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Best Bike For College Students

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Bikes are the ultimate form of student transport. Cheaper than a car, more reliable than public transport, great for the environment and great for your health.

There is no better sense of freedom after a mentally draining day of lectures and tutorials than getting in the saddle and blasting it all away.

In this article, we look at what makes the best bike for college students and run down our top picks. 

Top Picks:

Top 11 Best Bikes For College Students Reviewed

1. Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 Bike (Best Overall)

CHECK PRICE AT REI

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 24-speed
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc
  • Weight: 31lbs

The Co-op Cycles CTY 2.1 packs a lot of great features into a stylish and affordable commuting bike. The priority here is comfort and practicality.

The front suspension forks, with a decent 63mm of travel, take the sting out of most roads on the way to college. If you are lucky to have smooth roads without potholes on your commute then you can lock-out the forks.

The Shimano components are more than a match for the daily grind of commuting. The hydraulic disc brakes will give you plenty of stopping power even on wet days.

Features:

  • Comfort – for a daily commuting bike, comfort should be the top priority and the CTY 2.1 delivers. The geometry is relaxed with an upright rider position. The handlebars are slightly raised to take the strain off hands and wrists.
  • Suspension – the front fork suspension adds to the overall comfort and keeps the ride smooth.
  • Reliable – the Shimano components are reliable and low maintenance.

2. Schwinn Phocus (Best Drop Bar Road Bike)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 16-speed
  • Brakes: Dual-pivot caliper
  • Weight: 31lbs

If you are looking for something a little bit racier to get you to lectures on time, the Schwinn Phocus is an excellent and fast drop bar road bike. Here you sacrifice some comfort and practicality in exchange for speed and responsiveness.

As you would expect on a road bike, the rider position is more aggressive, allowing you to get low and fast. The carbon front forks do a good job of absorbing vibrations from the road.

The entry-level Shimano Claris components marry performance and reliability. If you ride on a hilly campus, the compact-double chainset provides plenty of gear range and cuts down on maintenance associated with more traditional triple chainsets.

Features:

  • Lightweight – the lightweight, sleek aluminum frame combined with the carbon forks feels light on the hills but stiff enough to put some serious power through the pedals.
  • Promax dual-pivot brakes – the bike may lack disc brakes that are more and more common on road bikes, but the caliper brakes provide great stopping power here.
  • 28-inch tires – you can drop the pressure on the bigger tires here and gain extra comfort.

3. Electra Cruiser 1 Step-Through Bike (Best For Female Students)

CHECK PRICE AT REI

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: Single speed
  • Brakes: Coaster
  • Weight: 35lbs

The Electra Cruiser 1 Step-Through Bike will turn heads with its elegant and retro design. The step-through frame makes mounting and dismounting easy and works well with riders who prefer to wear casual clothes on the bike.

Being a classic cruiser bike design, the riding position is extremely relaxed and upright. The high handlebars take the strain off the wrists and hands.

The forward position of the pedals means the rider can easily get their leg down when the bike comes to a stop but still leaves an efficient pedal stroke.

Not only is the riding easy-going, so is the maintenance. The single-speed drivetrain keeps everything simple although it might not be the best option if your campus is on a hill.

Features:

  • Step-Through Frame – hopping on and off the bike couldn’t be easier. This bike screams comfort with a nice relaxed position on the bike and a wide saddle with built-in suspension.
  • Low Maintenance – the single speed gear requires very little attention to keep it turning and the coaster brake works great once you get the hang of it.
  • Great design – the elegant frame and retro good looks are available in six bold colors.

4. Marin Muirwoods RC (Best Hybrid)

CHECK PRICE AT JENSON USA

  • Frame Material: Chromoly
  • Gears: 8-speed
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc
  • Weight: 31lbs

The Marin Muirwoods RC is a great urban-cruiser with a hint of excitement courtesy of the brands’ mountain biking pedigree.

The stiff, steel frame offers great power transfer to the pedals, and the smooth welds and silver paint job look great. The frame also has plenty of options for mounting racks to help carry your college textbooks to class and the built-in aluminum mudguards keep the commute dry.

The sweptback handlebars put the rider in an upright, comfortable position on the bike and it is one of the best bikes for giving you a clear view of the road.

The Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear gives enough ratio to tackle most hills, but more than that it is maintenance-free. This bike will take a beating on dirty commuter road and just keep going.

