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Biking for Everyone.

1999 Bicycle Gear Buyer's Guide

Hot innovations and breakthrough legislation make this a glorious time to ride

The bike world has come a long way in the last generation. From a tiny sport of dedicated tourers and racers, it has mushroomed into the biggest mainstream fitness activity in the country after walking. The rise of the rugged and comfortable mountain bike in the 1980s and '90s had a lot to do with its fast rise in popularity. And two recent developments may assure its growth for years to come: Congress' passage last year of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century, known as TEA-21, which designates a whopping $3 billion for new pedestrian and on- and off-road bike lanes and trails from now until 2004; and an explosion of innovation that has created hundreds of convenient new accessories and entirely new categories of bikes.

Today, riders of every age and ability have a bicycle to call their own. To the traditional line-up of mountain, road, and hybrid bikes, add recumbents for those who prefer a back-friendly, laid-back position. Add electric bikes for those who want a little assist on the hills, folding bikes for business and weekend travelers, and auto-shifting bikes that take the guesswork out of changing gears. On the accessory front, advances in electronics and product design have made lights, computers, all-in-one multitools, pumps, and other products remarkably compact, simple, and effective. The latest generation of child and cargo carriers, auto racks, and touring equipment are so easy to use that there is no excuse for not making cycling part of your daily family life.

So feast your eyes on the best new products from the cycling world. Then get out and ride.

Bikes

(1) Ritchey Plexus mountain bike $3,200

Fabled hike builder Tom Ritchey made some of the first mountain bike frames 21 years ago, and his expertise is evident in the impressive new Plexus. Extremely light for a steel bike at 23 pounds, the hardtail takes edge off of bumpy trails with a Judy SL fork up front and swept seat stays that give it a quarter-inch of rear-wheel travel Ritchey innovation is also on display in the transmission, which uses the company's signature "2-by-9" drivertrain with an extra-wide chain for added mud clearance, and in its superstrong Zero Wheel System with a "dishless" rear wheel. Other brands' rear wheels often get out of true because their left and right spokes are angled differently the Plexus uses OCR (off center rim) and Z Hubs with narrowerspaced flanges to make them equal. Bottom line? A feathery, bomb-proof machine you can ride for years, (800) RITCHEY; info@ritcheylogic.com

(2) Dahon Rock Hard folding mountain bike $349

Some traveling bikes are so tiny that you feel like you're a circus act, Not the Rock Hard. The latest from one of the original pioneers of folding bikes, this is a full-blown, 21-speed, 26-in.-wheel mountain bike that hinges at mid-frame. The 32-pounder easily fits in a trunk and can be boxed small enough to checked onto an airplane without an extra bike-baggage fee. For serious riders who want a lightweight aluminum frame and front suspension, check out Dahon's hot Zero G model ($699). (626) 305-5264.

(3) Schwinn Circuit road bike $1,199-1,299

If there was a "Best All `Round" award for road bikes. the Circuit would win hands down. It's a true racing bike with the same hot-shot, straight-blade aluminum fork and lightweight Reynolds 853 steel frame found on Schwinn's speedy Peloton. On the other hand, it's also a great century machine and legitimate touring bike, given its rack mounts and 27-speed. Shimano 105 triple-chain ring A complete value, it includes clipless pedals and strong double-wall dins. (800) SCHWINN: www.schwinn.com

(4) Raleigh R300 touring bike $650

If touring's your thing be prepared to be wowed. The R300 has features of tour bikes costing hundreds more, including a lightweight aluminum frame (instead of heavier steel tubing), convenient brake-lever shifters (instead of frame-mounted shifters) and a tacit Available in classy Ultra Red, it comes with all the standard touring fare you need: a stable, long-wheelbase frame design, hill-friendly, triplechain-ring 24-speed drivetrain, back-friendly riser stem and front fork pannier mounts. (800) 222-5527; www.raleighusa.com

Panniers & Racks

(5) Ortlieb Bike Packer Light panniers Rear: $195; Front: $165

The leader of the packs, Ortlieb is well-known for the detailed, high-quality construction of its racks and panniers, its new Bike Packer Lights panniers start with lightweight, waterproof DuPont 5000 Cordura and make it completely airtight by using welded seams. The new QL (Quick Lock) mounting system is simple and sure; the panniers mount and dismount the rack with the simple lifting of a strap. (800) 649-1763; www.ortlieb.de

