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Best Bikes for College Students to Ride Around the Campus

By Jordan Grimes   /  Last updated - April 3, 2024   /  Best-Of-Reviews, Commuter Bikes, Guide
college student riding a wing bike

Image source: Wingbikes.com

Bicycles offer a fast and efficient solution to get around in urban environments, whether commuting to and from college, running errands, or visiting friends in the evening. 

If you’re attending college, you likely live on or within cycling distance of the campus. Using a bike instead of walking or driving can save time finding parking and waiting in frustrating city traffic. In addition, you save money on gas, upkeep, and parking fees, as well as keep fit and healthy. 

The best bikes for college students should be affordable, durable, comfortable, and versatile. This article includes a short guide on choosing the best bike for a college student and our pick of ten bicycles with different characteristics to suit a range of students. 

What to Look for in Best Bikes for College Students

What Gearing and Brakes Do You Need?

The best bikes for college students will have enough gearing for handling the range of gradients you would find in an urban environment. However, it’s preferable to have a low-maintenance setup like a 1x drivetrain that keeps things simple for inexperienced riders. A belt drive is also a good choice for those who want to minimize maintenance requirements.

The best gearing would be a wide-cassette, single-chainring drivetrain, like the Public C9’s 9-speed or the internal gearing of the Priority Classic Plus. Alternatively, a single-speed/fixie bike would be great in an area without hills. 

belt drivetrain on the Priority Classic Plus bike for college students

A belt-powered drivetrain on the Priority Classic Plus.

The best bikes for college students are typically cheaper, so you won’t always find disc brakes. However, choosing one with disc brakes (mechanical or hydraulic) is ideal, when possible.

This is because disc brakes provide the best stopping power in all conditions and are easier and cheaper to maintain, all of which are important factors for students.  

What Accessories Should You Look For?

Cheaper bikes rarely come fully equipped with accessories, as shown in the list below. However, it’s essential that the bike you choose has mounts for a rack, fenders, and bottle cages at a minimum, so you can add those components if you need them. Some other valuable accessories to look out for include bright bike lights and a kickstand.

Higher-priced bikes may already have accessories. For example, the Brompton C Line Explore has pre-installed fenders and a front mount for easy-install accessories.

What Frame Materials Are Best?

The frame materials you’ll find on cheap bikes for college students are aluminum and steel. Each material has pros and cons, but aluminum is generally favorable for this type of bike.

Aluminum is lighter, more responsive, and pretty durable, making it a faster and more efficient ride. On the other hand, steel is more durable, easier to repair, and more comfortable to ride, but it is significantly heavier than aluminum. 

Take Bike Safety Seriously

man riding a wing bike for college students

Wing bikes are leaders in bicycle safety with their anti-theft tamper detection & alarm systems.

As soon as you buy a bike, make sure to also invest in a bike lock to keep your bike safe from thieves. Read our guide to the best bike locks to choose a reliable model and learn how to lock your bike the best way.

In addition to keeping your bike safe, you should keep yourself safe as well. Practicing good bike safety habits when you’re riding is essential.

As a young rider, it’s common to misread traffic situations, resulting in unpredictable riding patterns for other road users. 

When cycling in urban environments, ride defensively, give plenty of space to other road users, be predictable, use signaling, and always utilize lighting and reflective clothing in periods of low light. 

1. Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1

Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1

  • MSRP: $600
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: 3×8-speed
  • Highlights: Tires with reflective sidewalls, one year of free adjustments from REI

Reasons to buy:

  • Lightweight
  • Puncture-resistant tires
  • Rack and fender compatibility
  • Powerful disc brakes

Reasons to avoid:

  • Paint chips easily
  • Handlebars are too wide for some

The Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 is among the best hybrid bikes for college students who like a streamlined option without sacrificing the ability to add extra accessories. 

This aluminum-framed hybrid has mounts for a rack and fenders and Tektro M300 mechanical disc brakes for all-weather stopping. 

The drivetrain blends Shimano Altus and Tourney derailleurs with an 8-speed cassette, Altus trigger shifters, and a triple chainset. You won’t lack gears when riding the CTY 1.1, but the extra components add more to its maintenance needs. 

