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City Living

Love That City Bike

Back to 1970, and lovin' it. Bill Chappell/NPR hide caption

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Bill Chappell/NPR

Out on the streets, I'm seeing signs of a recovery. And it's not an economic recovery, but it does involve a cycle — a bicycle. City types are turning away from the mountain bike. After years of seeing the urban crowd lumber along on tricked-out, knobby-tired beasts with names like "Mountain Capper," I'm noticing signs of sanity among my fellow pedaling commuters.

The "comfort bike" started it, when people realized they didn't want to hunch over a quirky, jerky straight handlebar every time they wanted to enjoy the outdoors. But there was one problem: the name "comfort bike" makes it sound like you should ride it with Velcro-strap shoes.

So, enter the "city bike," a catchall term for bicycles with classic designs and more muted colors (and no over-the-top decals). They are heavy and sturdy enough to ride on city streets, they have a long wheelbase to soak up the bumps, and many of them look like they were stolen off the streets of Amsterdam. Also, forget that useless fuss of having 28 gears: most city bikes have between one and seven gears, which are often in an enclosed, simple rear hub.

And just to prove how civilized they are, most city bikes also include a chain guard, to keep your street clothes looking good when you get where you're going.

I helped a friend of mine put her new Dutch-style city bike together the other day. It looks cool, it rides great — and, I'm happy to say, it seems to be part of a trend.