Reflection

Obviously, I’ve really neglected this site. I called this site ride, report, repeat. It seems I’ve begun to master ride and repeat but I’ve forgotten about report. When you’re having fun riding, it’s hard to stop to take the time to write a blog.

In May 2012 I purchased a new bike. Well, new to me. This bike was the first bike I had ever really bought. My prior bikes were either purchased for me when I was a kid or something I inherited. Since getting my bike I’ve spent a lot of my free time riding. In the span of 3 years I’ve ridden over 3600 miles. I know some people who ride more than that in a single year but I’m still proud of my progress. From May through December 2012 I rode about 400 miles. In 2013 I rode approximately 1100 miles and increased to about 1300 miles in 2014. So far, in the first four and a half months of 2015, I’ve ridden about 790 miles. I expect to finish 2015 with more miles than I rode last year.

Stats

When I first got started riding again, my longest trips were about 15 miles in length. I’ve slowly increased my distances and my average miles per week. My longest ride being over 50 miles. I would like to ride a metric century sometime soon. That’s 100 km or about 63 miles. A goal that’s no longer out-of-reach for me.

I started this site as part of an entry in a contest to win a new, high-end bike from a company called Foundry Cycles. You can look back through the posts here to learn more about how this site came to be. I wasn’t selected by Foundry to be one of their ambassadors and receive a bike. They selected individuals with a lot more experience riding and racing than me. That doesn’t bother me, I’ve gained a lot from cycling and the contest was a great excuse to create my first real video production. My decision to start cycling wasn’t prompted by the contest but the contest was the primary reason I started this blog.

Looking back through my posts on this blog, I realize that I’ve learned a lot. I chuckled a bit reading some of my old posts. In 2012 when I was shopping for a new bike I was looking for a flat-bar road bike or hybrid, as they are often called; something I probably wouldn’t seriously consider purchasing now. I ended up with a used cyclocross bike and while it’s not my ideal bike, I feel like it was a great choice… a great place to start. Bicycles are one of those things that people purchase, with the best of intentions, but ultimately fail to really use. It takes a great deal of searching to find a good used bike but if you have patience and equip yourself with some bike knowledge up-front you can find some pretty good deals on used bikes.

I’m happy that I ended up with a drop-bar road bike rather than a flat-bar or hybrid. A cyclocross bike is intended for cyclocross racing events but it can serve as a pretty good go-anywhere road bike as well. I think of my bike as an SUV or CUV. Like most people driving SUVs, I rarely take my cyclocross bike off-road.

Over the past three years of riding, I’ve had a chance to ride in a number of different places and really get a sense for the style of riding I enjoy. I spend most of my time riding roads or paved bike trails. I’m not a racer, I enjoy going fast but I’m more interested in riding longer distances than I am riding all out. My used cyclocross bike has served me very well but now I am shopping for a new bike. I’m confident that when I get a new bike my three years of experience on a great but relatively inexpensive “starter” bike will ensure my next bike purchase will be a well-informed, well researched decision.

By far the best thing about cycling for me is connecting with friends old and new who share a passion for riding. I’ve made a number of new friends along the way and expect to meet more as I continue to ride.

Giro d' Vino 2014Giro d' Vino 2014 Group ShotGiro d' Vino Nov. 2014The Great Scott Road Event - May 2015

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I Got a New Bike!

On Saturday 5/26 I purchased a bike. I am now the proud owner of a 2011 Focus Mares AX 2. While searching for new bikes over the past several months I have also been checking craigslist for bargains. Searching craigslist can be a long and often disappointing process. I’ve seen a lot of junk for sale on craigslist. I have also seen a few nice bikes here and there but never anything in my size or the exact style that I wanted.

This past Friday however, my luck changed when I discovered this Focus Mares AX 2 aluminum cyclocross bike, in my size and in my area. The owner had even posted a number of decent sized photos. Often when I see something for sale on craigslist and it has tiny photos I think the seller is trying to hide something.

After contacting the seller on Friday night, I arranged to see the bike on Saturday morning. After I slept on it, I started to have seconds thoughts because the Focus wasn’t one of the exact bikes I was thinking about. Heck, I’d never even considered the Mares, in fact I didn’t really even know it existed. I had heard of Focus before from my test ride of the Cariboo Peak hybrid back in April but I had never looked into their CX bikes. After tossing it around in my head for a bit I decided it was worth it to drive out and at least take a look at the bike.