The Shimano M201 hydraulic brakes might be entry-level components but their performance justifies their ubiquity.

The stock tires that come with the bike might be the biggest selling point for trips around the college. At 47mm, they are massive, grippy, and comfortable.

Features:

  • Disc Brakes – the Shimano front and rear hydraulic disc brakes offer awesome stopping power in all riding conditions.
  • Internal Hub – the 8-speed internal hub gears require almost zero maintenance.
  • Fenders – integrated front and rear fenders to keep you dry.

5. 6KU Urban Track (Best Fixie)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: Fixie
  • Brakes: Caliper
  • Weight: 30.3lbs

If you are looking for the ultimate in reliability, simplicity, and hipster credentials then look no further than a fixed gear bike.

The 6KU Urban Track might have been born on the velodrome track but is streetwise enough to be a great bike around the college. Once you get the knack, riding a fixie is one of the purest forms of cycling. The fixed gear makes you feel connected to the machine.

The additional front and rear caliper brakes help to get the hang of braking with a fixie and make it easier to gain confidence. The efficient 46-16 gear ratio, keep things sensible for riding around the college campus.  

The flip-flop hub gives you the option of a single speed. Great for casual riding after a hard day of lectures and the last thing you want to do is fight the bike.

Features:

  • Front and rear caliper brakes – the purists might rip them off immediately but they make the bike safer and more responsive when riding across the campus.
  • Low weight – the 6061 aluminum allow frame not only look great thanks to smooth welds but is lightweight and nimble.
  • Novatec hub – Prevent dirt and moisture from getting into the hub and is built to last.

Read more: Single-speed and fixies for commuting

6. Cervelo Aspero (money is no object)

CHECK PRICE AT COMPETITIVE CYCLIST

  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Gears: 11-speed
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc
  • Weight: 19lbs

If you have money to burn, perhaps from an unexpectedly successful tech start-up side-business, the Cervelo Aspero is the dream bike for college.

Famed for their road machines, this is Cervelo’s first foray into the exciting world of gravel bikes. As you would expect from a brand steeped in road cycling history, the Aspero handles road and gravel without fuss.

Think of this as a tougher version of a standard road bike, tough enough for the demands of the rough roads around campus whilst looking sleek and aero.

Disclaimer – Please do not blow your student loan on a bike, no matter how much you want to!

Features:

  • Gravel-ready – gravel riding is the latest fad sweeping the cycling world and if you want to see what the fuss is about then the Aspero won’t let you down away from the tarmac.
  • Lightweight – the lightweight carbon fiber frame gives away this bike’s road riding credentials and combined with the 42cm chainstays flies up hills.
  • Looks – this bike will turn heads on campus. Make sure you have insurance.

7. Ancheer Electric Bike (Best Electric Bike)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 21-speed
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Weight: 52lbs

The popularity of electric bikes has mushroomed in recent years thanks to big improvements in battery technology and sleeker frames that are not a million miles away from normal bike frames.

The Ancheer Electric Bike is a great option if you want the benefits of a bike but don’t want to turn up to lectures a hot, sweaty mess. For an electric bike, it is also exceptional value.

The upgraded 350W brushless motor is more than a match for most hills around campus and the top speed keeps things legal on the road.

The 36v 10ah lithium-ion battery will give a range of between 22 to 40 miles depending on the terrain, wind, and temperature. It is easily removed for charging between rides.

Features:

  • Powerful electric motor – you cannot help but crack a smile the first time you engage the electric motor to get you over hills.
  • Value – the low cost (for an electric bike) doesn’t mean poor performance in this case. A great entry-level electric bike.
  • Integrated light and horn – the horn is especially useful for busy paths around college.

8. Marin Wildcat Trail (Best For Hilly Campus)

CHECK PRICE AT JENSON USA

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 11-speed
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc
  • Weight: 33.3lbs

The Marin Wildcat Trail is a great entry-level mountain bike specifically aimed at female riders but it would also make a great bike for any rider who has to contend with a hilly campus.

Designed to stand up to the demands of trail riding the Wildcat Trail 5 is more than a match for the campus. The 120mm of travel and adjustable dampening of the front suspension keep the ride comfortable.

The 11-speed Shimano Deore groupset makes light work of any hills around campus and the hydraulic disc brakes give a consistent braking performance.

