State of the Art

Whether on the highway or the trail, the new spokesmodels of spin will carry you forward in revolutionary style

HOLD ON TO YOUR HANDLEBARS. Bike alchemists have just arrived at the first perfect ride, an agile alliance of bleeding-edge materials and design that finally delivers the holy grail of cycling: high speed and all-day comfort. We wouldn’t jive you. Brilliant shock innovations have created a whole new genre, the full-suspension trail bike, which nearly eliminates the energy-sapping inefficiency of previous models while preserving the big bounce. A revolution in carbon-fiber technology has led to featherweight road-bike frames and components, allowing you to fly over asphalt without sacrificing your spine. What does it all mean? You’ll ride faster, longer, smoother, and with more confidence than ever. The age of compromise is over. Now you can have it all.

Cannondale Six13
PEDALS TO THE METAL: The Cannondale Six13 looks so good, you need to see it twice.

Tour de France 2005
Check in with Outside Online daily to read coach Chris Carmichael's behind-the-scenes Tour journal, get the latest stage results, and view exclusive photos of the race.

Trek Liquid 55

Trek Liquid 55
Trek Liquid 55

Trek Liquid 55, $2,970
THE PITCH » A take-it-anywhere bike for smooth singletrack, five-foot drops, and everything in between
YOUR MONEY BUYS... A two-wheeled deluxe SUV. With five inches of you-can-land-that travel front and back, the Liquid sits dead center in the sweet spot of trail bikes. The suspension gobbles up rocks, roots, and jumps but provides a stable pedaling platform for all-day cross-country fun. A redesigned frame with a new rear pivot, Bontrager Race Lite Disc Tubeless wheels, an adjustable-travel Manitou Minute 2:00 fork, SRAM's rock-solid X.9 rear derailleur, and Shimano's stiff XT cranks round out the abuse-loving package.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? It is if you like to whomp your friends on swoopy singletrack but also love airing it out on jumps and gnarly mountain descents. The 27.5-pound Liquid's relaxed geometry makes steering a bit sluggish compared to a pure cross-country bike, but the laid-back cockpit, combined with incredibly lush suspension and wide riser bars, gives you the confidence to maneuver around—or over—just about anything. 920-478-4678,

Giant Reign 2

Giant Reign 2
Giant Reign 2

Giant Reign 2, $2,200
THE PITCH » A big-hit machine efficient enough to pedal up the hills you want to bomb down
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Big jumps for less money. Maestro, Giant's completely new suspension design, comes in four-, six-, and eight-inch configurations. The intricate linkage combats pedal bob without inhibiting suspension performance. On the Reign, which comes equipped with six inches of travel, I devoured technical climbs and tackled big obstacles and rough landings. Manitou's Nixon Elite fork and Swinger Air SPV 3-Way shock, the Hayes hydraulic disc brakes, and Shimano's XT/LX drivetrain are all bomber.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? If you live for challenging downhills, obstacle-strewn trails, and every jump you can find but still need a bike you can pedal uphill, the Reign is your ride. Although it outclimbs most other long-travel trail bikes, this 29-pound sled doesn't exactly fly up inclines. But during test rides, the suspension, combined with the Reign's relaxed geometry, allowed me to sit back and easily spin my way slowly to the top. The trip down was where the bike came alive, declawing lethal-looking rocks and holes and giving me a shot of confidence that far outstripped my skills. 800-779-2453,

Ellsworth Truth

Ellsworth Truth
Ellsworth Truth

THE PITCH » An unequaled blend of luxurious suspension and race-worthy efficiency
YOUR MONEY BUYS... The benchmark by which other full-suspension rigs are judged. Ellsworth's patented suspension design means the cranks and shock do only what they're intended to do: move you forward and keep the rear wheel on the ground—and your butt off it. While other brands have worked to close the gap with innovative suspension setups, Ellsworth has outpaced the field with a new Fox rear shock, custom-tuned specifically for the Truth.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? For those shopping in the Venn intersection of comfort and speed, this is the top choice. While Ellsworth sells only about a thousand of the hand-built aluminum Truths worldwide each year, the 22-pound bike is a particular favorite of competitors in 24-hour and adventure races, because it's so forgiving on long hauls. The rear end feels plush beyond its four inches of travel, and the bike seems to ride almost ahead of you on the trail, especially on climbs, where the suspension keeps the rear wheel tracking flawlessly over rough terrain. After a few minutes, you'll understand why "It pedals like a Truth" is about the highest compliment any other bike can get. 760-788-7500,

