I'm looking for a bike for long day rides. I never thought I'd buy a carbon bike or a performance oriented bike, but recently rode a Madone 6.2 WSD and am reconsidering. Before I plunk down the [big] money, though, I'm wondering what other bikes I should ride to compare it to.
What I liked: It fit my body and was comfortable (except for the saddle, which I can change). I got on it and immediately did the third longest ride in my life (75 miles), and the only part of my body that hurt the next day was my butt. My knees didn't hurt, my neck didn't hurt, my hands and elbows didn't hurt. The bars were not too low. I could ride in the drops. The handlebars felt narrow at first -- and then they didn't feel narrow at all. The brakes felt secure in spite of my small, weak hands. It felt lively. I didn't have a computer on a rental bike, but I'm told I was going faster than I usually do. Even moderately rough pavement felt comfortable. It felt like I was wearing clothes and flying, not like I was lugging a bike with me, a perfect symbiosis of bike and woman.
So now I want to upgrade, and I'm wondering what other bike models I should look at that might give me that same feeling -- or should I just buy the Madone 5.2 or 6.2? Let's say the Madone 6.2 is the absolute upper limit on price. I rode a 5.2 a few miles, and it felt just as good. Is there a steel or titanium bike that might give me some of the same feel? I'm not going to spend this kind of money on a bike without doing a substantial test-ride, so it has to be a model I am likely to find in a store. I am willing to travel to test-ride.
I'm buying this bike to do 50-100 mile day rides at a sedate pace in hilly country (13-17 mph or so on the flats depending on how far I'm going, much slower (3-6 mph) on hills over 100 feet or so) mostly solo rides or rides with 1 friend. I'm a woman, 50+, fat, and short, with long legs, short torso, short arms, and very short hands. My current bike is a 50 cm Surly Long Haul Trucker that is a little too big, even with a grotesquely short stem.
Thanks for any advice.