Join Date: Jul 2005
Bikes: 1984 Trek 520; 1990s Peugeot (Canadian-made) rigid mountain bike; 2007 Bike Friday NWT; misc others
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bfm....great plan. Biking is useful and fun.
I have a little rule of thumb I use to determine the basic utility of an advertised bike. I look at a picture on the manufacturer's website and compare the height of the handlebars to the height of the seat. If the handlebars are higher than the seat, it means you sit in a more upright position. That is great for new or cautious riders, or those who expect to ride leisurely for fairly short distances. They can see all around them, and get their foot on the ground quickly if they have to stop abruptly, and can feel quite confident and comfortable. However it's not a very aerodynamic postion, and it is hard to put full power into the pedal strokes while sitting fully upright. So it will be a somewhat sluggish bike.
If the handlebars are below the seat, the bike is intended for speed. The rider is in a more aerodynamic position, and because the weight of their head and torso is forward, above the feet, they can exert more power on the downstroke for accelerating or sprinting, just like a runner coming out of the starting blocks. However, they have to crane their neck, to see ahead, and may feel uncomfortably stretched out or may get tired arms or sore hands from leaning on them, if they aren't in shape.
So if you plan to commute more than a couple of miles, you may want a bike that is in between these extremes, and the shorthand for that, is if the handlebars are set at seat height.
As I say, this is just a quirky idea of mine, so use it or not as you see fit.