Want a 2012 Tour-proven bike that will let you claim your own personal yellow jersey, regardless of cost? Each of these six models is light on climbs, maneuverable in packs, and capable of flying down descents and through turns as fast as you dare to go. Before you go and invest in one of these bikes, remember the Tips to Buying Your Next Bike.
Lapierre Xelius 700 DB
Price $4,700; Weight 15.6 lb. (55cm); Sizes 46, 49, 52, 55 (tested), 58cm; Frame Carbon HM monocoque; Fork Easton EC90 SL full carbon tapered; Component highlights SRAM Force derailleurs, levers, crankset (53/39), Rival brakes; Mavic Ksyrium Elite M10 wheels; Hutchinson Atom Comp tires; Info lapierrebikes.us; Buy it if You love French culture and want a performance machine with an impressive lineage.
Lapierre's national spirit shines in the Xelius 700 DB. The company supplies the frame to the FDJ-BigMat cycling team, which is sponsored by the French national lottery and a French distributor of building materials. Unlike many ProTour teams, FDJ's roster pulls primarily from one country; of 29 athletes, all but four are French. One of the others is a Francophone Qu?b?cois.
Our testers initially noted that this bike's pleasant, solid, straight-line ride quality felt similar to that of the early French carbon bikes from Vitus, Time, and Look, which had carbon or aluminum lugs joining carbon tubes. Like those bikes, the Xelius felt as if it conformed to any road surface. But those older bikes could become a bit noodly in turns and sprints, and that's where this Lapierre lost any resemblance to its antecedents. There's no trace of twisting: The front was rigid when we torqued on it in turns and sprints. Meanwhile, the rear triangle is all business: The stays are stiff, and the bike leaped ahead when pedaling. A tapered head tube and Easton EC90 SL fork contribute to precise handling that lets you put the bike exactly where you want it, but the ride is stable enough that one tester confidently removed a jacket while on a dirt road. (So is it worth the money? Learn when to Splurge or Save on Your Bike Gear.) —Mike Yozell
Ridley Noah FB
Price $5,395, frame; $14,000, as tested; Weight 15.5 lb. (L); Sizes XXS, XS, S, M, L (tested), XL; Frame Noah FB Fast; Fork Noah FB 1211A; Component highlights Campagnolo Record 11 EPS derailleurs, levers, battery, crank (53/39), Bora Ultra II wheels; Continental Sprinter tires (tubular); San Marco Aspide saddle Info ridley-bikes.com; Buy it if You live on the bleeding edge, or wish you did
Those of us who gaze longingly at cars like the $400,000 Lamborghini Aventador, with its 12-cylinder engine capable of 217 miles per hour, would, if we were lucky enough to slip behind the steering wheel, likely find ourselves lacking the skills needed to turn the 700-horsepower engine loose, shift through the transmission, and slam on the brakes in a hairpin turn before jumping on the throttle to shoot out the other side. The Ridley Noah FB is the two-wheeled version of that supercar—packed with technology and built to push the limits. But if you get the chance to pilot this vehicle, you're more likely to be able to ride it the way you're supposed to.
To get the Noah to shoot down the road, just give the pedals a little push. Jumping out of the saddle produces a sensation similar to striding onto a moving walkway at the airport; your effort is the same, but you're suddenly going faster. Bank the bike into a turn and the shockingly stiff frame lets you carry impressive speed through the apex. Need to dodge an obstacle? The quickhandling geometry lets you juke around it with nary an interruption to your pedal stroke. On descents the bike rolls away from riders on nonaero frames.
The Campagnolo EPS group on our test model spiked the price to $14,000, which is at the upper end of today's luxury buys. The Noah FB frame is available through U.S. Ridley dealers and is compatible with mechanical and electronic shifting systems. Brakes included. (If you're still not sure what your next ride should be, follow the 10 Tips to Finding the Right Bike for You.) —Andrew J. Bernstein