Before I jumped in the car to leave, I found a site that had some good recommendations for what to look for in buying a used bike. Check out the Bicycle Inspection page at usedbicycleguide.com. Armed with my inspection tips I was on my way. I stopped at the bank to pickup some cash and broke up some of the money into smaller bills so I could haggle with the seller. If you’re going to be buying something expensive from a craigslist seller, please play it safe. Meet in a public location (oops, I broke rule number one) and bring a buddy along. I always like to have the cash on hand when I’m dealing with a private seller. If I were selling something, I wouldn’t want to hold onto the item while someone when to the bank or whatever it took to get the money. I want to extend that same courtesy to seller I meet. Plus you don’t want to leave a good deal sitting there, giving the seller time to find another buyer.

After talking with the owner for a bit, I asked him if I could inspect the bike. I checked everything I could think of, looking over the bike. The seller said that he had only rode the bike about 40 miles and from the looks of it, he was being honest about that. The bike was in almost perfect condition. I took the bike for a test ride around the block a few times, shifting into all the gears, listening for noise, etc. Everything seemed to be in order so I made the guy and offer $200 less than he was asking. He countered for $50 more and I said sold! I paid the money and I was on my way.

The buyer had purchased the bike from Performance Bicycle. Focus is a semi-exclusive retailer of the Focus brand in the United States. It just so happened that there was a Performance shop right near the sellers house. I stopped in there on the way back and told them that I had just got this bike and that I thought one of the front brakes was rubbing and asked if they could take a quick look at it. The guy at the service counter said no problem. So I took the bike in, they made a quick adjustment to the front brake and for future reference, showed me how to make the adjustment myself. They also gave the bike a quick once over and a clean bill of health. Yeah!

I’ll have more to come about my new bike soon but for now, here’s a bunch of photos I took of it this past Saturday when I got it home and shined it up a bit. Enjoy.

Test Ride – Salsa Vaya

I made arrangements with the owner of Endless Cycles in Castro Valley, CA. to test ride the Salsa Vaya 2 on my way home from the Sea Otter Classic a few weeks ago. Since we were already near the Bay Area it made sense to make a stop and test the Vaya. Though Endless Cycles is nearly 100 miles away from my home, they are the closest Salsa dealer to me. I have to admit, a 90 minute drive to a Salsa dealer for parts and service does curb my enthusiasm a bit.

I realize that I can and probably will perform many repairs myself. I also know that a LBS closer to home would be able to work on the Vaya. However, I still think it would be nice to buy a bike from a dealer that’s closer to home. Bike shops often extended discounts to clients that have previously purchased bikes. Setting aside the distance aspect, Endless Cycles is a nice shop and they had a lot of Salsa bikes on the showroom floor. If your living in or around the Bay Area and you’re shopping for a Salsa, I recommend you give Endless Cycles a try.

Salsa Vaya

The Salsa Vaya features a double-butted  CroMoly Steel frame and fork. Salsa designed the Vaya as a drop bar touring bike capable of handling any road, paved or not. Whether your looking to do a hundred miles or getting ready to set out for a month or two of riding, the Vaya is well equipped to handle the task. With rack, fender mounts and clever design elements the Vaya is also a very capable commuter.

I test rode a 54 cm frame Vaya 2 but a 56 cm would probably be the correct size for my height and build. Endless Cycles didn’t have a 56 cm Vaya built up but the test ride on the 54 cm was just fine to get a feel for the bike.

I live near Sacramento, CA and the landscape around here is fairly flat. Castro Valley on the other hand is moderately hilly. I took the suggested test ride route which was a basic one mile loop but it started out with a short climb up a hill. I’m not in horrible shape and I made it up the hill without walking but it was certainly a workout. The trip up the hill and then back down gave me an opportunity to test the full range of gears on the SRAM Apex 2 x 10 setup. I wouldn’t have been disappointed if the Vaya had an extra gear up front when I was climbing that hill. More time in the saddle will help remedy that problem.

