Just as sure as the Cherry Blossoms bring a flood of tourists to the Tidal Basin each April, Spring-like weather draws scores of customers into Alexandria bike shops shortly thereafter.
When its nasty outside you dont see much business, said Jay Cato, assistant sales manager at Spokes Etc. on Quaker Lane. The first sunny, 70 degree day, youd better get ready.
The sleek, spandexed riders who race along local trails have company on the bike paths these days as casual ridership is on the rise, according to staff at area cycling stores. Environmentally conscience commuters and weekend riders are taking to the sidewalks, streets, and trails in increasing numbers, and local stores are stocking up to meet their needs.
At Spokes Etc., Treks three-speed, automatic shifting bike is a brand new option available to comfort-seeking riders. The automatic bike is to cycling what the electric slide is to dancing, a user-friendly option that makes it easy to get in rhythm.
Its for people who are a little overwhelmed by their options, says Cato of the bike, not the dance. Its something for people who see all the technology on new bikes and just want something simple.
The automatic bikes gear mechanism utilizes electronic sensors that measure how fast the tires are rolling and adjusts itself accordingly. Cato explained that the bike, which has a wide, cushy seat, is designed for customers who seek a comfortable, leisurely ride.
Among road bikes, relaxed geometry cycles have grown in popularity.
Theyre light, fast bikes that dont take as much of a toll on your back, said Cato, who notes that the style is particularly good for long trips like Century rides. Not everyone who rides a road bike wants to be in a more aggressive position.
Cato said that women-specific road bikes and accessories are also becoming increasingly more common. Specialized features on these bikes include shorter top tubes, taller head tubes, a shorter drop, lighter framing, narrower handlebars, brake levers that are closer together, and a womens-specific saddle.
There are a lot of women who just dont fit on a mens roadbike, said Cato.
Wheel Nuts owner Ron Taylor has seen a rise in sales of straight-bar road bikes and inner city style commuter bikes. Taylor explains that the straight-bar road bike offers the benefits of a hybrid bicycle but also delivers speed thanks to the bikes narrow tires, lightweight frame, and rigid front fork.
It gives you an upright, comfortable posture, but youre still riding a very fast bike, says Taylor. Its great for commuting and longer distances, event rides, and recreational rides.
Taylor said that European-style cycles like the Jamis Commuter 3.0 are beginning to catch on in this country. The all-weather bike has eight gears, city-bike handlebars, and a lightweight aluminum frame, features that are designed specifically for getting around town.
Manager Bennett Moore of Big Wheel Bikes also noted a rise in sales of comfort bikes, such as the Electra Townie. The bikes laid-back seating position creates an upright riding position, and its flatfoot technology allows riders to comfortably place their feet on the ground while sitting still.
Its a great around-town type bike, said Moore. People just want something thats comfortable. Theyre not necessarily looking to go fast or race.
Fall in stock
While comfort bikes, hybrids, and road bikes have witnessed increased popularity, mountain bike sales have dropped considerably in recent years. Moore estimates that mountain bikes currently constitute just 10 percent of Big Wheels stock.
When they came out 10 years ago everyone wanted a mountain bike. Now they realize theyre slow on the road, says Moore. Mountain bikes have tapered way off.
Local cyclists Gay and Woody Rogers graduated from hybrids to their current Bianchi road bikes in 2000 and estimate that theyve logged more than 10,000 miles since making the change. Their travels have included a handful of international riding trips.
You cant beat biking. Its something you can do together, said Woody Rogers. You move fast enough, but you can see things as you go, you can see the sights.
The couple typically rides between 30 and 50 miles per outing and plan their trips so they have a good eating destination at the end.
For new riders, the Rogers recommend visiting a good shop and finding the bike that fits you best. While they identify cost as a top consideration in a bike purchase, they also believe in the adage that you get what you pay for.
Its really not that expensive, especially compared to a lot of other sports. You dont have to pay every time you go out, like golf, said Gay Rogers. Its a lifetime investment.
Beyond their bikes, the Rogers have also invested in a number of cycling accessories. They place particular emphasis on the need for padded gloves, cycling shorts, and a suitable saddle. Woody Rogers went through four different saddles before finding the right fit with his current seat. Even for avid cyclists, comfort is king.