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First Road Bike Recommendations

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Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

First Road Bike Recommendations

Old 06-01-19, 07:06 PM
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wiscobadger
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First Road Bike Recommendations

Hi All! First time poster here. I'm 27 years old, 5'10" and about 170 lbs and am looking to buy my first road bike. Back in high school I biked a lot, mostly on trails, but as life got busier I got out of it. I recently moved to Madison, WI and am getting the itch to bike again, but this time a road bike seems to make the most sense. At this point I'm wanting to get back into it mostly because I want to spend more time outside as well as I need to get exercise as I have a desk job and getting into a gym routine has never worked for me. I've always owned Trek bikes, but am open to other brands. With a budget of $1,200 max, what would you recommend?

I see Trek has the Domane AL 2 and AL 3 for under my price range. I also called a bike shop in northern WI where I'd buy my bikes and they have a new 1.2 for $499 as it's a few model years old.

Last edited by wiscobadger; 06-01-19 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 06-01-19, 10:45 PM
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Are you sure that you will only want to be riding on the road?
If there is a chance of riding anything other than that you will need to make sure the frame will take the tyre needed for it.
I have a Trek Emonda ALR5 which is very good. It can also take a 30mm tyre which is big enough for gravel roads and trails in good condition.
Probably more than $1200 though unless you can find a deal.

Last edited by Dean V; 06-01-19 at 10:50 PM.
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Old 06-02-19, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
Are you sure that you will only want to be riding on the road?
If there is a chance of riding anything other than that you will need to make sure the frame will take the tyre needed for it.
I have a Trek Emonda ALR5 which is very good. It can also take a 30mm tyre which is big enough for gravel roads and trails in good condition.
Probably more than $1200 though unless you can find a deal.
What year is your …monda and does it have rim or disc brakes?

the ALR 4 rim brake model is slightly above the OPs budget. Maybe a sale or a bit of negotiations could make it work. I have an ALR 6 and love it.

Last edited by flyjimmy; 06-02-19 at 07:13 AM.
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Old 06-02-19, 07:19 AM
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I;d say buy the $500 1.2 and see what you think.

Huge benefits: the price is right, the bike is new, and it is high enough in quality that you'd get to fully experience owning and riding a road bike for a decent price. Likely the $1200 bike you'd buy, this year's model, wouldn't be much different than the older Trek 1.2, and would cost more than twice as much. Then, if you decided you wanted a different style of bike, or wanted to do a serious upgrade because you loved,road riding so much, you'd be out all that extra money and have no added value form the bike, which would still sell as an entry-level used bike.

It looks like the 2016 1.2 has Sora 9-speed, which is good value (https://archive.trekbikes.com/us/en/...ompact/details) with an Al frame and CF fork--exactly what you'd wan't and probably what you'd get for most new entry-level bikes.

Buy the Trek (IF it fits) and then see how much you actually ride, how much you like riding, how long, where, and how often you ride. if the Trek suits you, it should suffice for years. if you decide you don't ride enough, or want to do more rail trails, or want a more relaxed frame, or want a more expensive bike, or whatever, the 1.2 would still have been an excellent investment and would be an excellent back-up bike.

Of course, fit is first and foremost. So, if you don't get the Trek 1.2, ride a Bunch of other bikes and see what you like. Sometimes a shop will try to fit a rider to the bike the shop wants to sell .... so sit on a Bunch of bikes and find out what's comfortable for you.
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Old 06-02-19, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
Are you sure that you will only want to be riding on the road?
If there is a chance of riding anything other than that you will need to make sure the frame will take the tyre needed for it.
I have a Trek Emonda ALR5 which is very good. It can also take a 30mm tyre which is big enough for gravel roads and trails in good condition.
Probably more than $1200 though unless you can find a deal.
At this point I don't know. I plan to mostly ride on paved trails and roads, but I may encounter gravel at times. Would a straight up road bike be ok for this?
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Old 06-02-19, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
I;d say buy the $500 1.2 and see what you think.

Huge benefits: the price is right, the bike is new, and it is high enough in quality that you'd get to fully experience owning and riding a road bike for a decent price. Likely the $1200 bike you'd buy, this year's model, wouldn't be much different than the older Trek 1.2, and would cost more than twice as much. Then, if you decided you wanted a different style of bike, or wanted to do a serious upgrade because you loved,road riding so much, you'd be out all that extra money and have no added value form the bike, which would still sell as an entry-level used bike.
Would I be best off getting fitted at a Trek store? I have one very close to where I live.
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Old 06-02-19, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by wiscobadger View Post
At this point I don't know. I plan to mostly ride on paved trails and roads, but I may encounter gravel at times. Would a straight up road bike be ok for this?
This is very much a "it depends" question. If you're riding on finely crushed gravel and don't mind a more sedate pace then you can do fine with 25mm or 28mm road tires. If you're on rougher paths (roots, mud, big gravel) then it stops working pretty quickly. The wider the tires you're running, the faster you can go off road. Going with disc brakes and picking a frame with more clearance keeps your options open.
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Old 06-02-19, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by flyjimmy View Post
What year is your …monda and does it have rim or disc brakes?

