A bicycle built for you.
BICYCLES -- Evaluation
Women's Sports & Fitness, Apr94, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p51, 9p, 14c
Offers a guide for women bikers to select the right bicycle. Nishiki Beta; Bianchi Campione D'Italia;
Trek 1200; Bridgestone RB-2; Giant Cadex; Cannondale R300; Jamis Aurora; Marin Eldridge
Grade; Barracuda A2MS; Specialized Stumpjumper; Schwinn High Timber; Diamondback Ascent.
INSETS: Tech talk: A glossary of bikespeak; The test drive; Bargain bikes.
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BICYCLE BUYING GUIDE 1994
A BICYCLE BUILT FOR YOU
Riding is like dancing with nature. The wind's in your hair (or at least on your helmet), the exertion catches
your breath, the speed draws tears from your eyes. You're giddy with energy and motion, unhampered by the
boundaries of a dance floor. You can race the wind or slowly make your way along, senses on high alert,
taking in what nature offers.
A bike ride can reprioritize your life quicker than any self-help book. Like when you're riding off-road and dirt
turns to mud: Your brakes become impotent and your tires-thick with sludge-slide, choking uncontrollably on
precarious singletrack. Somehow, instead of queasy fear, you feel drunk. You laugh as you topple into puddles,
ruin your clothes, skin your knees, and have more fun than you did when you used to throw your body down
bumpy, snow-covered hills on a flimsy plastic sled. You go home hungry, wet and smelling of dirt-but clean of
Road cycling boasts a different allure. Its powerful, lulling rhythm and soothing cadence can mute the crying
baby, petulant spouse or manipulative boss. It's a truer test of will: just you, the bike, and an endless stretch of
pavement. There are no phones or taxes. There's nothing but time and space to think. These, and the smooth,
uninterrupted burn of your body in motion a reminder that all said, life is a cycle.
Just as your dance experience hinges on the right partner, so does your cycling. In the pages that follow, we
offer a guide to help you select the right bike. In addition to evaluating the top bikes for women, we explain
how to measure frame fit, choose a shop and negotiate prices. For those of you on a tight budget, new to the
sport or looking for a sturdy commuter bike you can feel safe leaving locked outside, we also recommend 10
terrific bikes for less than $500. So choose your partner and start spinning.
We asked eight expert women cyclists to test more than 20 different bikes. The models were selected because of their price (between $500 and $1,000) and attention to women-specific details, such as saddle design, brake lever accessibility and frame size. What follows is their feedback on everything from seat comfort to stem length along with a glossary of bike terms. But as our experts' favorite testbike picks confirm (see: "Our Fearless Testers," page 54), there is no "best" bike overall-only what's best for you.
REAL-LIFE ROAD BIKES
Suggested Retail: $950
Sizes Available: 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61 cm
Complete Bike Weight: 21 lbs.
The Beta, one of only two road frames produced by Nishiki, has a nontraditional, triathlon bent. Its attention-getting frame includes a mono-stay rear triangle to give the bike a stiffer feel, a dropped top tube that provides a lower-profile, more aerodynamic position and a straight blade fork, which, we were told, is mainly a fashion statement.
Our testers loved the aggressive yet comfortable riding position and the bike's responsive cornering. "It has all the key elements of a great triathlon bike," said one tester. "Most importantly, it puts you in an aggressive riding position without contorting your body into an uncomfortable position."
Its excessively short 165 cranks, small 26" wheels and stiff rear triangle are designed for optimum energy transfer and high-cadence spinning, which, while ideal for time trials, criteriums and triathlons, is less than perfect for long road rides or extended climbing, where the leverage of longer cranks would help. We also think Nishiki should have stuck with the traditional, performance-oriented feel of 105 clipless pedals instead of spec'ing the Beta with Shimano A-525 SPD clipless.
ð A killer triathlon bike at an economical price
ð Nontraditional frame design for efficiency and speed
ð 165 cranks make for tough climbing
ð Keep the SPD pedals on the mountain bikes
Bianchi Campione D'italia
Suggested Retail: $920
Sizes Available: 49, 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, 63cm
Complete Bike Weight: 22.9 lbs.
In today's world of made-in-Taiwan frames and components, Bianchi's Campione D'Italia stands apart. It's the only bike under $1,000 that's Campagnolo-equipped and has an Italian-made frame. We liked its racy geometry, which helps account for its lively and fast-handling frame. "Its quick, nervous response is great," said one rider. Two of our testers, tall women with proportionately large hands, encountered a bit of a stretch when trying to grip the brake levers, and for someone with smaller hands and fingers, this could be a real problem. The uncomfortable braking resulted in less confidence on the descents. Climbing, on the other hand, was both comfortable and secure, and shifting with the Campy Stratos componentry was good, quick and positive.
