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mountain biker converting to road, new bike question

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mountain biker converting to road, new bike question

Old 01-03-09, 12:06 AM
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dandela
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mountain biker converting to road, new bike question

I am looking to begin this spring with a switch from mountain bike to road bike. I have been moutain biking off and on for the past 15 years and really enjoy it. Unfortunately, where I live there are very few good trails and a lot of driving required to reach them. I find that the older I get and the less free time I have, the more I end up riding on the roads around town.

My goal would be to begin with a decent road bike and work towards longer rides here locally. I'm not in to racing, but I would really love to someday complete a century.

My question is: What should I be looking for in my first bike. First of all, money is not the primary concern. I don't need to buy a cheap bike but I also realize that a person at my level is wasting money on a $5000 dollar bike. That being said, I don't want to waste money by being too cheap either. I don't want to buy a bike that I end up replacing in 1 year.

I know this is a difficult question. Please try to look at this from the prospective of an average rider, not a racer or elitist. I want bikes that would be considered the best buy for the money.

By the way, I am not opposed to buying used bikes. I have bought several mountain bikes thats were new and realized less than a year later they had dropped almost a grand in value! I would rather have the one year old bike and an extra grand in my pocket.

Thanks, DB
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Old 01-03-09, 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by dandela
I am looking to begin this spring with a switch from mountain bike to road bike. I have been moutain biking off and on for the past 15 years and really enjoy it. Unfortunately, where I live there are very few good trails and a lot of driving required to reach them. I find that the older I get and the less free time I have, the more I end up riding on the roads around town.

My goal would be to begin with a decent road bike and work towards longer rides here locally. I'm not in to racing, but I would really love to someday complete a century.

My question is: What should I be looking for in my first bike. First of all, money is not the primary concern. I don't need to buy a cheap bike but I also realize that a person at my level is wasting money on a $5000 dollar bike. That being said, I don't want to waste money by being too cheap either. I don't want to buy a bike that I end up replacing in 1 year.

I know this is a difficult question. Please try to look at this from the prospective of an average rider, not a racer or elitist. I want bikes that would be considered the best buy for the money.

By the way, I am not opposed to buying used bikes. I have bought several mountain bikes thats were new and realized less than a year later they had dropped almost a grand in value! I would rather have the one year old bike and an extra grand in my pocket.

Thanks, DB
Okay here goes...

First, I suggest you go to a store with a certified fit center, so a speciality store that also caters to triathletes (TT bikes) and racers. If they can please these two crowds, then they can probably do a good non-aggressive fit as well.

Since it seems like you're more interested in doing distance style stuff, I'd recommend that you look for a touring bike. The geometry of these bikes is designed for those who want to go the long haul, so they're more comfortable and can take thicker tires. If the store doesn't carry these, then don't worry!

When you enter the store, talk to a salesperson and tell them exactly what you're looking for. Tell them you're interested in riding for fun and doing longer rides in comfort. Since money isn't an issue, you should budget about 1500-2000 for your bike, helmet, shorts, etc (if you don't already have the accessories).

I would suggest looking at steel bikes if you want to spend too much, since they're usually cheaper and the weight isn't bad. If you want carbon bikes prepare to pay a little more, but you won't lose too much of the functionality for your purposes though carbon bikes are normally not built for touring so forget about putting a rear rack/front rack on them.

Cyclocross bikes also make good touring-ish bikes, as long as you get something that can take racks and have the sales people swap the thicker tires out for something designed for the road.

The most important thing, as everyone will echo, is fit. If you're not fit right, then you won't be riding in comfort. Trust me...
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Old 01-03-09, 01:07 AM
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First off, thanks for the reply. It is always interesting to read the first response to a question because it gives a lot of insight into how well you asked the question that you want answered. I agree with you that a professional fit is very important. I am not new to buying bikes, just buying road bikes although it does seem that fit is more critical on a road bike. Obviously, there are more sizes to choose from on road bikes. Mountain bikes are usually much more basic in sizing (small, med, large etc.). I will definitely get a professional fit.

I currently own several mountain bikes (fishers, cannondales) and I have a cheaper trek (I think it is a 7300) that is outfitted with racks, fenders and the all important child trailer attachment. If I were to ride with cargo this would be the bike I would ride as it is extremely comfortable.

So, I am looking more for a true road bike. To clarify my question even further, should I be looking at aluminum bikes, aluminum with carbon forks or will I be disappointed with anything short of full carbon? Could an average rider like myself truely appreciate the difference?

