Not all college students need the same kind of bike for college. Some students need a bike that can handle hills and rough terrain, while other students need something lightweight and nimble to navigate city streets. That’s why we created this quick buying guide. We’ve selected the best bikes for college students, categorized by campus type.
Note: If you don’t want to read the whole article, here are the bikes we will be reviewing (including the winners for each category):
How to Select a Good Bike for College
- Find a cheap college bike – Money can be an issue for college students (obvi) so we recommend looking for the most affordable bicycles possible. Bicycle theft is also a major issue on college campuses, so we advise against picking overly expensive or name brand bikes that might be a target for bike thieves.
- Pick an appropriate bike/frame type – Campuses across the world have widely different terrains, so we recommend selecting a bike style or frame type that makes sense for your campus and commute. For example, if your commute is on bumpy roads or uneven terrain, then it’s safe to assume a mountain bike or a hybrid bike is a much better choice than a road bike.
- Get something lightweight – College students often have to carry their bicycles up flights of stairs or pack them onto a city bus, so we recommend choosing the most lightweight bike you can find to make hauling your bike around campus as easy as possible.
- Go for quality – Find a bike that is built well! There are some cheap and rickety options out there, so we suggest doing your research, reading bicycle reviews online, and asking others about the quality and performance of their bikes. Trust us, it’s worth it.
- Find a style you LOVE – At the end of the day, we all want a bike that looks good and makes us happy. We recommend choosing a bicycle that communicates your style and makes you feel good without costing you a semester’s worth of tuition.
- Choose the right fit – While we won’t cover bike sizing in this article, this video covers some essential basics on how to find the right bike fit for you.
What to Avoid While Choosing a Bike for College
Avoid performance brands if you can
Riding a $3,000 Cannondale around campus is probably going to get you noticed for the wrong reasons. It’s best to go with a low-cost and low-profile bike when you can to avoid any stolen gear down the road.
Don’t worry about suspension
Especially on cheaper bikes, low-quality suspension systems are going to add a lot of weight to the bike without adding all that much comfort.
Don’t rush the decision
Even if you’re only spending a couple hundred dollars, buying a bike for college is a significant investment. Try not to make a decision you are going to regret later. Do your research!
Best Bikes for Flat College Campus
For flat campuses, we recommend finding bikes that are nimble and lightweight. Fixed-gear bicycles perform particularly well on flat campuses since there isn’t a major need to switch between gears to climb hills, although road bikes and hybrid bikes can work well, too.
The 6KU urban track bike is a good option for students who want a quick and peppy bike on campus without the aggressive style or higher price point of a road bike. It’s great for flat campuses since it doesn’t have any gears to fumble through, yet it’s still nimble and lightweight to get you moving quickly.
Instead of bullhorn-style handlebars like traditional fixed-gear bicycles (aka “fixie”), the riser-style handlebars on this bike give students a more relaxed riding posture. This can be useful if you have a longer riding commute or generally don’t like leaning too far forward on your bicycle.
The 6KU bike also offers riders the option to switch between a fixed-gear and free-wheel mode for some added flexibility and speed. Freewheel mode gives people who have never ridden a fixed-gear bicycle before the chance to learn how to ride one, which is pretty cool.
The bike frame is made out of quality aluminum that makes the bike super lightweight as we mentioned before, which means carrying it up and down stairwells or lifting it onto a city bus is very easy.
While there are a lot of good things about the bike, we were also disappointed in some of the finer details. The bike doesn’t have a kickstand, for example, which would be a convenient addition for college students. If you want a kickstand, you’ll have to buy one separately and install it yourself.
We were also not thrilled with the bike pedals because they are made with cheap plastic. To some that might not be an issue, but to others, they may find the pedals cumbersome and awkward.
- Cool, low-profile design
- Quality aluminum frame for the price point
- Lightweight (roughly 20lbs, give or take a few pounds depending on the size)
- Great color choices, offering both bright colors and a cool black-on-black look
- Tires are easy to take on and off
- Pedals feel like cheap plastic
- Brake pads could be improved
- No kickstand
All in all, the 6KU urban track bike really won over our hearts. It’s a lightweight, affordable bike with great style. What more do you need?
It’s a 21-speed bike, which means students have the option to kick it into high gear and race across campus if they’re late for class. Also, because it’s a road bike, you can take it on actual bike trips if you’re into that kind of thing as well.
It comes built with quality Shimano shifters and Shimano derailleur gears (the part that allows the chain to move from one sprocket to another), which is a pleasant surprise on a budget bike like this one. The bike frame is made of quality aluminum to keep its weight down (although we would have liked to see the bike to be even lighter than it currently is).
As far as looks go, this bike is definitely built to impress. It’s flashy colors and sporty design make it look like an expensive bike without the price tag. However, that can actually be a con for some because if you’re worried about blending in, this bike won’t necessarily do that.