The wheelset comprises a set of double-wall aluminum 700c rims wrapped in 40 mm tires. An excellent addition is the K-Shield puncture protection which significantly reduces the chance of a flat. 

Overall, this is a solid choice with reliable components, an enjoyable ride quality, and one year of free adjustments from REI. 

Buy from REI

2. Huffy Terrace 

  • MSRP: $430
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: 8-speed
  • Highlights: Swept-back handlebars, durable and comfortable frame

Reasons to buy:

  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Comfortable mixed-terrain tires
  • Simple and reliable drivetrain
  • Great accessories

Reasons to avoid:

  • Low rear rack load weight (10 lb)
  • Not very fast

The Huffy Terrace is the best bike for college students who want a do-it-all companion, perfect for exploring bike paths and commuting around the campus. 

The Terrace shows off some of Huffy Bikes’ comfort bike expertise. It has an 8-speed rear derailleur with a wide-range cassette for easier climbing, wide 27.5″ wheels and tires, and powerful mechanical disc brakes

Its aluminum frame offers a plush, shock-absorbent ride quality with unbeatable durability. In addition, the step-through design makes it easier to mount and dismount. On top of that, the Terrace is ready for year-round commuting right out of the box, as it comes with fenders, a rear rack, and a kickstand.

To sum up, the Huffy Terrace is easily among the most versatile and durable models you’ll find in the sub-$500 range. Choose it if this is what you’re looking for from your bike for college. 

Buy from Huffy Bikes

3. Tommaso Imola

tommaso imola road bike

  • MSRP: $975
  • Frame: Aluminum 
  • Gears: 3×8-speed
  • Highlights: Light, fast, and efficient

Reasons to buy:

  • Fast
  • Lightweight (around 24lbs)
  • Comfortable geometry

Reasons to avoid:

  • Rim brakes
  • Tires susceptible to punctures

The Tommaso Imola is an entry-level road bike and the best bike for college students who need to cover long distances quickly. 

Tommaso uses a lightweight and responsive aluminum frame and shock-absorbent steel fork with relaxed endurance geometry, providing a more comfortable ride than a traditional road bike.

The groupset is a full Shimano Claris setup, including a 3×8-speed drivetrain and a set of Claris caliper brakes. This setup is reliable and cheap to replace. However, the brakes lack power in wet conditions, and the triple chainset adds additional maintenance requirements.

Finally, own-brand 700c rims and Kenda 25mm tires make up the wheelset and will quickly get you from A to B. 

Add the Tommaso Imola road bike to your shortlist if you want a fast and affordable option for longer commutes and fun weekend rides. 

Buy from Tommaso

4. Ride1UP Roadster v2

ride1up roadster v2 ebike

  • MSRP: $1,095
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: Single-speed
  • Highlights: Inconspicuous motor and battery, modern design, fast

Reasons to buy:

  • Lightweight e-bike
  • Stylish and looks like a regular bike
  • 30-mile max range
  • Long-lasting belt drive

Reasons to avoid:

  • The display isn’t great
  • Rim brakes lack power

The Ride1UP Roadster v2 is a low-cost electric bike with a stealthy design that disguises the motor and battery.

This bike comes with a punchy 350W motor with 40Nm of torque and a small 252Wh battery that returns up to 30 miles of range, plenty for a couple of days of urban riding. 

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Ride1UP chose typical fixie geometry, 28mm Kenda Kwest tires on 700c rims, and a lightweight Toptrans belt drive drivetrain. This geometry, wheelset, and light build (33lbs) make for a fast and agile experience navigating the city streets. 

Although you have five levels of pedal assistance to choose from, if your battery does run out, the Roadster v2 still rides like a regular bike, thanks to the low weight. 

All things considered, if you want a simple and affordable electric bike for city riding, you won’t find much better than the Ride1UP Roadster v2. 

