The Best Fitness Bikes of 2023: Staff Picks

Explore city streets, gravel paths and everything in between with our staff and members’ favorites.

Lily Krass|Published July 28, 2022

10 reviews with an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars
Two people riding bikes along in an urban neighborhood

Whether you live in a city or the suburbs, a bike opens a world of possibility. Affordable and durable, fitness bikes (sometimes called hybrid bikes) are ideal for recreational rides on paved paths; they typically have flat handlebars and are generally lightweight compared to a bike set up for, say, mountain biking. While most fitness bikes don’t boast the same specialized features as their road bike and gravel bike counterparts, they do offer a comfortable way for riders of all levels to explore street riding and gravel paths, too.

Whether you’re spinning around the neighborhood, commuting, cruising on rail trails or looking to get some exercise, here are our staff's favorite fitness bikes available at REI.


Staff Picks

Find quick recommendations below or scroll down for in-depth reviews: 

Other versions: Electra Cruiser 1 Step-Through Bike 

A cruiser bike is like a vacation on wheels: Its geometry puts you in an upright, balanced position that offers a relaxed ride, and its simplified drivetrain is made for jaunts around a flat, paved neighborhood or boardwalk. The Electra Cruiser 1 delivers on these fronts, and more. “The Cruiser 1 brings the kid back in all of us,” says Kevin Lau, an avid cyclist and retail specialist at the REI store in Marlton, New Jersey. “It’s a great ‘around town’ bike, riding the boardwalk down the shore or ice cream runs in the summer.”

The Cruiser 1 has a steel frame that combines a classic look with durability that will last for summers to come, and the single-speed drivetrain keeps maintenance to a minimum (although you may want to steer clear of hilly streets). The beauty of the Cruiser 1 is that you don’t need fancy cycling clothes to fly down the street—its platform pedals are fair game for flip-flops or sneakers, and the wide, ergonomic saddle accommodates khakis, jeans or a sundress and swimsuit. Swept-back mustache handlebars top off the laid-back vibe with rear coaster brakes that are easy to use when you want to roll to a stop. Buy here.

There are plenty of reasons to bike commute: Ditching your car for a bike offers exercise, reduces your carbon footprint and lets you feel the wind on your face. Still, biking to work requires an investment: You need a quick and agile ride can stand up to unpredictable city terrain. Meet the Cannondale Bad Boy 3. Our staff loves getting around the city on the Bad Boy 3, thanks to its Lefty LightPipe fork and 650b wheels, which allow you to run wider tires than a 700c wheelset—perfect for potholes and bumpy pavement. “I love the uniqueness of the single fork, which draws a lot of stares or comments,” says one Phoenix customer reviewer of Cannondale’s signature Lefty fork, which has only has one fork blade on the left side. 

A 16-speed Shimano drivetrain makes a hilly route home a little easier with reliable shifting and hydraulic disc brakes that stop on a dime when green turns to yellow. Tackle a mix of gravel and pavement with the WTB Byway tires. A slick centerline helps increase pedaling efficiency and angular grooves and side knobs lend stability on short, unpaved sections of the bike path. Buy here.


A step-through bike makes for smoother transitions on and off your ride—a major perk if you routinely bike to the store or work or if you like to tool around town with kids. With its low crossbar, the Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 Step-Through is our pick for easy mounts and dismounts. The CTY 1.1 is compatible with cargo racks and fenders, and customers love how the flat handlebars encourage an upright riding position. Also important: A Shimano 3 x 8 drivetrain offers the gearing you need to cruise up hills.

“There’s just enough plush and traction to handle rough urban roads without sacrificing speed,” Johanna St. Pierre, an action sports sales lead at the Denver location of REI, says of the 700 x 40c puncture-resistant tires, which provide versatility for riding throughout the seasons. Planning to throw your bike on a rack or finagle it into your apartment? The CTY 1.1 has a solid yet lightweight aluminum frame that’s easy to transport. And, if you prefer a more standard top tube, the CTY 1.1 also comes in a step-over versionBuy here.