Since it is a road bike, it might be a little too much bike for folks who just want an easy and comfortable way to get around campus. The riding position will have you leaning a lot more forward than you would on a more traditional commuter bike.
We also would caution potential buyers of this bike that it might be a more attractive target to thieves. On the bright side, the front tire on the Velano R2 has a quick-release feature, so you can easily lock the bike up and remove the front wheel to combat that.
- Quality Shimano gear comes stock on this bike
- Great for real bike trips in addition to a quick way to get around campus
- Quality aluminum frame
- Sleek, sporty style
- Comes with kickstand
- Quick release front wheel
- A little on the heavy side for a road bike
- Flashy style may make it more of a target for bike thieves
- Riding posture may be too aggressive for casual riders
If you want a bike you can zip to class to one day and take on a long distance biking trip the next, then the Velano R2 might be a good option for you.
Chalking another victory up for the fixies, the Retrospec Critical Cycles Fixed-gear Bike is an instant eye-catcher for the minimalist college student looking for a good campus bike. It’s simple (almost zen-like) style makes it an easy and attractive option to customize and make all your own.
In terms of comfort and ride style, this bike features bullhorn pursuit-style handlebars, which will give you a more aggressive riding position than a riser-style handlebar would. This makes zipping around campus that much more quick and fun.
For riders who want a more relaxed riding position, however, this handlebar style might be a little uncomfortable. They also do not come with a foam grip, so you will have to add some handlebar tape to them yourself.
Similar to the 6KU urban track bike, the Retrospec Critical Cycles bike can be switched between freewheel mode and fixed-gear mode. Advanced riders can keep the gear fixed if they choose and beginners can keep it in freewheel mode to make riding the bike easier.
We were disappointed with the quality of the brakes, but it’s also something to expect in a cheap college bicycle. The rims on this bike come painted, so when you brake hard it might scratch the paint. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not the worse thing in our opinion. As long as you are not riding up and down steep hills, the brakes should be fine.
Also similar to the 6KU bike, the pedals seem like pretty cheap plastic. Depending on your preferences, you might want to replace them with something a little smaller and more durable.
- Sleek and minimal design
- Solid frame for the value
- Nice and lightweight
- This bike feels like a true blank canvas for customization
- Some users report their rims getting scratched by the brakes
- Pedals could be upgraded
- Uncomfortable saddle
All around, the Retrospec is a super affordable, super stylish college bike virtually anyone will look good riding. Check out the link below for the full-color range.
Best Bikes for Hilly College Campus
For hilly campuses, college students should get a bike that makes climbing hills and braking on inclines as easy as possible. Bikes that feature gears and wider, more grippy tires (like a mountain bike or hybrid bike) will be your strongest options here. In our opinion, here are three of the best bikes for a hilly college campus.
It is a hybrid bike, which means it will have the convenience of a lightweight commuter bike with some of the capabilities of a mountain bike. For you, that means it will be a comfortable ride even on hills and uneven terrain.
It also features disc brakes, which is a major upgrade from caliper brakes found on most budget bikes. Disc brakes provide much more stopping power than a caliper brake, which will be especially helpful on steep declines or when it’s raining (or both).
To us, the Populo Fusion 2.0 still embodies the spirit of a fixed-gear bike with its minimalist and sleek design. It provides a nice and relaxed riding position to make long commutes comfortable. With 24 speeds available, you’ll have a comfortable commute no matter what the terrain looks like.
While we would like to see more color options on this bike, an all-black bike is also a classic that won’t go out of style. It has a matte finish and monochrome branding which looks pretty cool to us. It also just feels like a high-quality bike.
Assembly is also very easy with the Fusion 2.0, which is a big plus for a bike purchased online. Populo even provides a guide to assembling this bike in a short how-to video.
Our biggest concern with this bike is the saddle. It’s a very firm seat that can be quite uncomfortable. We recommend replacing it something that will be a little more forgiving, such as a gel-based seat.
- Disc brakes provide great stopping power
- Shimano shifters and derailleurs included
- Impressive build quality for the price
- Super sleek look, especially for a commuter bike
- Simple to assemble
- Based on reviews online, their customer service is stellar
- Limited color options
- On the pricey side for a college bike
- No kickstand
The Populo Fusion 2.0 is one of our favorite and most well-rounded bikes on the list. Whatever your commute looks like, this bike will get you where you need to go. Check the link below for price.
The Diverse 3.0 is a 24-speed hybrid bike and is one of the most affordable, highly-rated hybrid bikes we have seen to date. This bike comes standard with Shimano shifters and derailleurs, a quality aluminum alloy frame, and mechanical disc brakes for less cost than the Populo Fusion 2.0 listed above.
