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Hi all,

I'm searching for my first road bike and my requirements are carbon + 105 groupset.

My high-end choices are GIANT Avail Advance2, Ridley or Colnago CLD, all around the £2K mark.

Then there are some cheaper options, which I'm strongly considering as this is my first road bike - Ribble and Norco Valence C3 Forma. I do like their frame colour and their geometry does fit me.

Norco does not have the full 105 kit, which I can get with Ribble, but Ridley are currently out of stock for my frame size...

My main question - is the carbon specification of these cheaper bikes much worse than the more expensive ones?

Ribble = 'mix of Toray T700/T800 carbon fibre'
Norco = '24T Mid-Modulus Carbon'

I am not sure which of those two is better, does anyone know? I've also noticed that Ridley's spec is 24t HM Unidirectional carbon - would HM (high modulus?) be much better than Mid-Modulus?

Any big issues anyone sees with Norco that I'm missing? If I like the frame I'm guessing I can always upgrade the breaks and other non-105 parts in the future? Will I regret going for a Norco versus these high-end bikes?

Thanks so much!

53 comments

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timtak [48 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd go cheapo and did (Azzurri) and did not regret it. OEM frames from Taiwan on ebay and aliexpress look like a good deal too.

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chiv30 [986 posts] 2 years ago
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What's wrong with aluminium? For the price you are willing to pay for carbon , you will get a far better spec in alu with (likely) complete 105 minimum also likely to have better spec wheels

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timtak [48 posts] 2 years ago
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Carbon forks and rear triangle bend to give the effect of suspension, like riding a mountain bike except as light as an aluminium road bike. If you are very thin then the suspension may not be needed but if you are that thin you probably don't need a bike or, more likely you already have one. Cheap carbon for the win.

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Welsh boy [300 posts] 2 years ago
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timtak wrote:

Carbon forks and rear triangle bend to give the effect of suspension....

Not a good (or accurate) description of the effect of carbon on a road bike. Carbon can flex slightly (as can aluminium if designed to do so) but carbon does not transmit vibration in the same way as steel or aluminium so you tend to feel the road vibration less. Because you go on to say that if you are thin then you dont need a bike, I take it your post is made very much tongue in cheek and none of it is meant to be taken seriously.

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mtbtomo [203 posts] 2 years ago
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Hi-mod is stiffer so you can use less (and therefore lighter frame) to achieve the same stiffness. Some frames claiming to be hi-mod aren't hi-mod throughout and for the mere mortal it will be difficult to tell the minute differences between frames (other than poisition and distinctly differing design purposes like aero Vs sportive).

£2k is a lot to spend on a first road bike. Some very good alloy framed bikes (cannondale CAAD, Giant TCR SL alloy if you can find one, Kinesis, etc etc) with 105 for around £1000 at the moment. Having seen some of the weights of low end carbon frames, its not necessarily better than alloy.

Get one that fits and the one you like the look of.

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Charliegr555 [13 posts] 2 years ago
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I'd personally go boardman
i know there's a bit of a stigma but in my experience the frames look the part are light and stiff and you get a good overall package but do look into where you get yours built my Halfords in Ipswich centre are fantastic and the bike was built to a T the other one Iv been told to steer clear of in my area though

Look at either the low elite range on boardman a website or the pro carbon or SLR carbon from Halfords

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crazy-legs [794 posts] 2 years ago
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Don't get a cheapo carbon frame!

Like a cheap Alu or cheap steel frame they're heavy, a bit dead feeling and, if you're buying some no name thing from Taiwan as someone suggested, you've got little in the way of warranty.

Get the best frame you can for that money and make do with whatever parts are on it, they can always be upgraded later.

Choice between a cheap(er) frame and full 105 at £2000 or a comparatively more expensive frame and full Tiagra at £2000, I'd go for the latter option every time.

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mtbtomo [203 posts] 2 years ago
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At £2000 you should get a reasonable carbon frame AND groupset comparable to full 105. Anything less would strike me as not particularly good value.

