Better Bikes

With a tough economy and gas prices on the rise, it's no wonder bicycles are big business. The bicycle industry had more than five billion in sales in the U.S. alone last year.

Beyond recreation, people are also using them for transportation. So if you're gearing up to buy a new bike, Consumer Reports can help you narrow down your choices.

Robert Scott enjoys cycling so much that most days he rides his bike to work-at a bike shop!

Scott says, "It's the healthy way to get to work. You save money on gas. It's a lot of fun. And I love it."

Consumer Reports tested 17 bikes that are good for commuting or just tooling around town. There were three types in all.

Fitness bikes are most like road bikes, with a small seat and narrow tires, but they're more comfortable because you sit semi-upright.

Hybrids-a cross between a road and a mountain bike-have wider tires and can have front shocks and suspension seats...so they absorb more of the bumps for you.

Rich Handel of Consumer Reports says, "Another type of bike we tested are comfort bikes. They have an upright riding position. A nice wide seat. And they're best for slower-paced, recreational rides."

Each bike is put through a series of tests.

Rough road surfaces are used to measure shock absorption.

And a brake test determines how far it takes for a bike to stop.

Testers also size up the gears to see how easy they are to shift.

When all the tests were done, Consumer Reports top rated two.

The Cannondale Comfort number 4 at $580 has very good handling and is quite sporty for a comfort bike.

If you're looking to bike longer distances or tackle more hills, the Fuji Absolute fitness is a better bet.

At 26 pounds, it's fairly lightweight and costs $480-less than many other fitness bikes.

Consumer Reports says no matter what bicycle you choose, make sure you have a proper fit. Testers recommend buying at a bike shop, where you can get help from an experienced salesperson and actually take the bike for a ride to make sure it's right for you.


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