CANNONDALE SILK WARRIOR 700 ($1,653; 26 lb.; 800-245-3872, www.cannondale.com)
For those who prefer the upright posture of a mountain bike, this aluminum Cannondale, with its flat handlebars and ergonomically shaped bar-ends, is the saucethe perfect rig for cruising paved bike trails or whipping down potholed streets on your commute to work. A suspension seatpost goes easy on your backside, and Cannondale's HeadShok, a suspension fork with 25 millimeters of travel and the moving parts tucked inside the headtube, takes the bite out of ratty pavement and cobblestones. But give the black rubber lockout knob a twist and the fork turns rigidperfect for no-bob climbing. Narrow, high-pressure 700x28 tires fly on pavement without the squirm and squish of knobbies, and road-bike gear ratios mean you won't spin like an eggbeater, going nowhere fast.
TREK 5200 ($2,700; 18 lb.; 800-313-8735, www.trekbikes.com)
We'll cut to the chase: The 5200 uses the same frame Lance Armstrong rode to his first Tour de France victory (his current bikes are a tad lighter). The frame is built from carbon fiber, which gives the bike a supple ride unlike that of any metallic frame. Hit a bump on the 5200, and the composite transmits a quiet thudinstead of a painful twangy buzz that passes the shock directly to your spine. Unlike the champ's bike, this one is dressed with Shimano Ultegra, which offers the same 18 gears (27 optional) as the company's more upscale Dura Ace parts but carries a half-pound more heft. I certainly didn't notice the weight, and mechanically everything was spot-on: The shifters let me fire through the gears, and the brakes let me feather speed on curvy descents and bring the bike to an abrupt halt even with my hands resting on top of the brake levers.
SEROTTA LEGEND TI ($5,575 built as shown; 17.5 lb.; 518-747-8620, www.serotta.com)
It's a fact: The lighter the bike, the heavier the cost. The Legend Ti (the "Ti" is for titanium), for example, weighs a half-pound less than the Trek 5200, but will cost you $2,875 moreouch. To help justify that price difference beyond its weight, consider that the Serotta is custom-built to your measurements; the ride is as smooth as glass, quick and nimble; and the frame offers lifetime durability. The bike that was built for me was one of the best rides I've been on in 20 years of cycling and hundreds of bike tests. The titanium is quiet and forgiving for all-day comfort on a 100-mile ride, yet lightning-quick for jamming over hills and diving through switchbacks. The parts, of course, complement the $2,900 framesetCampagnolo Chorus with 20 speeds, plus extravagances like a Serotta carbon-fiber seatpost and the company's exclusive full carbon-fiber fork.