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Women's Road Bike

Women’s Road Bike: The Best Bikes for Every Budget

“Choosing the best women’s road bike can be tricky especially if you’re in a budget. Let us help you with our review below. Read it now!”

Women’s Road Bike: Many manufacturers offer road bikes in women-specific designs. Women tend to have shorter torsos and narrower shoulders than men, and women’s road bikes take this into account. These are usually outfitted with female-specific saddles and smaller handlebars, in addition to brakes or shifters designed for a woman’s smaller hands. It’s worthwhile to visit a bike shop to try out some women-specific designs (WSD), but many women ride unisex road bikes with no complaints.

Women's Road Bike

Women’s Road Bike

If you’re shopping on a budget, the Fuji Finest 2.0 (*Est. $1,000) offers beginner-friendly performance without breaking the bank. The aluminum-framed bike has a carbon fork, triple crankset, Shimano Sora components and Formula alloy wheels, and is available in five sizes. Like most Fuji bikes, the Fuji Finest 2.0 road bike comes with a limited lifetime warranty for the frame and fork.

The U.K.’s Zest magazine recommends the Fuji Finest 2.0 for beginning riders who want a comfortable bike that won’t be out of place at casual races. It’s also a good choice for commuting. “Fast yet comfy, this is ideal if you’re new to road cycling or racing,” the editors write. Cycling Active tests the Fuji Finest 1.0 (*Est. $1,200) , which has higher-quality Shimano Tiagra and 105 components. Editors recommend spending the extra money to upgrade to the Finest 1.0 over the 2.0, even if just for the Tiagra shifters alone: Compared to the Shimano Sora components on the Finest 2.0, the Tiagra shifters provide much smoother shifting performance. Although the bike isn’t lightweight, testers say the ride is anything but sluggish. “It has a sprightly, brisk feel, and both wheels and tyres are skinny, lightweight numbers, keeping the Finest feeling light-footed despite its overall mass,” says Cycling Active. However, editors aren’t a big fan of the pastel color scheme, which is a little too “traditionalist” for their tastes.

Budget shoppers should also look at Trek’s new Lexa series (*Est. $730 to $1,370) . These bikes were designed specifically for women, as opposed to merely making small changes to an existing unisex frame as is the case with some women’s road bikes. We haven’t seen many reviews for these new bikes, but Trek has received high marks for its women-specific bikes in the past. The few user reviews available are positive, and most owners say the Trek Lexa bikes are good for beginners and incredibly versatile, whether they’re used for fitness riding, commuting or casual racing. One owner complains about the shifters.

For riders who are ready to graduate to a more serious road bike, the Trek Madone 3.1 WSD (*Est. $2,090) offers a carbon frame and Shimano 105 components. Six female-specific frame sizes are available, and the bike comes with a SRAM Apex compact crank, Tektro R540 brakes with adjustable-reach levers, alloy hubs and Bontrager R1 tires. Trek frames have a limited lifetime warranty.

Women’s Adventure Magazine says the Trek Madone 3.1 WSD is a longtime favorite of their gear-testers, who love the versatile ride and precise handling. “The 3.1 WSD feels like a performance racer in terms of handling, feels like a touring bike in terms of comfort, and maintains the Madone’s reputation for fast-reacting power transfer with its stiff bottom bracket,” the editors write. Cycling Plus magazine also says the Trek Madone 3.1 WSD is “an excellent choice for serious lady riders.”

For racers and dedicated cyclists, reviews point to the Cannondale SuperSix Women’s 3 Ultegra (*Est. $3,200) , our Best Reviewed pick for a women’s bike. This race bike has a full-carbon frame available in four sizes, Shimano Ultegra components, Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels and Schwalbe Durano S tires. The bike is also available with Shimano Dura-Ace (*Est. $4,800) or Shimano Dura-Ace 105 (*Est. $2,150) components.

Both Bicycling and Women’s Adventure Magazine recommend the Cannondale SuperSix Women’s 3 Ultegra for serious riders and racers. The stiff frame is responsive under pedaling, testers say, translating into precise handling in corners and at high speeds. “This carbon frame transfers every watt of your energy into forward-pushing power,” says Women’s Adventure Magazine. Bicycling, which gives the Cannondale SuperSix Women’s 3 Ultegra an Editors’ Choice award, says the bike has plenty of speed but doesn’t sacrifice comfort. Cycling Weekly tests the Cannondale SuperSix 3 Ultegra unisex version and gives it a positive review overall, but editors say serious racers will want to upgrade to lighter, more rigid wheels. “The Ksyrium Equipes on both the Felt and Cannondale really held the bikes back,” the editors write.

