Going to college presents a lot of change and new challenges. However, you, as a college student, can make things easier for yourself by getting the right kind of commuter bike. These days, most college campuses are designed around high volumes of bike traffic. College students can even use a bike to go and get groceries, head to the movies, and spend some time off-campus.
But not all bikes will work well for all college students. Between the terrain type on campus, to the types of chores and travel you’re likely to need your bike for, you will require a specific type of commuter bike.
Of course, no two people, or campuses, are the same. The exact bike you need will be unique. Fortunately, there are several types of bike which work particularly well for most college students. We’ll discuss some of the best options and then explore what makes a great college bike or commuter bike.
The Best Bikes for College Students
1. Vilano Shadow 3.0 Road Bike with STI Integrated – Best Overall
The Vilano Shadow is a good middle ground option and offers a lot of different qualities which you’ll find in a good bike. It’s not a premium race bike, but that means it’s more likely to fit within a college student’s budget. It’s not a super lightweight bike, but that lowers the cost and can make the bike easier on your wallet.
The Shadow is a 14-speed road bike. This means that it’s designed for asphalt and relatively even surfaces. That’s not to say that you can’t take it up and down hills. The multi-speed design makes it easy to handle inclines and descents.
However, you probably won’t want to take the Shadow on mountain trail rides.
While this bike, like most bikes, comes with a serviceable saddle, we recommend buying your own seat. That way, you can get a bike seat which is more comfortable for you. Comfort is important when your bike is your main mode of transport. Make sure to add quality disc brakes as well.
This bike isn’t ready out of the box, although you might be able to find an assembled version at your local specialty bike store. Fortunately, putting the bike together is relatively easy if you have the appropriate tools.
Braking is smooth and effective, and while the Shadow doesn’t give you much in the way of suspension, it still offers a smooth ride.
2. Tommaso Monza Endurance Aluminum Road Bike – Premium Pick
Of course, if you’re looking for something which is a little more high-end, the Tommaso Monza Endurance is a good option. Like all premium aluminum frame bikes, this one has a larger price tag than your average bike, but it comes with a lighter frame and more efficient design overall.
Many bikes are currently made from a combination of parts from different manufacturers, many of which were originally designed with a different bike in mind. The result is a series of bikes which may be cheaper but don’t perform up to the standards of their component parts.
The Endurance is made from parts which were specifically designed for it, all created by the same manufacturer. This way, you get the advantage of design synergy. Each part performs excellently with its connected parts.
The Endurance also offers a range of sizing. The right size is not only comfortable but ergonomic. This make your ride easier. It also means fewer aches and pains and more power behind your movement.
This is a great bike for use on larger campuses. It was designed with long commutes, long rides, and triathlons in mind. Getting from class to class and back to your dorm is simple compared with this bike.
3. 6KU Aluminum Fixed Gear Single-Speed Fixie Urban Track Bike – Best Budget
At the other end of the spectrum, you deserve a good bike even if you can’t afford premium prices. Affordable bikes also tend to be a little easier on your wallet in the long run. This fixed gear bike requires less maintenance and tuning, which means fewer bills.
That being said, other items, such as the tires, may need replacing a little more often on a more affordable bike.
Overall, this bike is lightweight and designed for an easy ride. It’s also a great choice for college students who don’t already have a toolset as it comes with everything you need for assembly.
With riser handlebars and a frame which is closer to a premium road bike than the one you rode as a kid; the Fixie works well as an affordable college bike.
It’s a fixed speed bike, however, which means that you won’t have the option of changing gears when going up and down hills. It also means you’ll end up working a little harder when you’re carrying groceries or a heavy backpack. You can add V-brakes rather than disc brakes in this fixed gear bicycle.
You’re also protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee if you decide that this isn’t the right bike for you, or if you decide that you don’t need one on campus after all.
4. Pure Fix Original Fixed Gear Single Speed Fixie Bike – Best Fixed Gear
Fixed gear bikes may not be as variable as their multi-speed counterparts, but they tend to be more durable and low-maintenance. This type of bike is best for city commuters and students who live on a relatively flat and well-maintained campus.
