By Su Reid-St. John
I'll admit it: I'm a bit of a bike snob. I've always shied away from hybrids because, well, they're pokey. At least that's how I've always thought of them. But recently, I've begun to hear a lot about "performance" hybrid bikes, like the new eight-speed Raleigh Alysa FT1. Supposedly, this new breed offers something close to the speed of a road bike. A non-pokey hybrid? Definitely worth a test ride or two.
And so the Raleigh Alysa entered my life. It's not my first bike; I have both a road bike and a mountain bike. But I've always felt slightly foolish just casually riding either of them around. With my road bike's dropped handlebars and aero bars, my mountain bike's nubby tires, and clipless pedals on both, it's obvious that they're meant for something other than tooling around the 'hood. But a hybrid bike—now that's the kind you could ride down to the store or over to the post office without feeling out of place. And I guess, technically, you don't need speed to do those things. But the thing is, I like speed.
And to my surprise, the Alysa has it. Okay, it's probably not quite as fast as my road bike, but it's close enough. As I flew down hills and zoomed along straight-aways, I felt the giddy, wind-in-your-face joy I hadn't expected from a hybrid.
That's not the only thing to like about this bike. It shifts smoothly, rides smoothly, brakes smoothly. It's sturdy and well-made. Particular kudos, too, to Raleigh for the ergonomic handlebar grips—they're just broad enough for my smallish hands to hold comfortably, and they are angled just right. My hands often get tired when I ride, but not on this bike.
It handles well off-road too (another hybrid benefit: you're not pavement-bound). I rode it all over the bumpy, grassy dirt of our local park and never once felt out of control. I'm not saying I'd use it for serious trail rides, but dirt paths? You bet.
Also, I like the Alysa's look: cool and sleek, not at all girly or mom-ish or, well, pokey. It would be terrific for commuting to work, too, if I didn't have a toddler to drop off at daycare each morning.
But. (Isn't there always a but?) And this but is about my butt, which began to go numb not long into my first ride, despite the fact that I was wearing padded bike capris. I wasn't completely surprised, as the saddle on this bike is relatively thin, with a pretty firm tip. Don't get me wrong—I'm not a fan of wide-butt, cushy seats, and I wouldn't be caught dead with a pillowy "gel pad." But I also don't want to lose most of the feeling in my, um, privvies (as my toddler calls them) during my ride. Point is, this seat needs a little more cushioning in all the right places.
Still, that's a small thing, easily fixed by replacing the saddle with a more comfortable one, like one from the superb Terry Bicycle Butterfly line (a bit pricey, but worth it). This is a good, speedy everyday bike. And for a mere $570, you're getting a sweet deal on a nice ride—even if you have to spend a little extra on the seat. Once I get that taken care of, I have a feeling the Alysa and I will be spending a lot more time together, cruising the neighborhood.
Also, if you haven't been out on your two-wheeler for a while, May is National Bike Month, so why not celebrate by dragging it out, dusting it off, pumping up the tires, and going for a spin? You won't be sorry.
Product: Raleigh Alysa FT1 women's performance hybrid bike
Pros: A great-looking, speedy hybrid at a nice price. Rides smoothly, handles well both on the road and off, and has comfy handlebar grips.
Cons: The seat isn't very comfortable.
Cost: $570 at raleighusa.com
Extra tip: The two sets of gears shift in opposite directions, so play around with them before you head out for the first time.