Q:

Can you find me a bike to beat the rising fuel prices?

With the price of fuel fluctuating, I was considering buying a mountain bike or something similar. I have not ridden a bike in about ten years and bike technology has changed drastically! I was shopping for a bike that I could ride in the city but can also go off-road (nothing too serious). David Warrensburg, Missouri

Sep 23, 2005
Outside
Outside Magazine

Boardwalk

A: By "fluctuating," I assume you mean, "heading into the stratosphere." And as I write this, Hurricane Rita is about to whack straight into a major concentration of refineries. $3.50 a gallon, anyone? And I feel your pain on this subject. For various reasons having to do with steady, major home-remodeling projects (I live in my own version of "This Old House," only in my case it's "This &%$##!*!! Old House"), I currently drive a rather large Ford pickup, commonly referred to as the Big Ass Brown Truck, and my mileage dips into the single digits for short hauls.

Anyway, you're right about bikes having changed in the past ten years. If you haven't been in a bike shop, in fact, it'll feel a bit like being Rip Van Winkle.

You don't need—nor do you really want—a mountain bike. Their knobby tires, heavy suspensions, and stiff frames don't really lend themselves to comfortable commuting or errand-running. So one happy development in recent years is a plethora of bikes purpose-built for city riding. Bianchi's Boardwalk ($500; www.bianchiusa.com), for instance, has the upright ride position of a mountain bike and fairly low gearing, but its rigid frame and smooth tires are better suited for squirting around town. You could rig this bike with a rear luggage rack and panniers for hauling groceries, a change of clothes, that sort of thing. Another very interesting bike is Trek's new Soho ($1,000; www.trekbikes.com). It's super sporty-looking, with racy Bontrager wheels and a titanium-gray paint job. Most interesting of all, it has a single speed on the crank (where the pedals are) and a cassette on the back wheel. That means it's very much suited for flat terrain, and the single speed on the crank saves weight and increases simplicity.

An alternative is to go with a more traditional road-looking bike, but one that's meant for touring and city riding. Cannondale's T800 ($1,200; www.cannondale.com) is an excellent example of such a bike—an aluminum-frame tourist with lots of gears for easy pedaling and a nice, upright seating position for comfort (it has road-style "drop" bars, but they're on a stem that's angled up so you aren't all hunched over). Comes standard with a rear rack so it's ready to be loaded and go. Great bike for commuting, fun weekend rides, touring, and more.

So take a look at those bikes and any similar styles your shop might suggest. And have fun riding again! I'm sure you'll enjoy beating the prices at the pump, but any of the above suggestions will give you years of pain-free, good-vibe commuting.

For more of the bike world's best rigs, check out Outside's 2005 Buyer's Guide .

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