Crash Coarse: Bike-Frame Materials > TITANIUM
Seen on: Litespeed Solano Advantages: Light and durable, with a beautiful patina Disadvantages: Expensive Percentage of All Road Bikes Sold: 15
LITESPEED SOLANO, $2,795
THE PITCH Reenact Breaking Away aboard this deluxe titanium long-hauler.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... A more affordable version of the flagship Litespeed Vortex, from which this steed borrows geometry and design. The Solano offers the company's new G.E.T. (geometrically enhanced titanium) tubing. Huh? Get close and you'll see that the top tube is three-sided in cross section, the down tube is teardrop-shaped, and the seatstays are ovalized. What this high-tech design means to you is improved strength and responsiveness. Litespeed spec'd out the rest with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain, plus carbon-fiber wheels and fork, to make an 18-pound-four-ounce road warrior.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? This is an inspiring ride. Roadies who find themselves pulling the peloton along a straightaway will fully appreciate the Solano's weight-to-stiffness ratio and traditional racing geometry. Sprinters will rejoice over the stubby chainstays and powerful feel. Happiest, however, will be century riders, long-distance devotees who'll swoon over this rig's ultraplush ride. Are there flaws? A few. The Solano likes to hold a straight line, so racers and fitness riders who charge down mountain passes may have to wrestle her a tad. Also, this bike features ugly bar tape and one of the least comfortable saddles we've ever straddled. But both are quick fixes on a ride that will deliver years of joy on your favorite stretch of blacktop. (423-238-5530, www.litespeed.com)
SPECIALIZED ROUBAIX COMP, $2,600
THE PITCH Everything you need in a speed rig.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Specialized lovingly spec'd out this 17-pounder for race-day duty with carbon fiber in the frame, seatpost, headset, and cranks. The slick-shifting Shimano Ultegra 27-speed drivetrain offers ample teeth for hill climbers and flatland sprinters alike. Meanwhile, durable Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels are a nice touch for heavyweight rookie riders still working their way down to racing trim.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? The Roubaix manages to balance two conflicting agendas: a smooth ridepreviously the domain of heavy or flexy frames composed of steel or titaniumand the rock-solid stiffness needed to efficiently transfer power from body to bike. It rolled like butter in tests, and we expect it will indefinitely keep you cranking comfortably and strong, even after mile 70 of your district road championships. Why? Specialized tucked six small elastomersrubber shock absorbers that soak up all the cracks and potholes that would otherwise rattle your spineinside the fork, seatstays, and seatpost. When the call goes out for speed, just think, "Faster," and you're there; the bike is so responsive, it'll feel like it's glued to your body. (408-779-6229, www.specialized.com)
CANNONDALE SAECO, $5,000
THE PITCH This two-wheeled missile will spirit you to just about any podium this side of Paris.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Cannondale's lightest bike ever is also its zippiest. The secret is Optimo, a new house-brand aluminum alloy that the Connecticut-based company says is 15 percent stronger than the 6061-T6 metal widely used on other bikes. This gave engineers the option of either creating a stiffer frame without adding heft or shedding weight without sacrificing strength. They went for option twoand came up with a remarkably rigid bike that weighs just 15 pounds. Cannondale also saved weight by hollowing out the bike's cranks and axle, then tricked out the rest of the ride with lightweight Mavic wheels, Campagnolo shifters, brakes, and derailleurs, and carbon-fiber Cinelli handlebars.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? It is if you're in the market for a purebred racer. Climb, sprint, bomb a descentyour Saeco will never cry uncle. The rear triangle and oversize bottom bracket shell withstood the pounding of even our weightier (over 190 pounds) testers. Of course, as a racer the bike isn't exactly plushmore F1 than SUVbut the shock-dampening, hourglass-shaped seatstays eat up a lot of the sting. Campagnolo's top-shelf components are glass-smooth. Finally, with gold-plated cranks and Saeco team logo, this one is a real head-turner. If your performance is even half as good as your bike looks, you'll be team captain in no time. (800-245-3872, www.cannondale.com)