Features:

  • Geometry – the woman-specific geometry means a lower standover height. Although designed with female riders in mind, it would be a great option for anyone who needs to gain a bit more confidence on the roads.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes – consistently great performance and superior stopping power.
  • Suspension – the front suspension gives 120mm of cushioned comfort.

9. Roadmaster (Best Budget Bike)

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Steel
  • Gears: 18-speed
  • Brakes: Linear pull rim brakes
  • Weight: 40.8lbs

You might be on a tight budget but that doesn’t mean you need to settle for a shoddy bike that will fall apart after a couple of trips. The Roadmaster Granite Mountain Bike is a great option for riding to college that will still leave plenty of money in the bank for beer.

It might not stand up to demanding trails but the front suspension is more than good enough to take the sting out of the roads around college.

The SRAM twist shifters are easy to use, and the 18 gears give plenty of leverage for any hills.

If you are looking for a reliable commuter then you can’t go wrong with this one.

Features:

  • Value – undoubtedly great value if you need something reliable to transport you to college.
  • Comfort – the front fork suspension is better than it needs to be at this price point and helps to keep the ride to college comfortable.
  • SRAM 18-speed – more than enough gears for getting around a hilly campus and the SRAM twist shifters make it easy to find the gear you want.

10. Tommaso Imola Endurance

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 8-speed
  • Brakes: Rim brakes
  • Weight: 23.8lbs

A road bike not only makes a great commuting bike, especially if you need that extra speed to make up for sleeping in but they are great for getting away from college at the weekend and blowing off some steam.

The Tommaso Imola Endurance is friendly on the wallet for students looking to dip their toes into the world of road cycling. The endurance-style frame puts the rider in a more comfortable position compared to more performance-oriented road bikes making it comfortable for commuting.

Despite its performance credentials, it is still practical enough for college as the frame is ready for racks and fenders.

Features:

  • Lightweight – the aluminum frame not only looks sleek with the gentle curve in the top tube but it is lightweight and strong.
  • Shimano Groupset- the Shimano Claris groupset offers high performance and reliability. If you want more performance, there is plenty of upgrade potential with this bike.
  • Value – road bikes are not cheap but this one represents great value for money.

11. Schwinn Loop Adult Folding Bike

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CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON

  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Gears: 7-speed
  • Brakes: Cantilever
  • Weight: 33lbs

Now for something a bit more leftfield; the Schwinn Loop Folding Bike. Folding bikes are a great option if your commute to college involves some public transport. With a folding bike, you can hop-off the bus and quickly onto your bike for whizzing around campus.

The Schwinn Loop is an affordable folding bike, with enough performance to get you around flat college campuses.

The integrated rear rack is great for carrying textbooks or groceries and the fenders will keep you dry on wet roads. When the bike is folded, the rear rack becomes a convenient carrying handle.

It is perhaps a little on the heavy side so you wouldn’t want to carry it for long but once it is folded out into bike mode, it performs just like the real thing.

Features:

  • Foldable – it won’t be suitable for everyone but having a folding bike is a great option if you take a bus to take you some of the ways to college. The Schwinn Loop folds down quickly once you get the hang of it.
  • Value – one of the cheapest folding bikes around but with more than enough performance to make it a great option for college.
  • Rear rack – the integrated rear rack is great for books and acts as a convenient carrying handle when the bike is folded.

Read more: Full Schwinn Loop review

How To Choose A Bike Suited For College Campus Students

Budget

Since this is an article focused on the best bikes for students, it makes sense to put the budget at the top of the list of things to look for.

Financial management for most students means having enough money at the end of the week to relax over a few (or more than a few) beers so it stands to reason that the best bike could be the best value for money.

When setting aside a budget for your bike you also need to consider any extra’s you will need to buy. At a minimum, this will include a good quality helmet, lights, a secure lock, fenders, and any racks and panniers for transporting books to class.

Although buying a bike can seem like a big expense at a time when debt is already piling up, it is best to think of the cost spread out across the many miles you do in the saddle.

Compare that to a car or public transport and it won’t take long to start seeing the cost benefits.

You might be tempted to buy the cheapest bike but in the long run, this could be a false economy. Cheaper bikes use cheaper parts, and these are likely to fail and need to be replaced quicker. The key is instead to look for the best value.

Read more: When is the best time to buy a bike?