My test ride of Specialized Crux led me to start looking at more cyclocross style bikes. Specifically, I was looking for something a little less race bike and a little more practical as an all-rounder than the Crux. The Vaya fits that bill very well. I get the feeling the Vaya can take just about anything you can throw at it. The real beauty of the Vaya is in the details. Rack and fender mounts are only the beginning. For example, the rear disc brake mount is found on the chainstay rather than the seatstay making it easier to mount those racks and fenders. With it’s focus on touring, the Vaya is equipped with three water bottle cage mounts. These functional design elements are no doubt appreciated by touring riders.

Salsa Vaya Dropouts

I find all of these little details quite appealing. Here you can see the replaceable derailleur hanger and one of my favorite little features of the frame, the Salsa logo integrated into the seatstays. Though the Vaya is a mass produced frame it feels a lot more like a custom bike than anything I’ve tested before.

The Vaya is available as a frame only or in one of two different complete build configurations. The Vaya 3 is the base model where the Vaya 2 that I rode is an upgraded model with higher spec components. The Vaya is also available as a Titanium frame or complete bike. I’m quite satisfied with the steel framed Vaya 2 and I appreciated the SRAM Apex group and Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes on the Vaya 2.

After test riding the Vaya and then spending some time to think about the results, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Vaya is the most practical bike I’ve tested. The Vaya would suit my current needs very well and offers plenty of room to grow. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to an all round, do everything bike. This is the bike I should buy and start riding. Still, the Vaya lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, I found in the Specialized Crux. Salsa describes the Vaya as having, “stable geometry” that,  “keeps the bike from being twitchy, and makes the bike a pleasure to ride while loaded.” Those are the exact qualities which, I believe, takes just a bit of the fun out of riding the Vaya or bikes like it.

To draw analogies to the automotive world, I would call the Vaya an SUV. The Specialized Crux on the other hand is more akin to a rally car.

Ford RS

You won’t find any cupholders or utility items in cars equipped for WRC. In racing it’s all about performance and weight reduction whether car or bike. Of course after a long trip in an SUV you’ll arrive at your destination fairly comfortable and with no concern you’ve ruptured your spleen.

So the contenders at least at the moment are the Specialized Crux Comp Disc Apex and the Salsa Vaya. While both bikes share a few similarities for the most part they are different bikes. I’m really no closer to making a final decision but I still have a bit more time to decide. Unexpected expenses and my desire to pay cash for this purchase have cause a bit of a delay.

So what do you think? Should I go for the practical Salsa Vaya or the performance oriented Specialized Crux?

Good Looking Bike

In all the research I’ve been doing on bikes, I’ve run across a few really good looking bikes. These are bikes that I find pleasing to the eye. They appeal to my sense of style or have a character I find to be captivating. So this is just a fun bike gawker kind of a post.

2011 Raleigh RX 1.0
2011 Raleigh RX 1.0First up is the 2011 version of the Raleigh RX 1.0. This is one good looking cyclocross bike. I personally love the military theme paint job on this bike. Army green with red and small mustard accents probably wouldn’t sound all that appealing if you were explaining it to someone over the phone but in photos I think it works. This RX is a bike I would be proud to have in my garage. It’s beauty isn’t only skin deep, with the Shimano 105 group, rack, fender and bottle cage mounts, it would suit my needs and desires quite nicely. There’s probably one out there somewhere if you can’t live without one and if I could find one within a couple hundred miles in my size, I would probably go check it out.

Redline Metro Classic
Redline Metro Classic
Next let’s look at another Cyclocross style bike. This is the 2012 Redline Metro Classic. I wouldn’t call this an all out racing bike, Redline has other models that are probably better suited for racing but like the Raleigh, this is a damn fine looking bike. I’m glad that Redline offers some nice large images of their bikes online. I also like the fact that they don’t display them in some silly Flash based pan and zoom viewer. I’m looking at you Specialized. Other manufacturers should follow Redline’s lead here. If you make quality bikes why not post some large high quality images of them for people to enjoy.

