Wow! Bike technology has changed so much since the days of my old steel framed, stem shifting, trap peddled Motobecane. Bikes today are made of exotic metals and composites like aluminum, carbon fiber, and even titanium. The frame geometries are created in supercomputers, the aerodynamics are tested in wind tunnels and the components are like fine swiss watches. The prices are just as exotic as you can find bikes costing more than cars!
I started my search with a lot of online research and eventually headed off to my LBS (cool cycling speak for local bike shop) to pick some brains. I’m lucky to have some exceptionally good bike shops nearby (Florida is a heaven for cyclists as you can ride year round), in particular the Trek Bicycle Store in Estero, and The Bike Route in Fort Myers. Both are very well equipped and stocked, and have extremely nice, knowledgeable specialists on hand to answer any question, no matter how embarrassing (trust me I asked some whoppers).
I was averaging about 120 miles per week, with short rides consisting of 25 miles, and longer ones above 40 miles. I was always amused by their reactions when they realized I was doing this on a Trek 7200. All of them agreed that I should be on a road bike, but which one to choose.
A modern road bike can cost anywhere from $800 to tens of thousands of dollars. Knowing that I’m new again to road biking, and not wanting to take out a new mortgage for a bike, I had a working figure in my head of $1,500. This figure automatically excluded the exotic carbon machines found in the major tour races, but still presented me with a plethora of very technically advanced choices from just about all the major bike manufacturers.
I wanted a solid platform with good performance, which required little to no upgrading (in the cycling world it is usually substantially cheaper to purchase a higher end bike than to build one up over time). With my mileage and goal of riding a century within a year, I was already asking for more than the typical “entry level” road bike could handle. I was looking for a compact double (no triple needed in Florida as the only hills you climb here are curbs) with an aluminum frame, carbon fork and seat post. Component wise I was looking for Shimano Tiagra derailleurs and shifters (Sora’s shift well on the flat roads of Florida, but the Sora shifters are impossible to use from the drops) or better. The bike also had to be supported and serviceable by my excellent LBS’s. My research led me to Trek, Giant, Specialized and Cannondale.
All four builders have exceptional reputations and are backed up by my LBS’s. The four provide bikes of nearly equal specifications so the test rides are to determine the eventual winner. The front runners are the Trek 1.5, the Giant Defy 2, the Specialized Allez Elite Compact, and the Cannondale CADD9 6.
Time to don the kit and put some mileage on these sexy machines.