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Newbie Buying Advice

Road Cycling “It 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.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Newbie Buying Advice

Old 07-13-20, 10:49 PM
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Newbie Buying Advice

I'm looking to get a road bike to join my friends on weekend rides of 30-50 miles through very hilly terrain, and I may take it on a ~500 mile multi-day ride next year. This type of riding is new to me -- I've only ever done 5-10 mile city commutes and it's been several years since I rode with any regularity. I don't currently have a bike at all. FWIW I'm a 37 year-old male, 5'8", 160lbs, in good health and athletic.

I test-rode a few bikes at a local shop and I liked the Specialized Tarmac Sport Disc over the Roubaix and a BMC Roadmachine 02 THREE they put me on. The ability to accelerate quickly, in particular, drew me to the Tarmac. It felt more like my old steel road bike from the 80s than the others, which is probably why I gravitated toward it. They have it in a color I love too. They're selling it for full retail, which is ~$2600.

Today I discovered that another local place has a great deal on last year's Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Ultegra Di2, and with discounts the price comes close enough to the Tarmac that the difference doesn't matter. I like the color but not as much as the Tarmac's. I haven't test-ridden a Synapse yet, but I'll try to soon.

Is the Cannondale, with its higher-spec components, a good enough deal that I should just go ahead and order it? Will I ever even notice the difference in component level? This price point seems to offer equipment that's well more than good enough for a beginner, but I'm comfortable with spending at this level. I was originally planning to spend less but it seems that inventory at the $1-2k price point is extremely limited at local shops due to a run on bikes during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. Is it out of line to buy my first modern road bike for $2-3k? While I haven't tested the Synapse yet, I'm skeptical that riding around the block near the shop for a few minutes can really tell me anything valuable about how much I'll like a particular bike on long rides anyway. With my lack of experience, I suspect that anything I choose at this price point will work well and I'll end up getting used to whatever I buy. Is that right? Is there a different approach I should be taking to find the right bike? Any advice or opinions appreciated!
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Old 07-14-20, 12:05 AM
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What do your riding buddies think/ride? They're the ones who know best what your riding conditions are like and what a good bike would be for you.

The Synapse is going to be a lot similar to the Roubaix than the Tarmac, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. They are categorized as "endurance" road bikes for good reasons.

Being quick to accelerate is not really that important a feeling once you are doing much longer rides, though everyone has a different preference for the liveliness of how a bike handles. Generally a stabler and smoother bike doesn't wear the rider out as much over long and especially rough terrain.

Some other non-obvious things that make a difference for many beginners to consider are tire clearance (even at your weight, clearing 32mm or wider tires can be nice to have), gearing (you can change it out, but it's easier if the rear already accommodates a 32t or more and the front is a compact chainring), and mounts if you want to tour or ride in inclement weather (as a Roubaix owner who lives in a place where it rains often, its biggest drawback for me is the lack of fender mounts).
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Old 07-14-20, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by nph View Post
Is the Cannondale, with its higher-spec components, a good enough deal that I should just go ahead and order it? Will I ever even notice the difference in component level?
My personal opinion is that while di2 is great--if I liked the ride of a Tarmac more than a Synapse, I'd stick with the Tarmac. Where you will notice di2 the most is front shifting. That's what electronic groups are really good at, but they're not so good I would forgo getting the frame I really wanted. Try a Synapse before buying anything.
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Old 07-14-20, 08:10 AM
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If you are sitting on the fence, I would chose the Cannondale. The Tarmac Sport Disc has Shimano 105 and the Synapse has Ultegra Di2 which is more than a step up. If it has plain Ultegra I would chose that over 105. Yes, many will say 105 is good enough but why have good enough when you can get great. Hopefully you will like the feel of the Synapse.
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Old 07-14-20, 09:22 AM
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Spending too much

If you can afford a $2600 plus bike, I wouldn't worry about spending too much. What's the alternative? Get a $1500 bike and then get the $2600 one later? The bikes you're talking about should last longer than you do, so get one that won't leave you wondering what you're missing. The one you test rode makes more sense than one you haven't...
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