The Metro Classic is the perfect name for this bike. I love the orange paint and tan/cream colored accents. The cream colored sidewalls on the tires are the icing on the cake. I would love to see this bike with a 105 group or SRAM Apex but I suspect the Shimano Tiagra group will serve most buyers just fine. With the triple crank in the front and the 12-28 cog set in the rear this would make a great all-rounder kind of a bike. I think it’s perfect for a beginner who’s looking for a bike with drop bars. There’s room for bigger tires, mounting points for fenders as well as racks. The steel 4130 Chromoly frame and disc brakes round out the “do everything” package. Finally, the $1099 MSRP isn’t bad for what you get. I would absolutely love to test ride this bike.

Electra Ticino 20D
Electra Ticino 20D
This is the Electra Ticino 20D, the retro vibe is in full effect on this bike. The classic styling on this bike is beautiful. I love the Root Beer like paint that Electra calls Chestnut Metallic. Equipped with racks front and rear, this stylish commuter / town bike is sure to turn heads. The chrome hammered fenders on the Ticino are a standout element on this bike. To me, they are really the one touch that ties all the retro pieces together. The Ticino is offered in 6 different models for men and one for women. The 20D is the top-of-the-line model for men. This version is equipped with a Shimano 105 group, bar end brake levers, and downtube shifters. The real beauty of this bike is in the details. Saddle Up Bike has a nice write-up on the Ticino and a gallery of photos that showcases all those details. While I’m not in the market for a bike like the Ticino, I think it would make a great second or third bike in my stable.

Electra Ticino 8D
Electra Ticino 8D
Last in this round up of beautiful bikes is the Electra Ticino 8D. This is the one and only ladies version of the Ticino. This version with it’s low step-over toptube is another stunning example of this retro inspired bike. The 8D gets by with a single chainring in the front and a Shimano 2300 8-Speed cassette in the rear. Shifting is handled by a single mountain bike style Rapidfire Plus trigger.

So what about you. What’s the bike you find to be the fairest of them all? Let us know by posting a comment.

Test Ride – Specialized Crux

After testing a dozen different hybrid bicycles over a number of different visits to several bike shops, I still found myself looking for something more. While all of the hybrids I tested were solid and I assume reliable bikes only one, the Jamis Allegro, really felt fun or exciting. Based on this, my decision was to keep looking. One thought that remained in the back of my head was the idea that I would like to be able to take longer rides as my fitness improves. Everyone seems to recommend drop bars with their multiple hand positions over flat or riser bars for longer rides. Here’s a photo of a typical drop style handlebar.

Typical Drop Bars

 

To put it very simply, flat bars are those typically found on mountain and hybrid bikes and drop or road bars are typically found on road bikes. If you’re not familiar with the many different types of handlebars you might find on a bicycle, I found a good article on the subject over at Urban Cyclist.

While I was testing hybrid bikes I did test ride one road bike, the Specialized Allez Compact, an entry level aluminum road bike. I didn’t care for the bike. The short wheelbase, narrow 23c high pressure tires, and overall geometry simply isn’t my style. I was uncomfortable in the riding position and felt like I would fall if I wasn’t devoting all my attention to riding the bike. That test ride turned me off to the idea of a road bike but not to the idea of a bike with drop bars.

Back at my computer, I continued to research bikes and brands online. I stumbled on to an article at Urban Velo on cyclocross bikes for commuting. While the post is a bit dated, it turned me on to the idea of riding a cyclocross style bike. One of the bikes mentioned in the post on Urban Velo is the Specialized Tricross, a bike that’s at home on the pavement, on dirt or perhaps even on some light single track. A few weeks back, I had an opportunity to check out some more bike shops. At on of the shops I visited that day, I met a very experienced salesman and long time bike industry professional. Mike, the salesman, really took the time to explain a lot of things to me about bikes. The information he gave me has really been a great help in narrowing down my choices for a bike. While we were talking, Mike did mention the Tricross but the shop didn’t have any in stock. After a long conversation, I decided to test ride the Specialized Sirrus, a bike I had already tested at a different shop. Not much had changed from my first test ride, the Sirrus is a comfortable, solid and stable bike. Still, it just isn’t all that exciting to me.

2011 Specialized Crux Comp

While I was out testing the Sirrus, my salesman setup a 2011 Specialized Crux Comp, the closest thing they had in stock to the Tricross. Before I headed out Mike, told me there was “something special” about riding a bike with geometry like the Crux.