Specialized S-Works Tarmac

Specialized S-Works Tarmac
Specialized S-Works Tarmac

THE PITCH » A full-carbon road frame tuned to deliver all-day plushness without sacrificing race-day performance
YOUR MONEY BUYS... More miles; fewer aches. Specialized's proprietary composite technology combines with shock-absorbing elastomer inserts in the seatstays (the tubes that run from the seatpost to the rear wheel) to yield one of the most comfortable racing bikes on the planet. The 15.8-pound package includes Shimano's surgically precise Dura-Ace 20-speed drivetrain and nimble Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels. But the Tarmac's most distinguishing characteristic—its sexy, arching top tube—makes it a work of art that's as fun to admire as it is to ride.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? The Tarmac shares some key elements with Specialized's popular Roubaix long-haul racer, including elastomer damping and an all-carbon build. But the Tarmac relies on a different carbon process to produce a firmer frame, which, along with a shorter wheelbase and more responsive steering geometry, delivers superior performance. That's not to say it's a backbreaker: The elastomers squelch a good amount of road vibrations, and the curved top tube is designed to act like one big leaf spring, taking the sting out of the frame's lower half. 408-779-6229,

Cannondale Six13 R5000

Cannondale Six13 R5000
Cannondale Six13 R5000

THE PITCH » The snap and crackle of Cannondale's Tour-proven Optimo aluminum frame tempered with chatter-nixing carbon
YOUR MONEY BUYS... A world-beating racer. Cannondale's innovations in aluminum construction have helped the American company grow into one of the world's most respected builders, so you have to assume that they wouldn't make a foray into carbon without good reason. Ultrarigid aluminum in the lugs (frame joints), head tube, bottom bracket, and seatstays delivers Cannondale's signature liveliness, while carbon tubing elsewhere makes this 15.5-pound rig the company's fastest and lightest bike yet.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? Remember: This is a full-fledged racing bike, not a boardwalk cruiser. If your goal is to be at the front of the pack for races and club rides, it will get you there without shaking your bones out of alignment. You won't find a stiffer bottom bracket; the bike shoots forward with every turn of the cranks. And when you're hammering the flats or breaking the sound barrier on descents, the Six13's (the name refers to the atomic numbers of carbon and aluminum) carbon tubing takes the edge off high-frequency vibrations, leaving you fresh for the final sprint. 800-245-3872,

Raleigh Super Course

Raleigh Super Course
Raleigh Super Course

THE PITCH » A wallet-friendly introduction to the comfort of carbon fiber.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Last year's higher-end model scaled down for budget-conscious performance. Built on an aluminum main triangle with carbon forks and seatstays, the Super Course eliminates the harsh feel of inexpensive aluminum bikes without the cost of a full-carbon frame. For speed, the rigid TruVativ crank assembly teams with the aluminum frame to produce one efficient power-transfer module, mounted with hill-friendly triple chainrings.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? For all the benefits of full-carbon bikes, most vibrations reach your spine through the forks and seatstays. By integrating carbon where it really counts the most, Raleigh delivers a perfect bike for anyone looking to get a little more serious about road riding—or serious riders in search of more comfort. The 20.5-pound Super Course is lively enough for entry-level racing, but it makes for a perfect introduction to the joys of smooth asphalt, with less pain for you and your bank account. 253-395-1100,

