Likes: Smooth, quiet and low-maintenance. This aluminum-frame bike features a Kevlar-reinforced belt drive (instead of an oil-dripping chain). Sturmey Archer three-speed internal hub is controlled by handlebar twist-shifter. Includes a rear rack, front and rear fenders, water bottle and mounts, and a hand pump. Straight-back seating position, with adjustable stem.
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Price: $599. (800) 474-6615; http://www.deltacycle.com .
The best of most worlds
Giant Suede DX Coasting: Relaxed-geometry cruiser that puts your feet out in front.
Likes: Feels the most comfortable, maneuverable, fun and safe of all the five bikes tested. Crank-forward position sits the rider with back straight up, feet low to the ground, and hands high on riser handlebars. Includes rear rack, leather panniers-computer storage bags, front handlebar bag and light, suspension seat post and a stylish chain with oval-shaped links.
Dislikes: Clearly slower than the larger-wheeled Raleigh, so not as good for long fitness rides. No mounts for a water bottle. No front brake. Same Coasting shifting and braking advantages and drawbacks mentioned in the Raleigh.
Price: $700; (Suede without bags and rack is $500). (800) US-GIANT; http://www.giantbicycle.com .
Trek Lime (Coasting): High-style cruiser with high cool factor.
Likes: An integrated "trunk" under the pop-up seat ranks as one of the best innovations in years, capable of holding keys, energy bars, even a sandwich. (The lower-end Lime Lite model, $499, lacks the trunk.) You can mix and match colors by ordering a different chain guard and frame inserts. Clean look; it's the only Coasting bike to run the cable from the front-hub to the gear-changer module inside the frame tubes.
Dislikes: Slower than the Raleigh due to smaller wheels. Not as comfy as the Giant due to use of conventional bike geometry. Same shifting and braking advantages and drawbacks mentioned in the Raleigh. No front hand brake.
Price: $579. (800) 313-8735; http://www.trekbikes.com .
Irvine-based Roy M. Wallack, an endurance cyclist and runner, is co-author of the book "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.