You can also get a decent alloy frame but with Ultegra for sub £2000 easily.

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notfastenough [3709 posts] 2 years ago
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Quick question - £2k is a lot for a first bike, but have you budgeted for all the other stuff? I ask because if this is your first road bike, then I'm assuming you don't have the rest.

As a starter, think about:
Shoes and pedals (they aren't usually included with the bike)
Helmet (should you choose to wear one, but sssh don't start a helmet debate round here!)
Jersey, base layer, shorts, gloves, armwarmers
Waterproof jacket
bottles and cages x 2
Track pump (don't underestimate the difference between a mini-pump and a track pump, it's wise to have both so you can get a proper amount of pressure in the tyres before you go out)
Saddlebag with inner tube, multitool, tyre levers etc

Then assuming you're hooked (you will be!), you'll want winter jersey and tights and maybe a jacket for the cold. Plus you'll start wanting bits like a Garmin.

Then there's the bike. The more you ride, the more you notice what you like and dislike. Before you know it, you've decided that the handling of the frame isn't quite what you hoped, the saddle's too narrow, the bars drop a bit too far, you don't like the bar tape and the brakes are a bit grabby for your tastes. This is so subjective that I don't think spending more initially mitigates any of it, so you spend more making it 'yours'. Ribbles are well-regarded, so in your shoes I'd spend up to £1k for one with mudguard mounts. Get to know it (and you), then when you feel like you have a better understanding of what kind of bike you *really* want, fit the mudguards to the first one and make that your winter bike, while taking delivery of something fast which suits you really well and which you now have the fitness to do justice!  4

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bikegirl [10 posts] 2 years ago
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chiv30, I see the point and agree with the idea of going for an ALU frame full 105, but the ones I like the look of and that fit me are not currently available on my size.  2

Thanks 'Welsh boy' for your comments..

mtbtomo, thanks for more details on HM carbon.

Charliegr555, I haven't found a WSD boardman, perhaps I did not look into it well enough but thought they were all larger frames and men's specific geometry?

crazy-legs, so would £1500 be considered a cheap carbon frame, then? Where do we draw the line of what cheap is? Would a good price be a minimum of £2K as mtbtomo suggests?

notfastenough, thanks for the comprehensive list of items. I have got most of these items, except for the winter clothing, pedal and shoes but I do get your point, it's not just the bike.... Some of the stores where I went to see the £2K bikes did offer to include shoes+pedals on the bike price (GIANT) and I'm not considering something expensive to start with anyway.. but I am not completely in love with the green colour of this GIANT frame, unfortunately. I think your comments about starting cheap and then using the bike for a winter bike are very sensible, if it wasn't for my lack of storage space :(, but I do agree, it will be hard to get 'the perfect bike' to start with. In any case, I think the NORCO does accept mudguards, so maybe it would be worth going for a cheap carbon to start with, assuming 1500 is cheap? I loved the Ribble sportive bianco and would go for it, this is my frame type and colour, but unfortunately, also out of stock on my size  2

So everyone steered away of any specific comments about the Norco.. any bad feedback or is it just an unknown bike?

Thanks again!

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notfastenough [3709 posts] 2 years ago
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Ah ok, apologies if that came across as patronising then! I don't know anything about the Norco, but from the other bikes I've ridden, I wouldn't go for carbon at £1500. Admittedly, I only paid £1600 for a good carbon bike (Trek Madone 4.5), but that was reduced from it's usual price of £2k. The big overlap of good aluminium and cheap carbon means that at £1500ish, I'd be looking more at a good alu bike.

Alternatively, do you have a branch of Edinburgh Bicycle co-op nearby? They have the titanium Van Nicholas Ventus at about £1500, and titanium is a different handling feel again.

Actually, talking of my discounted bike, what's your timescale for a decision? Shops start to apply the discounts around September/October time to make way for the next year's stock, so that's worth bearing in mind.

