Cars that run on both oil and electric may be the rage among drivers eager to beat the astronomical gas prices and do their part environmentally, but another kind of hybrid—a bicycle that forsakes the gas pump for the tire pump and rides anywhere—is the ultimate green machine.
Called hybrids because of their ability to traverse any terrain—from city streets to bike paths to rail trails—the two-wheelers make up one of the hottest categories in the bike market, with almost every major manufacturer building them. Whether called crosstrail, urban crosstrail or urban lifestyle bikes, or ballyhooed with such catchphrases as "loves the dirt as much as the pavement" or "off-road toughness gets civilized," the bottom line is the same: they combine the comfort of mountain bikes with the performance of a road bike. Like an off-road bike, they typically have easygoing gearing and forgiving suspensions. Like a touring bike, the tires are slicker and slimmer, and the wheels are available in bigger sizes.
Among the leaders in the hybrid category is Trek's Soho 4.0 (pictured, $1,099.99; trekbikes.com), featuring internal street-bike gearing, puncture-resistant Kevlar-reinforced tires and disc brakes. Designed to accommodate the rider, the Soho 4.0 is great on regular or broken pavement, or in dry, wet or muddy conditions. Fuji's Crosstown 1.0 ($620; fujibikes.com), with a 27-speed drive train and upright frame and handlebar designed for comfort, is a great fitness bike, but also has a front suspension for more aggressive riding. The Cadent FC from Raleigh ($1,580; raleighusa.com) is more performance than off-road, but for light touring and short commuting, it rates among the best.
Other bikes worth checking out are Marin's light and fast Point Reyes ($1,070; marinbikes.com); Specialized's efficient and durable Crosstrail Pro ($1,400; specialized.com); featuring a RockShox suspension; and the Gary Fisher Montare ($1,099.99; fisherbikes.com), which claims to be "road bike fast, mountain bike durable."
No one is saying abandon your gas-guzzler completely, but alternative modes of environmentally friendly transportation are the wave of the future and a hybrid bike can take you there.