The Best Bikes and Gear for Urban Commuting

Bike shares have made cities, car drivers, and corporate culture friendlier for urban cyclists. Here’s how to graduate into your own gear

Coming from the city? The suburbs? Somewhere farther? The best options for any commute.

For Busy Streets

Get double storage with Wald’s twin basket, which straddles the back wheel ($45.60; amazon.com).
Get double storage with Wald’s twin basket, which straddles the back wheel ($45.60; amazon.com).
Photographer: Kathy Lo for Bloomberg Businessweek

1. Fairdale Daybird
$590; kingkog.com

This classic commuter relies on age-old steel construction inspired by a 50-year-old Schwinn. Creator Taj Mihelich—a former BMX champion—discovered the bike in the trash, and it rode as good as new. Responsive gear-shifting components and ultra-sturdy brakes keep you safe in heavy traffic. It’s made for all genders, though the step-through frame helps women in skirts or dresses dismount discreetly.

For Miles and Miles

Lights are a must: Knog’s blinder has four LEDs, visible from 2,600 feet ($44, papillionaire.com).
Lights are a must: Knog’s blinder has four LEDs, visible from 2,600 feet ($44, papillionaire.com).

2. Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Ultegra Disc
$5,420; cannondale.com

An endurance-oriented road bike that’s built out of incredibly light carbon—it weighs only 17 pounds. Micro-suspension technology reduces road shock by pairing precise tube shapes with sophisticated joints. Vibration-absorbing material near the seat and the rear chainstays remains rigid to help support you. Test it on a state-to-state route.

For Rough Terrain

Photographer: Kathy Lo for Bloomberg Businessweek

3. All-City Macho Man
$1,599; allcitycycles.com

Developed for Cyclocross, a hybrid between mountain biking and road cycling, this one works well on dirt paths and back roads. Don’t let that stop you from riding it in the city: A steel frame offers a smoother ride than standard aluminum; disc brakes stop the wheels on a dime in wet conditions; and the large tires and fenders reduce the impact of potholes and speed bumps.

For the Hesitant

A Lazer light wood helmet is stylish, with vents to help ward off hat hair ($49.97; campmor.com).
A Lazer light wood helmet is stylish, with vents to help ward off hat hair ($49.97; campmor.com).

4. Brilliant Bicycle Mayfair
$299; brilliant.co

Brilliant, a Los Angeles-based upstart, mails a box of parts with three different-size wrenches, so you can build the whole thing using easy online tutorials. (It takes an hour, and a Web chat is available if you get tripped up.) This makes it cheaper, of course. The two smart styles—a classic, seen here, and a step-through—come in punchy colors like tangerine, mint, and neon blue.

For World Travel

Photographer: Kathy Lo for Bloomberg Businessweek

5. Dahon Speed D8
$749; dahon.com

Thirty years ago, foldable-bike pioneer Dahon patented a single-hinge system that makes it easy to store and tote your cycle to work—even if you want to stuff it in your carry-on for a business trip. Folding competitors have entered the fray, but Dahon is still tops. Eight speeds accommodate flat roads and bumpy slopes. The racks, lighting, seats, and fenders can all be customized.

For Pro Snobs

The Bookman cup holder firmly grips your bike frame with springy steel, so your morning coffee won’t spill ($35, bookman.se).
The Bookman cup holder firmly grips your bike frame with springy steel, so your morning coffee won’t spill ($35, bookman.se).
Photographer: Kathy Lo for Bloomberg Businessweek

6. Kinfolk Custom Track Frame
From $8,000; kinfolklife.com

These rare, beautiful rigs are made-to-order by hand in Japan by 73-year-old master builder Shuichi Kusaka, who’s dedicated his life to the craft. There’s a massive spectrum of customizations, all made to your precise body measurements. Unlike other bespoke bikes, Kinfolk’s can be built in a variety of styles, including commuter, mountain, and city cruiser.

How to Not Get Jacked

Start by buying a Kryptonite U Lock ($70.95; rei.com), the strongest one out there, with a vinyl coating that prevents saws from cutting it. It should go through a wheel, securing the bike to a metal rail. The less space between bike and lock, the less room there is for a crowbar to pry it apart. In the event you do get robbed, you should have a record that includes a serial number and proof of purchase. Even if you buy a used bike, get a receipt. Police will ask for evidence of ownership before investigating.

Isn’t a Bike-Share Good Enough?

Papillionaire’s Classic ($699, papillionaire.com)
Papillionaire’s Classic ($699, papillionaire.com)

About 100,000 people have bought an annual pass for New York’s Citi Bike since 2013. It was dead simple: You paid $95 to get an unlimited number of 45-minute rides. Late last year, the price jumped to $149—not absurd, but enough to have some riders thinking it’s time to get a real bike. Early this month, I spent a week testing Papillionaire’s Classic ($699; papillionaire.com), a middle-range cruiser with eight gears and really touchy brakes. It put the loaner to shame: It’s almost half the weight and much better for climbing hills and bridges. Unlike Citi Bike’s Monster Truck tires, the treads felt smooth. It’s also not as low-slung, so you ride more comfortably. Of course, you’ll need a place to leave it near the office. But for anyone who’s ridden in circles trying to find an open Citi Bike dock during rush hour, that’s a minor pain worth figuring out. —Kurt Soller

Don’t Sweat Through Your Suit

Illustration: Hisashi Okawa

“I wear my Nike Dri-Fit T-shirt ($22; nike.com). And always a Musette army-style messenger bag ($16; unclesams.com). It’s extremely light, so your back won’t get sweaty. Norse Project chinos ($165; needsupply.com) hold up better than suit pants: The bike’s seat wears away at wool trousers. I leave my blazers at the office and change in our building’s gym. A bathroom works, too.” —Evan Campisi, art director

“I ride in Levi’s Commuter skinny jeans ($88; levis.com), made of durable denim. Rapha’s merino wool shirts ($85; rapha.cc) are paper-thin, wick sweat, and resist odor. There’s a Hold Fast strap ($56.95; statebicycle.com) on one pedal, so I can bike in platforms. I carry my stuff in a Phillip Lim 3.1 hour backpack ($1,095; saks.com), and I tie a cotton scarf to it to blot my forehead. Oscar Blandi dry shampoo ($23; nordstrom.com) fixes most helmet-head disasters.” —Anna Maria Diaz-Balart, fashion stylist and bike blogger, prettydamnedfast.com

Road-Warrioring

Shawn Wolf, a bike messenger turned cycling store owner, on the best ways to beat traffic

Illustration: Hisashi Okawa
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