Last year, consumers were buying $9,000 bikes and bad mortgages like there was no tomorrow. Then tomorrow showed up. The spendy bikes are still out there, and still worth it for racers who have the cash. But in a time of great frugality, it's nice to know you can get a tremendous bike without jeopardizing your retirement. Exhibit A: our Gear of the Year–winning Wilier Triestina Izoard, which delivers Italian design flair and racing DNA for just over three grand.
Wilier Triestina Izoard
1. When price is no object, building a great bike is easy. Mix NASA-grade materials, handmade Italian components, and carbon wheels worth more than some cars, and you almost have to try to create a dud. But building a great bike for $3,000—and by "great" we mean worthy of pro racing—that's an accomplishment worth applauding. The Italian Izoard is a dream bike couched in reality.
2. Named after the Col d'Izoard, a monstrous Alpine climb often included in the Tour de France, the new Izoard sports a stiff, featherlight, vibration-damping one-piece carbon frame that's eerily similar to Wilier's top-of-the-line Cento1 (see review at outsideonline.com/cycling). It also comes with race-ready parts like Shimano's flawless Ultegra group and Mavic Ksyrium wheels.
3. One of the highest-scoring bikes in our test, the Izoard simply lacks weak points. Comments from various testers' score sheets: "Smooth acceleration while seated, and it jumps when you stand to sprint"; "I'd buy it to race on"; "Predictable and calm while maintaining its ability to move quickly downhill"; "Vibrations muted, but the bike stays lively"; "Nice Italian flair without going overboard."