Finally, (sorry to introduce ANOTHER option!) you could spend, like, £300 on a cheap aluminium bike, ride the nuts off it until you have firm opinions on all the little details I mentioned, then blow £2k on a seriously nice piece of kit! Cervelo R3 105, anyone?!

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mtbtomo [203 posts] 2 years ago
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If people have steered clear of any comments on the Norco, its probably because its relatively unknown. Norco evokes thoughts of mountain bikes, long travel, Canadian North Shore etc etc - not perhaps road bikes.

I don't think you will notice that 'cheap carbon' is 'cheap'. Unless you can compare it back to back with expensive carbon. Carbon will make the road bumps and general chatter feel muted and slightly less harsh. Cheap or not, that should be a ride characteristic most carbon bikes will exhibit. Bikes like the cheapest Specialized Tarmac are close to what they were riding not too long ago on the pro circuit. There's a few sacrifices to keep the price down, but it would still be a good ride. Ditto Trek Madone.

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dreamlx10 [166 posts] 2 years ago
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bikegirl [10 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough, you did not come across patronizing at all.. quite the opposite and all comments are very helpful. I fully agree with you that the more I ride, the more I will notice what I like and dislike and that's why I am concerned with spending that much money on my first road bike. I have run a MTB for many years and after trying a good ALU bike with 105 for a few days I got hooked, hence why I decided that I wanted to go as far as carbon. And the fact that I haven't got much space for storage made me think that I will have to get the best that I can afford, avoiding to get a second one too quickly.. My search is taking months, it started during last year's sales :(. You did make me worried about the existence of this big overlap between good aluminium and cheap carbon, though. I thought that even a cheap-ish carbon frame would be better than the best alu as it would exhibit those ride characteristics pointed by mtbtomo (thanks by the way, mtbtomo!), this is why I am leaning towards these cheaper models. I would be very happy with a Ribble and I've read good reviews of it, but my size is not available at the moment on the frame I fancy  2

dreamlx10, that is a good option that escaped my radar - probably because I was filtering anything that did not have 105 groupset.. I do like the frame color and the frame has got a similar geometry when compared to the Avail Advance 2 - I like the seatpost and top tube format specially. It just looks like it does not have internal cable routing which I would really like? I will probably take a look at the shops, not sure if my frame size will still be available. If the cable is internal, I could probably consider a groupset upgrade in the future with this frame.....

I will also in the meantime try the Norco and see what I find of it - it's on sale at the moment... but thanks for highlighting that it's really nothing negative with the bike, just not a brand known for road bike!

Any additional comments appreciated!

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bikegirl [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Ah, notfastenough to address your other questions, I am tired of searching, so don't want to miss the rest of this spring/summer season... can't wait to get back on the saddle! And yes, Cervelo would be lovely!  1

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surly_by_name [390 posts] 2 years ago
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timtak wrote:

Carbon forks and rear triangle bend to give the effect of suspension, like riding a mountain bike

Errrr ... no they don't.

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surly_by_name [390 posts] 2 years ago
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Why not all carbon and Ultegra with enough left over to buy some pedals. http://www.canyon.com/_en/roadbikes/bike.html?b=3241

(Inevitably.)

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sergius [336 posts] 2 years ago
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I went with a relatively cheap carbon bike from Cube (Cube Agree GTC http://roadcyclinguk.com/gear/cube-agree-gtc-review-7721.html), as others have suggested I picked up the 2013 model just after they released the 2014 range so saved myself £350 and got it for £900.

I don't have a huge set of experience to compare it to other bikes, but as someone who recently switched from MTB to Road cycling, I've certainly loved my "cheap" carbon bike.

The Cube bikes tend to have pretty good reviews, and you do tend to get pretty decent components for the price point.

I'm already planning my next bike having got the bug, now I know I like the road bike I'll get myself something fancy in a year or so (disk brakes, possibly Di2) when some of the new tech has been around longer and consequently comes down in price a little.

