Best Commuter Bike Under $500 (Year 2018)

City living has plenty of benefits: no shortage of entertainment, quality restaurants, and a faster-paced lifestyle that appeals to many professionals of any age.  Another perk?  You don’t have to be a slave to your car—in fact, in some cities, owning and operating a car just isn’t worth it.

While some city dwellers prefer walking and public transport to get around, many incorporate bicycles into their daily travel.  Commuter bicycles fill the unique needs of city inhabitants, with features like lighter frame designs and carrier racks.  Our buyer’s guide will answer some common questions from shoppers in the market for a quality—yet affordable—commuter bike, and will also feature four of our favorite picks to make your daily grind a lot less grinding.

Buyer’s Guide:

What are commuter bikes?  Do I need one?

Commuter bikes are hybrid designs made especially for daily travel.  Some have features like padded seats and angled handlebars, to make long trips more comfortable; others are built very light to optimize speed for short trips.

Usually, commuter bikes have baskets or carrier racks, so riders can transport items like backpacks, groceries, and more.  

Stowabike MTB V2, 26

Stowabike MTB V2, 26

Many feature chain guards, so you don’t have to worry about your pants or dress hems getting caught.  Additionally, a lot of models have front and/or rear lights, to increase safety.

If you find yourself tired of walking or catching the bus, spending a fortune on taxis, or can’t stand the thought of one more minute in rush-hour gridlock—yes, a commuter bike is for you.  It offers the exercise benefits of walking (but at much quicker speeds), makes it easier to navigate heavy traffic, and can save thousands per year in fuel and car maintenance costs.

Can’t I just use any old bike, if my commute is short enough?

Critical Cycles Harper Single-Speed Fixed Gear Urban Commuter Bike

Critical Cycles Harper Single-Speed Fixed Gear Urban Commuter Bike

Sure, as long as your bike is the proper height and has a design you find comfortable.  

Keep in mind, though, that commuter bikes are designed to be lightweight, respond quickly, and keep riders in upright sitting positions—elements that many classes of bikes don’t offer.

What should I look for when browsing commuter bikes?

Beaumont 7-Speed Lady’s Urban City Commuter Bike from Critical Cycles

Beaumont 7-Speed Lady’s Urban City Commuter Bike from Critical Cycles

  • How long is your commute?  The longer your trip, the more comfort features your bike will need—like elevated, angled handlebars so you can sit properly, rather than hunched over, or a padded seat to take pressure off your hips and spine.
  • Do you need to carry a lot of stuff with you?  If so, your bike should have baskets or carrier racks, or at least places to mount these after purchase.
  • Are you able to maintain your bike (or hire a shop to do so for you)?  The more parts a bike has, the more upkeep it tends to require.  Even simple bikes need some basic maintenance.  Make sure you can clean, lubricate, and inflate your bike’s components as needed—or find a nearby bike shop that can provide these services.  While it’s a lot less work (and money) than maintaining a car, maintaining a bike is every bit as important.
  • Are you in good shape?  Be honest with yourself on this one!  Not only should you get a bike meant for your skill level, but it should also sport features to accommodate your fitness level and unique health needs.  If you have knee problems or find it difficult to pedal uphill, for instance, a bike with multiple speeds can help.

Additionally, buyers should take their budgets into consideration.  While you don’t have to drop a fortune to get a quality bicycle, you should spend enough to get all the features you need for a comfortable and useful model.

Do I need special brakes, since I’m riding amongst vehicular traffic/pedestrians?

Retrospec Mars Hybrid City Commuter Bike

Retrospec Mars Hybrid City Commuter Bike

As long as your brakes are manufactured well, you shouldn’t need a specific kind.  The exception to this might be for commuters in rainy or snowy cities where the pavement can get very slick: disc brakes are better for compromised surfaces.  

Overall, though, the kind of brakes you get are a matter of preference.  Test your bike at varying speeds, with both sudden and gradual stops, to give yourself a good feel for that type of brake.  If you don’t feel confident in your ability to stop, consider a different bike or upgrading the braking system.

Best Commuter Bike Under $500 Reviews

1.  Harper Single-Speed Fixed Gear Urban Commuter Bike from Critical Cycles Review


  • Steel frame, built by hand, with excellent craftsmanship and impressive durability.
  • “Flip flop” tire hub, so you can choose between fixed gear or single speed/freewheel.
  • Design is simple and has fewer parts, requiring less maintenance than multi-speed models.
  • Riser-style handlebars for easier navigation.
  • Unisex design.
  • Available in all adult sizes and five color options (black, sky blue, white and black, graphite and orange, and sage green).