ð An Italian-made frame, Campagnolo parts for sub-$1,000 price tag
ð Ultra-responsive, fast-handling frame geometry
ð It's a stretch to reach brake levers
Traditional road racers
Suggested Retail: $726
Sizes Available: 47, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm
Complete Bike Weight: 22.5 lbs.
The Trek 1200 comes in a range of sizes to fit just about anyone. Best of all, for $726, this is a racing bike you can confidently bring to any starting line. Our testers raved over its lightweight aluminum tubing. And while some of its steep angles give the 1200 a "racy" feel more suited to aggressive riding, our testers found its geometry comfortable and relaxed enough for distance riding and climbing in the saddle.
The 1200's cables are routed through the top tube to give the frame a sleek, clean line, a perk one tester worried would make the bike difficult to maintain. One thing everyone agreed upon: The Shimano Exage brakes work great. They stop hard and fast, yet don't require a tremendous amount of pressure to use.
ð Weight and geometry make for a fast, quickhandling, responsive frame
ð Recessed cables aesthetically pleasing
ð Recessed cables could be difficult to access and maintain
ð New safety feature on quick release makes it annoyingly difficult to remove front wheel; road repairs become more
Advanced or intermediate racers
Suggested Retail: $680
Sizes Available: 50, 53, 56, 57.5, 59, 62cm
Complete Bike Weight: 23.6 lbs.
For dependability, durability and longevity, the RB-2's steel frame can't be beat. it's the kind of bike that will be with you for a long while and could even become your best friend, as Bridgestone bikes have a tendency to do. "It's not for a racer like me, but it's a great entry-level bike: an earnest, dependable sort of machine," said one tester. With eyelets for racks or fenders and clearance for wider tires (32c at least), the RB-2 is well-suited for recreational riding or commuting. Our testers all lamented the RB-2's weightover a pound heavier than the similarly priced, aluminum-framed Trek 1200. Acknowledging that the RX 100 parts worked fine, our testers noted the componentry's heavy-feeling shifting and brakes. But while the RB-2's weight made it less than zippy on the uphills, everyone enjoyed its solid, stable feel. It took corners well and never felt squirrelly on the downhills.
ð Solid, dependable frame
ð Eyelets for racks or fenders, clearance for wider tires
ð A bit heavy for the price
ð Slightly sluggish on climbs
Recreational and weekend riders
Suggested Retail: $999
Sizes Available: 51, 53, 55, 57, 59, 61 cm
Complete Bike Weight: 21.5 lbs.
At more than 20 pounds, the bike's not exactly light for its price range, but the CFR-3 delivered a ride that was stiff and predictable as well as responsive and smooth. The mono-stay rear triangle increased stiffness in the back, and with an aluminum fork up front, the ride was smooth. And the frame geometry is just as aggressive and racy as the more expensive, CFR-1. "I felt confident flying down twisty mountain roads because this bike did what I asked it to do," said one tester. The shifting was less responsive, thanks to the Campagnolo Stratos Ergo Power shifters, incorporated into the brake levers for dual control. The brakes required a firm grip to stop the bike, and between braking and shifting, one tester quipped, "My fingers and forearms got a better workout than my legs." Unfortunately frame sizes start at 51cm, leaving just about everyone under 5'2" out of the picture.
ð Aluminum fork provided a smoother ride; mono-stay rear triangle offers increased stiffness
ð Aggressive frame geometry enhances handling and control
ð Campy Stratos Ergo Power shifters and Stratos brakes heavy, stiff and awkward
ð Frame sizes start at 51 cm
Cannondale R300 Suggested Retail: $650 Sizes Available: 48, 50, 53, 54.5, 56, 58, 60, 63cm Complete Bike Weight:
Known for stiff and lightweight aluminum frames, Cannondale's entry-level racing bike uses the same concepts, design and beefy, oversized tubing as its more expensive race models. And at 19.2 pounds, it's one of the lighter bikes available in its price range. "For such an inexpensive bike, I was surprised at how well it performed," said one tester.
Everyone commented on the confidence-evoking ride afforded by the R300, from its comfortable vet aggressive riding position to its excellent handling skills. "The bike was very light and airy to ride, but it never felt whippy," said one tester. And from its trustworthy Continental Super Sport Ultra tires to its Modolo anatomic handlebars, some of the little choices Cannondale made for the R300 are among the most impressive. Even the inexpensive Shimano Exage grouppo worked well, although durability and life expectancy of the parts seemed questionable. But most importantly, the aggressive riding position and lightweight Cannondale 3.0 Series Road Race frame makes the R300 a bike you can confidently be competitive on-whether that competition is a fun ride with friends or a real, all-out road race.