the ALR 4 rim brake model is slightly above the OPs budget. Maybe a sale or a bit of negotiations could make it work. I have an ALR 6 and love it.
2019 rim brake.
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Old 06-02-19, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by grayrest View Post
This is very much a "it depends" question. If you're riding on finely crushed gravel and don't mind a more sedate pace then you can do fine with 25mm or 28mm road tires. If you're on rougher paths (roots, mud, big gravel) then it stops working pretty quickly. The wider the tires you're running, the faster you can go off road. Going with disc brakes and picking a frame with more clearance keeps your options open.
That's true for more off roady off roads...but again on fine crushed limestone trails...28mm is more than sufficient. And there is just such a path connecting Madison to Milwaukee...
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Old 06-02-19, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
That's true for more off roady off roads...but again on fine crushed limestone trails...28mm is more than sufficient. And there is just such a path connecting Madison to Milwaukee...
So I went to the trek store. Rode the FX Sport 4 and the Checkpoint AL3. I definitely need a 56CM. They will give me $100 off which doesnít seem like much. The Checkpoint is a gravel bike so i donít know. They said I need discs tho. Thoughts?
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Old 06-02-19, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by wiscobadger View Post
So I went to the trek store. Rode the FX Sport 4 and the Checkpoint AL3. I definitely need a 56CM. They will give me $100 off which doesnít seem like much. The Checkpoint is a gravel bike so i donít know. They said I need discs tho. Thoughts?
There isnt a person on the planet that NEEDS disc brakes. Some conditions do favor discs over rim brakes though. In mostly flat wisconsin, unless you're going to be riding in the rain/snow regularly, you would likely notice little difference between discs and quality rim brakes. I've got discs on one of my bikes...but I didnt consider them a must have, and only looked at them as a benefit because I would be in muddy cross races.

If you're going to only have 1 bike, and dont plan on competing in road races, crits, only do fast group rides...I would steer you towards a cross or gravel bike. Much more versatile than a pure road bike, and with good fast slick tires, it will feel about like a pure road bike does.
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Old 06-02-19, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Abe_Froman View Post
There isnt a person on the planet that NEEDS disc brakes. Some conditions do favor discs over rim brakes though. In mostly flat wisconsin, unless you're going to be riding in the rain/snow regularly, you would likely notice little difference between discs and quality rim brakes. I've got discs on one of my bikes...but I didnt consider them a must have, and only looked at them as a benefit because I would be in muddy cross races.

If you're going to only have 1 bike, and dont plan on competing in road races, crits, only do fast group rides...I would steer you towards a cross or gravel bike. Much more versatile than a pure road bike, and with good fast slick tires, it will feel about like a pure road bike does.
That's kind of what I'm thinking too as far as the brakes. Now I do have an older Trek 4700 from when I was in high school. I was considering bringing that down to Madison to see how much I ride, then go from there.

My knowns at this point are:

1. It felt great getting back on a bike and I want to make this my thing
2. Definitely prefer the 56 over the 58 even though I could go either way on size
3. Flat bars felt better, but drop downs seem like a nice option to have if I get really into biking

Based on what you're saying, maybe the Domane AL3 or Checkpoint AL3 would be ideal?
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Old 06-02-19, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by wiscobadger View Post
That's kind of what I'm thinking too as far as the brakes. Now I do have an older Trek 4700 from when I was in high school. I was considering bringing that down to Madison to see how much I ride, then go from there.

My knowns at this point are:

1. It felt great getting back on a bike and I want to make this my thing
2. Definitely prefer the 56 over the 58 even though I could go either way on size
3. Flat bars felt better, but drop downs seem like a nice option to have if I get really into biking

Based on what you're saying, maybe the Domane AL3 or Checkpoint AL3 would be ideal?
If you ride more than a couple of hours, you will really appreciate drop bars. Less than an hour, flat handlebars are fine. Rides of 1 to 2 hours, drops are better but you can get by with flat handlebars.
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Old 06-02-19, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
If you ride more than a couple of hours, you will really appreciate drop bars. Less than an hour, flat handlebars are fine. Rides of 1 to 2 hours, drops are better but you can get by with flat handlebars.
I'll second that. I'm significantly more comfortable on drops due to the variety of hand positions I can use compared to the flats on my Giant Escape. I don't foresee ever going back unless I get a MTB.
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Old 06-02-19, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
2019 rim brake.
Nice to know. Thanks
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Old 06-02-19, 06:08 PM
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IMO, the Domane is a good choice if you're mostly riding paved surfaces but want to do a little bit of gravelly back road riding.