(6) Blackburn SP-2 Quick Release Rack $44.95

Commuter racks don't get any easier than this. The SP-2 uses a convenient, tools-free, quick-release clamp to mount onto a seatpost without removing the post. The rack, which rests on top of a burly rectangular aluminum beam, has a 20-lb. load capacity, weighs 460 grams and adjusts to seatpost diameters from 25.2 to 30mm. It is not pannier-compatible. A division of Bell Sports. (800) 456-2355; www.blackbumdesign.com

Auto Racks

(7) Hollywood Racks Team Rider $250

Forget about the hassle of carrying bikes with odd frame configurations. The Team Rider is the first-ever rack to hold bikes strictly by the three parts they all have in common: seatpost, and wheels. The extra wide wheel trays can even handle the burly tires of downhill bikes. This trailer-hitch rack can handle 2 or 4 bikes (the latter requires a $175 add-on kit), folds up flush with the vehicle when not in use, and tilts down for lift-gate access when loaded. (800) 747-4085; www.hollywoodracks.com

(8) Thule Space Station Hitch Rack $275 (2-bike set-up)

Efficiency is the hallmark of the new Space Station. It uses a multipurpose modular system that mates a common trailer-receiver base with a variety of separately purchased tops to adapt to carrying bikes, skis, snowboards, and even luggage. Cycling versions include 4-bike ($335), 2-bike, top-tube mount and fork mount. Super convenient, the rack features a gas-strut tilt mechanism that allows you to open the lift-gate of your van or SUV. (800) 238-2388; www.thule.com

Transmission Systems

(9) Shimano Nexus Auto-D automatic transmission Found on $400-$700 bikes

Shimano, the bike industry's dominant component maker, just keeps the innovations coming. For those who don't want to worn/about shifting all the time, the computer-controlled Nexus Auto-D 4-speed gives you the choice of changing gears yourself or having the bike do it automatically. If you choose "M," just press two buttons on the handlebar to change gears. If you choose "D," shifting is done for you, with a flashing, bright-red LED light and an audible beep. The handsome digital display includes your current speed. (949) 951-5003; www.shimano.com

(10) ZAP SX electric bike kit $375

In less than an hour, you can electrify your old bike with ZAP (it stands for Zero Air Pollution), which started the electric-bike revolution in 1994. Its new SX kit upgrades any bike with a non-knobby rear tire--including cruisers, mountain and road bikes--with a battery-operated electric engine that has a maximum speed of 15 mph. The entire system weighs 20 pounds, and the bike can be pedaled with or without the 12.5-1b. battery. ZAP's DX system ($449) has a maximum speed of 20 mph, and its complete 6-speed SX Cruiser bike costs $699. (800) 251-4555; www.zapbikes.com

Cargo & Child Trailers

(11) Burley Design Cub kids trailer $320

Talk about convenience for family outings: the affordable, 2-child Cub features a durable plastic bottom with padded seats, built-in elastomer suspension for a smooth ride, a long-lasting aluminum frame a quick-release hitch that attaches to the bike's rear triangle, and revolutionary retractable wheels. The entire unit folds up in 30 seconds without tools to store trunk It has a screened cover for sun protection, a flag for visibility, reflectors all around and a 100-lb. weight capacity. (800) 311-5294; www.burley.com

(12) Kool-Stop Wilderbeast cargo trailer $275

Kool-Stop knows you can never have too much luggage space. That's why its new Wilderbeast trailer not only comes with a huge (70-lb. capacity) cargo box, but has brackets on the hitch frame for two panniers. Made of lightweight and strong chromoly tubing, the trailer includes a built-in fender and secure plastic hitches that lock into the bike's rear triangle. (800) 586-3332; www.koolstop.com

Recumbent

(13) Vision R32 recumbent bike $1,295

An ideal commuter bike with a slightly taller seating position than other laid-backs, the nimble new R32 21-speed is fast and very comfortable. That's due to its built-in rear suspension, adjustable seat, conventional, out-in-front handlebars, and stable midlength wheelbase of 54 inches (16-in. front wheel and 20-in. rear). It folds for storage or transport. A front suspension fork is an extra $200. (877) 433-4273; www.visionrecumbents.com

Helmets

(14) Giro Gila $75

You don't have to spend three figures to get a helmet that looks like a million bucks. The racy Gila has 22 vents, a snap-mounted visor, the ponytail-compatible, height-adjustable Roc Loc 2 retention system, and a huge rear reflective strap. (800) 969-4476; www.giro.com

