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The Best Urban Bikes

by
author image Max Roman Dilthey
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.
The Best Urban Bikes
Urbanites riding their bikes down Market Street in San Francisco. Photo Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Bike messengers, commuters and weekend warriors delight at the mobility and speed a bicycle provides in an urban environment. With gridlocked traffic, a bicycle can often be the fastest way to get around. The best bikes for urban travel need to be light and easy to carry into buildings and apartments, but you'll still need capable road tires and a stiff, sturdy frame.

Eating Up Pavement

A road bike is the quintessential urban bike. With narrow, smooth tires, it's the fastest bike available for use on pavement. Road bikes come with a derailleur and multiple gears, allowing you to tackle the toughest hills in your city by shifting up or down. These bikes are lightweight and designed for speed, and their small profile makes them ideal for cutting around parked cars and the occasional pedestrian. A road bike usually features curved handlebars called drop bars, which let you choose between different riding positions for better aerodynamics or greater control.

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King of the Streets

The single-speed track bike is the best for cities with a primarily flat topography, like New York City. These bikes forgo the weight of a derailleur by running a single gear ratio. Track bikes come in two varieties; a gear called a flywheel allows coasting, while a fixed gear keeps the pedals moving whenever the back tire is. This simplicity makes them ideal as commuter bikes, since these bikes are cheap and relatively easy to repair. The single-speed track bike is very easy to carry when you can't ride it. Deep-section rims prevent a bent wheel on an unexpected pothole, and a narrow set of handlebars lets you pull between traffic effortlessly.

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