4 Fully-Equipped Commuter/City Bikes That Literally Have It All

Like anything you use every day, a commuter bike should be a “buy one, cry once” item. It’s easy to pinch pennies, but that often leads to spending more to fix shortcomings down the road.

If you’re already committed to two-wheeled transportation as part of daily life, then you’ll often save by buying a fully equipped bike instead of gradually adding accessories.

Just what do I mean by “fully equipped”?

For an average commuter or city cyclist, that’s at least some of the following:

  • Fenders that fit perfectly and go with the color scheme
  • A quality rear rack that will accommodate an average pannier
  • Dynamo lighting, so you never have to remember to charge a light again
  • A chain guard (or belt drive) to protect your pants from grease and keep debris off the chain
  • An internally-geared hub to practically eliminate drivetrain maintenance

Ideally, it offers all the above for about a grand–perhaps a little more, and hopefully a little less.

That won’t cover all the bells and whistles, and it’s well shy of boutique-brand prices. But it’s plenty for a straightforward yet well-equipped bike off the shelf. Bike brands seem to agree, since more models hit the market in this price range each year.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the very best. From traditional city bikes to modern folding ones, there’s a little something for everyone.

As in all Two Wheels Better guides, these choices are completely independent. Some are bikes I’ve owned or tested; the rest are bikes I’d confidently buy right now (if I were in the market) or recommend to friends and family.

A delightfully upright cruiser-commuter: Electra Townie Path 9D EQ ($800)

Electra (now owned by Trek) briefly ventured into city bike territory with their Amsterdam. Regrettably, that one is long since discontinued. But they also released a newer spin on the classic Townie which fills in the gap nicely–and at a lower price and lighter weight.

Labeled the Townie Path 9D EQ, it’s got the rack + fenders + chainguard basics that every commuter needs. Those things alone would set you back about $150+ as upgrades, so their inclusion is notable on a sub-$1000 bike.

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But my favorite feature is the dynamo-powered front and rear lighting. That’s incredibly rare in the North American market, and costs multiple hundreds of dollars to retrofit. The Nexus dynamo hub is nothing fancy, but it’s a dependable and cost-effective choice that makes dynamo lighting possible at this price point.

The lights themselves are from Spanninga, a thoroughly reputable Dutch brand, although exact model details are not available. I’m almost certain it’s a 6V3W hub, which would make an upgrade easy if the stock headlight proved too dim.

It offers the standard Townie riding position, which is as upright and relaxed as possible. Any more laid-back and you’d be on a recumbent bike! I find the Townie a bit boat-like to handle (if that makes any sense), but steady and relaxing once you finally get up to speed. Hills are another story, though, and more on that in a moment.

You’ll also get Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, which in my experience perform far better than their mechanical counterparts. Disc brakes are arguably overkill for the speeds and terrain that most Townie riders encounter, but they’re a solid choice that will keep maintenance to a minimum.

The 27.5″ x 2.4″ tires are as fat as you’ll reasonably find on a city bike. Such larger tires do carry a lot of rotating weight, which slows acceleration, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ride a Townie hard enough to notice the difference. As far as I’m concerned, the cushy ride and terrific traction more than make up for it anyhow.

My only reservation is that the gear ratio isn’t conducive to climbs. The rear range of 11-36 teeth is fine, but the 42-tooth chainring means steep climbs are out of the question. Standing up for short climbs will get around that, but Townie geometry just feels wrong when standing. (It’s hard to explain but immediately obvious when you actually try it.)

That’s a trivial complaint, though, since it’s cheap and easy to install a smaller chainring if you’d like to make climbing easier.

Weight is on the heavier side at 37 lbs, but that’s typical of fully-equipped city bikes, and easily 10-15 lbs less than a standard Dutch bike.

Get it if:

  • You like to take it easy and value comfort over speed
  • You’re OK with the occasional maintenance of a derailleur (versus internally geared hub)

Skip it if:

  • You’re looking for a quick and agile ride
  • You climb steep, extended hills on a regular basis
  • You need to store or transport it in tight space

Availability & alternatives

Find it online directly from Trek in step-over and step-through versions.

