Road Bikes

Learning Curve

IN THE STORE Stop counting grams. Fit and feel are far more important. Once you get below 17 pounds, going lighter can easily cost $1,000 per pound. Know your materials. Titanium: light, indestructible, supersmooth, expensive. Aluminum: light and extremely rigid—efficient but also a bit harsh. Steel: heavier than the others but also very comfortable; shorter lifespan. Carbon fiber: the lightest and often the stiffest; easily manipulated to provide various ride characteristics; extensive lifespan, so long as you don't ding it.

IN THE FIELD Learn some basic maintenance. Knowing how to adjust brakes and derailleurs can save you a lot of cash and trouble. That said, don't try to fix something unless you've got the tools and know-how—modern components are fussy. Clean and lube the drivetrain, especially after a wet ride. Dirt grinds down chains and gears and gunks up moving parts.

IN THE FUTURE After almost two decades as a fringe material, carbon fiber has trickled down to your local shop. Look for it to get cheaper and become as common in components as it is in frames.

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