Thanks, DB
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Old 01-03-09, 01:16 AM
  #4  
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I'd look for something around the $2000 price point. That gets you a race worthy frame and components while retaining a fairly durable bike. Basically any brand will work for a first road bike. Buy the bike in a bike shop so you can get some decent customer service.
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Old 01-03-09, 01:57 AM
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As long as you have the money I would say a bike over $2,000 wouldn't hurt. At prices now $2,000 is still a lower end bike and you may be wanting to replace it in a year. More like $3,000.
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Old 01-03-09, 02:08 AM
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I wouldn't too focus too much on the frame material. Just ride different bikes and see what's comfortable. Carbon can be made to be super stiff, and nearly as harsh as an aluminum bike, and an alu bike can be more comfortable than you think. It's all about tube shapes, geometry, manipulation of the material, etc. That said, I think that at least carbon fork and seatstays really add a bit of comfort, if you get an aluminum frame. If you go steel, you can go all steel - no need for carbon in the mix.

I just bought a new road bike recently, and due to my price range, carbon or high-end steel weren't options. I wanted something more comfortable than my race bikes though, and with a good component spec. I went with the 2008 Bianchi Via Nirone, with the Ultegra/105 package. It's a hydro-formed aluminum frame with carbon stays and fork, and has a slightly more upright geometry than a typical racing bike. The bottom bracket is also intentionally not quite as stiff, the reasoning they offer that it absorbs some of the vibration. I haven't been able to put big miles on it yet, thanks to winter, but so far I like it.
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Old 01-03-09, 02:56 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Cdy291
As long as you have the money I would say a bike over $2,000 wouldn't hurt. At prices now $2,000 is still a lower end bike and you may be wanting to replace it in a year. More like $3,000.
All the first bike is for- Is to tell you what you should have bought in the first place. Just buy a sensible quality bike for a lot cheaper than you are thinking of spending. Make sure it fits and go and ride. Then when you realise that you should have bought a different size- different spec or even type- go and buy the bike you should have bought.

And as an "EX" mountain biker- can assure you that there will be a change to the body to get the best out of a Road bike. Initially the bike that feels right will be smaller than it should be and more upright. Took me 6 months before the body changed to a road bike. Then I bought the bike I should have bought in the first place.
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Old 01-03-09, 03:42 AM
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I actually wouldn't advise you to go drop $2000 on your first bike, particularly since you have clearly said you are not a racer. Even if you WERE a racer, unless you had a very good idea of what you would be looking for, you could spend half that amount for a brand-new, raceworthy bike that would never limit you even in high-level competitive race situations (the winners could take that bike and still win without a significant handicap.) If you've got cash to burn, then go for it - bikes are a lot cheaper than sports cars, vacation homes, and most other true luxury items that rich people tend to spend (waste) their money on!

Since you're ok with buying used, go USED if possible if you want to save cash. There's no doubt that the best deals are there. You can post questions about potential used bike deals here on road cycling - it's amazing what others know about them and can fill you in, and often time that bike you were hesitant about suddenly looks like a raving steal.

Fit and position is the most important thing. If you're more into longer casual non-racing rides, a slightly more upright position with higher stem/handles as opposed to a steeply dropped position with super-low handles so your head drops out of the wind, may be more comfortable for you. Just because you don't have the top-end derailleurs/brakes/frame doesn't mean you can't have a great ride, but you will definitely be feeling the hurt after an hour or more if the position is too aggressive. You can still go aggressive positioned on long rides and "train" into it, especially if you're a racer, but it takes more work, and certainly is less comfortable - you will have to decide where to draw the line between comfort and aerodynamic performance. (I would err toward strongly toward comfort if I were not racing, as you'll lose at most 8-10% in speed in a more upright position, but you may be able to ride for a LOT longer and it will definitely be a LOT more comfortable.)

Also, consider that with today's road bikes, even the "intro level" components are really solid. I'll just mention the most common, Shimano brand components here, but Shimano Sora (intro level) components work nearly flawlessly if they're set up and tensioned correctly, and Shimano 105 is definitely good enough for winning races. Shimano Ultegra and Dura-Ace are the top, but quite pricey, and oddly, though considered to be "standard equipment" amongst bike racers, it's generally agreed that the winners of all but the most elite or competitive races could still win with well tuned Sora or 105 components on their bike. The good stuff is definitely smoother and lighter, so may still be justified in your case, but it's definitely not the case that you will be significantly limited in your riding or even racing with well tuned Sora and up components.