ð Lightweight, aggressive 3.0 Series Road Race frame
ð Noteworthy attention to component specifications, such as Continental tires and Modolo anatomic handlebars
ð Inexpensive Shimano Exage grouppo works fine but may not withstand the rigors of the long haul.
MUST-HAVE MOUNTAIN BIKES
Suggested Retail: $949
Sizes Available: 14.5,16,17.5,19.5, 21.5 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 25.5 lbs.
It's a killer deal:The jamis Aurora is one of the only bikes in its price range with Rock Shox Mag 10 air/oil adjustable forks. Our testers loved the Aurora's long stem and resulting aggressive riding position, making the bike stable on singletrack. The flattering pseudo-titanium finish makes the Aurora the perfect economically priced poser bike. Our smaller testers frowned upon the exaggerated width of the handlebars and found the STX shifting to be "sticky." Still, everyone loved the smooth and easy downhilling, compliments of the Mag ]Os. Some noted climbing frustration due to the heavy front end and the flex of the forks, which may have worked better with a beefier hub.
ð Rock Shox Mag 10s make downhilling a breeze
ð Handlebars are too wide for small women
Marin Eldridge Grade
Suggested Retail: $889
Sizes Available: 14, 15.5, 17.5, 19, 20.5 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 23 lbs.
For a woman who's serious about learning to ride off-road, Marin's Eldridge Grade is the kind of bike a beginner can grow into and remain satisfied with for a long time. This light bike's frame-made of durable chromemoly steel-makes less poundage to heft around. Our testers felt that the bike handled well enough to evoke confidence on even the most gnarly singletrack. As one tester commented, "The Marin handles wonderfully, yet it's also so comfortable to ride. When you get on it, you don't feel like it's going to throw you off." Another plus: Although the Eldridge comes standard with rigid forks, it's designed to accommodate suspension forks, and Marin offer,-, Rock Shox or Manitou as an option on their frames. The Eldridge climbed and maneuvered securely, making it easy to maintain a good line. Still, our testers felt they could have used more leverage-perhaps 175 cranks-on the really steep stuff.
ð Light, agile chrome-moly frame isn't mushy or overly stiff
ð Frame geometry isn't too aggressive or intimidating for beginners
ð Frame geometry isn't stiff enough for racing
Building confidence in beginning riders
Suggested Retail: $850
Sizes Available: 12, 14, 16, 18, 19 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 26.75 lbs.
For women between 4'0" and 5'5", Barracuda's A2MS is an exciting bike. With its sloping top tube designed for better standover height, the A2MS is wonderfully easy to throw around on singletrack. A good climber and cornerer, the stiff and durable steel frame handles beautifully. This is partly due to the bike's ovalized tubing, which adds to the frame's vertical stiffness. "It was great to ride a small climbing machine," noted one tester unused to such a perk. The interesting mix of 1994 STX shift levers and a '93 LX drivetrain worked well, and everyone loved the Barracuda-designed blue anodized handlebars and brakes as well as the funky graphics.
In a commendable effort to provide the best possible fit, Barracuda specs all their 12" and 14" frames with their own ZeroRise stem. It works together with a long Barracuda seat post to ensure that handlebars are at or below the level of the saddle. However, unlike Barracuda's more expensive models ($1,000+), the stern on the A2MS is disappointingly short-,in issue our testers immediately pounced on.
ð Barracuda-designed blue anodized parts and funky graphics
ð Small frame sizes that climb well and fit even petite riders
ð Too-short stem length
ð Daunting weight
Women under 5'3"
Suggested Retail: $849.99
Sizes Available: 14.5, 16.5, 18, 19, 20, 21.5 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 24.25 lbs.
The Specialized Stumpjumper's 1994 edition is classically designed, and for around $800, you'll be hard-pressed to find a bike as light and stiff as the Stumpjumper. The thin-walled, Direct-Drive Prestige tubing has this bike checking in at just over 24 pounds. Our testers found it smooth and stable on the downhills, and its weight made climbing easy. "I was even inspired to 'catch air,"' said one tester. Another tester liked the bike so much she said she might consider buying one-even though her current bike cost her at least twice dS much. One caveat: If you think you might invest in a suspension system, consider the more expensive, suspension-specific geometry of the Stumpjumper FS. Alas, theregular Stumpjumper's geometry just isn't set up for suspension.
