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Choosing the Right Bike

May 01, 2004  |  by Mark Kariya

As the years have provided more experience to make better decisions regarding bike purchases, the Los Angeles Police Department has found what works best for its agency.

While quality is important, durability is more important than expense.

"You don't want to have a really nice titanium or carbon-fiber bike," admits Donna Tuk, bicycle coordinator for the LAPD. "It's got to be able to take a beating."

Cops ride their bicycles up and down stairs and throw them on the ground when necessary. And the officers riding the bikes can physically put strain on their vehicles because of their weight.

"Our riders are different than recreational bike enthusiasts," says Tuk. "We have big muscle-bound guys who lift weights--280-pound guys that are built more like Arnold Schwarzenegger than Lance Armstrong--so we need bikes that can accommodate them."

The LAPD has found that choosing the proper components to convert a bicycle into a police vehicle is almost as important as the bicycle itself. Because bicycle patrol officers spend so much time on their vehicles, durability and comfort are high on the list of criteria.

"It takes a lot of extra thought when you put together a police bike from components to wheels to the lighting system (yes, there are red-and-blue flashers available)," says Tuk. "You can't buy low-end components on a police bike because we go through them like crazy; things break."

LAPD uses bikes with front suspension, as full-suspension bikes tend to suck too much energy during the pedal stroke when climbing, especially in an urban setting--the hobby horse effect. Having front suspension makes for a more comfortable ride, and it reduces the potential for carpal tunnel syndrome. Disc brakes remain on the wish list because none of the current offerings is small enough to accommodate the kickstand that's mounted to the rear of the bike.

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