I'm a also a converted mtn biker who went into road cycling for triathlon purposes, so I race and have a high-end bike that's used by 80% of the field at the Kona ironman that's perfect for me since it's an aggressively positioned aero time trial bike and a great value. However, if I had to do it again as a pure roadie (not triathlete), with my new knowledge of road bike technology, I would be perfectly content to buy a new bike in the $800-$1400 range and train my rear end off on it, knowing that I could still compete and even win on such a bike even if I got serious about racing on it. As long it fits correctly (makes mail order more challenging if you're not sure of your size), the Nashbar Mongoose Koppenberg bike as well as BikeDirect's Nemesis line of bikes are incredible values for new bikes that I'm sure would be good enough to deliver 99% of my racing performance. But if you're ok with going used, you'll find even better deals than those bikes. Upgrades would be more for the mental satisfaction versus significant performance gains.

Of course though, if you know you're an "upgrade" kind of bike person, who derives a lot of joy and satisfaction from acquiring and riding higher-end components, you might want to get a $2000 or up bike for the mental satisfaction alone rather than upgrading within a year. Still, bike performance is 98% rider ability and 2% bike by most guesstimates.

PS - Last note - there's an ongoing flame war for anyone who dares post about the pros and cons of the deep discounter Bikesdirect, with no definite consensus - some LOVE their bikes from there, and others had defective bikes and poor customer service (seems like the minority, though). Make sure you use the "search" function before posting about it if you have questions about it, or you'll get at LOT of flames for it.
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Old 01-03-09, 04:01 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by dandela
First off, thanks for the reply. It is always interesting to read the first response to a question because it gives a lot of insight into how well you asked the question that you want answered. I agree with you that a professional fit is very important. I am not new to buying bikes, just buying road bikes although it does seem that fit is more critical on a road bike. Obviously, there are more sizes to choose from on road bikes. Mountain bikes are usually much more basic in sizing (small, med, large etc.). I will definitely get a professional fit.

I currently own several mountain bikes (fishers, cannondales) and I have a cheaper trek (I think it is a 7300) that is outfitted with racks, fenders and the all important child trailer attachment. If I were to ride with cargo this would be the bike I would ride as it is extremely comfortable.

So, I am looking more for a true road bike. To clarify my question even further, should I be looking at aluminum bikes, aluminum with carbon forks or will I be disappointed with anything short of full carbon? Could an average rider like myself truely appreciate the difference?

Thanks, DB
No problem.

Then I suppose I should ask you, are you looking for a recreational road bike or are you trying to get something fast? My suggestions were for the former since I thought you were just looking at just riding around and putting in some miles.

As for aluminum vs steel vs carbon, don't worry about it. Test ride the bikes and see what you like. Make sure to go on a nice ride where you can really get a feel for the bike.

I'm a big fan of cannondale, so something by them might work for you. But it makes sense to give a go to the big manufacturers that are stocked in your area (trek, Felt, Giant, etc). Giant makes some *really* nice bikes.

If you're into the exotic stuff, you can try getting a custom steel or ti frame, or even an off the wall frame by serotta or such. If you've got the money to spend without going overboard and you're not planning on buying again for a while (if at all) then you might as well get something nice ya know?

See if any shops in your area have some of last years models around, those won't carry the premium of the newer models so you'll get more bang for your buck.
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Old 01-03-09, 04:52 AM
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Why not have both.. First, I'd start with myself. What interests me... Long distance, racing, Touring. Just recreational riding. Commuting... Can't be that hard to figure out. No one else can tell you that.. I think deep down we all know, should we love bikes. Can't decide... I suggest get Gregg LeMond's "Complete Book of Cycling." A Perigee Book.... From there, decide which bike is for you. Maybe, you'll need more than one bike...?.
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Old 01-03-09, 07:05 AM
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Spend up to $1000 on ebay on a bike that's approximately your size. Ride it for a couple of months, sell and repeat. You'll be out next to nothing money-wise and you'll have a lot better idea what you like/need.

Your judgement as to what "fits" right now sucks, so even test rides are next to pointless.
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Old 01-03-09, 07:08 AM
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if you can figure out your own fit issues, this is a good place to start as well as save some dough.
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Old 01-03-09, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by dandela
My goal would be to begin with a decent road bike and work towards longer rides here locally. I'm not in to racing, but I would really love to someday complete a century.

My question is: What should I be looking for in my first bike. First of all, money is not the primary concern. I don't need to buy a cheap bike but I also realize that a person at my level is wasting money on a $5000 dollar bike. That being said, I don't want to waste money by being too cheap either. I don't want to buy a bike that I end up replacing in 1 year.
The best deals are in the used bike market. You can always find a 40 something unloading a practically new bike for a song.

