IF THE thought of cycling conjures up visions of squeaking brakes, saddle sores and confusing gears, perhaps it's time to revisit your local bike shop. It's not all mountain bikes and racers any more. Manufacturers have woken up to the needs of urban cyclists and there's now a wide range of bikes designed specifically for road use.

The latest is the Ridgeback Epsilon, which combines the rugged look of a mountain bike with road-friendly features. These include a larger gear cog to ease peddling (mountain bikes are designed to make you pedal faster), city-slick (rather than mud-gripping) tyres and suspension-loaded seat and handlebars to soften the bumps. Not to be outdone by in-car wizardry, it also carries a pre-installed Shimano Flight Deck computer to tell you your speed, distance travelled and so on.

This bike looks macho, rides like a dream and the suspension really does provide a smoother journey. Not surprising since its design concept comes from the modifications made by city couriers to their own bikes. But at pounds 500 it could be argued that it's really a high-performance toy for a rich city cyclist. The average peddler will be content spending half the money for less gadgetry and street cred. Luckily Ridgeback has a cheaper version (the Delta) for pounds 275.

It's environmentally friendly, it keeps you fit and with a machine like this, it's easy. There's no excuse any longer. Get on yer bike.

Freewheel: 0171 730 6668; Ridgeback: 0845 603 4611.