Bikes

What is a Comfort Bike? Meaning & Purpose Explained

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The Short Answer

Comfort bikes prioritise rider comfort and feature an upright, relaxed riding position, wide saddles, suspension forks, and wide tires. They are ideal for short rides, leisurely cycling, or for those who want a comfortable commuting experience. It’s suitable for exercise and commuting but may lack versatility and tend to be heavier.

Bicycles come in many shapes and sizes, and for good reasons. A featherweight, carbon-framed wonder is no good for riding to the shops for a pint of milk and some bread. Similarly, a commuter-orientated bike won’t be the best choice for riding some local off-road trails.

‘Comfort’ is a relatively new term in the cycling sphere and one some use to classify this type of bike.



Searching the internet for a comfort bike might make you think other bikes are uncomfortable. Whilst that’s not strictly true, comfort bikes prioritise how riders feel when riding. Comfort is key. So much so in fact, that other bicycle attributes like speed, utility or versatility may fall by the wayside. 

This Discerning Cyclist guide aims to explain the concept of comfort bikes and much more besides. In this piece, we discuss the type of rides comfort bikes are suited to, their pros and cons and how some hybrid bikes are classified as ‘comfortable’.

What is a Comfort Bike?

Comfort bikes are bicycles that, above all else, prioritise rider comfort. The key identifying feature of all comfort bikes is an upright, relaxed riding position. This feature means those who don’t ride their bike frequently or those who ride short distances will find their bike pleasurable to ride.

When riding a comfort bike your back should be straight, your head up and the handlebars easily within reach. Predominately this is achieved through the design of the bike’s frame, with the various tube lengths and angles concocted into something that keeps the rider pedalling no matter how long it’s been since they were last in the saddle.

Other features of a comfort bike will vary from brand to brand and model to model. That said, there are several other distinguishing features which can be found on all comfort bikes. 

First, it’s a saddle that promotes that upright, relaxed riding position we mentioned a few sentences ago. On most comfort bikes, this means a wide, padded saddle, but be careful a large, spongy saddle might not necessarily be the most comfortable perch for riding a bike.

SOUrCE: Pexels.com

Factors such as the width of your seat bones and your physiology are truer gauges when it comes to finding the right saddle for you. 

The second key feature of a comfort bike is a suspension fork. A suspension fork eases out the bumps and rattles you feel through the handlebars when riding along. From a rutted tarmac road to a light bumpy off-road section through a park, even small vibrations can cause discomfort when cycling. 

Wide bicycle tyres are a third feature commonly found on most comfort bikes. Like a suspension fork, wide tyres add another element of comfort to the rider. Tyres are the only component of a bicycle in contact with the ground, but you’d be surprised how much difference they can make.

The key thing here is that wider tyres can run at lower pressures, which is a complicated way of saying they can have less air in them and absorb the bumps as they go.

The fourth and final feature of a comfort bike is a wide range set of gears. Having the right gear available to keep your pedalling cadence smooth is another prerequisite for enjoying a hassle-free bike ride. Comfort bikes, therefore, have a range of gears to suit most terrains. The best comfort bike won’t leave the rider grinding away like they’re pedalling through treacle.

Comfort Bike vs Hybrid Bike

The four features we mentioned above: upright riding position, comfortable saddle, suspension fork and wide tyres are, funnily enough, features that you’ll find on many bikes listed as hybrids, or hybrid bikes. But, are they the same?

Is a Comfort Bike the Same as a Hybrid Bike?

Hybrid bikes combine the speed and efficiency of a road bike with the ruggedness of a mountain bike and the practicality of a commuter bike. Today’s choice of hybrid bikes is vast and throw electric hybrid bikes into the mix and the variety is ginormous.

Some will look more like a road bike. They’ll offer a fast riding position, nimble handling, gearing designed to cycle at a decent lick and narrower, more efficient tyres. This kind of hybrid bike would be good for commuting.

Other hybrid bikes will be designed to act more like mountain bikes, with wide handlebars and a lower gearing ratio. These bikes will better be tackling some light off-roading or unpaved surfaces – a towpath or rural cycle way perhaps.

