My Ride

Behold, the 2010 Specialized Crosstrail! 

When I walked into Olde Towne Bicycles last March to pick out my new ride, I did so having completed absolutely no research on bicycle models or types.  My ignorance was bliss, although I pictured myself getting a road bike with drop-down handlebars much like the one I owned 15 years ago.  After wandering the store for a few minutes, a 19 year-old salesman named Austin offered his assistance.  After sizing me up and hearing my rambling thoughts on what I wanted to do with my bike, Austin directed me to the Crosstrail. 

Initially, I was concerned.  The bike didn’t have drop-down handlebars and I thought the tires were too big.  Stylewise, the cross bar swooped up from the rear fork, giving the bike a look that too closely resembled a girl’s bike for my comfort.  I expressed my reservations to Austin who assured me that the bike would handle very well for my needs and the style was, in fact, considered to be quite cool.  He managed to convince me, although it was still with some trepidation that I handed over my credit card and left the store with my new bike.  I hoped Austin was right and took some comfort in the store’s 30-day return policy.

Austin was right.

The Crosstrail is a quantum leap in quality over any bike I or my family has bought at various Wal-Marts over the years.  After logging almost 200 miles, I like just about everything about it.  I have since learned that this bike is known as a “hybrid” – a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike.  It is therefore serviceable on and off roads.   This has proved critical on a number of occasions, when bike paths ended unexpectedly or heavy traffic forced me off the road.

I always thought of myself as a road bicycle kind of guy, but the hybrid has some nice features that I wouldn’t want to part with now that I know they exist.  One such feature is the front suspension.  It does a fantastic job cushioning the routine shocks and bumps one encounters.  Transitioning from bike paths to roads and back again, bridge seams, and a host of other jarring events are not nearly as significant with this suspension.  Very nice.

Those fat tires are quite useful as well.  To be honest, they aren’t “fat” like mountain bike tires.  As one would expect with something called a Hybrid, they are a mix between the thin tires on road bikes and the knobby tires on mountain bikes.  They probably cut my average cruising speed by one or two mph, but they more than make up for it by providing some durability.  I remember having flat tires with great regularity on my old road bike.  The thinner tires simply wouldn’t hold up under less-than-pristine conditions.  I now feel comfortable going through moderate amounts of pebbles and glass that line the highways and byways of Northern Virginia.  When I occasionally go off-road, I have no concerns.  After 200 miles on my old bike, I would certainly have had at least one flat.  Knock on wood, but I’ve had no problems so far.  The wheels are 28″, which is about as big as you can get.  In short, these tires are great.

Everything else on the bike is also just ducky.  The upright handlebars provide more control in tight spots than drop-down handlebars.  It may be less aerodynamic, but I’m not trying to win any speed trials here.  The gears shift with ease and I’ve only had two derailments (both due to operator error).  The seat, which looked alarmingly-austere at first, is tolerable if not comfy.  The brakes work without screeching and that is all one can hope for with brakes, I think.  The front wheel has a nifty quick release feature, making it easier to put the bike in the van or other constrained spaces.

All the bike’s parts are stock.  I’ve learned that serious cyclists often swap out wheels, brakes, seats, and other parts to suit their very specific needs.  I can only imagine reaching a point where I feel the need to do this.  For now, I am quite happy with my bike rigged as it is.

And thanks, Austin!

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