The Pure Fix design is a simple one with all clean lines and solid colors. It may not have the aerodynamic curves of a race bike or a premium mountain bike, but that means that more production cost goes directly towards high-quality parts.
40mm deep-dish wheels are fantastic for use on college campuses. The larger size provides better suspension, while the thick-walled tire design is more durable overall than a thinner road tire.
It’s also a good choice for students who don’t want to perform a lot of assembly. The package ships at 90% assembled, with only a couple parts which still need to be attached.
This is another bike that comes with a reasonable saddle, but we’d still recommend replacing it with a new one, unless the saddle happens to be more comfortable for you than an average bike seat.
5. Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike – Best Folding Bike for College Students
College campuses are notorious for bike theft. After all, how many other locations are going to have a wide selection of poorly tended bikes ready and waiting?
While a folding bike won’t let you take your ride into classes with you, it does make for a more compact option that can be kept in your dorm room overnight.
Folding bikes are also easier to pack into small college cars, or to take inside if your friend’s house doesn’t have a rear rack on their bike.
Schwinn is a well-known name when it comes to bike manufacturing. They offer a full range of bikes, from children’s bikes to premium options.
This bike may seem to be a performance-priced option as it’s highly affordable, but it outperforms that classification. It’s a 7-speed bike, and the main shifting system is made by Shimano. Shimano is known for premium bike gear and components.
It also comes with a basket rest along with the rear rack installed on the back. This means that this folding bike is also very convenient for carrying things from place to place.
6. Raleigh Bikes Detour Hybrid Bike – Best for Heavier Users
These hybrid bikes are another affordable option which works well for most college students, but these are particularly well-suited to athletes and heavier students. This is because the bike still offers a smooth ride with plenty of suspension when heavily loaded.
The higher weight capacity also makes these hybrid bikes a great bike for students who want to use it for grocery shopping and other chores.
The Detour Hybrid offers the best of both worlds when compared to mountain bikes and road bikes. The tires are designed with a straight line down the center, which provides speed, along with the textured grip down the sides of each tire.
Price-wise, this is a mid-tier bike. It’s not as expensive as a premium racing bike or mountain bike, but it’s also not a budget bike. This means that you get a little more when it comes to the quality of the components, as well as bike frame design and construction.
This is a good bike for anyone who is looking for a moderate option. It’s high quality enough to last for years, but affordable enough for most college students.
7. Schwinn Wayfarer Bike Men’s and Women’s Hybrid Retro-Styled Cruiser – Best Unisex
Some bikes are clearly designed with a specific type of user in mind, but they also often come with different color choices, as well as sex-specific saddle designs. This can eliminate the option of sharing your bike with roommates and friends.
In college, cost-sharing is an important way of saving money, so it makes sense, if you’re moving in with roommates, to buy one or two bikes which work for everyone. This way, you have them when you need them, but don’t need to buy a bike for every individual.
Unisex bikes are also great for parents. You can buy one for your first child, and then pass the bike down as a college ride to your next child as well.
The Wayfarer is a good middle of the road option for college students who are searching for hybrid bikes, in terms of both price and quality. It’s a 7-speed shifter with a unisex saddle, good disc brakes, rear rack, and fenders to prevent splashback damage.
This bike also works for a wide range of heights. Whether you’re 5’4” or 6’2”, or anywhere in between, this bike will suit your height.
The price is towards the low end of mid-range, which makes this bike highly affordable, even for students on a tight college budget.
Most bikes are designed for anyone to use them, with bike saddles being more sex-specific than the bikes themselves. This bike is an exception to that rule.
There are subtle differences in musculature and joints between men and women. This aluminum frame bike keeps those differences in mind and has created a one-size-fits-all bike which works particularly well for men.
Swinging slightly high in terms of height, this bike works for men up to 6’5” tall.
This aluminum frame bike has a full fender system, which makes this a great bike for rainy climates, and students who use their bike to commute to work. It’s a 7-speed bike, making it more suitable for large campuses, and campuses with a lot of hills.
This is also one of the few bikes on this list which work well with the included saddle. Designed for men, the saddle is more comfortable than most standard options, but it’s up to you whether you want to keep it.