Before I continue, I want to take a moment to talk about the equipment found on the Crux. The Crux Comp comes with SRAM Apex equipment and shifters. Operating the SRAM shifters is different than operating the shifters on the Allez I had rode weeks before. The Allez I tested was equipped with Shimano Sora shifters which I really didn’t like all that much. The Sora combination brake lever / shifters or “brifters” pull inward like you would expect to apply the brakes. The brake lever also pivots inward to shift up to the next larger cog or chainring. Shifting to a smaller cog with the Sora shifters requires your hands to be placed “on the hoods” so you can reach a small tab with either thumb to click down to a smaller gear. I don’t like how you’re required to move to the hoods to shift down nor do I like how the brake levers pivot to shift up. The SRAM Apex “double-tap” shifters have you pivot a smaller lever behind the brake lever to change gears. Pressing the lever a bit inward will drop you down to a smaller cog, pushing the lever further will move the chain up to a larger cog. After riding the Crux, I decided I liked the SRAM setup better than the Shimano Sora shifters. I feel more confident knowing that the SRAM brake levers only serve one function and I like how you can shift up or down while your “riding the hoods” or “the drops.”

Okay, now back to the test ride. I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to go. My last test ride on a bike with drop bars wasn’t my favorite. The Crux, while similar to the Tricross, is a full on Cyclocross racing bike. I also wasn’t quite sure what to make of the salesman’s comment that there was something special about riding a bike like the Crux.

I started my test ride in a empty part of a parking lot behind a supermarket. As I began to ride the Crux up and down the parking lot past the grocery store loading docks I started to get comfortable with the bike. Once I got comfortable, I started pedaling faster and began making gear changes. After only a few shifts I knew I liked the SRAM Apex group better than the Shimano Sora group that was installed on the Allez. After bit of riding, I noticed that my hands were more comfortable on the Crux as well. When I rode the Allez my hands started hurting even after only riding a few blocks. This could be attributed to any number of things, the adjustment and placement of the bars, my seating position, the differences in geometry between the two bikes, or even just the handlebar tape. I really didn’t spend a lot of time analyzing it, I just noticed that I was comfortable riding the hoods and didn’t feel like I needed to move my hands to different positions on the bars to maintain comfort.

After playing with the shifters and the brake levers, I started to focus just on the ride. The ride was firm but compliant. I began to feel comfortable and confident riding the Crux. I started to make some more aggressive turns and the Crux delivered. My skill level is admittedly low but nevertheless, I felt assured riding the drop bars of the Crux. This led me to test the handling of the bike. I began to look for the rough spots in the pavement, the bumps and ridges between cement and asphalt sections of the parking lot and I pointed the Crux right at them. Over the rough spots the Crux maintained it’s composure much like my old mountain bike.

After all that, I began to notice the sensation of speed. The Crux feels quick and nimble. You point it in the direction you want to go, pedal and you’re there. From a stop it doesn’t seem like it takes much effort to motivate the Crux. I felt like this bike had faster acceleration with minimal effort compared to just about all the other bikes I have tested. As I started pedaling it seemed like I was speeding along at a rapid pace even after only a few revolutions of the pedals. This is a fantastic sensation. It was almost as if the Crux was a sports car and all the hybrids I’d been riding were SUVs. The only other bike that gave me a similar sensation of speed was the Jamis Allegro. I won’t pretend to know all the reasons why the Crux feels quicker than the other bikes I’ve tested. I just know that I like it.

I kept riding the Crux for and expanded my test ride beyond the parking lot before returning to the shop. As I rolled in at the shop, my salesman, Mike was coming out the door. One thing was different about this test ride, as I got off the bike and started talking to Mike, I was smiling the entire time. My grin is what’s been missing in all the other test rides I’ve taken. Mike was right, there was something special about riding the Crux.

Though I would have liked to, I didn’t take the Crux home with me. I figured it would be best to test more cyclocross or cyclocross style bikes before making a decision. While the Crux was a blast, it’s a racing bike. I don’t have any aspirations of racing cyclocross, at least not yet. The Specialized Tricross with it’s ability to mount fenders and racks would probably be a better choice for my needs. The Crux however, would become the new basis for comparison. Any bike I would test ride from that point forward would be compared to the Crux.

