May 18, 2013

Allen Afield: Hybrid bicycle can be a novice cyclist's best choice

By Ken Allen

(Continued from page 1)

Folks starting with a hybrid or mountainbike have wasted no money on the first choice if they decide to buy a road bicycle later, because they realize that owning a bike exclusively for highways and another for woodland excursions offers "versatility" with a capital V.

1. A road bicycle for fast pedaling on pavement provides exercise, recreation and transportation, the latter say pedaling to work, stores, etc.

2. A flat-bar hybrid serves for light-duty off-road (fishing, hunting, birdwatching, etc.), and a mountainbike works for heavy- and light-duty off road. The latter usually has smaller chainrings than a hybrid, which makes climbing easier. In short, it's an SUV -- multipurpose to the core.

A quick point: Beginners on road bicycles worry about drop bars as being uncomfortable, because they must bend forward more than with flat bars. I don't mind that position and, more importantly, drop bars give me different places to hold my hands, more comfortable than holding the old paws in the same place from start to finish, as we tend to do with flat bars.

Whatever the bicycle, a professional should help with fitting choices. I thought I knew plenty about fit, but an L.L.Bean pro with measuring tools and sharp eyes picked up a flaw in my road-bike fit. My saddle was a 1/4 inch too low, and raising it made a difference in pedaling comfort.

If folks have their hearts set on riding roads, I strongly suggest getting a road bike, but I also understand how narrow tires make newcomers leery. For those folks, a hybrid bike works until they become comfortable enough on a bike to buy the equivalent of a sports car -- and then they have a second bicycle for ramming highways and the first bike for forest pedaling.

That's the best of both worlds, and this month is the time to start.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at:


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