ð Prestige tubing creates an incredible weight advantage for the price
ð Responsive handling, stable downhilling
ð Lacks suspension-specific geometry
Serious singletrack riders
Schwinn High Timber
Suggested Retail: $750
Sizes Available: 15, 17, 19, 21 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 26.5 lbs.
For initial feel and riding position, the Schwinn High Timber's aggressive, confidence-evoking geometry received high marks from our testers. Our testers, although they lamented its slow climbing ability, loved the way it barreled down-hill."I appreciated the addition of the Rock Shox," said one tester. We worried that the Quad Tech stem's wedge, which allows for the different positions, might be confusing to set up, possibly leading to uneven handlebars. But even though we didn't love the stem, we liked seeing a company that thinks creatively, and we loved the High Timber's tires, a Ritchey Z-Max up front and a Climbmax in the rear. Another nice touch our testers liked was the AT3 Scott Bars, which allow versatility in hand positions and reach for climbing.
ð Great tire mix: Ritchey Z-Max, front; Climbmax, rear
ð AT3 Scott Bars Provide versatile hand positions
ð Quad Tech 427 stem could cause setup problems than it's designed to correct
ð Heavy, slow climbing bike
Suggested Retail: $549
Sizes Available: 14, 16, 18, 20, 22 in.
Complete Bike Weight: 27.2 lbs.
The Ascent proves that $550 buys you a whole lot more than it did even three years back. Its chrome-moly
double-butted frame makes this a strong and durable introductory bike. Designed to be comfortable for an entry-level enthusiast, the Ascent's upright geometry includes a slightly short top tube and stem. This, however, left our more experienced testers feeling a bit scrunched. The Ascent did climb well, but a more stretched out position may have kept the front wheel from popping up on steep climbs, and more expensive tires than the Avenir Vigor EX could have added stability on singletrack. Still, overall, as one tester said, "The geometry of the bike is perfect for riders who want a bicycle that feels comfortable and isn't intimidating."
ð Durable chrome-moly frame
ð Entry-level cyclists will appreciate the comfy Avenir Flite gel saddle
ð Frame geometry not suited for aggressive or technical riding
ð Tank-like weight makes it harder to carry bike and adds to its inertia
Tools You Can Use
1. Set of Allen wrenches. Make sure you have a 6,5,4, and 3 millimeter.
2. "All in one" tool with a straight blade and Phillips-head screwdriver. Try a Cool Tool, retailing for $12 to $15.
3. Pump: frame or floor. Make sure it fits both Schrader and Presta valves.
4. An adjustable wrench for removing tires and other stubborn parts.
5. A patch kit for on-road repairs. Also invest in a spare tube.
6. Tire irons to change said spare tube when patching is hopeless.
7. Chain tool for melding links on the trail.
8. A seat bag big enough to carry all your tools, but small enough to be unobtrusive.
PHOTO: Bianchi Campione D'italia
PHOTO: Nishiki Beta
PHOTO: Trek 1200
PHOTO: Bridgestone RB-2
PHOTO: Giant Cadex
PHOTO: Cannondale R300
PHOTO: Jamis Aurora
PHOTO: Marin Eldridge Grade
PHOTO: Barracuda A2MS
PHOTO: Specialized Stumpjumper
PHOTO: Schwinn High Timber
PHOTO: Diamondback Ascent
By Kimberly Grob
BICYCLE BUYING GUIDE 1994
TECH TALK: A GLOSSARY OF BIKESPEAK
Biff: Any minor fall or error, usually one that induces laughter in your friends.
Damping: Controls the speed of compression and rebound on suspension forks.
Campy: Campagnolo, an Italian maker of bicycle componentry.
Componentry: Bike parts, such as pedals and brake levers.
Endo: What you do when you fail to clear an obstacle and pitch forward over the handlebars.
Geometry: The angles of a bike's frame, which has a great deal to do with a bike's handling and feel.
GripShift: Shifters integrated into the grips of handlebars. Part of the grip rotates back and forth to click each
Grouppo: The set of componentry a bike comes equipped with.
NORBA: National Off-Road Bicycling Association-sanctioning organization for offroad racing.
SPD: Shimano Pedal Dynamics. A clipless pedal system that requires special shoes and experience to use.
STI: Shimano Total Integration. Dual control shift/brake levers.
Sag Wagon: The vehicle that follows a supported tour to carry the cyclists' belongings as well as the cyclists,
should they grow tired.
Standover Height: The amount of space between your crotch and the top tube of your bike. Should be 1-2
inches for road bikes, 3-4 for mountain bikes.
