Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's Not About the Hybrid

In a previous post, I wrote about a cycling vacation we took in Maine where we rented bicycles.  It was a wonderful, well organized trip.  The only flaw was that my wife and I found the rented bicycles difficult to handle.  I speculated as to the cause, and one speculation was that we simply don't like hybrid bikes.  On our recent vacation on Martha's Vineyard, we rode borrowed hybrid bikes and had a wonderful experience.  Thus, I no longer feel that the problem with the rented bikes was that they were hybrids.

The bicycle I borrowed was a 1990's Specialized.

One of the most objective complaints I had against the hybrid I rented in Maine was that it was not stable enough to allow me to stand while climbing.  One of the rides we took on the Vineyard was somewhat hilly, hilly enough to allow me to try standing while climbing, which I could do comfortably and easily.  In general, I never felt unstable on this Specialized.

My wife rode two bikes on the Vineyard.  The first belonged to our hostess:

The second had belonged to our host and hostess's son before he outgrew it:

These were a matched pair of Schwinn Frontiers, about 10 years old.  My wife, who fell on the bike she rented in Maine and who, in general, felt insecure on it whenever she rode it, felt comfortable and secure on both of these bikes she rode on the Vineyard.

In summary, the three randomly chosen, inexpensive, hybrid bikes we rode on the Vineyard were perfectly adequate. This contrasts with the bikes we rented in Maine, where two out of four of the bikes were barely adequate to inadequate. To be fair, it is difficult to be sure I am comparing apples to apples; the bikes we rode on the Vineyard might, in fact, be considered mountain bikes not hybrids; they have 26" wheels and fat tires.  The reason I classify them as hybrids is because they have no suspension.  At some level, however, this argument becomes circular; the bikes we found unsatisfactory are different from the large number of different kinds of bikes we find satisfactory.  I only hope the very nice folks who ran the tour and provided the bikes in Maine noticed the problem and are thinking about it at least as hard as I am.

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