LEMOND

LeMond is owned by Trek. To the degree that a bike shop must offer, or feels that it must offer, different brand options to its customer, LeMond fills that need for the dealer. This is fine with Trek, which books the sale either way. From Trek's point of view there is also its self-imposed limitation of an exclusive area for each Trek dealer. Another dealer in that protected area cannot do business with Trek––but it might be able to traffic in LeMonds.

But LeMond is more than just a way for Trek to make an end-run around territory exclusivity. It really is different and separate from Trek in many ways. Frame material is an example. LeMond frames are built of titanium at the high end and steel at the low end. No Trek or Klein––another of Trek's brands––is built of either material.

And LeMond is all about road bikes.

There are certain similarities between Trek's road brands. There is Trek's usually stellar warranty performance, for one thing. Beyond that, there is the ubiquitous placement of Trek's house component brands throughout its road bikes of various head badges, and Trek has done an admirable job with Icon , Bontrager, et al.

Speaking of Bontrager, Trek apparently felt several years ago that it had to do something in wheels, and it dated Spinergy. Then it married Rolf. The marriage was great while it lasted, and while Trek and Rolf Dietrich (the Rolf of Rolf) did end their relationship in divorce––the way many Hollywood marriages go––Trek has managed to keep the essence of the Rolf design (as can be seen in its spiffy-looking Zurich at left) while renaming its wheels Bontrager. It's sort of like how Microsoft somehow got the essence of the Apple "look" and sold more of it than Apple itself. How Rolf Dietrich got elbowed out ought to make for an interesting story.

All the frames below are made of Reynolds 853 Select Steel. This means the three main tubes are 853, and the head tube, chain and seat stays are not—as opposed to LeMond's higher-end steel bikes, which are entirely 853.

LeMond uses two forks in the bikes below. Its Icon Carbon Classic has carbon blades bonded to an aluminum crown with a steel steer tube. Its Icon Aero chrome-moly fork is an entirely steel unicrown design. All these bikes use threadless headsets, which is a plus.

The prices quoted below are our best guess as to street price. They are generally $75 to $130 below MSRP, because Trek's MSRP is almost across-the-board higher than what the dealers we polled will sell them for.

ALPE D' HUEZ

This bike has Shimano 105 parts throughout, and as is the case with all the bikes below, it can be purchased with either a double- or triple-chainring crankset. The price quoted here is for the double, and you ought to add about $30 for the triple. It has an Icon Carbon Classic fork plus your basic wheels, which is to say you don't get the fancy Bontrager used-to-be-Rolfs on this or any of the bikes below, save the Buenos Aires. Its street price ought to be about $1,300.

This bike sells for the same street price, more or less, as the Giant TCR 2, and I think it's fair to compare the two. First, you've got to decide whether you like steel or aluminum. The Alpe D' Huez is a steel bike, and it's going to be a couple of pounds heavier but perhaps a bit more comfortable. Both have carbon forks, but the Giant's fork is certainly in my mind superior because of the influence of the now-departed (from Giant) Mike Burroughs, the techie guru who developed the Lotus bike and infused Giant with a lot of knowledge it didn't previously have. Giant's fork is one of Burroughs' babies, and although Giant had a fork recall last year, I'd still give the edge to Giant.

Giant also gives you the cool carbon Aero seat post on the TCR 2 versus the average Taiwanese metal post on the Giant. Giant has the neat carbon stem, LeMond your the basic TTT. (Edge: Giant.) Tires? IRC Red Storm on the LeMond versus a superior Hutchinson Carbon Comp. Brake calipers? No-name on the LeMond, real 105 on the Giant.

All the way down the line, Giant is going to beat LeMond when it comes to features and value, which is to say Giant will win on paper. You've got to ask yourself why anyone would buy the LeMond. There are some reasons. First, LeMonds are made in a spitload of sizes versus the three sizes that Giant offers. Second, these bikes are U.S.-built, if that is of issue to you. Also, steel bikes are more expensive to make than aluminum bikes. So if you want the comfort of steel, you've got to pay extra for it.