Buy from Ride1UP

5. State Bicycle Co. x Wu-Tang Clan (Core-Line)

State Bicycle Co Core Line

  • MSRP: $450
  • Frame: Steel
  • Gears: Single-speed
  • Highlights: Flip-flop hub, unique design

Reasons to buy:

  • Durable steel frame
  • Low-maintenance drivetrain
  • Rack and fender mounts
  • Lightweight for a steel bike (around 24.5lbs)

Reasons to avoid:

  • Limited gearing
  • Weak rim brakes

The State Bicycle Co. Core-Line Wu-Tang Clan model is a unique bike with a head-turning design and the best budget bike for college students.

The single-speed drivetrain on the Core-Line is ideal for riders who want a low-maintenance bike to zip around a city without many hills.

With a steel frame, this bike is comfortable to ride and durable. In addition, 700c aluminum wheels and 25mm Kenda tires hold speed well and allow you to quickly get around the city or campus.

Upon purchase, you can customize the Core-Line with components such as drop bars, a range of pedals, lights, and bottle cages. State Bicycle Co. also included a flip-flop hub that allows you to switch between fixed-gear or single-speed riding quickly.

Consider the Wu-Tang Clan Core-Line if you want a cheap yet durable and stylish bike for getting around campus.

Buy from State Bicycle Co.

6. Brompton C-Line Explore

brompton c line explore

  • MSRP: $1,750
  • Frame: Steel (hand-brazed)
  • Gears: 6-speed
  • Highlights: Fenders, pump, unique folding design

Reasons to buy:

  • High-quality handmade steel frame
  • Front mounting adapter for accessories
  • Pre-installed fenders
  • Premium folding mechanism
  • Puncture-resistant tires

Reasons to avoid:

  • Expensive
  • Small-diameter wheels are slow

Brompton is a leading manufacturer of folding bikes and one of the only large brands that still makes its frames by hand.

The Brompton C Line Explore is one of the brand’s more affordable options and one of the best folding bikes for college students who value durability, convenience, and style. 

The C Line Explore has a 6-speed drivetrain that consists of a 3-speed internally geared hub and two external cogs. This setup has a 300% gearing range which is plenty for tackling the hills in and around the city. 

For a full steel frameset, the C Line Explore is relatively light (27lbs). In addition, it comes with durable puncture-resistant 1.35″ Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires on 16″ wheels, fenders with rubberized flaps, and an accessory mount on the front. 

The folding mechanism on Brompton bikes is second to none. It folds down in seconds and stays sturdy when folded so that you can transport or store it without worry. 

Add the Brompton C Line Explore to your shortlist if you’ve got a bigger budget and want unbeatable convenience from a reliable and time-tested manufacturer. 

Buy from Brompton.com     Buy from REI

7. Public Bikes C9 Aluminum

PUBLIC C9 bike

  • MSRP: $600
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: 9-speed
  • Highlights: Comfy upright geometry, easy-to-mount step-through frame

Reasons to buy:

  • Comfort-optimized
  • Plenty of gearing
  • Puncture-resistant tires
  • Lots of mounts

Reasons to avoid:

  • Rim brakes

The Public C9 Aluminum is another stylish city cruiser and one of the best bikes for female college students. 

Public Bikes chose a low-step frame design for the C9 and paired this with upright geometry, swept-back handlebars, a steel fork, and comfortable touchpoints. All of these characteristics combine for a smooth and enjoyable ride. 

The lightweight aluminum frame is compatible with a range of accessories, including a rack, front baskets, a kickstand, and fenders, should you want to make your commute to college more convenient. 

A Shimano Altus 9-speed drivetrain provides plenty of gearing and is easier to maintain than one with a front derailleur. In addition, it keeps the weight down to just under 25lbs. 

The one issue with this bike is the weak rim brakes which don’t perform well in the rain. However, this is still an excellent deal at just $600 and is a solid choice for a college student who wants comfort and versatility on a budget. 

Buy from Public Bikes

8. Velotric T1

velotric t1 ebike

  • MSRP: $1,799
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: 8-speed
  • Highlights: Bright headlight, sleek minimalistic design

Reasons to buy:

  • Road-friendly 700x38c tires
  • Mounts for additional accessories
  • Lightweight for an e-bike
  • Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Theft alert and GPS tracking

Reasons to avoid:

  • High stepover clearance

The Velotric T1 is one of the best electric bikes for college students because it’s affordable, sleek, and highly functional.

