist design and little upkeep, basic controlsm and optimized navigation. It’s affordable, too, and comes in a range of sizes suited for every rider—and colors to suit every taste.
2. Vilano Fixed Gear Road Bike Review
For the tightest of budgets—or design-philes who love clean lines and bright color—the Vilano Fixed Gear is a refreshing choice. Offered in multiple sizes and bold yet simple designs, it won’t be hard for shoppers to find a bike to fit their heights and tastes.
Made of high-tensile carbon steel, it still manages to be lightweight without sacrificing durability. It’s designed as more of a speedster, with drop handlebars and narrow tires, but has the option of both single-speed and fixed-gear systems, which is common in commuter/city models.
Buyers who choose the Vilano for its looks alone will not be disappointed, but many riders might find its comfort leaves something to be desired. We recommend this to anyone who needs speed for short trips, or for riders who like the option of switching between fixed-gear and single-speed with the flip of a tire. If you’re looking for a bike with high comfort to last through rambling city rides—this isn’t it.
3. Gama Bikes Women’s City Basic 6-Speed Review
This steel-frame, cruiser-style bike has a hint of vintage charm in its looks, but impressive modern upgrades in performance.
With six speeds, it allows for easier pedaling uphill and requires as little/as much work as the rider prefers; its steel frame adds some weight, but is also very durable.
Riders on the shorter side (admittedly, most will be women) who want a versatile city bike they can also use for long commutes in the country or easy cruising at the beach will enjoy this 6-speed from Gama. It’s technically a hybrid, and boasts all the comfort of a city bike with the sturdy, adjustable riding features of standard road bikes.
4. Gala Women’s City Bike from Raleigh Review
Another cruiser-style women’s option, the Gala comes in two sizes for short- to average-sized riders. It, too, features a slanted and curved top bar for “step through” mounting, as well as brown accents (seat, handlebars, and included basket).
Despite being comfortable enough for long commutes, the Gala isn’t very fast; it’s best operated at a leisurely pace. Buyers looking for an affordable, basic bicycle for daily errands will be pleased with this model.
City bikes offer comfort above all else, but modern technology also means they can provide the same durability and comparable speed as some road, mountain, or touring bikes. We hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful in beginning your search for the best city bike within your budget.