Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bikes made for commuting are hot!

Image of a Breezer Villager bicycle
From U.S. News & World Report, 06.21.08:

Comfy New Commuter Bikes for Getting Around Town
Neither age nor inexperience need be a barrier to biking

If $4-a-gallon gas has you looking for relief, consider: A concerted effort is underway to attract casual bike riders into the fold. The lure is a range of new commuting bikes that promise to make everyday travel by bicycle as comfortable and fashionable as it is cheap...

In a country where most grown-ups regard bicycles as kid stuff, there are plenty of signs that attitudes are beginning to shift. Bike stores and manufacturers across the nation are reporting significant upticks lately in sales. "They're selling out of all the commuting bikes--all bikes, by the way--that they can get their hands on," says Bill Fields, a consultant who has followed the bicycle industry for decades and anticipates a 20 percent bump in the "comfort bike" category, which includes commuting bikes, by year's end.

Though old hat in many European and Asian countries, commuter bikes, which run generally between $400 and $800, are foreign to many Americans. A cousin to the mountain bike in the sense that it puts riders in an upright position, as opposed to the aerodynamic crouch of the racing or road bike, the commuter bike is more comfortable than either type of sport bike. Its tires tend to be large but smooth and perform better than rugged mountain bike tires on pavement; its wide seat distributes pressure more evenly than the narrow seats on sport bikes; and its ergonomically designed handlebars are curved back slightly for comfort.

Most commuter bikes come with lights and bells, a basket or rack on the back for a briefcase or groceries, and mud flaps and an enclosed chain guard to protect clothes from grease or tears. Some even come with pedal-powered electrical generators that operate lights. (Read more.)
Great article on the increased availability of bicycles made for commuting. Led (dragged?) by pioneers Joe Breeze (Breezer Bikes) and John Burke (Trek), the bicycle industry is waking up to the huge potential for sales of commuting bikes. Even seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has become a prominent advocate for bicycle commuting.

Image: Breezer Villager.
Visit: Commuter bikes in vogue, Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Visit: Suggestions for Buying a Bike, Bike Commuting Tips
Visit: Get comfortable on a new bike, Bike Commuting Tips Blog
Visit: Buying a bike: New or used?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Rick Logue said...

I have been trying to get my wife into cycling for years. She just could not find a bike that she enjoyed being on. Last week she tried a friend's comfort bike and fell in love. She now has her own bike.

Noah said...

Paul, I recently took a trip to a "Sports Authority" store, a growing sporting goods chain, to pick up some inexpensive bike shorts. It's closer to home (and sells bike clothing and accessories for less) than any of my bike shops. While there, I was taken back by the sheer number of budget bikes I saw that are shipping with fenders and/or racks.

I have a slight aversion to bikes from sporting goods stores or toy aisles of retail warehouses, but you've got to admit that if you're seeing commuting gear from the factory on Diamondback, Schwinn and Columbia bikes, then the trend has obviously raised the ire of the entire bike industry.

On a peculiar side note, I've spent about 500 miles this month in the saddle of a rigid-frame Diamondback I bought off craigslist for $50 more than a year ago. I had to upgrade the wheels (and the gearing) and switch to slick city tires. I added clipless pedals to mate to my rather comfy and walkabout mountain bike shoes, a rack, fenders and lights and it's been a joy to ride as my commuter bike this month... But I do miss my road bike, which needs some work.

Sorry for the long diatribe, my point was that bike shops could probably cash in on this by equipping a comfort bike on the showroom floor with some essentials so people could see how almost any bike can come into its own as a practical machine for arond-town errands. To my knowledge, only one shop in KC is installing accessories in the showroom to show them in action.

Matt H said...

OK, does anyone else agree that the term "comfort bike" is lame? A lot of men will be embarrassed to buy something with that moniker.