Gasoline is more than $4 a gallon, and you know what that means: A lot more people than just college professors and DUI offenders are going to be interested in bike commuting. They'll find everything from high-end electric-assist bikes to bare-bones models, all with fast-rolling 700C road-bike wheels, upright positioning and convenience and safety features designed to help reduce the work of pedaling to work.
Trek FX +: Flat-bar aluminum-framed bike with rack-mounted lithium-ion battery that powers a motor in the rear hub, and an on-the-fly recharging system.
Likes: As with any electric-assist bike system that kicks in the motor only if you're pedaling, the FX+ can get you to work without you breaking a sweat. The 350-watt engine is very peppy. The battery can be removed for fitness riding. It can be recharged at any wall outlet or while pedaling, coasting downhill and braking if you press a button on the on-board dashboard. The front and rear lights go on automatically, the carbon-fiber fork smooths the ride and a heavy-duty kickstand keeps the bike clean and unscratched.
Dislikes: Front fender must be purchased separately; no disk brakes.
$2,679. (800) 313-8735. www.trekbikes.com
Breezer Greenway: Aluminum-framed 21-speed bike designed for trekking (long-distance riding) with built-in mounting points for future upgrades.
Likes: Inexpensive and effective for those who don't need fenders, racks and a generator lighting system but want the option to add those down the road. Breezer gives this model the same comfy, upright frame found on its loaded Liberty model. Shimano's Tourney group provides plenty of gear range for fast cruising and hill climbing, be it for commuting, recreation or fitness. A kickstand and minimal chain-ring guard are included.
$499. (800) 631-8474. www.breezerbikes.com
REI Novara Gotham: Steel-framed bike with an infinite-gear, internally shifting rear hub and a fabric belt instead of a chain.
Likes: Super comfort, cleanliness and idiot-proof efficiency. The S-bend "Mustache" handlebar puts you in an upright position that lets you see traffic well and is also great for climbing hills (two things that don't normally go together). The innovative drivetrain, featuring a twist-shifter-activated NuVinci rear hub and a fabric belt, brings an end to the days of mis-shifting and dropped chains soiling your pant legs. Includes fenders, disk brakes, kickstand, and front and rear generator lights that are always on when you move.
Dislikes: No quick-release mechanism on the rear hub means you must carry a wrench to take the wheel off to fix a flat.
$1,299. (800) 426-4840. www.rei.com/novara
Raleigh Detour City Sport DL: Aluminum frame bike with internal 8-speed hub.
Likes: Looks great and leaves almost nothing out. Fenders, derailleur-free Shimano Alfine internal 8-Speed, rear rack, 3-watt generator light, suspension seat post, disk brakes, kickstand -- even a bell. A chain guard keeps your pants oil-free. The lower-end City Sport model ($820) has the same frame and most features; it lacks a generator light and has a conventional derailleur-style drivetrain with 21-speed Shimano Acera gearing.
Dislikes: No taillight.
$930. (800) 222-5527. www.raleighusa.com