Picture this: You get to avoid a crowded subway or sitting in traffic in favor of a wind-in-your hair, active commute. Or you cruise around town, enjoying the scenery while getting in a workout. Better yet, you nail a challenging hill climb, then celebrate on a fun descent. All these scenarios show the beauty of biking: Low-impact exercise with limitless potential for adventure.
Nothing quite compares to pedaling outside. But to really enjoy the ride, you need some solid equipment under you. And it’s important to find the right fit — both for your go-to activity and your size. (Read up on finding the perfect size for your body here.) To help tailor your two-wheeler to your experiences, we rounded up the 12 best bikes to make you feel cool, comfy and confident through every mile. It’s time to saddle up and start spinning!
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12 of the Best Bikes for Every Rider and Budget
1. Trail Blazers
Best for: Taking your two-wheeler off road
Mountain exploration isn’t reserved for hikers. Pedaling up and down single- and double-tracks, over rocky land and through greenery offers stellar views and a great new way to get outside. These mountain bikes give you the confidence to do just that, thanks to steady set-ups and shock-absorbing tech.
Steal: REI Co-Op DRT 1.1
When you’re ready to step out of the spin studio and onto the trails, this budget-friendly bike is a good option to jumpstart adventures. It has a front suspension system to absorb the impact of rolling over bumps and branches, plus flat handlebars for a more upright position that lets you see the terrain ahead. ($499, rei.com)
Splurge: Liv Embolden 2 (Women’s)
Liv, the sister brand to Giant, makes bikes specifically for women. That means they come in a range of sizes and allow for a more ideal body alignment that promotes comfort and efficiency. The design of the Embolden 2, in particular, lets ladies have a higher stand-over height, which means you can better handle the bike as you go over rocks and around curves. It also has a front and back suspension system for super smooth riding and enhanced control. ($1,365, liv-cycling.com)
Splurge: GT Pantera Expert (Men’s)
This 11-speed will have you nailing gnarly trails in no time. With oversized, 27.5-inch tires that have loaded traction, you can easily conquer any obstacle in your path, without feeling like you’ll topple over. Plus, the front shock-absorbance allows you to take on jumps like a pro. ($1,620, gtbicycles.com)
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2. Road Warriors
Best for: Going the distance
That long-distance ride you signed up for this summer will feel like a breeze when you have one of these smooth speedsters under you. Each one offers a lightweight, efficient design that makes miles fly by and tough hills feel trouble-free.
Steal: Trek Emonda ALR 6 Pro
A $2K bike may seem like a lot…until you take a seat and start pedaling on this top-notch performer. Though it’s made of aluminum (many high-level, high-price racers come from carbon), it still weighs just over 17 pounds. When purchasing this bike, it’s custom-made to your size, so you feel comfortable, even in that lower, more aggressive riding position. The clean breaks, quick shifting and overall durability also allow for ease of movement as you climb hills and cut corners. ($2,628, trekbikes.com)
Splurge: Specialized Ruby Pro Ultegra Di2 (Women’s)
Just the right amount of stiffness and shock-absorbance make this carbon two-wheeler amazingly easy to handle — and super lightweight. One of Specialized’s most tech-forward models, it offers a seriously smooth and speedy ride that’s a full spin above other bikes. Even better, it has the women-specific saddle for more comfort as you clock serious miles. ($6,500, specialized.com)
Splurge: Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc (Men’s)
You just might want to sign up for that century — and ride it fast — with this bike. Featuring an all-carbon frame, it feels ultra light, while the disc breaks and tapered steering tube make it easy to maneuver. It’s the ultimate combo for giving you confidence to ride in any condition. ($4,700, giant-bicycles.com)
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3. Fitness Fanatics
Best for: Getting a workout in
Take your spin class on the road! These two-wheelers strike the perfect balance between commuting cruisers and road racers. So if you want to pedal to work during the week, then hit higher speeds and more mileage on the weekends, you have a hybrid that can handle both.
Steal: Brilliant Astor
Meet the bike that’s good-looking enough to take you anywhere. This easy-to-ride two-wheeler will get you to the office, brunch or an escape from the city in style. It comes in a one-, three- or seven-speed version, but if you’re hitting any hills on your usual ride, we suggest skipping the single. The best part: If you try the bike and don’t like it, you have 30 days to send it back. ($300, brilliant.co)
Splurge: Raleigh Alysa 4 (Women’s)
Cycle city streets or gravel paths with this 11-speed bike. It features flat handlebars for more visibility and comfort than a regular roadie, but still allows you to gain some speed, compared to a typical cruiser. It also had wider tires for more grip and stability, as well as an aluminum frame and carbon fork so you can carry it up or down stairs when you need to. ($900, raleighusa.com)
Splurge: Specialized Roll City (Men’s)
Rolling hills, slippery roads, low lighting — these conditions have nothing on you when you’re riding this durable, flat-bar bike. The wide tires protect you from uneven terrain while still letting you feel the ground beneath you. Plus, the paint job offers reflectivity and the hydraulic breaks provide smooth stopping when you need it. An outdoor workout never felt so good. ($1,000, specialized.com)
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4. Cooler Commuter
Best for: Pedaling your way to work
Skip the subway. Ditch your drive. It’s time to travel to the office by two-wheeler. Whether you’re riding up and down hills, through city streets or on dirt pathways, these bikes will get you to your destination feeling strong — and probably much less stressed. They’ll even keep you looking chic as you cycle.
Steal: Electra Townie Commute 8D
Typically known for their cruisers, Electra takes their usual model up a notch with this new commuter. Featuring eight-speeds, puncture-resistant tires and LED lights, you’ll feel safe and sturdy cruising over inclines and uneven turf. It also has front and rear racks so you can easily carry all your belongings (just pick a basket to do so). The upright position and cushioned seat also keep you comfy, and the brand’s flat-foot technology lets you put your feet flat while still sitting. In other words, a stop-and-go commute becomes a cinch. ($770, electrabike.com)
Splurge: Cannondale Bad Boy
Designed with urban riders in mind, this bad boy features a forward yet upright position so you can see everything in your path, but still spin fast. It also comes with built-in rechargeable LED lights for increased visibility when you’re riding the streets at dawn or dusk. Plus, because it’s made of a one-piece fork, it’s lighter and easier for you to take around town. ($1,840, cannondale.com)
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5. Beach Cruisers
Best for: Spinning through the sand
Relaxed riders who love trekking to the shore, need sturdy, cozy and good-looking bikes to make every ride enjoyable. Enter, the ultimate beach cruiser.
Steal: Priority Coast
Good news for this category: Some of the best cruisers on the market come in at under $500, and it’s tough to beat this Priority model. Made to be low-maintenance and lighter than other beach bikes, the frame, fork and bearings won’t rust, no matter how much sand, salt and water it touches. Opt for a diamond or step-through style and choose from three colors for each. Ladies, we strongly suggest the rose. ($449, prioritybicycles.com)