NOTE: This is the first in a spring/summer series about bicycling in West Virginia. This installment addresses choosing equipment. The May installment will concentrate on bicycle laws and safety.
Beautiful, sunny days have been visiting the Mountain State with more frequency the past few weeks and with this we think of getting outside and pursuing various activities. If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking of how nice it would be to jump on a bicycle and feel the sun on your cheeks and the wind in your face, racing with child-like abandon.
However, with a few exceptions, I haven’t been on a bicycle since those care-free days of youth.
As an adult, there are more things to consider than which bike looks the coolest or sports the best tassels on the handlebars. We have to think about where we can safely ride, what size bicycle will be the right fit and whether it will be comfortable enough to merit the investment.
The “riding toys” we had when we were young were for amusement and seasonal activity but, with the green movement, more and more folks are thinking of a bicycle as a tool, even a vehicle for transportation. For those who live close enough to work and don’t mind bringing a change of clothes, it can be a viable option. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First we have to get a bike.
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Adam Stephens, owner of Marathon Bicycle Co. in Fayetteville, helped me sift through the various styles of bicycles and described how each one is built for a specific purpose.
“Basically we would look at the mileage that you would want to do, the terrain of what you are riding and get you on the most comfortable bike. Being comfortable gives you the ability to go longer. If you are on an uncomfortable bike then you aren’t going to want to ride as much. The different geometries of the bikes are what make them different. The mountain bike versus the hybrid or adventure bike, etc.”
“A lot of people don’t realize that you have cross-country, downhill, over-mountain and light-duty single-track all within the mountain bike category. Within the scope of hybrids you are going to have the ones that lean more toward the road and those that lean more toward the rail-trail type setting. We want to find out what you are riding more and get you more toward that spectrum,” Stephens said.
“If you want a hybrid and you are just going to be riding around in the city and you are just looking to get a good workout but you don’t want to get a road bike because of the thinner tires and the uncomfortable position, we would get you on a fitness bike. If you are going to do just straight rail-trail and you want to be really comfortable and confident on the gravel terrain then we would have you look at the adventure bike. It’s going to have a smaller, wider tire with more traction. If you are going to be riding roads or paved bike paths, then you are going to want a thinner tire. So, again, that thicker tire is going to be better on the gravel because it is going to hook-up and give you more confidence but, when you are on the pavement, it’s going to be slower due to the rolling resistance of the bigger tire. For a commuter I would recommend something with a 700c wheel, which is going to be a larger diameter wheel with a thinner tire.”