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Q:

Should I get a cross or road bike for long-distance rides?

I'm 51 years old and want to do long-distance rides down the Australia coastline. I can't decide between a cross or road bike (I've always had a mountain bike). What would be best for me? Becky Wollongong, NSW, Australia

FCR 2 bike     Photo: courtesy, Giant

Giant FCR 2 bike

FCR 2 bike

A:In absolute terms, Becky, a road bike is the way to go. It’s more aerodynamic than a cross bike, and the drop-style handlebars afford you a greater variety of hand positions so that you’re more comfortable on long rides.

But life is relative, not absolute. Road bikes have their disadvantages, especially if you haven’t ridden one before. In short, they can be dreadfully uncomfortable due to the hunched-over riding position. So you have to take that into consideration.

In a cross bike, I like something such as Marin’s Lucas Valley (US$800; www.marinbikes.com). It’s a fast cross bike, with a light aluminum frame and road-style tires. But it’s also got the slightly upright position you’re accustomed to on your mountain bike, and a triple chain ring for hill rides. Also, it can take light touring gear, so you can put on fenders and some racks and spend a few nights on the road. Giant’s FCR2 (US$650; www.giant-bicycle.com) offers a similar package in a bike that’s sized and fitted for women.

You might also look at a touring-style bike. These have road geometry with a slacker frame for a smoother ride and typically offer a little more upright seating than a true road bike. Trek’s 520 (US$1,200; www.trekbikes.com) is a classic of this type, with a comfortable aluminum, upright stem so you’re not crouched over but are still fairly aerodynamic. It has lots of places to attach fenders and racks, and gearing that’s well-suited for long rides. It’s an excellent all-around bike.

My advice: Test a few different bikes to see what feels right. Try to persuade the shop to let you have five miles or so on the bike, so you can really get a sense of how it’s going to feel after more than a few minutes.

Happy riding!

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