Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Northern Nevada
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I have a slightly different take than Shecky on a couple of your questions, mostly based on the assumption that you're pretty new to cycling.
1. An upright position is usually a little slower than a full lay-out, but for a new cyclist, it's mainly a theoretical disadvantage. How fast are you going to go anyway, and it is worth giving up a mile per hour or less for greater comfort? I raised the handlebars on my main road bike a couple of years ago, and as a result, I can ride at least 50 percent longer without being uncomfortable.
Eight speeds is plenty for most riding if you're just concerned about getting there. On steep hills or long rides, it's sometimes handy to have more intermediate steps between the extreme high and low gears. If I were to buy a Townie, I'd probably get an eight.
2. I've seen people do centuries on single-speed cruisers, and once on a unicycle. Depends on the rider, the terrain and the desire. Seats are easily changeable, and those big soft Townie seats are designed to feel good on short rides. That would be the first thing I'd swap (for a Brooks B-17) if I were going to use the thing for more than half an hour at a time.
3. Re 21 vs. 24: As I implied above about the eight-speed, both are probably overkill for most riders on most rides. I'm guessing (but don't know for sure) that many Townie buyers aren't particularly knowledgeable about the sport, and they're wowed by the numbers: If 10 was better than five, and 15 was better than 10, then 24 must be better than 21. There are theoretical advantages and disadvantages to both, but I'm not sure they matter much in real life.
4. Weight should be on the website, which I think is electra.com. Don't let a pound or two scare you off, though--weight isn't as important for most riders as we all think it is. Two pounds on the bike is only about 1.5 percent of the bike-rider total, for most people. A full water bottle and a sandwich in your seatbag weigh more than that, and you don't worry about carrying those.