Cannondale t800 (warning: contains traces of the alu/steel debate)
I'm looking for a touring bike and I finally located a shop that could
order a Cannondale t800 or a Rossano Touring/Tiagra, which seems remarkably similar to the t800 (http://www.rosswheel.com/rossano/ind...touring_tiagra). Neither was
available for a test ride. I'm not sure if they'd be willing to order
one for me to test without a commitment to byu. Rossano is a Finnish manufacturer, that, as far as I know, does not export bikes. The Touring models have been getting good reviews. The price for the Touring/Tiagra is 1150 euro, and I'd expect the Cannondale to be about the same. I'm located in Finland, which is a small market and bikes in LBSs are expensive compared to e.g. the UK (I should pos this question on a local forum, but I figured getting comments worldwide would not hurt ).
I'm planning on touring, but most of the time the bike would be used for commutes and 30-100 km recreational rides in the evenings and weekends. I will steer clear of a race of any kind. People on this forum keep writing that the t800 is a very stiff bike that is best when ridden by a big cyclist and loaded heavily. I'm 6 foot tall (184 cm) but not that heavy (77 kg). I figured a steel touring bike would be best for me, but getting one seems to be a bother. The usual suspects (Trek 520, Biachi Volpe, Fuji Touring) are nowhere to be seen. Kona Sutra might be, but I'm not sure about the geometry, disc brakes or the price. One company does import Surly LHT frames, but I don't know how long it would take to actually get one, whether the shop would build the bike and if so, how much it would cost.
Considering I'd be riding most of the time unloaded, would the stiff t800 (or the Rossano for that matter) be a problem? Should get one now, or go through the trouble of finding a steel bike (and miss the best part of the very short summer waiting for it)? I may have to order the bike without a test ride anyway, so ordering a steel bike somewhere on the web might be just as well. Right now I'm inclined to base the decision, very wisely, on looks: the Rossano comes in boring black or even more boring metal grey, and the colour of the Surly LHT is 'hideous', as put by someone on this forum. I'm all for 'understated', but that colour is just plain dead. The 2005 version of the t800 is blue, which would not be my first choice for a bike, but at least is a nice, clear colour.
I'll toss my bit in, since I've got a T800, mine is the silk tour model with the intergrated HeadShok stem. I'm 5'8", (172cm), 150 pounds (68 KG) and if I lockout the shock it will ride very harsh with just me on it. With a full touring kit, it's nice and plush. With the shock unlocked, it's not too bad. If the current ones still have the straight forks, I'd want to ride it before I buy it if possible.
I'd say, don't buy any bike in a rush. You'd regret it later when you eventually ride another bike that feels better.
Secondly, since you'd ride often unloaded i'd definitely go with steel. A lot of CDale T800 owners say the ride is smooth as silk when fully loaded, but i tested one unloaded and it felt like a jackhammer. I'd say get a Surly LHT with a color you like, or a Trek 520, Bianchi, Fuji, Co-motion, Atlantis, Bruce Gordon, Thorn, etc.
If availability is a problem, you could test ride some bikes with a similar geometry, figure out what fits, write down your size preferences, and order what you want online. (don't forget to negotiate lower gearing if you get the 520). It's hard to go wrong with a 520 if you get it geared right.
I had some more time to spend hunting for a steel bike. Thorn's Club Tour model seems to fit the bill. I emailed St. John Street Cycles (Thorn) to ask about their shipping costs to Finland, and their price was £100 for a fast delivery (3-4 days). They did not provide any slower or cheaper options. £100 (151 euro) seems like a lot of money, about 15 % of the price of the bike. I'm not sure if I should accept that as the price of getting what I want. The local (relatively speaking... I guess Helsinki is more local than UK) company that imports Surly LHT frames has them available, but the shop is focused on mountain bikes and does not have the road bike parts in stock to build a touring bike. Sigh...
EAI Brassknuckle fixed Sannino fixed, Thorn Club Tour, Soma Smoothie
You should consider ordering from Germay. The mailorder-business is much more developed, they have affordable shipping and lots of big online bikestores. I'm not sure if linking is allowed here, drop me a PM if you want some tips.