Shimano has begun selling a new automatic-shift bicycle gearing system--but these gears aren't for gearheads.
Instead, Shimano's Coasting system is designed for the easily daunted cyclist. The three-speed transmission works on flat or flattish terrain. It includes a built-in coaster brake--the kind where you backpedal to slow the bike--because Shimano found that a lot of people were intimidated by those crazy handlebar-mounted brake levers.
I'm not in the target market, but after a test ride I concluded the Shimano's automatic bike transmission has merit. The biggest hitch is that a bike costs $450 to $700--potentially somewhat steep, given that the competition is likely a cheapo single-speed cruiser or no bike at all.