I'm in the market for a new roadie, and went to ride a few tonight. Since I'm 54 and keep bikes for a long time (current road bike is from 1984) I thought I'd go for the more relaxed geometry that a plush (or endurance) frame offered.
First up was a Felt Z85. This bike has an aluminum frame with a carbon fork, and a mostly Shimano 105 group. I took it out for a few laps, as it's my first experience with integrated shifters. My first impression was that it was more comfortable than either my old steel Trek or my somewhat newer aluminum Cannondale flat bar hybrid. After a few tries I got the hang of the shifters and have to say that they were easy to use and predictable.
Next up, a Giant Defy Composite 1. This one's all carbon and had Shimano Ultegra components. This bike could have used a little adjustment on the derailleurs, but the frame and the ride were spot on. I'd say that the steering was a little slower than the Felt, and the bike seemed absolutely on rails. I'd also say I couldn't tell much difference between the 105 and Ultegra controls.
The last one I tried was a Specialized Roubaix Apex Compact. The SRAM shifters are rather different and I wasn't so sure about them at first. This bike felt rather a lot like the Felt, handling wise, maybe a little more aggressive than the Defy. The Apex shifters are noisier than the Shimano ones, they make a loud CLACK when they shift.
After that, I took the Felt back out to see if there was all that much difference between the all carbon Roubaix and the aluminum/carbon Felt. I couldn't really tell much, but I did come to the conclusion that I liked the Apex shifters better than either of the Shimanos. The other problem with the Felt was that it was a closeout from last year and was maybe a bit too small for me. They could get one of this year's in the correct size, but it would have been $1250 instead of $1040 - still a lot of bike for the money.
I had to take the Defy out one more time as well. I absolutely love the way the Defy handles. We have some decent descents around her and I can see myself taking them with absolute confidence. I also like being able to lift the bike with two fingers. It's also the most expensive of the three at $2400.
To me, the Roubaix feels a little more twitchy than did the Defy. I'm guessing there are lots of riders who would prefer this, but I'm not one of them. Think of the Roubaix being a Lotus Elise and the the Giant being a Porsche Cayman. This one's $2200.
Giant also makes a Defy 2 composite. which is the same frame as the Defy 1 composite with the SRAM Apex group, and a slightly lower end wheelset for $1850. Also available from Giant is the Defy 1 in aluminum at $1400.
I'm very strongly leaning to the Defy 2 composite but will wait at least a few weeks before pulling the trigger. I'm wanting to do an Olympic distance tri in September, and am still recovering from a knee injury, so won't need the bike until early July. For the next six weeks or so, I'm dedicating most of my exercise time to running.