However, I think used is not a good way to go in your case since you don't really know what kind of bike you want and are unlikely to fit yourself properly. Go to a shop, test ride a bunch of bikes and ask lots of questions. You will be surprised how different the bikes are, and it is likely you'll find something that really speaks to you.

I agree with others to ignore advice about frame materials. I would also ignore any advice about getting a specific type of road bike. Once you start riding, a century is no biggie so you definitely don't need anything optimized for distance hauling unless you want to lug a lot of gear.
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Old 01-03-09, 07:59 AM
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Tour the LBS near you and come back with 5 choices...we'll guide you from there!
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Old 01-03-09, 08:19 AM
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First, I just want to say this thread is the perfect example of the proper way to ask a question. It is well thought out, provides relevant information needed to make recommendations, and has an appropriate "attitute", for lack of a better term. Other people have already given good advice, so I'll just second the notion that you shouldn't worry about spending "too little" on your first bike, or worry that you will buy something that you will need to abandon after a year. It is very difficult to know what you want with no experience to base it on, and no matter how hard you try it is unlikely you will get something you will want to stick with. You will want to start changing things; upgrade this, swap that, etc. Just get a basic bike, ride it around and figure out what you like and dislike about it, and then when you feel confident about what you want, get that at the price-point you are comfortable with.
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Old 01-03-09, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by agarose2000
I actually wouldn't advise you to go drop $2000 on your first bike, particularly since you have clearly said you are not a racer. Even if you WERE a racer, unless you had a very good idea of what you would be looking for, you could spend half that amount for a brand-new, raceworthy bike that would never limit you even in high-level competitive race situations (the winners could take that bike and still win without a significant handicap.) If you've got cash to burn, then go for it - bikes are a lot cheaper than sports cars, vacation homes, and most other true luxury items that rich people tend to spend (waste) their money on!

Since you're ok with buying used, go USED if possible if you want to save cash. There's no doubt that the best deals are there. You can post questions about potential used bike deals here on road cycling - it's amazing what others know about them and can fill you in, and often time that bike you were hesitant about suddenly looks like a raving steal.

Fit and position is the most important thing. If you're more into longer casual non-racing rides, a slightly more upright position with higher stem/handles as opposed to a steeply dropped position with super-low handles so your head drops out of the wind, may be more comfortable for you. Just because you don't have the top-end derailleurs/brakes/frame doesn't mean you can't have a great ride, but you will definitely be feeling the hurt after an hour or more if the position is too aggressive. You can still go aggressive positioned on long rides and "train" into it, especially if you're a racer, but it takes more work, and certainly is less comfortable - you will have to decide where to draw the line between comfort and aerodynamic performance. (I would err toward strongly toward comfort if I were not racing, as you'll lose at most 8-10% in speed in a more upright position, but you may be able to ride for a LOT longer and it will definitely be a LOT more comfortable.)

Also, consider that with today's road bikes, even the "intro level" components are really solid. I'll just mention the most common, Shimano brand components here, but Shimano Sora (intro level) components work nearly flawlessly if they're set up and tensioned correctly, and Shimano 105 is definitely good enough for winning races. Shimano Ultegra and Dura-Ace are the top, but quite pricey, and oddly, though considered to be "standard equipment" amongst bike racers, it's generally agreed that the winners of all but the most elite or competitive races could still win with well tuned Sora or 105 components on their bike. The good stuff is definitely smoother and lighter, so may still be justified in your case, but it's definitely not the case that you will be significantly limited in your riding or even racing with well tuned Sora and up components.

I'm a also a converted mtn biker who went into road cycling for triathlon purposes, so I race and have a high-end bike that's used by 80% of the field at the Kona ironman that's perfect for me since it's an aggressively positioned aero time trial bike and a great value. However, if I had to do it again as a pure roadie (not triathlete), with my new knowledge of road bike technology, I would be perfectly content to buy a new bike in the $800-$1400 range and train my rear end off on it, knowing that I could still compete and even win on such a bike even if I got serious about racing on it. As long it fits correctly (makes mail order more challenging if you're not sure of your size), the Nashbar Mongoose Koppenberg bike as well as BikeDirect's Nemesis line of bikes are incredible values for new bikes that I'm sure would be good enough to deliver 99% of my racing performance. But if you're ok with going used, you'll find even better deals than those bikes. Upgrades would be more for the mental satisfaction versus significant performance gains.