Bike Type

As you can see from the list here of great bikes for college, all types of bikes are represented. The best bike type is the right one for you.

If you want to get to college fast and perhaps use the commute as some extra training miles, then a road bike could be the best choice. It might not be the most practical frame but their speed and lightweight make them great for chewing up any hills on the commute.

You do sacrifice some comfort and you might find yourself indexing gears and fixing punctures when you should be studying.

Mountain bikes make for popular commuting bikes. If they can survive trails and downhill then they can survive on the hallowed grounds of a college campus. They are comfortable to ride but might feel sluggish on the roads due to their weight and thick tires.

Step-through cruiser bikes are great for casual riding. They are easy to hop on and off and the lack of top tube makes them ideal for female riders who like to wear a dress to college. If you are not a confident cyclist these types of bikes make you feel in control at all times.

Fixed gear, or fixies, are the ultimate in hipster bike design. Beloved by bike messengers for their simplicity; one gear and no brakes. They are great fun to ride once you get the hang of them but are probably safer in the hands of experienced cyclists.

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Parts of a “Fixie”

Folding bikes are certainly unique but if your trip to college involves public transport, a folding bike still gives you an option for getting around campus. Fun and practical.

Gears

If your campus is in a hilly region then a bike with gears will help to take the sting out of cycling between lectures and make cycling much more enjoyable.

The downside to having a wider range of gears is that your bike will require more maintenance.

If, on the other hand, you only have flat roads on your commute then a simple single-speed or 3-speed internal hub bike will work. They are mechanically simple and cut down on maintenance.

Comfort

For something that you are going to use every day around campus, your bike must be comfortable to ride. If you are uncomfortable on your bike, ultimately you are not going to want to ride it and won’t get the benefits around college.

If comfort is your top priority then you should avoid road bikes. On a road bike, the rider position is much more aggressive and could be uncomfortable if it is something you are not familiar with.

The riding position on mountain and hybrid bikes is much more upright and comfortable, with less stress on the hands and wrists. The front suspension keeps the ride smooth and is a great added comfort bonus.

Cruiser-style bikes with step-through frames are perhaps the ultimate in comfort cycling. Getting on and off the bike is easy and once in the saddle, the riding position is laidback. The upright position gives you a great view of your surroundings and is particularly great for less confident riders.

Tires

For commuting to college and riding between lectures you want tires that are bombproof. Some performance might be sacrificed in pursuit of puncture protection but it is a small price to pay to not have to get your hands dirty fixing a flat in the rain.

Aside from puncture protection, tires that offer more grip, especially on wet, roads will help you stay upright on your way to college.

Security

College campuses are fertile hunting grounds for bike thieves. Shockingly, a student on a four-year degree course has a 53% chance of experiencing bike theft.

To avoid becoming part of that statistic you must factor security into your bike choice and budget.

Before you buy your bike, take a walk around the campus and see what everyone else is riding. A bike thief is going to look for the best bike so you do not want a bike that stands out.

Bike thieves do their homework and know the difference between a full-spec carbon road bike and a single-speed cruiser.

Apart from not standing out on campus, there are lots of other practical steps you can take so that you don’t come out of a lecture to find your bike gone and facing a long walk home.

Accessories

Don’t let the weather be an excuse to ditch the bike. On cold winter days when there is always a layer of water on the road a decent set of front and rear fenders go a long way. No one wants to sit through lectures with wet feet.

Not only will they keep you dry but they will also protect the components of the bike from corrosion.

If you would rather not carry heavy textbooks in a rucksack then it is a good idea to look for a bike that either has an integrated rack or has braze-ons to fit a rack. With the right rack, you can install panniers to carry your laptop and books.

If you are cycling between classes on campus a good quality bell helps to keep you and your fellow students safe.

ringing a bike bellPin

Safety

Whether you are just pootling around campus or mixing with traffic on busy roads, safety should always be your number one priority.

If cramming late at night in the library is your main study technique then you need a decent front and rear light on your bike to get your home safely.

Rechargeable lights are a great option as you can connect them to your laptop whilst you study and never have to worry about running out of juice just when you need them most.

You can even try out wheel lights.

Even with the best lights, you could still have an accident. Therefore, you should always wear a helmet out on your bike.

Video: Why Commute By Bike?

Apparel

Unless you have a long, challenging commute to college there is no need to wear any technical cycling clothing.