Schwinn Super Sport DBX

Schwinn Super Sport DBX
Schwinn Super Sport DBX

THE PITCH » The commuter bike grows up
YOUR MONEY BUYS... A multipurpose ride. The Super Sport DBX utilizes a back-friendly upright riding position and a longer wheelbase for stability. A carbon fork absorbs vibrations, boosting comfort and performance, while disc brakes provide all-conditions stopping power—no need to worry about puddles, rain, or street grime compromising your brakes' ability to grab your rims. Rack mounts and fender clearance make the Super Sport ready for urban or touring utility, while drop bars, skinny tires, and a firm aluminum frame give you the option of opening it up on country roads.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? Not everyone wants to race. Yet everyone should benefit from race-bike attributes—like zippy pedaling, advanced frame materials, and fast tires—for commutes, weekend tours, and evening spins. The 22-pound Super Sport is stable and burly enough for speed bumps and urban traffic adventures but sufficiently streamlined for your first century ride. Grab the tops of the bars and take in the sights, or tuck into the drops and turn them into a blur. If you could mate your childhood Schwinn Sting-Ray with a pro road-racing bike, it'd probably turn out a lot like the DBX. 800-724-9466,

Bikes aren't the only things that got leaner and stronger this year. Say hello to four superlight ride boosters.

Gear Kit
Bell Sweep XC, Shimano M225, Blackburn Framepump CF, RXS Titan Carbon from Time (Clay Ellis)

1. The BELL SWEEP XC helmet is the trail-tweaked version of the road lid that protected two Tour de France squads last year. The difference between road and mountain models? The XC's visor bumps up the weight to a still-feathery 11 ounces. Thus knobbie fans enjoy the same 20 air vents and a one-hand ratcheting system that lets you adjust fit on the fly. $130; 800-456-2355,

2. SHIMANO built its top-end M225 mountain-bike shoe around a rigid carbon sole to make sure all the leg strength you've worked to build goes into turning the crank, not flexing the shoe. Grippy treads and a wraparound plastic outsole protect the carbon from debris and help stabilize your stride, while tough heel and toe caps save your pedalers from dings and dents. $170; 800-423-2420,

3. Carbon fiber's traits—superior strength in a lithe package—can now be found in a portable pump. The BLACKBURN FRAMEPUMP CF shaves an ounce off the company's lightest aluminum-chassis inflator, yet it can handle pressures of up to 160 psi—meaning your tire will blow before the pump ever does. The long tube allows for faster inflation. $50; 800-456-2355,

4. The RXS TITAN CARBON road pedals from TIME weigh a scant seven ounces—thanks to carbon-and-titanium guts—yet they perform like beefier units, with an oversize platform and ten degrees of lateral wiggle room to keep knees happy. The sleek design creates a more efficient pedal stroke by narrowing the gap between foot and pedal axle to eight millimeters. $295; 877-727-7661,

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson perfects the fast-and-light concept for bike touring

Bike Touring

THROW OUT YOUR TIRED IMAGE OF THE CYCLING TOUR, the one featuring some poor schlemiel weighed down with 50 pounds of gear strapped to a 30-pound touring bike. Gary Erickson, the guy behind Clif Bar, has found a new, improved way to pedal thousands of miles: It involves one Tour de France–ready, ultralight racing bike, a large seat pack, and—get this—only eight pounds of cargo.

Erickson's method, honed over 23 years of touring around the Alps and California's Sierra Nevada, comes from his cycling heritage: Before baking his first energy bar, he was an amateur Category 2 road racer (the Triple A level of cycling) in Northern California. In other words, he likes to go fast, especially over arduous mountain passes like the ones he'll face this September on a 16-day, 1,600-mile trek from Pamplona, Spain, to Cortina, Italy.

But speed isn't the only reason Erickson practices such minimalism. "My way lets me cover 50 percent more miles in a day," he says, "which gives me the freedom to explore dead ends or new routes. And without a support van to shuttle me to a hotel, or a tent and sleeping bag to make camp, I'm forced to engage with the locals. I've got to go ask someone in the street or a farmer in a field for help finding a decent meal and a cheap place to sleep. I usually end up in some great place no guidebook has listed."

Ready to hit the road? Take a peek at our version of Erickson's packing list.

THE PACK: The DETOURS HIGH TAIL EXPANDABLE seatpost bag ($85), available at REI. 800-426-4840,
INSIDE: maps; bike tools (chain tool, cassette remover); inner tube; patch kit; foldable spare tire; pair of socks; lightweight nylon or polyester convertible travel pants and shirt (for après-biking activities); boxer shorts; ID, cash, credit card; small notebook and pen; sunscreen; toothbrush and paste; camera; long-sleeved cycling jersey; waterproof-breathable rain jacket and pants; wool beanie; and cycling tights.

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