Because it’s so affordable, this bike is an automatic candidate to make our list of best bikes for college. It has the ability to handle virtually any terrain a hilly campus might provide without the high price point of a more premium performance bike. A similarly designed bike by Trek, for example, could easily cost twice as much and provide the same exact performance.
Another thing we appreciate about the Vilano Diverse 3.0 are the disc brakes. It’s rare to see disc brakes on a bike at this price point. Also mentioned in the review above, disc brakes are a must-have for hilly campuses and/or colleges that see a decent amount of wet weather.
One of the only downsides about this bike is the weight. When assembled, it weighs a little over 30 lbs which is just a little too high for us. A heavier bike is expected at this low price point, but please note it might be a little more cumbersome to haul around.
- Insane value for the price
- Disc brakes for improved stopping power
- Shimano shifters and derailleurs included
- Impressive ratings on Amazon
- A little on the heavy side
- No extra color options
Simply put: the Vilano Diverse 3.0 hybrid bike is an excellent option for students who need a performance bike without spending too much.
What we like most about this bike is its sheer personality. Often we’ll come across a good budget bike that looks painfully generic and uninspired. Not this bike, though. Riding the Schwinn Discover around will certainly earn you some positive attention while you’re on campus.
This bike also is chock full of little details that make it a joy to ride, too. Some of our favorites include the bike fenders (which are actually super practical in the rain), a rear bike rack to make carrying your bag or groceries much easier, and swept-back handlebars that give you a comfortable and practical riding position.
Just a quick note: if you don’t want the bike rack, it can be easily removed. If you do like the bike rack, however, please keep in mind it may be an easy accessory for thieves to steal.
The Discover comes with a large padded seat which makes the ride extra comfortable. If you have a longer commute to campus, this seat will be more comfortable than any of the other bikes on this list.
What we wish the bike had were some disc brakes to make riding in wet weather a little safer. If there are any steep hills or sharp turns on your commute, you may want to consider finding a bike that has disc brakes.
Last, because this bike is less focused on performance and more focused on comfort, this bike will not be the lightest option for you to purchase. If you don’t need to lift and/or carry your bike on your commute whatsoever, then this bike would still be a great option. However, if you do have to carry your bike, we would recommend going with the Populo Fusion 2.0.
- Classic/retro style looks great and makes it fun to ride
- Features bike fenders to keep dirt and water from splashing up on your clothes
- Bike rack to carry your book bag or groceries
- Large, comfortable saddle to make long rides or bumpy commutes easier
- Quick-release front wheel
- Comes with a kickstand
- We would like to see disc brakes on this bike
- More vibrant or retro-inspired color options would be nice
- Some users have complained of parts issues
The Schwinn Discover is one of our favorite bikes on this list. It has a timeless style, it’s affordable, and it performs well… What more could you ask for in a bike?
Best Bikes for Urban College Campus
Students on urban campuses need a lightweight, nimble bike to make commuting on city streets as easy as possible. We suggest buying a folding bike so you can easily haul it around town, especially if riding buses or subways are part of your commute. A folding bike also lets you avoid leaving your bike exposed to thieves or damaging weather conditions such as rain or snow out on the street.
The EuroMini ZiZZO Campo folding bike is an affordable, lightweight folding bike completely suited for urban campus commuting. It’s seven available gears allows you to handle city streets on any incline or decline with ease.
As a folding bike, it is also very simple to fold up and carry around if you ever needed to pack it onto public transportation, into an elevator, a lecture hall, or any other crowded place. At about 28 lbs, it is nice and lightweight to carry around when necessary.
(Note: If you want something light, EuroMini has an even lighter folding bike model called the Urbano, which only weighs a breezy 24lbs. You can see the EuroMini Urbano on Amazon here.)
The bike rides solid and will not feel like it will fold up on you. Though road conditions can affect this (therefore take our word with a grain of salt), the ZiZZO Campo delivers a consistently smoother ride than other budget folding bicycles.
The style is pretty muted, but if you can’t already tell by reading this article, we are big fans of a more minimal style. This bike delivers exactly that. The double stripe with the ZiZZO logo is all the detailing we need.
As with all folding bikes, college students who buy the ZiZZO Campo are going to have to compromise on speed a little bit. Although it is nimble, this bike is not designed for riding fast or for long distances (nor are any of the folding bikes on this list). If you have a hilly urban commute or if you cross a variety of terrain other than pavement, you may want to look into purchasing a different bicycle for your campus.
One of the other downsides of this bike was the hard bike seat. If you are only riding a few blocks it should be OK, we would recommend upgrading it to something softer. There have also been reports of the seat post adjusting on its own, so that may be something to look out for.
