Chainwheel, which has kept Little Rock's cyclists rolling for more than 42 years, has seen enormous change in the technology of bikes. Today's two-wheelers are lighter, more comfortable and come in many styles, even motorized. Pat Barron, owner of Chainwheel, says Little Rock's biking community has also changed, thanks to an emphasis by city and county government on creating places to bike, such as the 17-mile Millennium Trail (also known as the Arkansas River Trail) that connects Little Rock and North Little Rock over the Big Dam Bridge on the west and the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge on the east and includes a route to Two Rivers Park. Overland trails have been improved as well for mountain bike riders. Chainwheel, the Readers Choice for best bike store, has wheels to suit cyclists of varying interests and abilities. Here are some of Barron's recommended styles, with starting prices listed:
Trek FX $600
The Toyota Camry of Chainwheel's selection, this fitness bike is both comfortable and efficient, and it's a good place to start if you're new to the cycling scene. The frame structure and pedal position allow you to sit more upright than you would on a true racing bike, making for a more comfortable ride. The bike also holds a more stable pair of tires. But don't think you can't pull a 50-mile cruise on these wheels — the name of the game is versatility.
Trek Emonda $2000s
A step up from the FX, the Emonda is a high performance bike. The word comes from the French verb "emonder," which means to pare or to cut, and this bike runs a bit lighter and stiffer than its cozier counterparts. The Emonda doesn't abandon comfort, which makes it a reasonably priced investment for a semi-serious road-rider.
Trek Marlin (mountain bike) $600
Modern mountain biking was born on the rocky slopes of Colorado and California in the late '70s. Many first-time cyclists want thick-wheeled mountain bikes for their strength and durability rather than their ability to traverse tough terrain. Barron says mountain bikes are perfect for jumping curbs and speed bumps as wheel as off-road obstacles.
Trek SpeedConcept $4,000
Call it a "dream-bike." Trek SpeedConcepts are all business. Trek markets this frame as the fastest design available, and the bike's electronic gear-shift mechanisms don't fail. You can attach a sleek plastic carrying container beneath the seat to store your valuables. Too much technology to enumerate in strict detail (invisible brakes and aero skewers and speed fins), but this one's a good investment if you'll be training for next year's Tour, or something similar.
Electra Townie $500
A lifestyle bike — emphasis on the "style" — like the Electra Townie suits the casual cruiser best. Designed to maximize comfort, the Townie's appropriate for a downtown ride to the Root Cafe or for rolling through the suburban streets of Hillcrest. The seat sits lower and farther back from the handlebars, so if you need to take a phone call mid-cruise, you only need to put your feet down. Fenders on both wheels create an old-school aesthetic, and the bike's simplicity makes it perfect for people who have what Barron calls "gear-phobia," a fear of overcomplicated gears, wires and handbrakes. Not so on this model — figure out the pedalbrake and you're good to go.
Electra Townie Go $2,300
Around Chainwheel, they call it the future of local transportation. It's not a motorbike, but it does carry an electric motor. This bike calculates your pedaling power and then supplements your effort with energy from the motor, but you don't need a license to drive it because the motor will stop helping you at 15.5 mph (20 is the license limit). One full charge (3 to 4 hours) gets you about 30 miles. The Townie Go is a good way to save on gas money for short errands, and it costs much less than a car.
Take the philosophy behind scooters, apply it to a bicycle, and you get the Strider. Two tires for 2-year-olds, this training bike teaches toddlers how to balance the fulcrum without training wheels. The bike doesn't have pedals (they don't call it the "Strider" for nothing). Little kids can run on the bike to establish pace and then hop on to glide. Thick wheels help to preserve balance, and the seat sits low enough for most kiddos to be able to touch the ground. No more first-fall trauma.