Furthermore, LeMonds are inbued with LeMond geometry––Greg LeMond geometry. This is the sort of geometry that Greg himself would appreciate––relaxed seat angle, long top tube. The bike in my size––61cm––has a 72-degree seat angle and a 60.5cm top tube. That is the top tube length most other bike companies would use in their 63cm sizes and some even in their 65cm bikes.

This is not a bad thing. It depends what you like. I'd be pretty happy on this bike if it was my dedicated road bike. If I planned to attach a shorty tri bar and race a triathlon, I'd wish it were steeper and tighter, and in that sense the edge again must go toward Giant.

TOURMALET

This is essentially the same bike as the Alpe D' Huez above, except with Tiagra parts in place of 105 and an Icon Aero chrome-moly fork instead of the carbon fork. I don't think the fork downgrade is that big a deal because I don't think LeMond's carbon fork is going to feel particularly better, it'd just be a bit lighter.

At the Tourmalet level Trek reverts to a practice which I find infuriating. It equips the bike with clip-and-strap pedals. All clip-and-strap pedals get thrown away. All of them. (Except for the toe straps, which can come in handy as a tie-down.) Why doesn't Trek save everybody's money and just ship the bike with no pedals if it doesn't want to spend the money on pedals? This bike sells for $1,000 on the street.

There is a women's Tourmalet and it comes with the same basic features, except only in a triple-crank variety. It sells for the same price. Its geometry is specific for women and is sized down to 45cm. Here's my problem. LeMond is a classic brand. It appeals to classic cyclists. It's got classic geometry, classic frame materials, classic graphics. I've got no problem with any of that. The problem comes when adhering to historic cycling ideas means embracing historic cycling stubborness and closed-mindedness. There is no justification in this day and age to make a 45cm women's bike with 700c wheels. Trek itself makes its women's bikes in 650c, and its WSD bikes (which we'll get around to reviewing) positively rock. In its effort, I suppose, to differentiate the brands, it keeps to 700c with the LeMond women's bikes. Stupid. It should make its 45cm and 49cm women's-geometry bikes in 650c and perhaps make its 53cm women's Tourmalet in 700c.

NEVADA CITY

Same bike as the Tourmalet except with Sora parts. Sells for $800 on the street. You can buy a Tiagra bike for this money––and with decent clipless pedals––from Giant.

LeMond is a great brand, but frankly speaking it gets better and better in its upper price points. You really begin to get value starting with the Buenos Aires––a chiefly Ultegra bike with the nice-looking Bontrager wheels––and the values climb even more in models priced above that. When you compare this brand against, say, Giant, you see that Giant just gets better and better as the price points get lower, and LeMond starts to catch up and take over in the mid-teens and above.

BUENOS AIRES

There are some nice bikes to be had at the price points discussed above, but they're more for the traditional road cyclist who values traditional cycling themes. The readers of this magazine, who are mostly triathletes, have (for the most part) little intersection with such themes. If you want a classic road race bike for a good price and the LeMond line appeals to you, consider spending a bit more––say, $1,450 to $1,500––and investing in a Buenos Aires (pictured). I've saved this bike for last because it is to me where the LeMond value starts.

This bike has the fancy Bontrager wheels around which are the first name-brand tire LeMond specs, the Continential Ultra 3000. It's got almost entirely Shimano Ultegra on it, and this is a fine set of parts. LeMond's next model up is $400 to $500 more in money, but you get very little for it––a slightly better frame tubeset, tire, saddle, wheelset, chain, bottom bracket—but none of these upgrades jump out at you. With the Buenos Aires you get clipless pedals; with the Zurich you get no pedals.

This bike is the pick of the litter. Very nice value. After this you've got to get into LeMond's titanium bikes before you reach a similar value, features-wise.

One final note about the Buenos Aires. You may find that there is less wiggle room in the price of this bike. It is going to be a hot seller, and it represents a very nice value. For that reason, retailers may be less inclined to come way off of MSRP.

A parenthetical note: The Zurich (the $1,900 to $2,000 bike pictured at the top of this page) is a nice-looking bike, and it's a true race bike, but it's going to get cannibalized by the Buenos Aires. Why didn't LeMond go out on a limb––especially because it represents traditionalism––and spec this bike with Campy 10-speed Centaur? Maybe next year.

LeMond's website is here.