A discerning rider should look upon lightweight road bikes as basically falling into two categories.
1. All-out racing bikes (and lower-priced clones that purport to be the same, but have none of the competitive advantages and all of the disadvantages of these bikes) that, while not offering the most comfortable or pleasurable ride, give the serious athlete a chance to race without worrying that his equipment will hold him back. Many items that claim to be in this category are marketing tools aimed at the misinformed. But more about this later.
2. Riding bikes. An intelligently designed bike will offer a wonderful ride, handle like a dream and only slightly compromise the all-out need for the ultimately competitive bike. I believe that these are the bikes most people should ride.
This all used to be so easy.
In 1975, a professional rider rode a bike made of Columbus, or Reynolds 531. The usual group was Campagnolo Nuovo Record, but a mixture of French or even Spanish components could be used. The rims would be tubulars like Fiamme strung up with 36 spokes, and have handmade (cold-treated) tubulars glued on. The bars were most likely Cinelli, the chain and cogset Regina. The bike probably weighed about 21.5 pounds. It was the state of the art. No bike could be made that was faster, more reliable or significantly lighter.
At the same time, no bike could be had that rode better than a handmade frame, built by a master out of 531 or Columbus and assembled with the pro equipment of the day. The bike was not only competitive at the highest levels of the sport, it rode comfortably and had excellent vertical compliance so that it adhered to the road. The sensual element that gives a bike ride its real pleasure could find no better tool than the true pro bike of the '70s.
Bikes have changed..