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Which Bike Is Right For Pat?

by Levi Bloom on 3/22/05

Where are all these new bikes coming from? A hybrid just isn't a hybrid these days. Mountain based hybrids, flat bar road bikes, touring, cyclocross, 29ers that fit 29" and 700c wheels, the list goes on and on. Some investigation is definitely in order.

Just a few days ago my good fried Pat Reardon, a runner, was talking to me about training indoors. If you live in New England, you know what I'm talking about! This winter has been brutal! Anyway, to break up the monotony of running on a treadmill, Pat did some work on a spinning bike... and he liked it!

Now imagine how much fun Pat will have out on the open road or trails! But he doesn't have a bike yet. That's where I come in. Pat knows I'm pretty good with bikes, so he enlisted me to find the right bike for him.

Here is some of Pat's e-mail:

"...I was thinking about purchasing a bike and riding outside during the spring and summer. I have no idea where to begin however. Any advice? I?m looking for something that I can take on trails as well as the road. Is there any type of hybrid or do I specifically need a mountain bike for off-road riding? Is a road bike what I?m looking for? I don?t need some professional, high end model, but I do want to get a quality bike."

So I decided to see what kind of hybrids were out there. I was leaning more toward a road bike than a mountain, figuring Pat will be on the road mostly. However, I wanted to make sure he could have fun off-road, too! I rode a century on my mountain bike before, and with semi-slick tires it wasn't too bad, so I had all kinds of bikes in mind.

Then once I saw all the current models, the number of bikes on my list nearly doubled! It seems like "hybrid" has just as many models as "road" or "mountain." I found bikes like the Trek X500, Trek 7500 FX, Gary Fisher 29ers, and many more cool bikes and oddities.


Time to e-mail Pat. I have him pretty much figured out, so these questions were just for assurance. (And sure enough, I had correctly predicted his answers!)

"1. Do you see yourself riding on the road most of the time? (And possibly doing some long rides some day, maybe charity events like the MS 150 or Pan Mass Challenge?; Or maybe riding somewhere, camping overnight, and then riding back - or just anything that would require hauling extra gear?)

2. Is your off-roading going to be mostly bike paths and fire roads (hard packed dirt, crushed gravel, a few rocks and roots) or technical singletrack (possible loose soil and mud, lots of rocks and roots, etc.)?

(Technical singletrack could also be termed "trails where you will ride fairly slow and it is likely that you'll fall over.")

3. Do you like an upright riding position (like a mt bike) or a fairly stretched out position (like a road bike)?

The upright position is better for navigating obstacles, but the stretched out position is more comfortable on longer rides. (Not all road bikes actually require you to stretch way out like you may see in the Tour de France.)

4. Would you prefer a decent bike around $300-500 or more like $700-800?"

And here were Pat's answers, like I suspected:

"(1) Yes, I plan on riding on the road most of the time. Also, I can definitely see myself doing some long rides, like a charity event. (2) My off-roading will mostly be bike baths and fired roads. (3) I don?t really have much of a preference between a fairly upright position or an outstretched position. (4) As for price, I?m willing to pay up to about $1,000. I want something that is pretty durable and can last several years. However, I don?t think I really need some really fancy model with all the gadgets and gizmos."

So back to the bikes. As cool as some of these bikes are, I put myself in Pat's situation. For one thing, he's a racer, so he'll want to go fast whether he's running or riding. A regular road bike would be fastest, but not quite sturdy enough for off-road use. But a mountain bike or even a flat-bar road bike just didn't seem right...

Cyclocross to the rescue! If I could only have one bike, it would be a cyclocross bike for sure. Basically, a heavy-duty road bike that can handle some off-road jaunts. Much faster on the road than a mountain bike, even a little more comfortable than a road racing bike if you're doing long rides.

Fortunately, Pat was willing to spend $1000 or so, which was good because cyclocross bikes have a pretty narrow price range. You won't find an entry-level cyclocross bike. Not many options, however, I found the Kona Jake for about $750. I knew that would be for sale around Massachusetts.

Now it's up to Pat to buy the bike... and ride it!

June 05 Update:

Pat got a Trek 1000 and a bunch of stuff when he found a big sale at a local bike shop!


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