Gear Guy

Can you guide me through the hoops of buying a road bike?

What are the key factors one should take into account in purchasing a road/touring bike? Brent Ithaca, New York

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At the risk of sounding like a patronizing jerk (who, me?), one key factor is whether you want a road OR a touring bike. Because while they’re similar, they’re also very different beasts. A true touring bike will weigh more than a road bike, have lower gearing, and have a more “relaxed” frame geometry. This results in a softer, more comfortable ride, but also means the bike is a little lazier when it comes to turning corners. And it definitely won’t sprint up hills like a good road bike.

So, the first step is to consider what kind of riding you want to do. For touring, commuting, or long, slower rides, then a tourist is a pretty good choice. Cannondale makes a nice oneĀ—the T800 at $1,300; sturdy aluminum frame, lots of pegs for bottles, pumps, and fenders, a nice mix of Shimano and Cane Creek components. Trek’s competing bike is the steel-frame 520 ($1,100), similar in basic specs to the Cannondale. A little heavier, but the steel frame will generally yield a plusher ride.

If, on the other hand, you want something a little sportier, for brisk-paced weekend rides, maybe a countryside or light tour, then look into the category known as “road sport” bikes. Lots of good choices here, some of which have triple chainrings for easier climbing. The Fuji Roubaix Pro ($1,300), its name notwithstanding, is an exceedingly biker-friendly bike, and one of the best buys around with a great Shimano 105 drivetrain. I also love Bianchi’s Imola ($1,400), which has a nice mix of stiffness and comfort in its steel frame, Shimano components, and loads of Italian charisma. If that’s a bit rich for the budget, the Specialized Allez A1 has name-brand Ritchey and Shimano parts attached to its good-quality aluminum frame, all for only $750.

Click here for Cannondale’s T800, here for Trek’s 520.