For years, comfort and speed weren't compatible in cycling. A high-performance racing bike kept you low and hunched over. As the number of serious riders has grown during the last 20 years -- especially those ages 35 and older -- demand for a more upright position and shock-absorbing ride has also increased. Bike makers have responded by introducing more "comfort road bikes," which are designed for long-distance rides. Here are four models that use a variety of designs to help make your ride more comfortable.
Specialized S-Works Roubaix: Carbon-fiber frame with unique bumpers to lessen vibration.
Likes: Very smooth, soft ride due to innovative, see-through rubber inserts called Zertz, which are embedded into the structure of the fork, seat-post and seat-stays. Taller front-end of frame allows for more upright body position. Extra-long wheelbase cuts vibration.
Price: Starts at $5,500, depending on components. (877) 808-8154; www.specialized.com.
Cannondale Synapse: Carbon-fiber frame with innovative built-in flex.
Likes: Very light (15.2 pounds) bike has an extremely smooth ride due to novel flattened chain-stays (small frame tubes near the chain) that bend up to absorb vibration. Numerous vibration-stopping carbon parts, including thick, flattened handlebars to spread load on hands. Long wheelbase also helps soften the ride.
Price: Starts at $3,100. (800) 245-3872; www.cannondale.com.
Comfort at the right price
Trek 2100C: Moderately priced aluminum-carbon bike designed for century rides.
Likes: Comfort is enhanced by telescoping rubber bumper on seat-stay of frame and an adjustable stem that provides more flexibility for positioning the handlebars, lessening back strain.
Price: $1,649. (920) 478-2191; www.trekbikes.com.
Made for the triathlon
Softride FasTT: Striking, aerodynamic design that's popular with triathletes.
Likes: Very comfortable. You sit suspended on a diving-board-like apparatus that effectively smooths rough roads. An optional suspension stem ($99) helps to ease hand vibration.
Dislikes: Low front end requires that you ride in a conventional, bent-over position.
Price: $3,200 to $3,500.[ (800) 557-6387; www.softride.com.
-- Roy M. Wallack