Biking for the rest of us.
Summer is here so I took our bikes to the shop for a tune-up. I found a new fleet of ‘commuter’ bikes that look like they are made just for me. Let’s be honest, I don’t need a mountain bike any more than I need a true, off-road vehicle. I want to ride to the farmer’s market or the tennis courts. Occasionally I might want to take a longer ride for some exercise or to go to a beautiful place – but I don’t need to race. I like to sit upright with extended handlebars. I like 26” wheels with generous tires to make it easier to power over rough spots, sand or grass. To give you perspective, my first bike was a beloved, red, one-speed Schwinn and I saved up for my treasured ’10-speed’ as a teenager.
What to look for:
- A comfortable ride. This is somewhat subjective, but I like to sit up with my neck in a normal position to look around. Choose a cushy seat.
- Center of gravity in the middle of the bike for stability and agility.
- You may be lifting this bike onto your car rack or into storage.
- Once you invest in a bike, you want it to stay in tune and be ready to ride every time you want to use it.
- Adaptable storage. Beyond baskets, you may want saddle bags and a water bottle to bring home those zucchinis and tomatoes from the farmer’s market.
- Fenders – I am beyond that black stripe of road water that I used to get from my ten speed.
- In the higher end cruisers, look for:
Strong steel forks (holding the tires)
Internal cable routing (the cables can’t get damaged by snagging on a rack)
An especially comfortable seat
- When considering a purchase, check to see how much assembly is required. Unless you are a DIYer, professional assembly will add to the cost.
- Single speed vs. multi-speed. Many cruisers now offer 3-speed and 7-speed options. Some have the gearing inside the wheel hub where it is less likely to be damaged.
- Pedal (coaster) brakes vs. hand brakes. Your first ride probably had pedal brakes. Pedal backwards and stop. They are simpler, but if your chain drops, they don’t work. Choose at least one handlebar brake.
New features for me
- Hydraulic Disc brakes (as opposed to the rim brakes we used to have). Disc brakes add weight, but they are inside the tire and work even in the rain.
- Shock absorbers on bike frames and springs under seats.
- Steel frames dampen the road vibrations better than aluminum.
- Belt drive systems which replace old fashioned chains. They don’t need to be oiled (take the grease out of riding and no rolling up your pant-leg).
- Big tires which improve traction and make riding on snow or sand easier.
- Electric bikes to give you an assist when you hit hills or headwinds.
- Stretch cruisers are bikes with extended handlebars for a slightly reclined, very comfortable seating position.
Here are some cruisers bikes.
Townie Electra is an incredibly comfortable cruiser ride. You sit on a comfortable seat leaning slightly back like on a recumbent bike. You can relax with your feet on the ground when you are stopped. You have a choice of colors and then you can upgrade the gears and brakes for more money. The basic Townie 7D is $489.95.
Biria designed this slightly odd looking bike so that you can step on and off without gymnastics. Looks good to me. Three speeds. Choice of seven colors and several sizes. Biria Bikes, $599.
Have you seen the fat tire bikes? The tires (4” wide) are twice the size of regular bikes and the tire pressure is low which leads to great grip on sand or snow. Mongoose Dolomite 7-speed Fat Tire Bike. $299
The Townie Electra GO! is a basic Townie with a rechargeable battery to assist pedaling when you get to a steep hill of the last few miles of a tiring ride. The battery adds weight, but friends report that the tour companies for European bike trips are using these for a lot of their clients. The power comes with a luxury price tag, $2,999.
The Schwinn Debutante is a classic 3-speed cruiser and it reminds me of my first bike. A high-end Shimano Nexus internal-gear hub makes this bike a low maintenance, smooth shifting choice. The aluminum lightweight frame is great for storage and mobility. The Debutante features a comfortable saddle, a full fender set, chain guard, cup holder, and a kickstand. Schwinn Debutante $450 USD
Beach cruisers don’t get much simpler than Firmstrong’s Urban Lady. Thanks to the steel frame, the bicycle is heavy, but also extremely durable. It comes in one-speed, three-speed and seven-speed models. The Urban Lady uses coaster brakes. It has a smooth steel guard over the chain, which prevents you from getting chain grease on your pants when pedaling. You can buy fenders separately. The single-speed version of the Lady Cruiser is available in 14 different colors. $199 or $259 with fenders and a bell.
The signature feature of the EVRYjourney is its curved “step-through” frame design. The frame drops low just in front of the seat, making it easy to swing your leg over the frame to get on and off the bike and to stand over the bike when stopped. The bike is low enough to the ground for you to stand when stopped, and the pedals are forward on the frame, so that your legs can be fully extended when pedaling. The handlebars are also extended, so all of this adds up to a comfortable upright seating position that won’t leave your back hurting. The seven-speed version of the EVRYjourney (it is also available as a one-speed, three-speed, or 21-speed) is simple to shift and has handlebar brakes. Small additional features include a built-in kickstand, a rear bag carry cage, and matching front and rear fenders. EVRYJourney 7 Speed Cruiser is $399.
The Nel Lusso from well-established bicycle company Huffy includes matching fenders, a rear light, a rear bag carry cage, a kickstand, a basket on the front, an embroidered seat and a cup holder on the handlebars. The bicycle itself is a single-speed with coaster brakes, so it does not get much easier to operate. The ride itself is nothing to scoff at, either. The frame features a step-through curve keeping the pedals underneath you in a comfortable upright riding position. The steel frame and thick, double-wall wheels make for an extremely smooth ride.
The Schwinn Perla is a seven-speed bike with V-brakes on the front and rear wheels which they claim has good stopping power. The frame incorporates a step-through drop in front of the seat to allow standing when stopped and to make it easy to get on and off the bike. The bicycle also includes front and rear fenders, as well as a rear bag carrying cage.
An ASE subscriber recommends this Pedego Interceptor, electric bike.
An ASE subscriber had her bike shop retrofit her favorite bike by adding a BionX battery conversion system to make it an electronic bike. The battery is mounted on the diagonal bar from pedal to handlebar. You need to find a local retailer to get pricing to upgrade your bike to an e-bike. BionX.
Give Away Your Old Bike
If you are considering upgrading to a shiny new bike, there are lots of great organizations which will accept your donation of your old bike, fix it up and give it to someone who really needs it. These efforts tend to be local, so a Google search is a good way to find a nearby effort. Go to Google and search for Donate Used Bike, XXXXXX (your zip code). Here is an article with more ideas on where to donate a bike.
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