Women should also consider the female-specific version of the top-rated road bike, the Giant Defy Advanced 1. The female model, the Giant Avail Advanced 1 (*Est. $3,200) , earns an Editors’ Choice award from Bicycling magazine. Three sizes are available and the carbon frame is outfitted with Shimano Ultegra components, DT Swiss R1800 wheels, Michelin Pro Optimum tires and a female-specific handlebar.

The Giant Avail Advanced 1 has won an Editors’ Choice award from Bicycling magazine for the last three years. Editors say it provides a more comfortable upright ride than many bikes in this price range yet still offers plenty of power and climbing prowess. “Despite upright geometry, the bike felt speedy and climbed well,” they write.

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Mongoose Bike

Mongoose Bikes Review: $199 Mongoose XR200 Full Suspension

Mongoose carries a full line of mountain bikes including dirtjump, hardtail and more.. Below is a review on Mongoose Bikes XR200. Want to consider this bike on your next race? Read on!

Mongoose Bikes

Mongoose Bikes Review

On Department Store “Cheapies”

Would it surprise you to know that month after month the most inquired about mountain bike models aren’t uber-expensive, cutting edge, technological wonders? In fact, far from it! It turns out that readers enjoy living vicariously through the media when it comes to the experience of hammering a $9,000 bicycle for entertainment much in the way we find ourselves reading tests of Ferraris and Lambos; cars we’ll likely never even drive much less own.

Yet when it comes time to buy a car, reading up on the Ford Fiesta suddenly becomes a lot more appealing and thus is the logic behind the fact that readers request, in fact beg for thorough, professional reviews of bikes available at their local big box shopping centers and sporting goods stores. We understand the desire. Times are rough and most of us are struggling just to put fuel in the car and pay for the week’s groceries. $6,000 for a recreational item is simply not in the cards- So why all the negativity surrounding department store “cheapies”?

There is no shortage of such information on the Internet offering persuasive info on the subject- forums filled with threads harping on excessive weight, unreliability of components, catastrophic frame failures and horror stories of improper assembly. Last year the MBT Test Crew pulled an upset when we picked up and thoroughly tested a $75 Next Parowan rigid steel mountain bike. The results really weren’t pretty! We concluded that for anything other than sidewalk cruising, the overweight steel-framed bike would have been in over its head and even with the luxury of having been built by our own professional mechanics; there were certain components (front brake for example) that never worked properly.

This all brings us up to the $199 Mongoose XR 200 being reviewed here and a company that you probably think you don’t know about (but actually do). If you have no concern about the history behind the Mongoose brand and the corporate moving and shakings that resulted in this bike, feel free to skip down below for the test itself. We won’t be offended, honest!

A Rich History

The Mongoose bikes brand has a rich and colorful history in the bicycle industry that dates all the way back to the 1970s. For nearly 30-years, the domestic brand based in Madison, Wisconsin produced BMX and then later mid-level mountain bikes. Where things start to get a little fuzzy to the public is when the brand became a part of Taiwan bicycle manufacturing company Pacific Cycles (based in Hsin Wu, Taoyuan, Taiwan) back in 2001.

Pacific Cycles is actually a subsidiary of Dorel Industries; this becomes important in just a moment. After the merger, the Mongoose brand name was essentially split into two entirely separate product lines: low cost mass-market bicycles that could be found at department and sporting goods stores and higher-end models distributed through specialty bicycle shops.

For 2012 however, the plans for Mongoose have shifted slightly again. This time the higher-end bike shop models aren’t going to be available in the United States. Visiting Mongoose’s site reveals a pretty stellar lineup that is, sadly, inaccessible to us this year. The mass-market models are still alive and well though, and hence this very review born out of popular demand.

Dorel Industries is important because they have similarly merged with brands GT, Cannondale, Schwinn and most recently Iron Horse. More than just a brand-name conglomerate, the idea here is that the business practices of multiple brands under a single corporate umbrella could theoretically mix and match tactics to pass maximum savings onto the consumer.


The Mongoose XR 200 begins life as an aluminum one-size-fits-all tube set coupled to a 21-speed hybrid drivetrain (SRAM MRX grip-shifters mated to Shimano Tourney TX derailleur and gears). Braking comes in the form of a Promax DSK-400 manual (cable) disc brake in the front and Promax v-brake in the rear. Suspension duties are handled by a Zoom Element Racing Shocks fork and coil-over shock (3-inches of travel front & rear). Hubs and quick releases are Quando bits while the wheels and tires are presumably in-house brands.