2012 Sea Otter Classic

My wife and I attended the Sea Otter Classic this past weekend. It’s the first time either of us have ever been to this event or really any event like it. The temperature and humidity were both pretty high for the area. The temps were higher than normal for this time of year in general here in Northern California. Had it been a bit cooler or a little less humid it would have been perfect. The Sea Otter Classic is held at the Mazda Laguna Seca raceway and if you’ve ever been there, you know there is very little shade.

My main interest this year was visting the vendor booths. I wanted to check out all the brands and equipment choices. Being new to this sport, I was a bit overwhelmed at times. I have a good idea of what I’m looking at when it comes to bikes but, I’m still learning about all the components and extras. I was able to see some bikes that I would probably have a very hard time finding in a local bike shop. We saw unique brands and semi-custom bikes that you just don’t find in as many bike shops as say a Specialized or a Trek. Even fairly well known brands like Diamondback for example. There’s simply no stores, at least not in my area, that sell anything buy Diamondback’s entry level bikes.

The weather kept us from sticking around to watch any of the events or races. It also muted my interest in test riding any bikes. I believe Giant, Trek and Specialized were offering test rides but those are all brands I can ride at a local bike shop. After making the rounds to all the vendor booths, we decided to call it a day.

After leaving SOC at Laguna Seca, my wife and I headed into Monterey for a late lunch at Hula’s Island Grill, a great place to eat if you’re ever in the area. After eating our fill, we headed to the cost for a short but beautiful scenic drive along the ocean. We pulled off at near the Point Piños Lighthouse and did a bit of exploring on the beach, the rocks and the tide pools. The tide allowed us to access an outcropping of rocks that juts out into the ocean. While we were exploring and cooling off, I was able to get some nice photos and my wife spotted a real Sea Otter sunning himself on the rocks.

Overall, it was fun to attend the event and it was also a great weekend getaway. I hope you enjoy the photo gallery.

Test Ride Report – The Hybrids

Before I started working on the video for the Foundry Tradesman contest, I was spending time visiting a number of local bike shops to test ride bikes. I believe the only way to really know if you are going to like a bike, is to ride it yourself. Reading reviews and checking all the different manufacturers websites is fine and it can certainly help you narrow your search but, reading alone isn’t going to tell the whole story. I personally won’t buy any bike that I can’t first test ride.

It’s been a long time since I’ve really spent a lot of time riding a bike and I’ve never purchased one myself. The only bikes I’ve ever owned were either purchased by my parents when I was a kid or in the case of my current bike, something I inherited. When I started thinking about buying a new bike, I did some looking online to see what style bike would be best for me. After spending some time reading, I decided that a Hybrid bike would be the best choice for me. I came to that conclusion based on this reasoning.

1. I’ve only ever rode BMX or Mountain Bikes.
2. I’ve never rode a street bike with drop bars.
3. While Mountain Bikes are cool, I realize that 90% of my riding will be on pavement.

Since I’ve never purchased a bike for myself, I wanted to try out a lot of different bikes. I visited 6 different shops and tested 12 different bikes before I took time off to work on the Foundry video. Since I had already decided a Hybrid bike would be my best choice, I told the bike shops that while I wasn’t certain what I wanted, I was basically looking for a Hybrid. I also decided to keep notes about each bike I test rode, something I recommend you try to do as well. After riding a number of bikes they start to run together in your head. I didn’t spend a bunch of time taking notes, I just jotted down a few things after each ride. What I liked, what I didn’t like and how the bike made me feel. I just tried to think of some adjectives that would describe the bike best and wrote those down.

So here’s a look at all the different hybrid bikes I’ve tested to this point. If you’re new to riding or just getting back into it again, then perhaps this list will give you some ideas about which bikes or brands to consider. If you see something here that you like, find a local bike shop that carries the brand, visit the store and take it for a test ride.