Of course though, if you know you're an "upgrade" kind of bike person, who derives a lot of joy and satisfaction from acquiring and riding higher-end components, you might want to get a $2000 or up bike for the mental satisfaction alone rather than upgrading within a year. Still, bike performance is 98% rider ability and 2% bike by most guesstimates.

PS - Last note - there's an ongoing flame war for anyone who dares post about the pros and cons of the deep discounter Bikesdirect, with no definite consensus - some LOVE their bikes from there, and others had defective bikes and poor customer service (seems like the minority, though). Make sure you use the "search" function before posting about it if you have questions about it, or you'll get at LOT of flames for it.
Awesome post. It should be required reading for any new cyclist.

My current race bike is a Cannondale, CAAD9 with Rival. You could build the exact bike for around 1,500 dollars (minus race wheels) and it would more than be suitable for racing at any level. In fact, the only racers who I know on 5K bikes are in the 4's, and 5's. Spend a few seasons racing and your priorities change from bling to win.

BTW... don't rule out a cyclocross bike. With your background you'll love skinny tires on dirt. Good luck!
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Old 01-03-09, 10:17 AM
  #17  
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I made the move from Mt biking a few years back. I started on a Trek 1500. It was a solid bike, and it didnt cost much. However I replaced it in a few months with a carbon/ultegra build. Cannondale, Giant, Specialized all have em. If I had to make the choice again I think I would have went with a Roubaix style road bike. Very comfortable. All the manufacture's have one. If you can find an 08 model in your size you can expect to pay about $2000. My advice is to test ride alot of bikes. Try the $1000 bikes and the $3000 bikes. Then decide what you like the best.
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Old 01-03-09, 10:45 AM
  #18  
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I just made the move back to the road this year after about 18 years of mountain biking. I was road riding before that, but hard to compare bikes from that period. I think there is great advice in this thread, but here are a few things I found.

I did notice a difference in frame material and carbon feels much better on my middle-aged joints for long rides. Granted, I didn't try every aluminum vs. carbon out there, but I went with a carbon bike.

I first bought a bike that was all 105, rode it for a month, and determined that I really wanted the smaller frame size. The model in stock had all Ultegra, so I paid the difference. Both were good, and either will do, but I was glad for the upgrade. Ultegra does actually shift a bit smoother, but probably doesn't affect overall performance much. The difference in feel was worth the $275 difference to me.

I ended up going for the "plush" category, road bikes designed for a little more comfort, and I was glad I did. It came down to the Specialized Roubaix vs. the Cannondale Synapse. I went with the Synapse. It had the right balance of smooth and rigid characteristics. Also, the longer wheel-base is nice for stability and toe overlap issues.

As it turns out, I rode my mountain bike twice last season and rode my Synapse almost every day. Good luck with your choice.
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Old 01-03-09, 11:41 AM
  #19  
ericm979
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Originally Posted by BigSean
My advice is to test ride alot of bikes. Try the $1000 bikes and the $3000 bikes. Then decide what you like the best.
I second that.
Since you're already an experienced cyclist, just not a road rider, you should be able to learn a lot from test riding road bikes.
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Old 01-03-09, 06:25 PM
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I can't thank you guys enough for all the responses. I really think this helped clarify a few things. I have several brands to choose from from the 3 LBS that I have in my area. The choices are Cannondale, Giant, Specialized or Trek. I prefer Cannondale only because I live within a few hours of Bedford, PA where they are built and I like the idea of supporting a PA built bike. Also, my first ever Mountain bike was a 1988 Cannondale and I regret the day I let her go.

So based on the advice given here, I will go get sized, ask to ride the bikes they have between 1k and 3k and decide what fits best. As some of you have said, I may end up getting the right bike but may want different components or a different frame size within a year. So buying a less expensive but quality bike would make the most sense.

Looking at the Cannondale line, what is the difference between the Synapse and the CAAD9?

Thanks, DB
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Old 01-03-09, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by dandela

Looking at the Cannondale line, what is the difference between the Synapse and the CAAD9?
The CAAD9 is an aluminum racing bike. The Synapse comes in both aluminum and carbon, and is more of a "plush" bike. I didn't find the aluminum model any more comfortable than a CAAD9, other than having more spacers on the stem. The carbon Synapse is definitely smoother. The Synapse has a bit different geometry, with a longer wheelbase. They certainly can be raced though, as Team Liquigas did before the Super6 came out.

I love the carbon Synapse. Do note, however, that it is an Asian frame. That doesn't matter to me, but based on your statement above, it may be a consideration. To get a carbon frame made near you, you need to spend a lot more.
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