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Help Me! With so many bicycles to choose from, our writer gets assistance from an expert before hitting the road

by on July 24, 2019 11:14 AM

I love adventure and exercise. Every day, you will find me lacing up my sneakers and going for a run. Through town, through the woods, I love being able to get out and go; it makes me feel good physically and mentally.

But I am getting older and the nagging injuries of running every day are starting to pile up. And while I will always be a runner, I feel like I need a supplemental workout to help me mix it up and avoid overuse injuries. Biking seems like the natural choice. After all, on a bike I can go faster and further to expand my adventures even more.

I have an old hybrid bike that I bought on Craigslist many years ago, and I like to take it on rails-to-trails rides and around town. But it is rusting and not riding as well as it should. And it is not really the right size for me. I feel that if I really want to get into the sport, I need a better ride. But what kind of bike is best for me?

There are so many options, from mountain bikes to road bikes to e-bikes and others that I do not even know about. I knew that if I wanted to get the right bike, I was going to need some help.

I went to The Bicycle Shop on West College Avenue in State College to see what I could find. The store is filled with bikes hanging overhead and standing on the floor, all organized and ready to ride. Friendly people come in and out on their bikes, and downstairs, bike mechanics seem to take pleasure in helping people get their rides back in perfect working order. Despite the friendly vibe, I still was a little intimidated by all the machines and gears.

I felt better when store owner Erik Scott asked me if he could help. I told him what I was looking for and trying to do. While we were talking, Erik developed a plan in his head. He was going to pull three different types of bikes (road, gravel, and mountain) to help me decide which was going to best fit my needs.

We started with a road bike. These are made to go fast and far on the road, with slick tires and a light design. I had never been on a true road bike before and I was excited to see how fast I could go. After finding the right-sized bike and adjusting my seat so my feet would just touch the ground while I stood on it, he let me take it for a test run.

I started pedaling and I could feel the difference from my old hybrid immediately. It was smooth and I glided on the road. The gears shifted with ease and as I turned onto College Avenue, I dropped into a low gear and really let it fly. Wow. I was all smiles as I brought it back to the shop.

Next, Erik hooked me up with a gravel bike. The bikes are made to ride on the gravel roads that you see winding through the forests around here. They’re good to ride on multiple surfaces, and make good touring and commuter bikes as well. It felt nearly as light as the road bike, but is built to handle bumps and rockier conditions. Off I went. It felt similar to the road bike, if maybe not quite as easy to push on the pavement.

Next up was a mountain bike. These can take you anywhere, through town, on rails-to-trails, and gravel, along with being able to handle the many rocky mountain trails around here. With suspensions and thicker tires with more grip, the bikes are made less for speed and more to handle whatever you throw at them. The mountain bike still moved with ease and responded to me very well, but was not as fast as the other two.

Erik likened the mountain bike to an SUV, noting that most SUVs don’t get off-road that often, but can if needed. The bike he let me ride had a seat that could be adjusted while riding, and it felt nice and smooth as I hit bumps. I took it on some grass and gravel as I gave it a test spin and it handled the terrain with no problem. I could just imagine riding it through the woods over tree roots and rocks – what fun.

With my test rides over, I have some decisions to make. Do I choose the speed of a road bike, the versatility of a mountain bike, or something in between?

Thanks for getting me on some bikes and seeing what they can do, Erik. Soon enough, you might see me zooming through town or rolling through the woods on a new bike fit just for me. Don’t be afraid to wave.


Vincent Corso is a staff writer for Town&Gown and The Centre County Gazette.


Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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