Crash Course: Bike-Frame Materials > CARBON FIBER
Seen on: specialized Roubaix, Trek Madone (this page) Advantages: Great weight-to-strength ratio and cool looks Disadvantages: Can be unstable at high speedsand pricey Percentage of All Road Bikes Sold: 13
JAMIS SATELLITE, $680
THE PITCH Road-bike pricing comes down to earth.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... This 22-pound-14-ounce bike is designed to grow alongside a cyclist's skills and fitness. The Jamis strategy: Give buyers a Reynolds-steel frame and carbon-fiber fork, then bolt on heavier, lesser-quality parts: wheels, brakes, and drivetrain.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? Yes, if you want a reliable introduction to pavement without dipping into your 401(k). The Satellite rides like a bike that costs twice as much. Out on the road, the feel was so plush and the riding position so relaxed, the Satellite reminded us why steel is a superior material for soaking up bumps in the road. The hidden price of that delicious ride is weight: The extra five pounds under your saddle doesn't seem like muchuntil you reach a hill. (800-222-0570, www.jamisbikes.com)
CERVÉLO P3, $3,599
THE PITCH This one's aerodynamically perfected for slicing through air and blowing past everybody else.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... The airfoil-shaped frame and seatpost, the flat carbon-fiber fork and V-shaped wheel rimsall are standard tri-bike designs. But the P3's rear wheel cutout is not. By tucking the wheel into a sweeping, 15-inch-long curve in the frame, Cervélo effectively created an airfoil that moves air over the hoop with less turbulence. Cervélo's aerobars and Shimano's top-of-the-lineand lightestDura-Ace drivetrain fill out the complete speed package.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? The P3 delivers straight speed and little else. Crediting the frame's low body posture and the P3's overall ultra-efficient design, one of our testers shaved two minutes off his usual 20-mile test ride without even trying. Of course, riders will have to make some sacrifices in comfort, handling, and hill-climbing ability. The tight aluminum frame shot every bump right up our spines, its hypertwitchy feel made sprinting and traffic adventures in maintaining control, and the extremely low aerobar height made long, steep hills a pain in the back. But for triathletes who race and train on empty stretches of asphalt, this shouldn't be a problem; it could even prove a psychological boost: When you ride a bike built for breaking speed records, you'll push yourself harder to see how fast you can really go. (866-237-8356, www.cervelo.com)
TREK MADONE 5.9, $5,000
THE PITCH You, too, can own Lance Armstrong's winning wheels.
YOUR MONEY BUYS... Trek engineers are so reluctant to share their carbon-fiber shake-and-bake recipe, they haven't even filed details of the process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Whatever the black magic, it's allowed the company to craft an absurdly feathery (15 pounds 12 ounces), aerodynamic bike that climbs and sprints with no energy-sapping lateral flex. Trek topped things off with the trickest of components, including Shimano's top-shelf Dura-Ace brakes and drivetrain, super-stiff Bontrager Race X Lite wheels, and a titanium-and-leather San Marco saddle. Lance rode a stock version of this bike in the 2003 Tour de France.
THE RIGHT BIKE FOR YOU? If the Madone doesn't put you at the front of the peloton on a sickening incline, it'll at least make you feel like you belong there. The tight, responsive frame transfers every muscle twitch into forward motion. Nothing under 16 pounds should feel this solid, but the Madone inspires confidence even during descents on sketchy mountain roads. Go aheadstand up and stomp on the pedals: Trek's proprietary rear-triangle design will withstand all the torque you can dish out. The Bontrager wheels and carbon-fiber frame broadcast every bump to your body, but the Madone is still surprisingly comfortable for a pure race rig. Shimano Dura-Ace components are precise, light, and as lustrous as the frame they adorn. (920-478-4678, www.trekbikes.com)