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Do the words Schwinn, Raleigh, Huffy, Murray, Roadmaster, and Western Flyer bring back fond memories? Well what was old is new again as the inventiveness that fostered the velocipede and hobby horses of the 18th Century has been revived. Carbon fiber frames, aluminum hubs, and hydraulic disc brakes have replaced handlebar streamers, ding dong bells, and banana seats as the bicycle industry has created some of most technology advanced products this side of NASA. The Wright Brothers would be proud.
Of course this is the 21st Century and that technology costs dearly. Even the best selling Schwinn Cruiser Alloy SS is $300. An EB Lite 8 designed for easy mounting is $750. You’ll need $900 for the Sierra Tandem, and if the legs and lungs aren’t what they used to be there is a $2000 electric motor assisted Schwinn Continental. If you really want to feel the wind in your hair there is everything from a $8,249.99 Trek Madone 5.9 SL, to a $22,000 carbon fiber framed Parlee.
In bicycle terms the more you pay the less you get; in weight that is. You can spend a thousand dollars to shave five ounces from a road bike to get to the racing limit of about 15 pounds. Even on street bikes $2000 carbon fiber cranks and $300 handlebars are becoming commonplace. Regardless of price bicycles are an environmentally friendly form of transportation with a rider on level ground able to travel 10 mph with the same energy expenditure as a person walking. Add to that the fact riders usually burn more than 400 calories an hour so that breakfast bike jaunt can easily burn off a bagel and cream cheese or Grande Caffe Latte with whole milk. In fact, bicycling can consumer as much energy as aerobics and the scenery is usually better.
Local bicycling isn’t all sun in the face and smell the ocean air friendly. The FBI reported one million cycles were stolen in 2006. This has creating the need for such businesses as Santa Barbara’s BikeStation where bikes can be stored by commuters and others. There are also the dangers posed by Pacific Coast Highway traffic with its narrow shoulders, oversized vehicles, distracted cell phone users, and construction. Thus having a safe helmet and a properly sized bicycle is important. Several manufacturers, such as Greg Townsend’s, make custom bikes based on the rider’s measurements and they are worth every penny. These bicycles can express one’s individuality both artistically and technically as every component, from the handle bars to the brake pads, can be ordered to fit specific driving habits and wallet thickness.
The larger manufacturers are also producing some unique products that include seats that are hollowed out to store cell phones and iPods, reflective rims, internal generators to power front and rear lights, drum brakes, and automatic gear changers. Some models offer foldability that enables a full size bike to fit in a 26-inch case. There are also bicycles that have a battery powered motor to help riders overcome steep grades and stiff headwinds. The ultimate is the Colorado manufactured Optibike OB1 priced at $13,000. This Opti is unique in that can be used as mountain and road bike being equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, multiple gears, and a motor running on 800 or so watts of electric power should you tire or need a burst of speed to avoid dangerous situations. All of this is monitored by an instrument panel full of readouts. These types of bikes make it easier for those with physical limitations such as bad knees and hips to experience the joy of cycling without the pain and are also ideal for amateurs who want to do off road riding or just stay out of harm’s way at stoplights. If your work less than 20 miles from home the Optbike can get you there and back with very little pedaling needed. And, since over 93 percent of bicycles are made overseas, it is nice to support the home team can build.
Before you buy any cycle find a dedicated bicycle shop such as Stan’s in Monrovia where you can buy an autographed Eddy Merckx lightweight bike for about $8000 or ask technicians about the best bicycle for your needs.
New bikes are far more sophisticated than that old Schwinn Sting-Ray so you may need professional done repairs. Next, ascertain where you are going to be riding. There are road, fitness, mountain, and comfort categories of bicycles and many subcategories such as recumbent and extreme cycles. Road versions are normally the most expensive and can be used for racing. Mountain bikes are beefier, with more durable rims and larger tires, and can have very sophisticated suspension components for riding over unpaved canyon trails. Comfort bikes and commuter bikes are usually the least expensive and the heaviest with fewer features. These include the ubiquitous beach cruiser and beginner bikes. Finally, be aware that you can get a traffic citation just as easily riding a bike as driving a car so ride wisely and always carry identification.
To relive those two wheeling days of yesteryear and that yearning to be free from parking restrictions and rising fuel costs visit your local bike store and test ride the cure. Don’t forget to check out the latest cycle fashions, too. Remember it’s not the bike it is the rider. Or perhaps just as importantly, how the rider looks on the bike. After all, this is Malibu.
Greg Townsend Custom Bikes
Stan’s Bike Shop
Some good bike links
Find the perfect bike trip.
Type in the area and this Google Earth assisted site shows you a great bike journey.
League of American Bicyclists
California bicycle coalition
How Much Do Bicycles Pollute