Earlier, I eluded to wanting a new commuter bike for myself and a bike for my wife to tow the kids around. It looks like my commuter will have to remain my single speed for a little longer. Here were my experiences trying bikes over the weekend:
My wife and I test-rode some Breezers over the weekend and we both came away disappointed. The shop was great and tried to dial in the fit and it was okay, but certainly not as comfortable or upright as hoped for. Maybe my expectations were too high going in - I fully expected to by two villagers to take home. The wiring on the lights seemed like it was going to be just another thing to get fixed down the road. And while I thought the Villager had a front-hub dynamo, it doesn't. The rear-hub dynamo that touches the tire on the outside was nothing short of a drag – literally and figuratively. The fenders were plastic, rattled and were noisy and annoying when testing on the sidewalk and parking lot. Maybe the dealer just didn't tighten things down well - I'll allow for that, but color me unimpressed.
What surprised me was how much we enjoyed the Giant Transend DX. On paper it didn't have what we were looking for (internal hub primarily), but it was far more comfortable, rode better and seemed to have a better fit-and-finish than the Breezer. I have read that “Big Bike” gets a bad rap from biking enthusiasts in general, but I can't figure out why – maybe I’ll regret it if I do get a “Big Bike” offering. For roughly the same price as the Villager (if not a little bit more) I could get my wife (and perhaps myself) a Trandsend EX with Alfine components. I've contacted REI with some questions about ordering a Fusion so I’ll see where that goes, but the Giant bikes kind of threw a wrench in my purchasing plans.
As an aside, on Saturday my wife also rode a Café 8 Deluxe and thought it was pretty good, but said it had a somewhat "harsh" ride – definitely her second favorite. I can’t figure how or why that was. I will admit I’m kind of pushing the Café 8 Deluxe for her because, after discount (local sale), we could get it for under $600. She didn't like Trek Allant or the Gary Fisher offerings (Simple City 3 or 8) - she said they felt heavy, though I can't imagine them being any heavier than the other bikes in this class. Maybe the weight just wasn't balanced right or the design led to a cumbersome feeling. Lastly she tried the Raleigh Circa 2.0. She liked it, but indicated the tires plowed a bit too much. The Raleigh was her third favorite.
One thing I did learn this weekend, you have to ride the bikes. No matter how much research you do, you have to ride the bikes.