Since someone asked me today: I ride a Gary Fisher Nirvana, probably 1999 or 2000 model year. I bought it new at Peachtree Bikes in Atlanta and I think I paid about $650. It’s more or less identical to the bike you see at left, even the same color (blue) — I stole that pic off a Craigslist ad because I don’t have a picture of my bike handy. The Nirvana has been discontinued, and Gary Fisher was bought by Trek last year, but Trek still makes a line of bikes with the Gary Fisher name. Probably the Gary Fisher Fast City line is the closest thing they sell now.
(Note: the advice I’m going to give below comes out of the mouth of a lay person, which is to say that even though I bike a lot, I learned almost everything I know about bikes from reading what other people have written on the Internet and from, you know, riding bikes.)
This style of bike is called a “hybrid,” which means it combines some of the features of a mountain bike (wide tires, upright riding position, heavy frame) with some of the features of a road bike (chiefly the gears you need for higher speeds). If you’re going to ride in a city like New York, you gain more from a heavy frame (for sturdiness) than you lose in speed. Also, I’m a large person, and I feel more comfortable on a heavier bike, and I definitely prefer an upright riding position. Earlier in my life, I owned bikes with those curly racing handlebars that forced you to hunch over, and I always feared I would fall off.
My bike is 21 speeds (3 x 7), but I could do with much fewer. I almost never use the lower set of 7 gears, and I would be satisfied with either one of the other sets of 7. Given that I’m mostly a city rider, and that New York City is largely flat, it’s rare that I’m either climbing something really steep, or speeding down a hill.
I have an upgraded seatpost (the tube that the saddle sits on) with springs in it to provide some shock absorbency; the salesman recommended that because I am a large person. I have a small round side mirror attached to the end of my left handlebar tube, so that I can see when someone’s coming up behind me on the bike path.
Also, because I ride in New York City, I have all the accessories required by law: the standard reflectors; a red taillight in back and a white headlight in front; and a bell. (They ticket here if they catch you riding without.) I also have a flat metal rack in back (over the rear wheel), onto which I tie my briefcase, cloth sack of groceries, etc. with 2 bungee cords. And the helmet, of course, which I almost never ride without. I don’t use pedal clips, leg clips, or anything much else. In winter I ride with my coat on and wrap a muffler around my face. I’ve ridden in falling snow and it’s fine.
I recently replaced my saddle because, after lifting the bike by the saddle one too many times, my old saddle started to tear off its housing.
I lock my bike up with an ordinary Kryptonite-type Master lock, which sits in a bracket that’s bolted to the seat tube, flush with the plane of the frame like a letter D (or a backwards letter D, when the bike is facing left) inside the triangle of the frame. I always lock the front wheel along with the frame, since it can be popped out easily. But to be honest, I don’t worry too much about bike theft, now that New York City has become so safe.
I chose this bike because a salesman at Peachtree Bikes asked me what I was buying it for, and I said “commuting in the city [Atlanta], but I’m not looking to become an enthusiast, I just want reliable transportation that doesn’t intimidate me.” He steered me to this, and I haven’t had any regrets. It’s not the sexiest bike in the world, but it gets the job done.