BUYING RIGHT: ROAD BIKES
COMFORT VS. SPEED You can often buy the exact same bike top pros ride, but is that really what you want? The stiff frames, light wheels, and aggressive positioning of race bikes make them extremely fast—but also uncomfortable for the average cyclist. Alternatively, comfort-performance models have longer chainstays, taller head tubes, and more frame compliance (bike speak for vertical flex, which absorbs road roughness) for a cushier ride.
THE CARBON EFFECT Over the past decade, carbon-fiber frames have become pervasive because of the material's superb blend of light weight, stiffness, and smooth feel. The good news: thanks to economies of scale, they're getting cheaper. The other good news: manufacturers have responded by vastly improving metal frames. Builders continue to advance tube-shaping technology to smooth out the way aluminum rides, and you can find titanium bikes that are as light as their carbon counterparts. Steel frames, meanwhile, are more comfortable than ever.
SPLURGE ON WHEELS The second most important feature of a bike after the frame? The wheels. Get the highest-quality hoops (and tires) you can afford—and worry less about components.