All told the Men’s 26” XR 200 (26” refers to the wheel size only; the actual bike’s top tube measures roughly 21.5”) weighs in at 37 pounds with included pedals installed. A model identical to ours can be had for $199.

Shop Talk

As is always the case with our bike tests, we built the bike up in our shop and spent as much time tweaking and fine-tuning it to our specific needs as possible before field-testing. In the case of the XR-200, the suspension is only (spring) preload adjustable and hence extremely effortless to set-up. Without the need to pressurize air chambers for proper sag measurement, all that was left for us to fiddle with was the bar angle, stem height (by moving the included spacers above or below the clamp) and saddle height to suit each of our test riders. The uninterrupted seat-tube is certainly appreciated, as saddle-height range is quite munificent.

As stated in the spec breakdown, department store bikes can be difficult to pin-down size wise as most offerings (this one included) forego any sort of top tube measurement info in favor of wheel size. A 21” top-tube would typically put this somewhere between medium and large territory of most bike shop options though we should note that do to a generous bend in the top tube, the length alone can be a tad misleading (meaning a bit more compact in person than the spec sheet reveals). As always in these situations, try before you buy if possible, especially if you typically fall outside the norm as far as body types go.

Once set-up, the reach to the bars is fairly neutral; leaning toward the modern trail bike side of the spectrum (over the raked out stretch of a cross country configuration). The saddle is a tad bit harder than its bulk would suggest but our crew unanimously voted the cockpit as roomy and comfortable.

Blast Off

Moving out on the Mongoose XR 200 is best done in a gear-range lower than expected with frequent upshifts as opposed to starting off high in the cogs. The gearing is such where the bike’s heft can be compensated for by selecting wisely and building a steady cadence. Like most bicycles at this price point, it finds its sweet spot on hard pack, paved bike paths, gravel roads and the occasional asphalt commute. There was a time about a decade ago when big brand store mountain biking equipment was so inadequate that it came with a warning label disclaiming that it was not actually intended for off-road use. We’re very pleased to report that those days are behind us; at least as far as this particular model is concerned.

Does this suggest the performance goes south the moment you leave the bike path? Not at all. Despite what you may have read, heard or suspected, we were able to take our XR 200 test bike through a decent variety of off-road conditions and returned to the trail head quite unscathed (as did the bike). Among these were some sections of twisty single track, a sandy lakeside trail system and a rooty technical park with multiple stream crossings. If you were hoping we would have used this test as an opportunity to read about a budget bike snapped in half on a downhill run, we’re sorry to disappoint but this is 3-inch travel territory here; regardless of cost.

The steering is sharp and precise and the bike holds a decent line assuming the ground isn’t overly sloped. Climbing and descending can be a bit of a handful on account of the bike’s overall weight. Surprisingly, the front brake is up to the task of getting the bike slowed down in a hurry with decent modulation after burn-in (which took several hours for us). The rear however, like most v-brakes we’ve encountered, can be a bit more like a light switch (off or on- and when on, dragging the tire). We found the best formula here was to scrub speed with the rear but allow the front manual disc the lion’s share of bringing the XR down to cornering speeds.

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Kestrel Talon Road Bike

Bike Review: Kestrel Bikes

“Thinking of buying a Kestrel Bike for your next big race? Read the review below and let us help you decide!”

Kestrel Talon Road Bike

Kestrel Talon road bike review

Kestrel Bikes – Kestrel Talon 105 Road Bike Review: Aerodynamic and Efficient Out on the road, the enemy of speed is aerodynamic drag

1. Straight-line aerodynamics. Yes, this bike is very fast on the flats and gentle rollers.
2. Cornering. Not a crit bike for sure, but carving down a mountain pass at 55mph it is steady & will go where you point it–thankfully!
3. Solid “feeling” bike. Inspires confidence.
4. Steady handling. Likes to go straight, so feel free to sit up and say, “look ma, no hands.”
5. Dressed up right, a very sexy bike.
6. Neither strength nor weakness, it has pretty average power-transfer. Depends on what you’re comparing it too.

