I'm contemplating purchasing a new road bike- specifically for going on group rides. I recently bought a Jamis Aurora Elite, and I love it- and it's great for commuting on to and from work, cause I can put a lot of stuff in my panniers, and go up hills into the wind- but it's less than ideal as a group ride bike. The gearing isn't ideal, the wheels aren't ideal, and the geometry isn't ideal. And since I can probably afford to swing it, I've decided to take a look at some road bikes for group rides, and maybe next year do some racing.
I've gone out and done a bunch of test rides on the following bikes, and the price points I can get them for, but I'm going to add them to the list in the order I rode them in.
2010 Specialized Allez Elite $1200
This is the first true road bike I've ever ridden, and I'd expected it to be a bit 'buzzy' feeling, and maybe a bit twitchy. I'd previously tried out a Trek Portland (aluminum frame + carbon forks), and I didn't love the ride- so I was a bit concerned that I'd find a full aluminum frame uncomfortable- but I was wrong. The ride was pretty good- the geometry was quite comfortable, and it was really light. It really did feel like a rocket compared to my Jamis Aurora Elite, and it was a lot of fun. It definitely felt more agile, but not at all twitchy.
2008 Giant TCR C3 - $1400
After trying out the Specialized, the guy at the shop brought out this bike for me to try, and boy was it smooth compared to the Allez Elite, or even my Jamis Aurora Elite. Despite the fact that it was only the second non-touring road bike I've ridden, I thought I was falling in love with it. It was heavily discounted, cause they've had it for two years and it hasn't moved yet. It's full 105, except for the brakes which are Tektro. Plus, they'll throw in two years of free tune ups- which seems awesome- except that I'll probably be moving to Colorado Springs, CO, or Oxford, UK next summer. And, I really liked this store. The sales guy was really easy to talk to, and I felt he gave me advice about stuff, rather than just trying to sell me things.
2010 Cannondale CAAD9-5- $1400
I went into the store looking for a CAAD9-4, but they didn't have it, so I tried the 9-5. It's the same frame, just 105 versus Rival group. Mainly, I wanted to try it for the SRAM components, but I was pretty pleasantly surprised by this bike. The frame was too big (60 cm), which made it difficult to get a really good feel for it, but I was surprised at how comfortable it actually was- again, I expected it to feel buzzy, but it didn't. Full 105, except for Tektro breaks, and FSA Gossamer cranks.
2010 Specialized Allez Elite - $1200
I wanted to try the Cannondale and the Allez back to back, so that I'd feel like I had a better comparison between the Cannondale, the Allez, and the Giant, since the first store had both the Giant TCR C3 and the Allez, and the second store had the Allez and the Cannondale. To be honest, I'm not sure I could easily notice a difference between the Allez Elite and the Cannondale 9-5. I had been hoping the store had the Allez comp in stock, but they didn't. Full 105, except for Crank (off series Shimano) and Tektro breaks. I'm not sure why the Allez Elite is so much less expensive than the Cannondale CAAD9-5. To be sure, the Allez Elite seems like the better value here, but there may be things I'm overlooking.
2010 Cannondale Six5 Carbon
I wasn't seriously interested in this bike, I just wanted to try another full carbon bike for comparison purposes to the Giant TCR C3. This bike didn't really feel much different from the Allez Elite or the Cannondale CAAD9-5 to me- certainly not enough to warrant (for me) the increase in price versus the CAAD9-5.
2009 Orbea Onix- $1900
Underwhelmed, to say the least. Maybe that's a good thing? Maybe it felt boring because it did everything so well? I don't know. Full 105, except brakes and cranks. This bike did not scream 'buy me'. It said 'Hi', and that's about it. I won't be buying this bike.
Trek 2.3 - $1500
This bike was okay. It didn't wow me, and it didn't disappoint me, it was just- okay. Better than the Orbea Onix, cause it's a lot cheaper, but that's about all I could say about it. It's hard to say if it was more comfortable than the Specialized- certainly, I don't think I liked the geometry as much- but that's hard to say too- cause I think the saddle on the Specialized and on the Giant at the first store were better than stock, which may be why I liked those so much? I don't think I'd buy this bike over the Specialized Allez Elite. I think if I hadn't tried out a bunch of other bikes, I probably would've felt really good about it, but possibly because I'd tried a bunch of others, it was just- okay.