If you use FB, there is a group for Wisconsin road bike buy/sell/trade where a lot of nice bikes (including gravel and cross bikes) get posted, often for very good prices. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the items seem to be near Madison or Milwaukee.
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Old 06-02-19, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by wiscobadger View Post
So I went to the trek store. Rode the FX Sport 4 and the Checkpoint AL3. I definitely need a 56CM. They will give me $100 off which doesnít seem like much. The Checkpoint is a gravel bike so i donít know. They said I need discs tho. Thoughts?
I ended up with a Domane SL5, but the FX Sport 4 and Checkpoint AL3 were on my list.

The FX Sport 4 is reasonably priced and has the drive train of a road bike. I had a bike very much like this back when I was in high school/college and a hybrid was a great all-around bike that's probably easier to ride most places than a drop bar bike.

The Checkpoint AL3 has a slightly lesser drive train (Sora vs. Tiagra). Both will be (almost) equally capable over various types of terrain because they have identical tires. If I were going on long rides I'd probably take the Checkpoint. If I were riding shorter distances or as a commuter bike, I'd take the FX Sport 4.

You don't need disc brakes. Nice to have, but you don't need them. The lack of disc brakes on some of the other road bikes, like the Domane, can make them great values for road bikes.
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Old 06-02-19, 07:13 PM
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Haven't seen Cannondale Synapse mentioned. They take up to 28mm and in newer models 30mm tires. Their geometry is very comfortable even on long rides, and yet they manage to be a responsive bike to ride. If the OP is just getting into road riding a synapse is versatile enough to remain a good choice for the longrun. When i finally retire my Synapse Iíll get another.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:18 AM
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second vote for buying the $500 trek 1.2 (if it's a 56)

After a month of saturdays, you'll be an expert, having ridden multiple times, gone down the internet hole researching why this-or-that is like this-or-that and how it should be, etc. A few weeks later, you'll know exactly what bike/features you want/need and have a new bike on your mind. Then you'll make-do with the 1.2 for another couple months until you've found/saved-up-for your new perfect bike.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by wiscobadger View Post
That's kind of what I'm thinking too as far as the brakes. Now I do have an older Trek 4700 from when I was in high school. I was considering bringing that down to Madison to see how much I ride, then go from there.

My knowns at this point are:

1. It felt great getting back on a bike and I want to make this my thing
2. Definitely prefer the 56 over the 58 even though I could go either way on size
3. Flat bars felt better, but drop downs seem like a nice option to have if I get really into biking

Based on what you're saying, maybe the Domane AL3 or Checkpoint AL3 would be ideal?
I would recommend sticking to rim brakes unless you are willing to stretch your budget to a drop-bar bike with hydraulic disc brakes. The lowest tier that has hydraulics is Tiagra ($1500 or so for Trek). Disc brakes are really nice because they allow you to run tires that measure more than 32mm or so. The Checkpoint, for example, comes stock with a 38mm tire.

However, itís not worth it to go with a mechanical disc brake bike for that reason - the braking power on mechanical discs are seriously compromised compared to hydraulic discs and rim brakes. Some people might disagree on whether all that power is 100% necessary, but if youíre going to be riding hard, especially in a group, then having good brakes is a good idea.

Drop bars are a must for group riding and descending, imo. And group riding is the most fun part of road biking.

Shimano very recently announced a really good update to the tiagra hydraulic brake/shifters. The RS405 is ugly and doesnít have great internals compared to even Tiagra 4700 levers (from what Iíve gathered). The upcoming ST-4720 is similar to the higher end 105, and much better looking. If you want disc brakes, I think your best bet would be to hold out until those 4720 levers become available on bikes (which, unfortunately, will be later than June 2019). Or to go used.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:47 AM
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+1 for the 1.2. That bike does anything a road bike is supposed to do. Anything else is vanity.
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Old 06-03-19, 10:54 AM
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When i got back into road cycling, the 1.2 was my first modern real road bike. I loved it and have been hooked every since. Warning though, I'm now on my 4th bike. That 1.2 started the n + 1 addiction in me.
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Old 06-03-19, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by EGBigelo View Post
When i got back into road cycling, the 1.2 was my first modern real road bike. I loved it and have been hooked every since. Warning though, I'm now on my 4th bike. That 1.2 started the n + 1 addiction in me.
What would the 1.2 be equivalent to nowadays? He said it's 1-2 seasons old. It's easy for me to justify that price if it will suffice. I'm seeing what else they have in stock in my size too.
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Old 06-03-19, 05:00 PM
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The 1.2 is a great first road bike, particularly if you are required under Wisconsin state law to own at least one Trek, like the OP.
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Old 06-03-19, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The 1.2 is a great first road bike, particularly if you are required under Wisconsin state law to own at least one Trek, like the OP.
Fair enough. I do have a Trek mountain bike. I've always owned Trek. Now one last question....if I am looking to spend the $$ for the Checkpoint AL3 is there a better bike for my money in a different brand?
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