Jamis Bicycles – Allegro Sport

The Allegro Sport from Jamis Bicycles was the first bike I test rode when I started shopping for new bikes. The reason I happened to ride the Allegro first is because the shop that’s geographically closest to my house carries Jamis bikes. When I walked into the store, I really had no idea what kind of bike I wanted other than I figured it would be a hybrid. Jamis sells a number of different variations on the Allegro. There are three different versions of the Allegro each with different components. The Sport is the base model for the Allegro line followed by the Comp and then the Elite. Moving up from the Sport model get’s you better equipment and increases the cost.

Just about every major bike manufacturer offers a few different grades with each model they sell. In addition to the three Allegro models I mentioned there are also three levels of the Allegro available for women.  The “Femme” versions of the Allegro are designed slightly different to better match a woman’s body. Finally, Jamis offers the Allegro X, a variant of the Allegro that swings a little more towards the dirt side of hybrid bikes. It features a suspension front fork to soak up the bumps of either rougher paths or terrible pavement.

The notes I made about the Allegro were that it felt fast, fun and a bit twitchy. When I say twitchy, I mean that the steering felt quick and nimble, a quality that also demands you pay more attention to where you’re pointing the bike. All of my feelings about the bike probably have something to do with the geometry designed into the bike’s frame by Jamis. If you’re  used to riding street bikes with narrow tires and shorter wheelbases, then the Allegro might feel different to you. You’ll have to try it for yourself to know for sure. The other notes I have on the Allegro are that the handlebar height is adjustable. By removing spacers you can lower the bars a little bit. The saddle was comfortable and a little squishy.

My final note is that the shifters, while completely functional, felt cheap. Moving up from the Sport to the Comp or the Elite models would most likely upgrade you to different trigger shifters. Of all the hybrids I’ve tested so far, the Allegro is the one that intrigues me the most.

Trek FX 7.3 and FX 7.4

Trek 7.3 FX  Trek 7.4 FX

I rode the Trek FX 7.3 and FX 7.4 back-to-back. There are 20 different variants of the FX in both men’s and women’s specific models. That’s enough to make you’re head spin. The FX must be a popular bike for Trek. The biggest upgrade the 7.4 has over the 7.3 is the addition of carbon fiber forks. Carbon fiber forks are known to soak up the bumps of rough surfaces better than standard aluminum forks. On this test ride, even over a hard packed gravel, I personally couldn’t tell much difference in the ride quality. I imagine over a longer ride the benefits of a carbon fork would become more evident.

I noted that I liked the ergonomic grips on the FX but wished the bars were a bit wider. Overall, I felt that the ride was a little rough but this probably comes from the fact that I’m used to riding a mountain bike which has fatter tires. Finally, I noticed that the seat was firm and hard.

Bianchi Iseo

Bianchi Iseo

The Bianchi Iseo has a certain coolness factor. Iseo is the name of a town and a lake in Northern Italy. The Iseo along with several of Bianchi’s bikes have a classic retro feel. While I appreciate retro styling, the look of the Iseo didn’t do much for me. I did however note that the Iseo was smooth and compliant. It also had a bit more of an aggressive forward lean to the bars than the other bikes I’d tested up to that point. The seat was comfortable and softer than many of the hybrids I’ve tested.

Specialized Sirrus Sport

Specialized Sirrus Sport

The Specialized Sirrus is also offered in a few different variations. The Sirrus Sport is one step up from the base model. The Sirrius, like most of the Specialized bikes, is offered in variations that range drastically in price. The MSRP for the Sirrus ranges from $500 for the base model all the way up to $2100 for the Limited version. That’s quite a swing in pricing. Here the Limited version has a carbon fiber frame but even the step down model, the Sirrus Pro with it’s aluminum frame is priced at $1450. The Pro is nearly three times more expensive than the base model. Personally, I question whether the components on the Pro model are warranted for this style bike. The Sirrus Sport I rode felt very solid. The grips had a good feel to them. I found Specialized’s Body Geometry saddle to be very firm. It felt like they had stretched a piece of leather over a brick. While a hard saddle may seem like it would be uncomfortable that’s actually not the case for longer rides. I’m not going to get into saddle technology in this post but I did feel I should mention this. Finally, I liked the styling of the Sirrus, it’s a very modern look, which is in stark contrast to the Bianchi Iseo.

