Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Napa Valley Register Online | Stories From ApBusiness

Napa Valley Register Online | Stories From ApBusiness:

"A radical idea is sweeping the world of American bicycle manufacturing: building bikes that people will use for actual transportation.

After decades of pushing models designed for recreation, from full-suspension mountain bikes to ever-faster road bikes, industry heavyweights are now moving into commuters -- rugged specimens made for riding to work. Nearly every major manufacturer has a new or revised commuter model for 2007. They may look like 1940s Schwinns, but materials like aluminum and carbon make the frames lighter, while technological advances mean better brakes, shock-absorbing seats, smoother shifters and even electric power. The models usually come with practical accessories, like racks for carrying briefcases, fenders for splash protection on wet roads, lights that turn on automatically at dusk and big chain guards to keep legs and clothing away from chain grease.

Specialized's new Globe commuter line has nine selections, from $410 to $1,300. The 2007 Transporter from Diamondback is billed as an 'AWB' (All-Weather Bike), thanks to fenders and lightly treaded, all-purpose tires. Manufacturer Breezer, which came out with its first commuter models in 2002, has added a new version of its Uptown 8 this season, with LED headlights, more comfortable handlebars, a full chain case and more puncture-resistant tires.

Europeans, of course, have been riding commuter bikes for decades. In Holland, there are twice as many bikes as cars, and nearly as many bicycles as people. Now, in the U.S., the industry is pitching the new models as gas prices remain high and concerns over obesity grow. They also come as cities and states move to become more bike-friendly."

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