A lot depends on what sort of riding you are doing as well. If you are doing 4-5 hour blasts on the weekend with the occasional Sportive like me, then any £1000+ bike will likely suit you very well. If you are commuting every day on it then tbh you probably want something cheaper that you care less about (I used to commute on my MTB with hybrid tyres on it). If you are racing then something higher end is probably more appropriate.

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srchar [241 posts] 2 years ago
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It only cost me £2,200 to build a titanium road bike - Van Nic Ventus, Campag Athena/Chorus mix and Zonda wheelset. That was with expensive Thomson seatpost & stem, Easton EC90SL forks, Cane Creek 110 headset and a Selle SMP Forma saddle. You could easily use cheaper finishing kit and get a similar build down below £2k - in fact there's an off-the-peg build ("Ventus SE") sold in a number of places for £1600.

I also have a Canyon aluminium road bike with Ultegra Di2 and Ksyrium Elites that came in at £1800 boxed and delivered from their outlet listings.

Both are great bikes and much nicer options (IMO) than a generic carbon/105 number, so don't assume that you need to ride a carbon frame just because that's what the pros use.

I'd go to a well-stocked bike shop with a good range and ride a few bikes before dropping two grand on a first bike that a) may turn out to be nothing like what you expected and b) might not even fit you properly.

Just my 2p  16

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700c [957 posts] 2 years ago
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srchar wrote:

It only cost me £2,200 to build a titanium road bike - Van Nic Ventus, Campag Athena/Chorus mix and Zonda wheelset. That was with expensive Thomson seatpost & stem, Easton EC90SL forks, Cane Creek 110 headset and a Selle SMP Forma saddle.

That's probably the nicest build you'll get for £2200, IMO!

But really the frame material itself will not guarantee you a certain quality of ride, its about the whole package, and how they've designed the frame for a given purpose. Oh and make sue fit is right!

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srchar [241 posts] 2 years ago
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700c wrote:
srchar wrote:

It only cost me £2,200 to build a titanium road bike - Van Nic Ventus, Campag Athena/Chorus mix and Zonda wheelset. That was with expensive Thomson seatpost & stem, Easton EC90SL forks, Cane Creek 110 headset and a Selle SMP Forma saddle.

That's probably the nicest build you'll get for £2200, IMO!

If anyone wants to replicate it, here's my costs spreadsheet - just noticed that the final cost included a workstand!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1omgJJzU3ZiwAnFC3LApPimMck0uJ14Wu...

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notfastenough [3709 posts] 2 years ago
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Re the carbon/alu price crossover, opinions will vary but I think generally people on here will tell you that cheap carbon is not as good as good alu. Try this: find a carbon bike for £1000, then test ride it. Find a good alloy bike (cannondale CAAD is a good example) and repeat. My experience was that the carbon soaked up the road buzz, but it felt reluctant to accelerate. The alloy will ensure you feel the road surface, but when you jump on the pedals, the thing will practically light up. The great news is, you can sort the road buzz with such things as a carbon seatpost, lower tyre pressures, better bar tape etc.

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mtbtomo [203 posts] 2 years ago
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Notfastenough makes a valid point. Alloy will feel much more immediate and snappy to accelerate versus cheaper carbon.

My Giant TCR SL (alloy) and Kinesis Aithein both feel snappier than my KTM Revelator (carbon) but the KTM mutes the bumps a lot better. Because it mutes the bumps so well, I can't tell if it is really a little softer/slower than the alloy frames but it feels like it. Reviews of the KTM say its pretty rapid, so it may just be deceptive. I like riding all three cos they are light and feel fast!

Even at £2000, bikes come mostly with pretty rubbish/heavy wheels. I'd spend £1000 - £1500 on a bike with a reputable frame (alloy or carbon), £300 - £500 on some lighter wheels and the rest perhaps on some nice finishing kit, or tweaking the bars/saddle etc once you know what you like/dislike.