One of the standout characteristics of this Velotric bike is the extra security features. This includes fingerprint unlocking of the bike, automatic rider recognition, theft alert and GPS tracking. Therefore, even if your bike gets stolen on the college campus, you’ll find it and retrieve it easily.

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The Velotric T1 is a versatile and agile city bike that makes it easy to zip around the city or college campus. The 350W rear hub motor provides plenty of power to save your legs when you’re tired and pairs with a 350 Wh battery that returns a whopping 70 miles of range. 

The drivetrain comprises a Shimano 8-speed rear derailleur and powerful hydraulic disc brakes. You also get road-friendly and fast 700C x 38 mm puncture-resistant tires that provide plenty of traction but do not sacrifice speed and range efficiency. 

Overall, this is a solid choice for college students who want a stylish e-bike with all the bells and whistles to turn heads on campus. 

Buy from Velotric Bikes

9. Electra Townie 7D Step-Through

electra townie 7d step-through

  • MSRP: $630
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: 7-speed
  • Highlights: Flat Foot design, comfy saddle

Reasons to buy:

  • Ultra-comfortable
  • Puncture-resistant tires
  • Plenty of mounts
  • Put a foot down while sitting

Reasons to avoid:

  • Heavy (34.5lbs)
  • Twist shifters

The Electra Townie 7D Step-Thru is the best bike for a college student who wants pure comfort. 

Electra bikes are well-known for their relaxed, smooth ride feel and the patented Flat Foot design. This design allows riders to sit on the saddle and put both feet flat on the ground while retaining a natural pedaling position. 

The other features contributing to this bike’s cruiser personality are the upright, relaxed ride position, swept-back mustache handlebars, suspension saddle, and 2″ shock-absorbent Bontrager tires. 

The Electra Townie 7D’s groupset includes a simple 7-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain with plenty of gearing for urban riding and linear-pull caliper brakes. Unfortunately, this bike is quite heavy, which makes it best for flat-terrain rides. 

Choose the Electra Townie 7D if you want a cheap comfort bike for cruising around campus and taking on relaxed weekend rides. 

Buy from REI

10. Priority Classic Plus

Priority Classic Plus college bike

  • MSRP: $599
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Gears: Shimano Nexus 3-Speed freewheel
  • Highlights: Comfort geometry, attractive design

Reasons to buy:

  • Internal gearing
  • Lightweight design
  • Relaxed ride position
  • Attractive brown tires

Reasons to avoid:

  • No accessories
  • Rim brakes

The Priority Classic Plus is a comfort-focused hybrid with a reasonable price tag and well-rounded versatility. 

A step-through frame, wide brown tires, upright geometry, supportive touchpoints, and gel seat give this bike a smooth and relaxed ride quality.

The drivetrain includes a Shimano Nexus 3-Speed freewheel with integrated gearing and provides enough gearing for riding around the campus. This bike also features a belt drive which greatly reduces maintenance and prolongs the lifespan of the entire drivetrain.

For stopping, you have linear-pull v-brakes. These are expected at this price range and offer decent stopping power in dry conditions, but mechanical disc brakes would have been a much better choice. 

Unfortunately, the Priority Classic Plus doesn’t come with any accessories (except for a kickstand), so you’ll need to retrofit fenders and a rear rack if you want to ride in the rain or carry something on the back.

All things considered, this is a decent hybrid bike for college students who don’t want to do maintenance and are looking to minimize upkeep costs. 

Buy from PriorityBicycles.com

About the Author

Jordan Grimes

Jordan Grimes is an avid cyclist who loves to travel and has found his bike to be perfect company on road trips in the USA, through national parks, and in countries such as Canada, Ireland, and Spain.
His passion for travel and work in the tourism and hospitality sector has allowed him to live in incredible places like Ireland, Canada, the USA, and the Cayman Islands. He has since relocated to southern Spain, where he works as a freelance writer, practicing Spanish and cycling in the famous Sierra Nevada mountains. He specializes in writing cycling blog articles, health and performance-related topics, and other informative pieces. You can contact him on Linkedin.

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