The best bikes for commuting to college will let you cycle in casual clothes. Try to keep clothing on the tighter side to prevent anything flapping too much in the wind or getting jammed in the moving parts.

A quality winter cycling jacket and gloves will help you through the winter months.

Using Outside Of College Commuting

If you plan and get the right bike, nothing is stopping you from having awesome adventures away from the lectures and studying in college.

Road cycling is a great way to keep fit and explore the countryside away from college campus. You might even get bitten by the road cycling bug and perhaps join a local club. Group rides can be a great way to get to know the best routes and meet people, particularly if you are from out of town.

A decent quality mountain bike can be used for commuting to college and for hitting the trails at the weekend with mates.

The right bike could also pay for itself if you take on some casual food delivery shifts. It is a great way to earn money during college but you will need a bike that is happy to do big miles.

Read more: Best bags and backpacks for food delivery

What Features You Don’t Need To Worry About

If you are new to cycling and have never bought a bike before, the different types of bikes and all their unique characteristics can be confusing. Bikes tend to be a lot more specialized today compared to the last bike you might have ridden as a child.

To go with all the different bike styles is an even more dizzying array of technical jargon. Most of it is marketing blurb and most of it can be ignored when looking for a reliable bike for getting around college.

Aerodynamics

Unless you also want to win some cycling races whilst studying, you can ignore the aerodynamic claims of road bikes. They add considerable cost to the bike and once you put on a rucksack for your commute all the aerodynamic benefits are lost.

Clipless Pedals

Unless you get bitten by the road cycling bug, you don’t need to buy clipless pedals and shoes.

flat side and mountain bike cleat side of a double-sided pedal
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Apart from needing to pack an extra pair of walking shoes for off the bike you could suffer the embarrassment of forgetting to unclip at the end of your ride and this will one hundred percent happen in front of a crowd of your fellow students.

Read more: Types of shoes for work commute

Full-Suspension

Full suspension mountain bikes look cool but they are best kept for serious trails and downhill riding. For everyday commuting around campus, the rear suspension saps a lot of power from your pedaling and the whole thing can feel cumbersome,

Unless you plan on doing some serious mountain biking at the weekend then the full suspension is an unnecessary complication.

Carbon, Carbon, Carbon

Carbon is a great frame material for road bikes. It is light and stiff. But if it is abused the wrong way then it can easily fail.

Great for the open road but not so great for the daily grind of commuting to college. Stick with tried and trusted aluminum or steel frames for something that will last to graduation and beyond even with a little abuse along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Frame Types And Materials Are Best For Bike For College Students?

Aluminum bike frames are great for college students. Cheaper and more durable than carbon frames but still lightweight enough to make riding fun.

Do I Really Need A Bike For College?

For getting around college, there is nothing better than a bike. Remember, some college campuses are huge and more like a town. You don’t need one but the list of advantages means you should give it some serious thought.

What Size Bike Do I Need?

If you are new to cycling, you must understand how to get the right size of bike both from a comfort and performance perspective.

Do I Need Fenders To Commute To College?

Fenders are one of the best things you can add to your bike, especially for commuting to college in winter. They do a good job of catching spray from wet roads and keeping you dry.

How Much Should I Spend On A Bike For College?

Every student will have their budget but for commuting around college, spending more and more on a bike brings diminishing returns. After a certain budget, you are getting nice-to-have rather than need-to-have bike features.

Work out how much you can spend and remember to leave a little extra for accessories.

How Many College Students Ride Bikes?

There are no firm statistics on this, but a travel survey conducted by UC Davis in California found that 47% of students commute to college by bike.

Do I Need To Wear A Helmet?

Most states that do have helmet laws are only aimed at children and teenagers but there are local government variations in the law. Check the rules within your college campus.

Law or not, a helmet will protect your most valuable asset at college; your brain.

Finishing Up

A bike could transform your college experience. They are great for getting to college on time and not having to rely on public transport, they keep you fit and they give your brain plenty of breathing space.

You could just go out and buy the cheapest bike around and hope for the best. Eventually, you will realize that this is a false economy. Instead, something like the Co-Op Cycles CTY 2.1 offers a hugely reliable and comfortable ride without being expensive.

If you are budget conscious but don’t want to miss out on having a bike at college, the Roadmaster Granite Mountain Bike is a lot of bike for very little money.

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Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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