On Christmas morning, there isn't much that rivals the visual impact of a shiny new bicycle wrapped in nothing more than a big, red bow.
Recent years have seen massive mergers and acquisitions in the bicycle-building industry, leading both cycling enthusiasts and market analysts to speculate as to what the future holds. While many fear that consolidation of this nature leads to stifled creativity in design and fewer choices for the consumer, all indications (at least at the present time) seem to be pointing in the other direction, with innovation definitely on the rise and prices at an all-time low for some of the better entry-level bicycles.
Just as in car buying, the cost of buying a bicycle can vary widely. Here are a few offerings.
One bikemaker, Cannondale, has added a number of new builds and categories to its catalog in recent years, but the most notable news from the well-respected company is on the price tag. While Cannondale still sells many models costing well over $1,000 and continues to cater to the hard-core enthusiast and high-end racing markets, it has introduced some entry-level models geared toward beginners, kids and novice riders.
The Catalyst line of sport-mountain bikes starts at $440 and has four models ranging in price up to $710. The most popular, so far, is the bright Neon Spring (yellow) Catalyst 3, which comes equipped with an excellent array of components, front and rear disc brakes and a sticker price of $490. Cannondale now also offers a popular line of kids' bikes in 16-, 20- and 24-inch models, with the Trail 16, for boys or girls, starting at $260. To get a list of local dealers or to purchase online, go to cannondale.com.
Some innovative new designs in cycling include "urban" bikes that are ridden in a more upright position, as well as models that the rider steps onto almost like one would step into a walk-in bathtub. But the most popular of the newer innovations is definitely the "Fat Bike." The main difference between the "Fat Bike" and traditional bicycles (and the one that's most immediately noticeable) is the extra-large tires. At first glance, it may look as if someone put motorcycle tires on a bicycle, but there is a definite function to this form. Originally designed for slippery conditions such as wet terrain and roadways, snow and sand, these bikes have grown steadily in popularity.
In a description for its El Oso line of Fat Bikes, Diamondback explains, "the amazing float and traction provided by these big-tired beasts opens up whole new realms of cycling fun." The El Oso line features five models, including the El Oso Nino 20 for kids ($550) and the El Oso Grande ($1,700). Visit diamondback.com to learn more.
And perhaps the most important innovation of all in the cycling industry isn't in what you ride, but in what you wear. The same technology that's used in NASCAR and NFL helmets and head restraints can now be found in cycling helmets. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is a leading slip-plane technology inside the helmet developed by brain surgeons and scientists to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head. This technology can dramatically lessen the occurrence of brain injury in a serious fall and looks to be a design staple for the future. The FL-1 with MIPS from Bern retails for $119. And while that might seem a little pricey for a cycling helmet, the safety benefits far outweigh the cost. The website is bernunlimited.com.
Happy holidays and happy riding.
Contact Will McCormick at [email protected]