Kestral Talon - $1700
TThe Kestral Talon gave me, I feel, a better appreciation of carbon framed bikes. Maybe it was because of what I'd been on previously, or maybe it was the roads on that area weren't as new and smooth- but I could notice the difference of carbon here more than with the Cannondale Six5. The more bikes I rode, the more I became somewhat suspicious of how comfortable the Giant TCR C3 felt. I don't know what it is- the TCR C3 had 23 mm wheels on it, but it just felt so plush, and maybe too compliant? I felt I had a better understanding of what people mean when they say a bike's frame is really stiff after riding this, and comparing it to the Giant TCR C3 (which I test rode again, shortly before this bike). Am I imagining this? Full 105, including brakes.
2009 Fuji Team Pro - $2000, including pedals and shoes.
The bike that has this store, is the same bike I bought my first bike (in years) from last June, and it is the same bike I just bought my Jamis Aurora Elite from. I went in to try some of the aluminum Jamis road bikes, which oddly enough I never got on. Instead they put me on the Kestral, and this. When I was tlaking to them, I said $2000 would be my absolutely upper end, and not a penny more price limit- and that'd have to include pedals and shoes. Since I'd bought two other bikes before, and I've bought some bottles, some cages, had a few repairs there, they called the store owner up (whom I've met before and knows me by first name apparently), and said that they could do this bike- for $2000- including taxes, with pedals and shoes.
This seems like a screamer of a deal to me. It's full ultegra- from cranks, to brakes, to everything. I was amazed actually at how big a difference the full ultegra versus 105 made in terms of crispness in shifting- and the braking power. My only real concern here is that it's a full double (53/39) versus a compact double (50/34), and I'm a bit worried I'll have trouble on hills at 39/27, but that's also a good reason to just toughen up, and get stronger legs.
This bike felt really good, and for the price I felt it should. In general, I'm very happy with this store, and their desire to work with me. And I think that they're responding to the fact that I've kept coming back to them, even when things weren't perfect, to try and get stuff worked out- even if it meant spending a bit more money. This bike store has also seen me enough know to notice that I've lost about 15-20 pounds since I started riding, and I've told them bike riding is what's caused the weight loss. I really like this bike- the biggest issue is sticker shock, when I go and try to talk about this with my wife.
2006- Specialized Allez Pro- $1500 + shipping from my friend.
I haven't test rode this bike, because it's in Vancouver, and I'm not. But this guy is a very good friend of mine, and I trust him implicitly. This was one of the reasons I wanted to go out and try specialized bikes in the first place, to get an idea of the geometry and frame sizing. HIs bike is a 58 cm, and a 58 cm seems like exactly the right size. 56 is too small, and 60 is too big. It's a full ultegra build including cranks and brakes, because he bought the frame and built it up himself. And it is including Ultegra pedals.
Given my experiences thus far, I'm tending to lean towards one of three options.
1. 2010 Specialized Allez Elite. I wanted to try out the Allez Comp, cause of the carbon chainstays and forks, but I couldn't- and I think I'd be pretty happy on this bike, at least for a while. Though I think in a few years, I might start to suffer from that terrible affliction known as upgrade-itis. It's definitely not as nice as some of the pricer bikes I tried, but it would also do a much better job of group riding today than my current bike does- and this is the least expensive option, with pretty reasonable components on it. If the Trek 2.3 was a bit cheaper- even $1350 or $1400, it would probably move into this slot, since it did ride a bit nicer- but I also sort of feel if I'm trying to optimize for the least expensive bike that'd meet my current desires, then that's the Allez Elite.
2. 2006 Specialized Allez Pro. While this bike remains without me taking it out for a spin, it does seem like a really good deal to me. I really am happy with the Specialized geometry, and I like the full ultegra build. Since I will be moving in less than a year, the fact that I won't be buying a bike directly from an LBS that I can take it back to for a free tune up (or a few) is less of an issue for me, since as soon as I move, I'll loose that anyway. Plus, I could probably talk him into it being $1500 including shipping, which makes it a pretty reasonable price, imho- especially since he'll also throw in a Polar CS200 cycling computer and heart rate monitor.
3. 2009 Fuji Team Pro. This bike seems like a pretty good deal, including pedals and shoes. This seems like a bike I'd probably be satisfied wioth for a lot longer than option #1, but probably not than option #2. I've seen other used Team Pro's on eBay for about $1400 on the buy now- so maybe in retrospect this isn't such a screaming deal? I don't know.
okay, if you've made it this long- then thank you (and congratulations). I'd be happy to hear your input.