- Fairly lightweight
- Very compact when folded
- Shimano shifter and derailleur
- Quick and easy to fold up and break down
- Magnetic locking mechanism
- Extremely good value for the price
- Some users have reported folding/latch issues
- Hard and uncomfortable seat
- Seat post may slip a little
The EuroMini ZiZZO Campo is one of the most affordable folding bikes available, so naturally we think it’s a good fit for cost-conscious college students who live in an urban environment.
Not all urban college campuses are created equal. Some are flat and easy; others are riddled with potholes, hills, sticks, and all kinds of crazy stuff. If your campus has its fair share of problems, you might want to consider the Columba SP26S folding bike.
The SP26S has 18 speeds, which gives college students on urban campuses great power and control to handle any obstacle on their commute. Even street obstacles like sewer grates or uneven sidewalks can make commuting on a folding bike difficult, but the SP26S can easily and safely handle these everyday challenges.
The Columba SP26S is a full-size folding bike, which is quite unique. The full-size also gives it a number of practical benefits. Because it has larger tires and a much longer wheelbase than traditional folding bikes, the SP26S will provide a smoother and more sturdy ride in the city.
In terms of cons, one of the biggest downsides is the bike’s appearance. It just looks cheap and less refined than other bikes. The company website is also emblazoned on the side of the bike, which is really tacky.
Another thing we wish we could change about the bike is the weight. Because it is a full size bike, it weighs in on the heavier side (approximately 35lbs). Carrying it up and down stairs or onto public transportation might be a little more challenging than smaller urban folding bicycles.
When folded, it will naturally be a lot bulkier than smaller bikes. Fitting it into smaller spaces may require you to take off the handlebars. If that’s the case, the SP26S comes with a quick release feature that lets you do this easily.
- 18 speeds
- Full-size tires and long wheelbase
- Very sturdy for a folding bicycle
- Shimano shifter and derailleur
- Bell included
- Most adjustments can be made without tools
- Ugly design
- Quite heavy at 35lbs
- Still quite large and bulky while folded up
In short, the Columba SP26S will be your best bet if you have a longer urban commute or if the city you go to school in has its fair share of inclines/declines and uneven surfaces. This bike can handle just about everything.
The Loop features just about everything one would expect from a folding bicycle with a few added extras to give it just a little more bang for your buck.
For example, this bike comes with a bike rack built right into the frame to make carrying your books or groceries much easier. It also comes with fenders to keep your clothes dry if you ride in the rain.
The book also looks pretty good for a folding bike in this price range. It’s not the flashiest bike in the world, but it provides a retro feel that reminds us of the Schwinn Discover hybrid bike we reviewed earlier.
The Loop rides quite nicely, too, which is a plus. It won’t be able to handle rough terrain or big potholes by any means, but it certainly feels sturdy when you’re riding it. If you have a reasonable city commute without any significant inclines or declines, this bike should be more than enough.
On the downside, the bike is on the heavy side for us. It weighs approximately 33lbs, which is quite high for a folding bike of this size. The bike also does not have a mechanism to lock the bike in a folded position, so please keep that in mind if you need to carry this bike around.
We also have heard some reports of users having trouble shifting into high gear. Although regular bike maintenance is an absolute must for owning any bike, you may want to get this bike tuned up before you ride it for the first time.
- Rear bike rack built in
- Front and rear fenders included
- Comes with storage bag
- Decent style
- Feels sturdy and rides smooth
- Heavy for a small folding bike
- Some users report shifting issues
- No mechanism to keep bike folded
What more can we say? The Schwinn Loop is a practical and stylish option for urban college students who can’t afford to break the bank. It’s certainly worth a look!
Conclusion: Best Bikes for College
Since college students across the US (and world) have wildly different needs from one another, we wanted to pick the top college bikes we thought college students would love (and could afford).
Here are our #1 picks in each category.
Best College Bike for Flat Campus: Retrospec Critical Cycles Fixed-gear Bike
This Retrospec bike radiates an edgy energy at an incredibly low price point. It’s fashionable, it’s lightweight, and it rides extremely well. If your school is on a flat campus and you want a great looking bike, the Retrospec Critical Cycles bike is a good place to start looking.
Best College Bike for Hilly Campus: Populo Fusion 2.0 Hybrid Bike
Right from the get-go, we knew the Populo Fusion 2.0 was our standout choice. This bike is one of the most versatile bikes we have seen in this price range, and not to mention one of the best looking. If long distances, inclines and declines, or rough campus terrain are a regular part of your commute, we urge you to check the Populo Fusion 2.0 out.
Best College Bike for Urban Campus: EuroMini ZiZZO Campo Folding Bike
We chose the EuroMini ZiZZO Campo folding bike because it was so affordable, lightweight, and just plain stylish. It is hands down the most practical bike of the bunch. Students living in the city need something affordable, easy to ride, and compact… the Campo does exactly that better than the rest.