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Chad Andrews knows road bikes. The Cat 2 racer is the owner/operator of Per4mance Training, a holistic training center in Charlotte, North Carolina that’s responsible for sending countless pro bikers to the podium and pushing recreational riders to a new level of performance. We asked Andrews and his professional staff of coaches to tell us about their two favorite road bikes in 2008.
THE ROAD WARRIOR: GIANT TCR $1,070
You don’t have to spend five grand on a bike that performs well on the road. And honestly, unless shaving your legs is mandatory for your job, you probably shouldn’t spend that kind of cash on a bike. All hail the Giant TCR, which brought race-level technology to an entry-price bike. Think of it as Reagan’s “Trickle Down Effect.” Some of the best design features found in Giant’s TCR Advanced (a top-of-the-line, hand-crafted race bike ridden by the T-Mobile Team with a price tag of $6,000) can be found on the shockingly affordable TCR. You get the same compact road geometry that the entire TCR line is famous for, decent Tiagra components, and compact gearing, which allows recreational riders to spin on the climbs and muscle down the descents.
“This is the ultimate beginner’s racing bike,” Andrews says. “It’s a great mix of components, design, and value.”
So what are you missing by buying the $1,000 TCR as opposed to the $6,000 TCR Advanced? The components are different on each bike, but the biggest difference is frame material. Instead of the carbon fiber that most high-end road bikes are made from these days, the TCR is made from aluminum. Obviously, this adds a little weight and affects the overall plushness of the ride. To help mitigate this, Giant added a carbon seat post to the aluminum frame, which helps dampen road buzz, a concession you can live with considering the low price tag.
THE RACE BIKE: TREK MADONE 5.5 $4,399
Okay, you’ve seen the Madone before. It was the bike that Lance rode to victory time and time again, a feat that propelled the Madone to near legendary status. But some time has passed since Lance held the Madone over his head after a race, and some of the luster has worn off the bike’s image. Which is why Trek threw out the old Madone and started brand new with the 2008 model, introducing some key design traits that promise to breathe new life into this old bike’s reputation and challenge the status quo of race bike building. The new Madone is rebuilt from the ground up, but the two key design breakthroughs that you’ll care about involve the bottom bracket and the seat tube. First, the bottom bracket is roughly 30% larger than your standard bottom bracket, which enables Trek to use an oversized down tube, adding torsional rigidity and lateral stiffness without adding extra weight. The result is a more stiff, nimble, and responsive ride than most other carbon fiber bikes on the market. The second big development with the new Madone is a semi-integrated seat tube, which means you no longer have to take a hacksaw to your carbon fiber seat post.