By Patricia Staszak, PT
As an avid cyclist who enjoys a good two hour bike ride, I have always counseled friends, family and patients to purchase a bike that allows for the most aerodynamic position. While it might look uncomfortable, with a properly fitting bike, this more aggressive, forward bent position allows the rider to comfortably ride more efficiently and go farther faster. My endorsements thus far have tended to lean more towards a road or hybrid bike.
However, that all changed last month when I took a tour of the mall in Washington, DC, on a comfort bike. It was a delightful experience, first, because it was a beautiful day and I was with my family, but also because it was such a treat to navigate the area in a more upright position. We had a very diverse group in our tour – both young and old – and we were riding on busy roads and sidewalks, and there were people all around us. It seemed that everyone had an easy time balancing and maneuvering their bikes.
Unlike road or hybrid bikes, comfort bikes are designed for exactly that: comfort. Certainly you give up a little efficiency, but if your goal is to get outside, move your joints, and have an enjoyable, even social experience, then give these wheels a try.
For starters, you’ll find comfort bikes offer a riding position that makes you feel a lot more stable and balanced. So even if it’s been a long time since you’ve ridden a bike, you’ll probably find that old saying really is true – you never forget how to ride a bike!
Because comfort bikes are designed for casual riding around town, they’re built with shorter top tubes, and usually the bottom bracket (where the pedals are) is closer to the ground. Some brands, such as Giant, Electra and Schwinn have also positioned the bottom bracket more forward on some models, utilizing what some call “foot-forward” technology (1). This creates a slightly more recumbent position on the bike, which allows you to easily put your feet on the ground when starting and stopping (2).
The handlebars are also higher, so you’re sitting in a more upright position. This position adds to the feeling of stability, and it’s great for those who experience neck or shoulder pain on a road bike. Most comfort bikes come with gears, so it’s easy to pedal even at slower speeds or uphill (3). This also contributes to a more stable-feeling ride and allows you to better balance your pelvis in a neutral position. Most of these bikes even come with shock absorbers on the seat post or front fork to increase comfort on the bike (1).
Overall, I think this type of bike is wonderful for individuals who feel unstable or uncomfortable on the more aggressive road, mountain or even city bikes. And the good news is prices for these types of bikes are pretty reasonable. Schwinn, Giant, Trek and other major manufacturers offer decent quality rides starting at around $275.
1. “What Is a Comfort Bike?” Kokomo Schwinn. Kokomo Schwinn. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://www.kokomoschwinn.com/comfort.htm>.
2. “Electra Townie Comfort Bike Review.” About-Bicycles.com. About-Bicycles.com. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://www.about-bicycles.com/Bike-Reviews/electra-townie-review.html>.
3. Leigh, Erica. “Comfort Bike Vs. Mountain Bike.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 18 May 2010. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/125830-comfort-bike-vs.-mountain-bike/>.
See also: “2011 Diamondback Wildwood Citi Mens Comfort Bike.” Bikereviews.com. Bike Reviews. Web. 29 May 2012. <http://bikereviews.com/2011/06/2011-diamondback-wildwood-citi-mens-comfort-bike/>.