Gear Guy

Is it worth waiting for 2004’s bikes to hit the market?

I live in the city and looking for a bike that I can ride to my local bike trail via city streets (approximately three miles). The trail is dirt and gravel, but I'll also need front suspension because of reckless drivers who sometimes force you onto a sidewalk. I have been to several bike stores and really confused by all the options: Raleigh C500, Cannondale, Giant Cypress LX, Trek? One store advised me to wait until mid-August for the 2004 models to arrive in stores. My budget is $500 to $600. Chris Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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What I really think you want, Chris, is a “hybrid” bike, a sort of a de-tuned mountain bike. Less-aggressive geometry for more comfort, and without the knobby tires that will slow you down on pavement. Hybrids still run pretty fat tires on 26-inch wheels, and will give you plenty of “float” on gravel and trails.

An example is the Raleigh C500 you mention. It’s $550, and has a suspended front fork to smooth out potholes and help with those curbs. It even has a suspended seatpost, and a fat, comfy saddle. The frame is aluminum; the 27-speed drivetrain is Shimano. In fact, just about every bike in this category and price range will sound a lot like that, spec-wise. Cannondale’s Adventure 400S ($525;, for instance, is a near twin to the C500. The Cypress LX is a nice bike, but pretty hefty at 33 pounds, so maybe not the best for any sort of sporty riding.

My advice: Go to a bike store and try several bikes in your price range. Compare them on weight, fit, and overall comfort. Have a salesclerk explain to you in plain English how they differ from one another technically. You might also find a true “mountain bike” that works for you. If so, have the shop swap out the knobby tires for smooth or low-tread ones, and maybe add a suspended seatpost.

Remind them, too, that the 2004 models are on the way and they need to clear merchandise. Then try: “So how about $50 off?”

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