What bike should you buy ?

MY BUDDY BRIAN SHELDEN AND I WERE pedaling down Riverside Drive in New York City, headed home after having ridden over the George Washington Bridge and up Route 9W like tens of thousands of cyclists do every weekend. We came upon a group of riders, and I heard one call my name. She was the sister of a friend, and we exchanged pleasantries, then her eyes drifted to my bike. “Wow,” she said with genuine shock. “Retro.”

I had down-tube shifters. This was long before I worked at this magazine, but still–I’m a little embarrassed to admit–a good six years after I should have retired my old, lugged-steel Specialized Sirrus to the ranks of commuter bike. I used to think like a lot of people do: Why get a new bike when this one works perfectly fine? Brian, who is by far the cheapest person I know, laughed at the “retro” comment but later confided, “You know, you do need a new bike. Badly.” To hear it from him was a revelation.

Finally ready to commit, I began the “What bike should I buy?” ritual, which writer Bill Gifford describes in his hilarious essay, “How To Not Not Buy A Bike” . To begin, I sought advice from the most knowledgeable bike person I knew at the time: Bill Strickland, bicycling’s editor at large. I told Strickland I was just a recreational rider, and that I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, really, but simply wanted a bike that was more up to date. “I see you on something titanium,” he told me, blithely ignoring my input. “With Italian parts.” He gave me links to websites of a half-dozen titanium-bike manufacturers (this was 2003) and recommended some models, each of them priced far above what I’d planned to spend.

It turns out that Strickland knew me better than I did. I took his advice, spent more, and ended up with a Merlin Cyrene with Campagnolo Chorus. At the time the purchase felt extravagant–like I didn’t deserve so much bike–but I quickly grew into the Cyrene. And being on such nice equipment utterly transformed cycling for me: I rode farther and more often, and every turn of the cranks brought more pleasure as I grew fitter and faster. Today, I’m ready for a new bike again, a few years past due, actually. I’m thinking carbon and fast.

So what bike should you buy?

Thumb through this issue and feast your eyes on the 160 we’ve reviewed–chances are one of them is just right for you. And if you’re still not sure, or you’d like some extra help from bicycling’s test editors, e-mail us at whatbike@rodale.com. Tell us what you’re looking for (we’ll heed your parameters, I promise) and attach your photo. You–and your ideal bike–may be featured in an upcoming issue.

What bike should you buy

P.S. FOR EVEN MORE REVIEWS–THOUSANDS more, to be exact–visit the Gear and Bike Review Finder at BICYCLING.com/gear. In addition to seeing what we think of a product, you can submit your own opinions on equipment you love (or don’t) and see what other cyclists think.

More informations: http://www.james-phelps.com/