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What about the new cross bikes? They combine features of mountain and touring bikes.

MARRY A MOUNTAIN bike to a touring bike and the offspring looks like a hybrid "cross" bike like the one shown below. It's the newest segment of the cycling market--some estimate up to 10 percent of national sales.

This type of bike is becoming popular because it's designed for the way the majority of riders actually use their mountain bikes--most often on paved roads with occasional off-road use. (Even mountain bike manufacturers say that 80 percent of all mountain bikes are never ridden off-road.) It offers much of the light weight and lack of rolling resistance you get with a touring bike, combined with the durability, comfort, and maneuverability of a mountain bike.

WHAT MAKES A HYBRID

AND WHAT MAKES IT GOOD

Accompanying the photograph below are point by point differences between the cross bike and a typical mountain bike and touring or road bike.

New riders who are still uncertain about the type of riding they'll do most and who want to do a bit of both are well suited to the cross bike, as are city cyclists who want a bike tough enough for potholes but one that doesn't weigh a lot.

Most hybrids we tried handled sharp uphill pitches well, but on steep, loose-soiled downhill runs, they lacked the trail-holding abilities of the heavier mountain bikes, which have knobby, wide, gripping tires and a lower center of gravity. We found the cross bikes generally didn't do as well on narrow, deeply rutted trails.

The advantages of the cross bike's lighter, smoother tires really show up on pavement, where the bike corners and accelerates far better than a mountain bike. Still, the tires resist cuts and punctures better than most thin, narrow, smooth-tread touring bike tires.

To come up with a general opinion about cross bikes, we sought the views of dozens of cyclists, manufacturers, and industry insiders. Matt Folsom, general manager of Palo Alto Bicycles, in Palo Alto, California, best summed up what we found:

"It's the hottest product we sell and the best blend of features for most riders. But like any compromise, it doesn't perform at either end of its spectrum as well as the best of its parents bikes--not as rugged as the top mountain bikes or as speedy as the better road bikes."

TAKE A TEST DRIVE. IF

THE CROSS FITS, BUY IT

It pays to comparison shop. Several bike specialty magazines do annual product ratings and now evaluate cross bikes under their own category. It's worth a trip to the newsstand to review these ratings. Many bike shops will let you take a bike for a test ride (you leave your driver's license as security)--a valuable way to get a feel for the bike and its components.

To make sure you buy a cross bike with the right size frame for you, you can conduct a simple test (different from the one you perform for mountain or road bikes). Straddle the bike's top tube, holding your feet fairly close together near the front wheel; lift up the bike so the top tube nearly touches your crotch. The front tire should clear the floor by about 1 1/2 inches.

A good source of information on clubs, products, and bike repairs is the League of American Wheelmen, 190 W. Ostend St., Suite 120, Baltimore, Md. 21230.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:554
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