Weaknesses: 1. Durability. The Talon on made it 3500 miles & 100,000 feet of climbing. The first 2000 miles were great. The next 1500 were Hell. I now know that micro-cracks were beginning to form inside the seat tube, allowing the seat post to slip down. The longer I rode it, the more cracks, the worse the slippage became. And yes, I actually use a torque wrench.
2. Advanced Sports now owns Kestrel. The lifetime frame warranty is now a huge pain. It took 4 warranties & over a year before finally getting them to replace the frame. They sent me a new binder bolt–useless. They sent me washers to space out the binder bolt, thinking I wasn’t getting enough torque. Useless. Now I know that micro-cracking is a known issue to them…they just hope that the warranty process becomes so frustrating that you just buy another bike–maybe a Fuji (another one of their brands.) Customer service is very poor and, at least in my town (of 1,000,000 people), no one carries Kestrel anymore. That should tell you something…when no one in a city this big and this cyclist friendly, with well over 2 dozen shops, will carry Kestrel, things have gotten pretty bad. Will Kestrel even be around in 10 years?
3. The bike is a bit heavy, even for an aero bike. But then again, a pound shouldn’t really matter if the bike is used as it is meant to be used–to slice through the wind (not to climb, not to constantly re-accelerate).
4. Great descender, not such a great climber, but again, that’s not it’s purpose.

Bottom Line:
“Reviews” of bikes that you’ve just bought are not reviews, they are initial impressions, and as such are useless to the consumer looking for objective information in order to make a wise choice. Just sharing how great your NEW bike is or feels doesn’t help others, which is the purpose of a review. In fact, the word review implies that you’re looking back on something you’ve had for a while. For long enough to fairly judge the product impartially.

My review is of the 06 Kestrel Talon, built as a road bike with DA7800 & various wheelsets, depending on the event. I’ve road raced, climbed plenty of mountains with it, done numerous centuries, and two 200k brevets on this bike. I have several bikes, however, so the miles are spread out over time.

From other ‘reviews’ I’ve read, let me say this: it all depends on where you’re coming from. From any aluminum bike, the Talon will feel smooth as though it just eats up the bumps. From a higher-end frame, however, the Talon is extremely harsh. Same thing with power transfer. Same with weight. Though heavy by today’s standards, it’s not actually ‘heavy’ and will feel feather light compared to most AL bikes. But again, it will feel heavy if you’ve ridden–I mean many miles–on a higher end carbon bike. So when you test ride bikes, keep in mind what you’re comparing the bike to, and what you SHOULD be comparing the bike to. You should compare the bike to what you want to do with it, not to your old ride.

That said, the conversation on geometry is pretty cut & dry. No, this bike is NOT made for long days in the saddle. Can you do it? Yes. I’ve done it many times. But if your goals include longer rides (like centuries and brevets of 2,3,600k, etc), then this is NOT the bike for you. It’s also too heavy to be a truly competitive road racer, nor does it handle or accelerate quickly enough for crits. If you like TTs, triathlons, longer road races where the pack opens up, the course is relatively flat, and sprinting is nill, then this IS a bike that would work. It’s all in the geometry. A 10-11cm head tube = shorter rides with a stronger core. A taller head tube, even a couple centimeters, allows for a more comfortable position on the bike = longer rides. Even a lot of pro teams are going to slightly ‘relaxed’ geometries. Research is showing what common sense should have told us, that comfort allows for longer durations of power output. The most aero position (i.e. short head tube) increases fatigue, reducing duration of power maintenance. In English, the longer you stay scrunched up, the short the distance you can cover, despite being more aero. So ride the Talon happily on your shorter rides. Race it if you want to. For the money, if they’ve fixed the seat tube problem, it is a good value. But don’t expect to finish a 110 mile road race or even ride and NOT be crying for your chiropractor or massage therapist.

But whoever said that this bike was being considered for RAAM is beyond hopeless. Did he mean the RT1000 with a 16cm headtube (as opposed to a 10-11cm Talon). Then yes. That bike was designed to be comfortable and ridden for hundreds of miles at a time. I’ve heard the RT1000 was ridden by team 4mil in the 2011 RAAM, tho I’m not sure. But people don’t ride the Talon long distances unless they have too (say, riding Ironman on a shoestring budget). Or unless they have something masochistic to prove–like me–as in, I know it’s uncomfortable but I can still do it!

In the next few weeks I’ll be getting a new Talon frame (free warranty after trying for over a year), probably a 2011 model if I judge the new company correctly. Hopefully the durability will have improved, but it will be quite some time before I’ll be able to speak to that. In the mean time, I’ll happily ride my heavy steel Surly or my flyweight comfy SuperSix. The Talon will take it’s place as a backup bike, or one to use occasionally just to mix things up.

I hope this review is more useful than the initial impressions given by new owners. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I used to sell bikes (including Kestrels, back when they were actually Kestrel), so I have a lot to say on the matter. Now I coach endurance riders, so, I have even more to say about the importance of FIT and of buying a bike that meets your needs/ambitions rather than ego or simply because it’s so much better than your last bike.

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