Giant Escape 1

Giant Escape 1

Giant builds a road hybrid called the Escape. I tested the Escape 1 which is just one step up from the base model known as the Escape 2. Giant really mixes it up with the components on this bike. SRAM, Shimano and Tektro are all mixed in on this bike. There wasn’t anything about this bike that really stood out for me. I felt like the brake lever pull was too long but a simple adjustment might be enough to fix that issue. I wasn’t a fan of the SRAM X4 push/push shifter setup.

Raleigh Cadent FT3

Raleigh Cadent FT3

The Raleigh performance hybrid lineup includes six Cadent models for men and four Alysa models for women. The Cadent FT3 is the top of the traditionally geared models. My test ride on the Cadent was brief and limited to bike shop’s rather small parking lot. I did like the Cadent but I noticed that my toe rubbed on the front wheel a couple times while peddling and turning at the same time. I wish I had more to say about the Cadent but that would require a longer test ride. It’s a bike that I think would be worth a second look.

Scott Metrix 30

Scott Metrix 30

The Metrix lineup from Scott includes four models. The Metrix 30 is one step up from the base model in the range. I had a limited test ride on the Metrix. Nothing really stood out but, I would really need a longer test ride to get a better feel for the bike. Moving up the range to the Metrix 10 get’s you a pretty nice mix of components but of course that will also increase the price. While the Metrix doesn’t have a suspension fork, I felt like it was a little more mountain oriented than some of the other hybrids I’ve tested.

Cannondale Quick 4 and Quick 5

Cannondale Quick 4  Cannondale Quick 5

I tested Cannondale Quick 4 and Quick 5 back-to-back. The Quick 5 is the base model in the lineup with a reasonable MSRP of $550. The Quick 4 adds carbon forks and a number of other upgrades, pushing the MSRP to $700. I like the Quick, it seemed like a very solid bike and I enjoyed the ride. When I tested the Trek FX with and without a carbon fork, I didn’t notice much of a difference in the ride quality over rougher surfaces. On the Cannondale Quick however, I found the carbon fork on the Quick 4 to be a worthwhile upgrade that produced a bit smoother and more compliant ride.

Focus Cariboo Peak

Focus Cariboo Peak

The Focus Cariboo Peak that I test rode was a 2011 model. Cariboo Peak certainly seems like a funny name for a bicycle and I’m not really sure if the name is in reference to anything. The Cariboo Peak is one of two hybrids, I tested with front suspension forks. I was able to take a nice extended test ride on the Cariboo Peak. I found this Focus bike at shop located just about a block away from the American River bike trail. On my test ride, I was able to test both paved and dirt surfaces. I was also able to test the bike with the front suspension fork free and locked out. Switching the fork lockout effectively disables the front suspension or in the case of some suspension forks reduces the range of fork travel in steps. When you’re riding on smooth paved surfaces, locking out the fork will firm up the chassis and allow more of your energy to be transferred to the rear wheel. When the front suspension flexes some of your energy is lost. The suspension fork on the Cariboo did a nice job soaking up the bumps over the rough stuff though I’m not sure I would really need it for the type of riding, I expect to be doing. The Caiboo has a unique matte red power coat finish that I found quite attractive. In person the color was darker than it appears in the photo. I also liked hydraulic disc brakes on the Cariboo. They were both strong and the levers offer a good feel.

GT Transeo 3.0

GT Transeo 3.0

The GT Transeo 3.0, like the Focus Cariboo Peak also includes a suspension fork. While I felt that the Focus Caiboo Peak had a nicer feel overall, the GT is available at a lower price point. I wasn’t particularly fond of the grips on the Transeo but replacing grips is pretty easy and they don’t cost very much. One other thing I didn’t like on the Transeo were the rather short brake levers. This is something else you could replace without too much effort or cost. Moving up from the GT 3.0 to the 2.0 not only upgrades the mechanical disc brakes to hydraulic but you also get nicer brake levers.

Well there you have it, a dozen different hybrid bikes tested. Riding a number of different bikes has given me a much better idea of what I want on new bike. There are a few more bikes that I have tested and I will cover those in a follow up post along with some information on how I am narrowing my choices to find the best bike for my needs and my style. Have you recently purchased a hybrid style bicycle? Share what you like about it by posting a comment.