Other versions:  Cannondale Quick CX 4 Women's Bike

The beauty of a fitness bike is that it can tackle pavement and trails. If you know you’ll be encountering mixed surfaces, take a gander at the Cannondale Quick CX 4, a lighter-weight aluminum bike with cushy features that make it a primo pick for around-town and mixed-surface riding. The Quick CX 4’s Shimano 7-speed drivetrain offers easy shifting and its Suntour 63 mm fork absorbs impact from dirt and rocks on gravel paths and rail trails. That front suspension makes for a gentler ride on uneven ground (note that there’s no lockout feature), and it’s perfect for someone who wants a bike to ride for fitness or fun and doesn’t mind venturing onto gravel paths or dusty roads.

Our staff raves about its features: internally routed cables to keep lines simple and maintenance lower, mechanical disc brakes and slightly knobby 40 mm tires that let you transition seamlessly between dirt and pavement. Buy here.


Riders come in a variety of shapes and sizes—so should bikes. That’s the thinking behind the Zize Bikes A New Leaf XG, a comfortable, capable ride that’s factory-tested to support riders up to 550 pounds. High-strength components and a relaxed, upright geometry make the New Leaf XG a top pick for exploring rail trails and riding downtown. “The Zize is specifically designed to be able to support heavier riders and the upright riding position helps keep the rider comfortable and stable while being able to ride on a variety of terrain,” says Lau, the REI retail specialist. Made from aircraft-grade chromoly steel, the New Leaf XG is built to last, with a wide, shock-absorbing seat that adds comfort to the ride. REI began carrying a line of Zize Bikes this year to help fill a gap in the industry. One downside, though, is the pricepoint. It's the most expensive in our lineup.

With the support of the reliable 9-speed Shimano Altus drivetrain and high-strength cranks, riders can pedal moderate hills with confidence on the New Leaf XG Stopping is also easy, courtesy of the Clark M2F hydraulic disc brakes. Finally, the double-walled rims, wide tires, and 36-spoke design made nosing around potholes and alternating between surfaces a cinch. Buy here.


Shop All Hybrid Bikes 


Fitness Bikes Buying Advice 

When buying a bike, prioritize a frame size that matches your height. In addition to size, there are a few additional factors to consider when choosing a fitness bike. They include terrain, rider experience, comfort and cargo. Read more factors to consider when buying a bike in our article How to Choose a Bike.



The biggest factor to consider when shopping for a fitness bike is where you plan to ride. Will you be navigating paved paths or uneven trails and city streets? If you plan to consistently ride off-road, consider a bike with front suspension like the Cannondale Quick CX 4. These bikes can cost more than fully rigid bikes, but they also offer more comfort on gravel and semi-paved roads. Compared to aluminum, a steel-frame bike (like the Electra Cruiser 1) will help absorb vibrations.

Also important: How hilly is the area where you plan to ride? The more hills, the more gearing you’ll require. A bike like the Electra Cruiser 1 is great for flat boardwalks and city parks, but its 7-speed drivetrain will make it a challenge to ride up steep hills. The Co-op CTY 1.1 Step-Through has a 3 x 8 (24-speed) drivetrain, which offers more versatility on the ups and downs, as well as greater efficiency in getting from point A to point B.


Rider Experience and Comfort

Fitness bikes are some of the most approachable bikes out there, regardless of your experience. But here are some details to keep in mind if you’re looking for a comfortable, supportive ride.

Step-Through Option

If you’re a newer cyclist, you may enjoy the ease of mounting and dismounting a step-through bike, which has a low top tube that allows you to step through the frame instead of lifting your leg up and over the back wheel. This feature can also be helpful if you plan to wear street clothes that aren’t quite as easy to move in as bike apparel. 

Handlebar Height and Shape

Consider the handlebar shape, and its height in relation to your seat. The further your handlebars are above your seat, the more upright and natural your pedaling position will be. An upright riding position can feel more comfortable for new riders. That said, a higher seat will be more aerodynamic and offer you more leverage for pedaling harder up hills.


Do you plan to use your bike to run errands? If so, you’ll want to look for bikes with rack compatibility so you can add cargo racks and panniers (sold separately) to haul your necessities. (Read more on How to Choose Bike Racks and Bags). Panniers are easy to take on and off if you plan to use your bike for commuting and recreating. They’re also a great way to ditch the car throughout your daily routine. If you’ll use your bike primarily for commuting or running errands, consider adding fenders to prevent mud and rain from dirtying your street clothes.