Due to the coronavirus situation, some or all of our picks may be sold out. In fact, most of the bikes we mention in the Competition section are also sold out, as are higher-priced versions of our picks—that is, models that have similar frames but use fancier materials or components. (There is a nationwide bike shortage overall.)
Marin has told us that more shipments of its Fairfax line are scheduled to arrive from its overseas factories every 10 days through June, but many of those bikes are going straight to dealers to fill preorders. (Check the Marin website for the dealers in your area if you’d like to go that route.) However, if you can’t find a bike you like locally and can’t wait till shops restock, we suggest looking for a used bike—we have advice on how to buy secondhand gear, including bikes, online without being scammed. One point that we’d like to underline: No matter who or where you’re buying a used bike from, ask the seller for the serial number so that you can see if the bike has been reported stolen. (Bike Index, a nationwide nonprofit registry, maintains a list of stolen bikes.) Don’t help bike thieves profit from their misdeeds.
Marin Fairfax 1
Our favorite hybrid bike
This affordable and capable commuter bike is equally comfortable on longer weekend outings—and it’s more fun to ride than its competitors.
Our top pick, the Marin Fairfax 1, ticks all the boxes on our hybrid-bike checklist: durable-enough mostly Shimano components, a steel fork that’s forgiving on potholes and rough city streets, rack and fender mounts, and grippy tires. Plus, it earns extra credit for its well-designed aluminum frame, which provides more-agile handling and zippier acceleration than the competition. (If you prefer a step-through version—that is, a frame with a lower top tube, or what is sometimes called a women’s frame—look for the Terra Linda 1.) Although the current version of what used to be called the Fairfax SC1 started coming with disc brakes last year—an upgrade we believe is unnecessary for most riders—its price dropped by $60 and has remained low (rebounding only $20 in 2020). In part this is because Marin reduced the number of total gears from 24 to 21. However, given that the overall range of those gears hasn’t changed and the performance hasn’t suffered, we kept it as our pick.
Jamis Coda Sport
Still the smooth one
This steel-framed bike provides a vibration-dampening ride and some nice extras—brand-name tires and sturdy pedals. But the trade-off is less maneuverability and an uptick in price.
The Jamis Coda Sport is a very good option if you’re looking for the comfort of a steel frame (steel does a much better job than aluminum at dampening the vibrations caused by rough pavement) without the weight penalty that lower-priced steel frames often impose. That means you can still carry this bike up stairs and lift it onto bus- or car-mounted bike racks. The Coda Sport even comes with well-rated Vittoria Randonneur tires and steel-wrapped resin pedals. (This bike is also available in a step-through version, the Coda Sport Femme.) The main drawback with this model is maneuverability—it’s not quite as nimble as the other bikes we tested, which could be a function of its geometry (we’ll get into that in the How we picked and tested section).
Priority Continuum Onyx
For the neatnik DIYer
A belt-drive bike that has an easy-to-use internally geared rear hub means less maintenance and no grease on your work clothes. You have to assemble it yourself, though (or pay someone else to).
For commuters, belt-drive systems make a lot of sense: The belts don’t wear out as quickly as chains; they don’t need to be oiled, so there’s less bike grease in your life and on your clothes; and the internally geared rear hubs let you change gears when you’re standing still (like at a traffic light). The downside is cost: Reliable internally geared hubs are expensive, which in turn makes bikes with belt drives pricier than our other picks. The aluminum Priority Continuum Onyx is, however, a bargain for this category, especially considering that it comes with hydraulic disc brakes, the well-respected Gates Carbon Drive belt, and an Enviolo continuous gearing rear hub, plus upgrades such as internal gear cable routing and dynamo-charged front and rear lights. (This bike does not, however, come in a step-through version.)