It comes with both front and rear brake systems, so you can stop quickly and smoothly, even when cycling downhill.
However, at almost 40 lbs, this bike is a little on the heavy side. It’s enough weight to slow you down and make longer rides more challenging.
9. Pure Cycles 1-Speed Urban Coaster Bicycle – Best Multisize Bike
This Pure Cycles bike is great for students who want a more minimal ride around campus, but who don’t want to have to worry about the extra bells and whistles. It’s a single-speed option, built with solid construction principles, and at an affordable price.
There are two sizes of this bike available, medium and large. While that’s not as many size options as most other bikes offer, these two sizes work well for a wide range of users. There is also a small, but it’s harder to find, and it is usually a better fit for teens and children than college students.
This bike is also a bit different to the average bike as it lack a aluminum frame, instead it’s made of steel. This makes for a stronger and more durable frame, but it’s also noticeably heavier.
This means that this aluminum frame bike isn’t a good fit for students who want to race or try their hand at tricks and difficult mountain trails. The sealed bottom bracket does help with the added weight though. It makes pedaling easier and more consistent.
While this bike doesn’t come with all the add-ons and accessories a college student might need, it does have near-universal compatibility. There is a wide range of accessories which will work with this bike, without reducing performance.
10. Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike for Men and Women – Best Hybrid
If you’re looking for a solid bike with a classic design, easily visible paint, and a mix of road and mountain bike qualities, this is a good option.
This model offers 21 speeds on a twist shifter. The Shimano rear derailleur means that you’ll be able to shift smoothly when cycling both up and downhill. The upright handle design creates a little more drag but can also be significantly more comfortable for many users.
Schwinn is also known for creating iconic bikes. They have a long history of American manufacture and still produce some of the most eye-catching and appealing bike designs. Their designs are also effective, and blend aesthetics with functionality.
The tires are a little narrower than on a typical mountain bike, but offer greater tread and grip than a road bike. The result is a bike which performs well at speed, and when a heavier grip is needed.
It also comes with fenders, a small basket shelf, and other safety and functional accessories. The result is a bike which is very easy to use and very functional.
Price-wise, this bike is towards the high end of mid-range but makes up for this with lower maintenance costs and a long functional life.
Factors to Consider for Finding the Best Bike for College
College is… different. As with anything else, it comes with its own challenges and demands, and you will need a bike that rises to the occasion. While a mountain bike might work great if your campus is set in the foothills or at a higher altitude, you probably won’t need one if your college is in New York or Seattle.
Keep these tips in mind to make sure you get not just the best college bike, but the best bike for your college experience.
Buying a Bike That Fits You Best
The first thing you need to remember is that the bike which works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone else.
First and foremost, you should consider how you want to use your bike. Are you just looking for something that cuts your transit time between classes? Are you already a fan of mountain biking? Are you planning to pick up groceries on your bike?
Also, consider how much work you’re willing to put into looking after your bike. A premium bike may not require a lot of maintenance, but it will lose its value and quality quickly if you don’t take care of it.
Consider whether you’d prefer to buy generic bike accessories, or if you don’t mind purchasing branded versions.
Lastly, consider the color and other design features. You should like your bike and you’ll be more likely to use it and take care of it if you do. Aesthetics should be the last consideration, but it’s still important.
Look for a bike which has a design that makes sense. Not all bikes do. Avoid basically any bike which is sold at Walmart. Not only are they generally low-end bikes, but they also lack the design qualities which make your job easier.
A good bike combines comfort with an aerodynamic position. Mountain bikes allow you to sit upright, while road bikes help reduce wind drag by forcing you into an aerodynamic position.
Consider whether you want a bike with traditional frame dimensions. These bikes will have tons of accessory options and may be the smarter choice if you want to keep your bike for a long time.
Alternatively, a nonstandard design, such as a folding bike, may be a better choice if you live in cramped quarters. Folding bikes are perfect for college dorms and smaller apartments without bike rear rack.
Avoid bikes that seem to have unnecessary additions, or anything sticking out further than the handlebars. Optional additions like flashers and lights are useful as you won’t have to buy them if they come pre-installed.
