Colorful flashes of lean bodies and pumping thighs - sure, you can watch televised visions of cyclists straining up hills in the Tour de France, but that doesn't feed the endorphin junky in you who yearns for the road. Here's your motivation: Five of the season's top road bikes and an insider's guide to the Tour.
n July 6, Texan Lance Armstrong will begin his quest for a fourth straight Tour de France victory in tiny Luxembourg. For the next 21 days, Armstrong and his 180 competitors will pedal over 2,000 miles through the plains, mountains, and city streets of Luxembourg, Germany, and, of course, France, saddling up for four- to seven-hour days under bitter rain, blistering sun, and the occasional alpine snow squall.

Armstrong's comeback from the cancer that nearly killed him is well documented, and his fairytale story has helped spark a tremendous road cycling upswing in America. After nearly a decade of living in the mud-splattered shadow of mountain biking, road bike sales are up 20 percent from 2000 to 2001, according to The National Bicycle Dealers Association, which tracks the top 13 bicycle brands. The ranks of regional bike clubs are swelling, and charity rides are growing in popularity.

All this means that there's never been a better time to get bitten by the road cycling bug. To help ensure you won't quickly shake it, we filled a garage with new models and hit the road. The following five were our favorites; they span the "moderate" price range, and more importantly, they're the ones that made us want to keep riding, and riding, and riding. Perhaps, someday, all the way across France.

KONA DR. DEW
Who should buy it: Riders looking for versatility and comfort. Also, thanks to its heads-up riding position, the Dr. Dew makes a great urban commuter.
$899; (800) 566-2872 or www.konaworld.com