  • Brakes are lever-style, not disc, which means rainy/slick streets could be hazardous if riders need to brake quickly.
  • Single speed means riders with hilly commutes will have to pedal harder or dismount and walk the bike. Great for commutes with level ground/few or no hills.

Rider looking for a made-in-the-USA brand with handcrafted quality and attention to detail should consider Critical Cycles—and any riders who like the idea of single-speed and fixed-gear options in the same bike should take a good look at the Harper Urban Commuter.  With a range of sizes and styles, the option to freewheel/coast, and a price that will work with almost any budget, this model is set to be a real crowd pleaser.

2.  Beaumont 7-Speed Lady’s Urban City Commuter Bike from Critical Cycles Review

With the aesthetic of a cruiser and the performance of a city hybrid, the Beaumont Urban City Commuter from Critical Cycles offers both form and function.  

It’s designed for women, with a curved top bar and saddle-style seat—but doesn’t sacrifice some top riding features, like extra-grip tires and seven speeds.


  • Hand-built steel frame with step-through design (angled and curved top bar) for easy mounting and dismounting.
  • Seven speeds for easier pedaling on hills and more speed variation with less/more work as desired.
  • Water-dispersion tread on tires, a must in rainy cities; tires are also very sturdy and will provide good shock absorption over uneven roads.
  • Rear rack for increased carrying capacity.
  • Chain-guard to prevent pant and hem snags.
  • Saddle-style seat for more comfortable rides on longer trips.
  • Available in small/medium and medium/large, in five colors: turquoise, olive, cream, coral, and black.


  • “Feminized” design by industry standards might not suit buyers seeking a more unisex style.

There’s little if nothing to dislike about the Beaumont Urban City Commuter.  While even the largest size might be too short for very tall riders, it should suit short and average-height women well.  Additionally, Critical Cycles boasts responsive and friendly customer service, so riders nervous about “buying before trying” can ease their worries.

3.    Stowabike MTB V2, 26” Review

Riders with small cars or cramped homes: meet the Stowabike, a foldable model that decreases to half its size for easy storage and travel.  Technically classified as a mountain bike, this also has full suspension—which makes it attractive to commuters who might do a little off-roading en route to the office, such as across parks or quads.


  • Folding frame dramatically reduces size, so bike can be stored in closets or garages without taking up too much space. Can be transported in regular vehicles with trunks or backseats; could even fit in some passenger seats, in the case of 2-seater cars.
  • Inexpensive for any bike, let alone a folding option of this size and weight. Might be perfect for very tight budgets.
  • Does not feature a top bar (body is one piece, slanted for folding feature); a truly unisex option for most adults.
  • Dual suspension.
  • Available in white and red, or black and green.
  • 18 speeds.


  • Weight is 38.5 lbs. Some might find it too heavy or bulky for their needs.
  • Steel v-brakes do not offer the quick response or power of disc brakes, so as a rugged mountain bike, it’s lacking—but will perform just fine for commuters. Best for cross-country and city use.

4.  Mars Hybrid City Commuter Bike by Retrospec Review

This model is an excellent choice for riders seeking a unisex design with old-school appeal—and options to customize performance to their needs.  Not only is the Mars Hybrid available in multiple sizes, but it also comes in single-, three- and seven-speed variations.


  • Useful and pleasantly designed features like classic bell, sturdy rear rack, and chrome headlight.
  • High-tensile steel frame, hand-built; offers good shock absorption.
  • Available in one-, three-, and seven-speed options and multiple sizes to suit riders’ needs and preferences.
  • Gear shift is in grip, so riders can simply twist handlebar to change gears.
  • Available in black or midnight blue, with a unisex, vintage design.


  • Caliper brakes are great for most commuters, but might be better if replaced with disc brakes for riders in very rainy conditions. Not suitable for icy weather.

This is another model we can’t find much wrong with, and we think it’ll be a favorite with most shoppers.  The ability to choose your size and speeds gives this a very broad appeal, and the updated vintage design will catch plenty of eyes.

To Conclude:

Commuter bikes are designed with city dwellers in mind—but those with suburban roots and urban professions will enjoy them, too.  Look for a bike built for comfort and precision, and make sure it has the features you need—a basket or carrier rack might sound like an unnecessary add-on, but you won’t think so when you’re struggling down the street with a backpack full of groceries!

We hope our buyer’s guide has been helpful to shoppers looking for high-quality, affordable commuter bikes.  No single bike is right for everyone, and the search for “the perfect bike for you” can be overwhelming.  In the end, there’s only one way to truly test it out: by hopping on and taking it for a spin.