It’s also available at Trek-branded stores and independent bike shops all over.

I’m not aware of any perfect alternatives if this model is out of stock. If the geometry is what piques your interest, then the best back-up plan would be to accessorize a regular Townie to match. Again, there’s just nothing else with similar geometry and parts.

A sporty, belt-drive commuter: Priority Cycles Continuum Onyx ($1199)

As far as convenience goes, nothing tops a belt drive and internally-geared hub. If you don’t mind paying a little extra, then this set-up offers the lowest possible drivetrain maintenance. (Well, short of going single-speed.)

Better still, Priority Cycles offers this in a compelling $1199 package, decked out with a few other commuter must-haves that we’ll come back to in a moment. I already named this one the best value option in my belt-drive commuter bike guide, which is worth visiting for more details.

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It’s safe to assume anyone who wants a belt drive plans on wet-weather riding, so Priority wisely included fenders to keep you clean(er). While they omitted a rack, you can add one to your order for a modest price.

The hydraulic disc brakes are another rain-friendly and low-maintenance choice. And with the Continuum’s sportier, hybrid-style posture, you may find yourself riding fast enough to appreciate their power.

While the belt drive is a great choice maintenance-wise, the single most practical addition is the dynamo-powered lighting. Unfortunately the hub and light manufacturers are not published, but the standard 6V3W power means replacements or upgrade won’t be a problem.

By the way, belt drives do come with a few modest caveats. Check out this closer look at their pros and cons for some important background information.

Get it if:

  • You ride in all weather and need a nearly maintenance-free geared drivetrain
  • You prefer the nimbleness of a slightly forward-leaning posture with straight handlebars

Skip it if:

  • You’re looking for a plush, laid-back feel
  • You don’t find the belt drive and internally-geared hub valuable enough to justify the price

Availability & alternatives

Find it online at Priority Cycles. Priority bikes are not sold through bike shops, as of writing.

A rugged, belt-drive folding bike: Tern Verge S8i ($2199)

Tern has built a huge presence in the folding bike market, becoming one of the most recognizable brands alongside Brompton and Dahon.

Dahon’s founder is in fact the father and husband of Tern’s founders. Apparently family relations are strained, since there was a lawsuit between the brands shortly after Tern was established in 2011.

Family drama aside, Tern has branched out from its initially nondescript, Dahon-style offerings. And one of their most forward-thinking models, which continually catches my attention, is the Verge S8i.

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It’s got all the bells and whistles that commend the Priority Continuum Onyx, above, but in a foldable package. Of course, the complexity of folding frame design means a significantly higher price tag. Even so, it’s a unique bike that’s just too well thought out to omit.

A belt drive and disc brakes scream “winter-ready,” so Tern did well to spec wide, 55mm tires. That’s a full 20mm wider than you’d find on a stock Brompton. Now, fat tires do contribute to the Verge’s 31.5-lb heft, but their traction and smoothness are worth it for navigating ill-kept streets.

Belt drives cannot use a derailleur, so they need an internally-geared hub instead. The 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub is one I’ve personally owned and could never find a fault with (besides the weight and slight mechanical resistance that all IGHs share). An 11-speed hub would have been a nice touch at this price point, but given the higher cost of designing folding frames, it may be too much to ask.

The rugged drivetrain and tires are already unique among folding bikes. And even more distinctively, the is one of very few folders with dynamo-powered lighting out of the box.

It’s powered by a BioLogic Joule 3 hub, which actually seems to be a rebranded Shutter Precision. That’s a good thing, since Shutter Precision makes one of the better dynamo hubs on the market today. (Having owned two of theirs on separate bikes, I’m thoroughly impressed with their efficiency and reliability.)

The headlight seems to be a proprietary brand, but it has a thoughtfully squared-off beam design. Its output of 41 lux should be fine for city riding, although more power would help in truly dark places. The hub provides the standard 6V3W output, so upgrading should not be difficult if necessary.

Finally, the Verge S8i has a couple of prudently rugged touches. The rack is unusually sturdy, holding up to 55 lbs. It also includes side rails specifically for clipping on a pannier, which leaves the enormous upper rails free to hold a basket or bag at the same time.