The Right Type of Bike
The right type of bike will vary for each user. Some college students or people of other age groups prefer the upright riding style of a mountain bike, even if they live hours away from the nearest mountain. Others prefer the effort and time-saving design of a road bike.
Mountain bikes tend to be a little heavier, with thicker tires and a lot of grip. They often come with a lot of gears and require regular professional maintenance. If you had a multispeed bike as a kid, this is probably the design you’ll be most familiar with.
Road bikes are different. They have a narrower, smaller tire, with less traction. They’re designed for speed. One a true road bike, you’ll be bent over the frame just like your favorite professional cyclist. These bikes also require regular maintenance, but they’ll reward you with a faster speed with less effort.
Fixie bikes are generally bikes which don’t have a gear shift option. They are simple, fun to ride, and easy to maintain. They may be the best option for new bike owners or college students who don’t want to worry about maintenance.
The last option is hybrid bikes. These tend to have a design similar to a mountain bike with tires similar to a road bike. They might have gears, or they might not. These are some of the more versatile bikes and they are best for students who have a variety of needs.
The most common frame material for a bike is aluminum frame. It’s sturdy and durable while being very lightweight. However, aluminum can scratch and dent relatively easily. If you opt for the aluminum frame, know that you’ll probably need to retouch your paint job at some point.
The other common alternative is steel. Steel is more durable, but it’s also heavier, and is generally only available on mountain bikes and hybrids. This is because the weight of steel on a road bike will slow it down.
The material you choose is up to you, but steel bikes are harder to find and are usually more expensive than aluminum frame bikes.
What to Avoid When Choosing a Bike for College
There are some things you should avoid when buying a college bike. Some are just a bad idea generally, while others are unnecessary for your average college student.
Avoid performance brands if possible
Performance brands may be affordable, but they won’t give you a long-lasting bike. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of them. Performance brands only build their bikes to last for a few years through regular use.
They also tend to be heavier, with poor energy transfer. So you’ll wear yourself out without getting any of the benefits.
These brands also tend to be the bikes which get damaged most easily from normal wear and tear.
Don’t worry about suspension
Suspension is a wonderful thing, and it is important for the more premium bike brands. If you’re going to be racing on your bike, or spending days riding difficult mountain trails, suspension is critical.
But most college students don’t need it. Campuses are nicely paved, and most universities have dedicated bike lanes these days. In those conditions, suspension is good to have, but it is an unnecessary expense.
Don’t rush your decision
This may be the most important piece of advice in this article. Don’t rush it. Do your research and look at several different bike models. If you can, go to a bike specialty store and talk with a representative.
Bike stores are one of the best places if you don’t know what kind of bike you want and need. They will give you an opportunity to try the bikes, look at different styles and see which options are most comfortable for you.
If you aren’t sure about a bike, don’t buy it. It’s better to spend a few days walking to school than to buy a bike you end up hating.
You should also check if your campus has a bike store. Campus bike stores tend to offer used and refurbished bikes as well as new ones. They’re cheaper, and you can generally try before you buy.
What kind of bike requires most maintenance?
There isn’t a clear answer to this question. Mountain bikes like Schwinn High Timber and road bikes both require a good bit of maintenance, particularly the more premium models.
The amount of maintenance your bike requires depends on how you use it. Light use on asphalt and pavements won’t require much maintenance. If you ride in all weathers, head up into the mountains, or participate in long endurance rides, your bike will require more maintenance.
Do I need to wear a helmet?
Yes. Not a lot of other people will be wearing them, and that’s fine for them, but you should always wear a helmet when riding. Head injuries are more serious than most other injuries, and a helmet is the best defense.
In addition, college bike lanes tend to be very crowded, and accidents aren’t entirely uncommon.
How useful are bikes for college?
This depends on your college. Bikes are most useful on large campuses, and for students who living near to, but not actually on, campus.
They’re also useful if you aren’t part of any campus meal plan as they make the chore of getting groceries much easier.
The right bike for you won’t necessarily be the right bike for anyone else. It’s worth spending some time thinking about how you want to use your bike, how you already use the bike you have, and whether you actually need a new one.
College is hard enough without making it any harder. Getting yourself the right bike will make a huge difference.