Sitting somewhere in the middle of this sliding scale of hybrid bikes is a comfort bike. Just keep in mind that whilst your ideal comfort bike may well be a hybrid bike, it should still have those four key features intact: comfortable riding position, suspension fork, wide saddle and gearing.

SOURCE: Unsplash.com

Comfort Bike vs Cruiser Bike

All that discussion of hybrid bikes and comfort bikes wouldn’t be complete without throwing another bike type into the mix: a cruiser bike. Again, comfort bikes share many similar traits with today’s cruiser bikes. 

Cruiser bikes, like comfort bikes, have comfort at their heart. A straight-backed riding position and wide tyres make them comfortable to promenade along your local seafront. But unlike, comfort bikes, cruiser bikes tend to have very simple gearing and their extra wide tyres mean they’re not suited to anything other than the flattest of rides.

Cruiser bikes look very different to the average comfort bike too. They’re easily distinguishable thanks to their flourishing design. A cruiser bike’s frame usually involves a curve or two. The top tube (the one that runs from below the handlebars to below the saddle) is almost always curved. 

SIMILARITIESDIFFERENCES
Comfortable to rideGearing
Tyres
Overall design
Suspension fork

Comfort Bike vs Regular Bike

This is all very well, but can’t I just buy a regular bike? Perhaps just a bog-standard hybrid bike? That’s a good question, people of the internet, but in this section, we’re going to look at how the key features of a comfort bike play out in the real world.

What Are Comfort Bikes Good For?

Comfort bikes are the ideal bike type for several people. Those who enjoy the odd weekend ride, those returning to the saddle after a long period without riding, those with injuries or conditions that impact their movement or riders with little or no flexibility. 

If you can ride a bike, you should have no trouble hopping onto a comfort bike, pedalling a few miles and enjoying some freedom, fitness and fresh air.

Are Comfort Bikes Good for Exercise?

Like all bikes, comfort bikes are great for exercise. Pedalling is a low-impact form of exercise which raises your heart rate without putting unwanted strain on your body. Riders who are wanting to up their cycling distance and overall fitness may start to struggle with a comfort bike, but for those just getting started, they’re ideal!

Are Comfort Bikes Good for Commuting?

Thanks to their upright riding position and other comfort-orientated features, comfort bikes are an ideal commuting companion. Cycling in an upright position naturally keeps your head up and on a busy morning commute, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for other cyclists and road users.

Being comfortable to ride, will also mean a comfort bike shouldn’t feel like a chore on Friday after you’ve been pedalling it to work from Monday to Thursday. 

Comfort bikes wouldn’t suit a longer commute, or perhaps those involving a short train journey.

Comfort Bike Pros + Cons

PROSCONS
Comfortable for everyone to rideLow on versatility
Can be used to build fitnessUsually quite heavy
Can easily work as a commuter bike
Relatively cheap to buy

What is the Best Comfort Bike to Buy?

The best comfort bike for you will depend on the exact type of bike ride you are wanting to undertake. As we’ve already seen, most comfort bikes are marketed as either hybrid bikes or cruiser bikes so don’t discount those purely on name alone. 

Just be sure to keep an eye out for the four key features of a comfort bike: an upright riding position, a wide saddle, a suspension fork and a sensible set of gears. 

In the UK, Boardman and Raleigh are two brands that you could begin your search with or take a look a the three models we’ve listed below. 

  1. Pendleton Somerby. A classic bike that should be comfortable to ride, the Pendleton Somerby has been part of Halfords’ range for years. Riding the bike is easy with the handlebars within reach. The sprung saddle is kind to the posteriors of new or returning cyclists. On the downside, the bike doesn’t have a suspension fork so it won’t be super comfortable up front. Plus there are only two frame sizes so it won’t suit riders of every height. 
  2. Cube Town. This bike builds on the Pendleton Somerby with added features like lights, front and rear, and an adjustable stem to find the perfect riding position. There’s a suspension fork too. The gears don’t have the widest range but should suit most. 
  3. Gazelle Orange C7+. The final comfort bike on our list is the Orange C7+ from Gazelle. Unlike the Pendleton and the Cube, this Gazelle comes in two frame types, both step-through and classic. There’s a wide variety of frame sizes to suit different rides. A suspension fork and a suspension seatpost will take the worst out of the bumps, as will the wide continental tyres.

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