Unless you’re majoring in spandex and minoring in too-cool-for-school at Steephill State, you may not need a road, fixed-gear or a mountain bike.
Consider REI’s Novara Fusion commuter. Sure this hybrid 8-speed won’t get you anywhere in a mega-hurry, but you’ll likely enjoy getting there. The steel frame, mustache-style handlebar and soft Velo saddle provide the mellow stability of a cruiser. But we found the thinner Vittoria tires and Shimano shifters and internal hub to give the ride a decidedly peppier vibe. The whole package weighs in at 34 pounds and we found ourselves huffing and puffing carrying the thing upstairs. But with that heft comes luxury and convenience: The front and rear alloy fenders minimized puddle splashback. And that kickstand? It actually works really well. Plus, we were able to load up that rear rack with tons of “books” (OK, beer). The biggest advantages of the Fusion versus, say, the sportier, infinitely more customizable Swobo Crosby are the drop-top tube and pedal-powered LED headlight.
You can literally hop on this sucker in a hurry and take it for night rides without worrying about changing or charging the batteries. We recommend using the extra brain cycles to figure out what to do with all the PhD candidates who throw themselves at you for having such a smart ride.