Stem: Connects handlebars to bicycle.
Wheelbase: Distance between the middle of the front wheel and the middle of the back wheel. The longer the
wheelbase, the surer (and slower) the handling. The shorter the wheelbase, the faster the handling.
THE TEST DRIVE
When shopping for a bike, do the following to insure proper fit and function. Remember, if you feel at all
uncomfortable on the test ride, you're not going to enjoy your bicycle when you get it home.
Find a frame: Most women need frame sizes under 16 inches or between 49-50 centimeters. The average is 14
inches, although if you're taller than 5'7", you may need a larger one. To tell if your frame fits, stand over the
bike, feet flat. For mountain bikes, you should have 3-4 inches of clearance between top tube and crotch. Any
less and you're in for a painful ride. Any more and you'll feel top-heavy in the saddle. For road bikes,
clearance should be 1-2 inches, Be warned: Just adjusting the seat won't solve the problem-if the top-tube is
too high or too low, the whole frame is incorrectly sized for your body.
Don a helmet: When you've found a bike with the right size frame, ask to test ride. Before you exit, borrow a
helmet. If the shop won't loan you one, you're in the wrong place.
Ride the bike: Once outside, make short swoops in the parking lot or nearby road to make certain you feel in
control of the bike. While mounted, glance down. If the top tube and stem combination are the right size for
you, the front hub (where the wheel meets the bike) should be obscured by the handlebar.
Check the brakes: Do they feel responsive? Do your hands feel comfortable on the brake pulls? Some whining
may occur if the pads are new. Tell the mechanics, and they should be able to sand them down to stop the
Shift the gears: Check for skipping or stalling, both of which can usually be adjusted by a mechanic.
Hit a hill- If possible, find a short hill to check tire wobble on descents.
Make It quick: Ride only five to 10 minutes, otherwise the fatigue factor will color your opinion, especially if
you're testing bikes all day.
Watch for biking butt: Even in five to 10 minutes, you should be able to check saddle comfort. If it hurts, try a
Mix and match: Feel free to negotiate on any parts that feel wrong. If you love the bike but hate the toe clips,
see if the store will swap them out.
Wheel and deal: Also negotiate on accessories. Most bike shops don't make a big profit on bike sales; they're
aiming to create a customer. So while leverage on actual bike price is limited, you may be able to make a deal
on a rack, tool kit, clothes, water bottles, locks, etc.
PHOTO: Someone cycling
Yes, you can find two-wheeled joy for less than $500
If you want to maneuver deftly on dangerous singletrack or keep from getting dropped on hammering road
rides, the world of sub-$500 bikes is scary indeed. But if you're looking for a comfy and nonintimidating bike
for fitness, errands or just tooling about town, you'll be surprised at what you can get for under five bills.
One of our favorite bikes in this category is Specialized's Globe 7 (seven-speed) Luxe ($429). The Globe, also
available in a less-expensive three-speed model, screams out urban funk. It makes you want to ride to a cafe
and hang out sipping cappuccinos and reading Kafka. Best of all, it's so perfect for urban riding that you could
end up eschewing fossil-fueled errands and social calls altogether. 'The Globe comes in a women's model that
includes a hip-looking chainguard for worry-free riding in dresses or wide-legged pants. It's perfectly set up for
commuting with its fenders, rear rack, lights and bell. And timid riders will feel more confident with the Globe's
upright riding position (you can see where you're going), large diameter tires (you won't wash out on grates in
the road),and wide gear ratio (you'll make it up the hills). This is not your grandma's clunker, so you'll have to
be careful if you lock it outside. (Thieves can be stylish, too.)
Along similar, less-expensive lines is the six-speed Bridgestone BUB ($310). Like the Globe, this deliciously
retro utility bike also is available with a women's low-bar frame. And for the really retro, Raleigh's ER1
($160)is a Schwinn-styled, bent tubing, single-speed cruiser bike, complete with coaster brakes and a coil
For more athletic, fitness-oriented riding, Bridgestone's XO-4 ($500) is one of the most versatile,
well-designed hybrids. With its toe clips and road bike geometry, the XO-4 is a serious bike, neither
condescending nor cheap, two stereotypical hybrid myths. For an even less aggressive, non-intimidating bike,
Fuji also makes an entire line of hybrids priced from $200 to $500. And many of them, including the Dynamic
($400), Come with easy-to-use and durable GripShift shifters. For even less money, the Nishiki Sport ($350)
also specs GripShift and comes with front and rear racks, making it easy to set up for light touring, commuting
or grocery shopping.
PHOTO: Specialized's Globe 7 (seven-speed) Luxe