Man,what a shock it is having to pay retail after working in the bike business. My initial efforts had been limited to online shopping with an offering from Leaderbikes being the front-runner;A nice bike no-doubt,with what looks to be a good geometry,but buying a bike sight unseen is generally not good policy-especially with road bikes.Road bikes are a very specialized breed with very dedicated riding positions,so you want to try 'em first. While I continued to use the 'puter for the purpose of researching and price hunting,it became time for me to hit the local shops and see what deals I could find on 2004's and winter close-outs. My criteria for a road bike was fairly straightforward: A true road race geometry for good sprinting,quick steering response and comfort enough to handle century rides. A minimum Shimano 105 level componentry.....for MTB folks,this would equal LX.Not the absolute best,but journeyman level. Aluminum frame/carbon fork.....lightweight but stiff enough for a strong 200+lb rider.THis combo also makes for a smooth ride on less than smooth roads. Priced under $1200. So basically, this puts me just in mid range price-point of road bikes and probably the most competetive area in road bike sales...a good thing for me. Every manufacturer has a good offering in this catagory,so assuming the fit is right,I really can't make a 'bad' choice,but being a former wrench in this business,I'm able to sort out some minor differences that can amount to a lot in terms of the bikes value and durability. I found myself drawn to the offererings from Giant,Specialized,Trek,Lemond,Jamis,Bianchi and Cannondale.I looked at the specific models offered in my price range from each manufacturer and ruled out models based on my impressions overall bike quality ie; frame weld quality,tubing brands vs generic,unseen components like bottom brackets,hubs and headsets (where cheap parts are often used to keep price down).I also tried to steer clear of gimmickrey meant to increase the bikes' appeal without actually adding any value like funky wheelsets with oddball spoke lacing patterns that may be weeker or heavier than more conventional desins,weird unproven tubing or frame layouts,compact geometries,carbon forks with elastomer inserts,etc. Here's what I found: Giant TCR series-nice overall value,but imprecise 'compact geometry' frame and iffy paired spoke wheelset.Tough call since I really like Giant bikes-it's a nice bike,but not my style.$1200 Jamis Quest-One of my first looks.Only steel bike I considered (Reynolds 631),this bike was nicely spec'd on sale for $899.It had some cheap stuff (tiagra fr derailleur) mixed in and the steel frame while very nicely made,but was oriented toward sport touring and lighter riders-had a triple crankset,I want a more performance oriented set-up. Specialized Allez Elite-This bike had lots of gimmickrey-compact frame geometry,funky shaped tubes,weird inserts in the setpost and fork (both carbon).It did use their top end frame design and had good componentry for the $1000 price tag.It was set up well for my kind of riding,but too much goofy stuff. Trek 1500-this bike was close to perfect,but a little short in the front triangle and too bland in geometry....I liked it,but it doesn't suit my lanky build.$1049 Lemond Tourmalet-this bike is made in the Trek factory and was very well suited to me.It had the same value as the Trek 1500 with a better geometry.It had a mix of 105 and Ultegra,Bontrager wheelset and a coservative but gorgeous blue and white paint job.The test ride revealed a sufficiently stiff,but unrefined ride...the geometry was fine,but the ride quality felt like a cheaper straight gauge alum frame,no shock absorbtion.Overall though,at $1130,this is a sweet ride. Cannondale R700-A Crackenfail?! THe shop had a last year R600 priced down to $899.Although it was a little lean on the component side,I found that it really felt perfect in fit,so it led me to the R700.This bike has the 105/Ultegra mix,CAAD 7/Optimo frame with "Slice" carbon fork,Shimano 105 level wheelset (funky but proven) and overall nice component quality.In my research,I found the CAAD frame finished at the top in durabilty/stress analysis testing-very impressive for aluminum.The Cannondale frames are handmade in the USA and known for being stiff but smooth.My test ride of the triple equipped version R700 confirmed to me that this was the bike I wanted. So,I'm getting the Cannondale R700. $1200 I had them order me a double crankset version in the saffron orange.It'll be here at the end of Feb,I'll have it paid for by then. Berto has attached this image: Wanna kill these ads? We can help!