(15) Bell Sports Rubicon $125

This beautiful high-end mountain bike helmet has it all: 26 vents and a snap-in visor to keep you cool, Fusion Fit and Cam-Locks for head-hugging retention and on-the-fly adjustment, and Quick Wick brow pads for sweat control. (800) 456-2355; www.bellbikehelmets.com

Accessories

(16) Zefal Buggy and Flamingo fenders $15 each

Some mountain bikers, especially those in the Northwest, claim that they love mud. Don't believe it. Mud impairs your vision and makes you look like a pig. Fortunately, Zefal provides a quick remedy with a number of stylish plastic fenders, like the Buggy for front forks and the rear-end Flamingo. Both are extremely lightweight and attach to your bike in seconds. (888) 515-7867; www.zefal.com

(17) Sigma Sport PC 6 HRM and Targa bike computer $90 and $35

Sigma provides a lot of technology for a little money. The six-function PC6 heartrate monitor includes a large HR display, programmable training zones, a visual/beeping alarm zone tracker, 12/24-hour clock date with 20-year calendar, and a 20-hour stop watch. It has a handlebar as well as a wrist mount The 8-function Targa cyclometer is built for extreme conditions, with a reinforced Ti-metal casing, a heavy-duty cable, and a unique stem-mounting to keep it out of harm's way. (888) 744-6277: www.sigmasport.com

(18) Park Tool MTBI Micro Tool Box $40

What important bike tool is not on the MTBI fold up multi-tool? To get you out of any jam, there are 21 tools in all, including a chain tool, three spoke wrenches, several hex and box wrenches, flat head and Phillips head screw-drivers, a rule, patch kit, and tire levers. This palm-sized wonder may be tiny, but it's very big on performance. (651) 777-6868; www.parktool.com

(19) Mirrycle Ring-A-Ding Incredibell $7-9

Incredible not only started the bell revolution, it started the politeness revolution. Now, even on trails that don't require bells, rarely do mountain bikers yell and scream as they blast by irritated hikers. Instead, they calmly announce themselves with cheerful chimers like the Ring-A-Ding, which has a Saturn-like ring dinger sounded when rotated with any finger. That's handy when you're doing your best to control the bike at the same time. Like the whole Incredibell family, this one mounts easily with a few turns of a Phillips screwdriver. For information, see your local bike store.

(20) Topeak Einstein Master Blaster pump $32.95

Einstein. What else could you call a pump with Smarthead, which automatically adapts to Shrader or Presta valves without having to be taken apart, and Magic Lever, an expando tire lever that pops tires off like an auto-repair shop? The Master Blaster has a lockable telescoping tube for high- or low-pressure pumping and even includes a glueless patch kit (800) 250-3068; www.topeakcom

(21) Planet Bike 5000 XR light $50

How they did it, we just don't know. But at a fraction of the cost of other rechargeable battery systems, the 5000 produces remarkably high power. Super convenient, the ultralight (6 oz.) headlight docks cleanly into its compact Quick Cam handlebar bracket and can be used with either its own quick-change battery pack or four AA batteries. A full 25 percent of Planet Bike's profits go to bicycle advocacy groups. (608) 256-8510; www.planet-bike.com

(22) Kryptonite Kryptolock $30

Key-losers of the world, your day has come. Mating the convenience of a built-in changeable combination code to the strength of carbon-alloy steel, KryptoLock is the world's first keyless U-lock. The 1.92-lb. lock includes a resettable four-digit code, a frame-mounting bracket, and a fashionable integrated dust cover. (781) 828-6655; www.kryptonitelock.com

Clothing

(23) Nema Crown Jewel Shorts $70

Retailers routinely complain about these handsome, baggy, mountain-biking shorts for one reason: they last too long. Made of durable 4-ply nylon, the Crown Jewel is loaded with comfort features: A mesh gator to prevent outer shorts from creeping up your legs and hooking on the saddle; a fixed waistband in the back (instead of elastic), which allows for a higher cut similar to a regular Lycra bike short; a seamless microsuede pad (most other baggies don't use seamless). With its flight satin silver strip, it looks as good as it performs. The similar Jewel model, without the flight satin, costs $55. (888) 636-2872; www.nema-usa.com
COPYRIGHT 1999 Sierra Magazine
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:bicycle gear buyers guide
Publication:Sierra
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Words:2259
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