IN THE PREMIUM BICYCLE SEGMENT, you have a ‘hybrid’ category that straddles the road biking of commuter cycles with some mild off-road ability. They use wheels of larger diameter but narrower width, compared to mountain bikes; their tyres are less aggressively lugged, typically the tubing of their frame has a smaller diameter and they have gears and cranks that help them climb but also address nippy movement on flat tarmac.
Hybrids can be divided into two segments — those having front suspensions and those that don’t. In several Indian cities, after an initial fascination for mountain bikes, hybrids have become very popular — here’s my selection of the best at each price point.
CANNONDALE QUICK CARBON 1 2015
Cannondale is a much respected American manufacturer, currently distributed in India by TI Cycles. Along with Specialized and Trek, it completes the triumvirate of reputed North American brands in the Indian market for premium bicycles. The Quick Carbon 1 is a really high end hybrid. The derailleur used is top notch and the same family of derailleur does duty at the front and rear. The cycle has 20 gears. It does not have a suspension. What’s key here is the frame — it is a carbon fibre frame, which makes the cycle light and nimble. There are carbon fibre models available in which the frame is made of carbon fibre but the fork is not — in the Quick Carbon 1, the front fork is also made of carbon fibre, enhancing the bike’s material-driven attributes that much more.
Rs 1.42 lakh
TREK 8.3DS (MY2015)
Thanks to its participation in events like Tour de France and its comparatively early entry into the Indian market in league with Firefox, Trek is the best known American bicycle brand around. Courtesy that early entry, Trek has some other advantages – you buy a Trek and wheel it into any of the Firefox showrooms in India (they are many now) for after sales service and maintenance. That’s a big advantage to have in a market still new to handling premium bikes. As an early entrant, Trek was also among the first to showcase hybrids in India and grow the segment. In the cycles listed here, this paragraph is round about where you start paying money for the reputation of a brand. The 8.3DS has disc brakes, a front suspension with 63 mm of travel and a lock-out option and 8×3 gearing that features a mid level derailleur at the rear. If you suspect you’ve seen these specs before, you’d be right – but this is a Trek.
FIREFOX MOMENTUM 700C
This one is value for money, with a neat level of specifications. The cycle sports a front suspension of 63mm travel, which is adequate for the city and some out of town use. Adding value is the lock-out option, which means the suspension can be made rigid, allowing you to move faster on smooth surfaces. The cycle offers an 8×3 gear combination, which is the market’s preferred average at present. The truth is that not all the ratios on offer in the market make a real difference; the possible ratios are many, but the discernible difference between one ratio and another is limited to a few; the Momentum 700C is in the sweet spot. The cycle’s rear derailleur, which between front and back is the one that does more work, belongs to the firm mid-level quality. On the whole, it is a solid package.
GIANT ROAM 0 DISC
Wikipedia’s opening line on Giant is as follows: “Giant Manufacturing Co Ltd is a Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer that is recognised as the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer.” Its products are distributed in India through Pune-based Starkenn. Initially growing through contract manufacturing for other brands, Giant later grew its own brand and product line. It is a powerhouse brand, straddling different bike categories and sponsoring international racing teams. In the evolving Indian market, it is right up there with the likes of Trek, Cannondale and Scott. The Roam 0 Disc is a hybrid loaded with features. It offers a front suspension sporting 63 mm of travel, with a lock-out. In the gearing department, it vaults to a 3×10 combination and does so with high-end derailleur at the front and rear — and has disc brakes. It is a very good but expensive package.
MONGOOSE ARTERY COMP 2005
Mongoose is a longstanding American manufacturer, particularly known for its mountain bikes and BMX models. Mongoose products are currently distributed in India by TI Cycles. What sets the Artery Comp apart from some of the other hybrids is its aesthetic appeal. Simply put, it is a goovd looking bike, well proportioned and with a sprightly stance that betrays momentum (a quality you find in general in the local Mongoose lineup). It has a rigid frame with forks shaped like blades and a rather straight handle bar. It features 8×3 gearing, an entry level derailleur at the front and a mid level one at the rear. The overall package emphasises agility and speed.
My Bike is for those who still possess a clear path to their heart. This bicycle is sold in India by the Indian arm of the French sports goods major, Decathlon. Its attractions are twofold — aesthetics and simplicity. It has a well proportioned steel frame, two rugged wheels and an uncluttered single speed setup. It is the quintessential bicycle, tweaked for the right measure of contemporary sportiness. As of August 2015, it was out of stock on Decathlon India’s website, but the price showed up.
TERN LINK C
Tern is a Taiwanese bicycle manufacturer, and its folding bikes are currently distributed in India by Firefox. The Link C has an aluminium frame, matched to a steel fork, and it has seven gears. If you can use your brains and keep the compulsion for brawn away — something that is tough to do in the Indian socio-cultural environment — a folding bike is worth considering. It is a smart solution for your urban bicycling needs. It packs small, does the job and packs small again. And just in case anybody thinks those small wheels spell sissy, remember — small, smart wheels have also been used to travel long distances.