Additionally, the Pletscher kickstand is a respected and name-brand choice (yes, there are name-brand kickstands!) which I expect to stay steady as you approach the max load.

The fat tires and arguably overbuilt frame will also come in handy with heavy cargo. Just remember to add perhaps 6-10 psi to the rear tire if you’re loading near the full 55 lbs.

Get it if:

  • You ride in all weather and need a nearly maintenance-free geared drivetrain (just as with the Priority, above)
  • You need to fit your bike in constrained but not tiny spaces; perhaps under a desk or in the trunk of a car
  • You anticipate heavy cargo on a regular basis, but don’t need a full-on cargo bike

Skip it if:

  • You’re on a budget (or don’t want a belt drive that badly)
  • You need to store it in unusually tight spaces, like under bus seats

Availability & alternatives

Find it online directly from Tern or at one of their dealers.

It’s particularly hard to find a perfect alternative to the Verge S8i. After all, that’s part of why I’ve featured this model here, and part of why Tern can charge the price they do.

If you can do without the belt drive and disc brakes, then Tern’s Link D7i is a better deal at just $1149. It still includes dynamo lighting, and a minimalist chain cover, but scales back the tire width and rack capacity.

Otherwise, you can get similar utility and performance from a 6-speed Brompton with the rack-and-fender package (about $1700), dynamo lighting upgrade (about $260+), and careful choice of bags. The Brompton’s steel frame also has a classic elegance that the more modern-looking Tern lacks. And with its diminutive wheels, the Brompton is also a few pounds lighter than the Verge, and folds down to 23″ x 22.2″ x 10.6″ versus the latter’s 16.5″ x 31.9″ x 28.7″.

That said, for sheer burliness and weather-resistance, the Tern has the advantage with bigger wheels, fatter tires, disc brakes, and a belt drive.

But if the Verge’s cargo capacity is its main appeal, then you might also consider the Tern Cargo Node. It’s significantly larger (but still folds) and supports a massive 350 lbs of cargo. Likewise, Tern’s electric HSD and GSD are true car replacements.

A modern take on Euro city bikes: VSF T-50 ($850)

VSF isn’t a household name in the Americas, but they’ve been a fixture of the German city bike market for decades. Thanks to Curbside Cycle in Toronto, they’re now available on this side of the Atlantic, too.

Like most VSF models, the T-50 includes the city/commuter features we like around here. That means internally-geared hubs, fenders, racks, chain coverage, and dynamo lighting. In fact, Euro bike light standards basically come from Germany’s Stra├čenverkehrszulassungsordnung (no, my space bar didn’t break) which defines beam patterns and illumination standards.

In short, the T-50 checks every box on the list of desirable bike commuting features, all for a comparable price to the Electra Townie EQ mentioned above.

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The key practical difference is the VSF’s modestly upright position versus the Electra’s (excessive) recline. What the VSF lacks in sofa-like comfort, it more than makes up for in responsiveness and climbing ability–all without the neck strain of more aggressive sport/hybrid posture.

In addition, the VSF’s 7-speed internally-geared hub more than justifies the marginal $50 cost over the Townie EQ.

Note that the T-50 includes v-brakes rather than discs. That’s perfectly fine for most of us, as this guide explains. But if you regularly deal with the terrible conditions where disc brakes matter most, then they’re available (but without hub gears) for $300 more.

Get it if:

  • You want nearly all the conveniences of a Dutch bike, but need a lower price, lighter weight, quicker feel, or all the above
  • You don’t anticipate more than 30-50 lbs of rear cargo

Skip it if:

  • You’d like a laid-back cruiser ├á la Electra
  • You don’t mind sacrificing the dynamo and IGH for an even lower price

Availability & alternatives

Find it at Curbside Cycles in diamond and step-through versions.

The next-best alternative (in this price range) is the regrettably discontinued Breezer Uptown 8. If you can’t get hold of a T-50, and don’t mind buying secondhand, then it’s worth scouring eBay and local classifieds for an Uptown 8.