The Road to Lanceville

If your hero is a guy named Armstrong, you'll need a hero's ride. We pick 2004's best.

Skinny is beautiful: the man from Austin powers a road-bike rival.     Photo: Clint Clemens

Crash Coarse: Bike-Frame Materials > ALUMINUM

Seen on: Giant OCR1 (this page), Cannondale Saeco, Cervélo P3 Advantages: Inexpensive, stiff, and light Disadvantages: poor shock absorption on rough surfaces Percentage of All Road Bikes Sold: 31

WANNA RIDE JUST LIKE THE BIG TEXAN? Guess what—you've got company. Road-bike sales nationwide increased 35 percent between 2001 and 2002, from $187 million to $252 million, a trend that is expected to continue. Cycling-industry consultant Jay Townley confirms that Lancemania is indeed driving first-time roadies into America's shops. But Townley, who heads up an ongoing bike-retail study, attributes the spike to "diehards who understand what they're doing." Maybe that's you—or perhaps you just hammer the odd half-century with your buddies. Whatever your passion, if you're lusting for a new mount, Outside's bike-obsessed editors have already done your homework for you, pooling a combined 63 years of saddle time to extensively test seven eminently worthy rides. You'll find your perfect setup here, including, of course, one that goes very well with yellow.

GIANT OCR1, $999
THE PITCH A weekend workhorse for club riders, charity cruisers, and heart-rate checkers.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... At two ounces shy of 22 pounds, including Shimano pedals, the OCR1 is porkier than the other rigs on these pages, but you're getting bomber durability and a comfortable ride at a fetching price. Giant built the frame with 6061-T6 aluminum, a gold-standard bike-tubing alloy, and added a bump-dampening carbon-fiber front fork, taller head tube, adjustable stem, and slightly longer wheelbase. The rider pedals in a somewhat upright, stable stance, which lends confidence to those who might otherwise get the jitters crouched over a carbon-fiber hot rod. To keep the price under a grand, Giant marries a mixture of Shimano and SRAM parts in the drivetrain. Meanwhile, a carbon-fiber seatpost and beefy 25cm tires—road bikes typically run 23's—help soften the bumps.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? Punish your shiny blue OCR1 with a decade's worth of rain, sleet, slush, and snow, or take on 10,000 miles of road-expansion joints—it'll still be there for you. Giant's forgiving, compact geometry invites new roadies to build up their mileage and confidence without endless ibuprofen hits. On the other hand, in tests this bike climbed and accelerated like an 18-wheeler: slowly. "I wouldn't attack my own shadow," said one tester. But remember: You're not chasing trophies, just having a blast. This bike rewards with quick handling during evasive maneuvers and near-gyroscopic stability on ripping descents. Get the OCR1 up to its ideal cruising speed, around 17 miles per hour, and you'll never want to come back down. (800-779-2453, www.giantbicycle.com)

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