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timtak [48 posts] 2 years ago
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> Not a good (or accurate) description of the effect of carbon on a road bike.
Welsh boy writes before going on to say that Carbon does act as suspension ("carbon does not transmit vibration in the same way as steel or aluminium so you tend to feel the road vibration less").

mtbtomo writes
> Having seen some of the weights of low end carbon frames, its not necessarily better than alloy.

Weight difference is not the main issue. I love my cheap carbon framed bikes for providing suspension. This is the main thing I want to say. When comparing Carbon and Aluminium the 1KG difference in weight would not justify the near doubling in price of the frame. But, depending on your weight, and need for suspension, the way that "you tend to feel the road vibration less," [it] "will make the road bumps and general chatter feel muted" is worth the price differential.

Mtbtomo writes
> Alloy will feel much more immediate and snappy to accelerate versus cheaper carbon.
Yes, but how much does the acceleration matter to cyclists on the roads? There are lots of people out on the roads on Mountain bikes with full on suspension that accelerate really badly. Despite being so much heavier lots of people are riding MTBs on the roads for the suspension that they provide.

Suspension becomes less and important the thinner you are. On the other hand, you are carrying more than 20kg above your ideal weight then rather than a carbon road bike, a mountain bike with front fork suspension, perhaps a 29er, might provide a ride quality that gets you on your bike more.

Mtbtomo writes
> Carbon will make the road bumps and general chatter feel muted and slightly less harsh. Cheap or not, that should be a ride characteristic most carbon bikes will exhibit.
Yes, 100% agreed.

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chiv30 [986 posts] 2 years ago
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Just for info .....my 2nd bike(now my regular ride) is a canyon ultimate cf 8 with kyserium elites and full ultegra ritchey finishing kit for 1500 from their outlet, if you know ur geometry and you're either very tall (or short like me) then you will get a carbon bargain if you really do need / want carbon

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mooleur [537 posts] 2 years ago
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For £2k, you can pick up a great Trek frame with Ultegra - if that's your budget you're doing very well! You could pick up a 105 for much less.  1

NB Trek do very nice women's specific frames too.

I'll throw an annoying spanner in the works and maybe suggest you have a look at the Sensa range from www.merlincycles.com - you can get high quality carbon (comparable to s-works) with full ultegra for 1.5k.

The Giants seem to get great reviews though, it's all really down to your body geometry though. Check which frames out of your selection would suit you best if you've longer/shorter legs etc.

I've a few friends who have Ribbles, they don't race but they seem to get on well with them for sportives and the like.

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Colin Peyresourde [1749 posts] 2 years ago
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I agree with the comment about going for carbon and Ultegra. Although as far as upgrades go 106 to Ultegra is not the biggest jump. Dura Ace is when you start getting the metal detector out and panhandling.

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Miles253 [198 posts] 2 years ago
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From what ive heard, Focus, Canyon and Rose all offer superd value for money, all offering a good carbon frame with at least 105 for under £2000. Most in fact have Ultegra. Cayo evo, Ultimate Cf SL, etc

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lukea-d [58 posts] 2 years ago
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How about the Focus Donna?
The 2.0 model comes with 105 at £1,599:
http://www.thebikelist.co.uk/focus/izalco-donna-2-0-2014

the 1.0 with Ultegra for £1,999:
http://www.thebikelist.co.uk/focus/izalco-donna-1-0-2014

However, if you look through the sale/clearance section of any of the main retailers you'll find excellent deals on previous years' female-specific bikes. You could probably find a £3k bike for your £2k budget.

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MuddyGoose [47 posts] 2 years ago
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I bought a Mekk Poggio 1.5 for around £700 (sale price) so I guess that would be considered 'cheap carbon' but considering it's Mekk own brand finishing kit/Sora and Shimano R500 wheels, 8.6 kg (my own weighing with pedals) is pretty light. And I can't fault it for ride quality/stiffness/responsiveness etc. I'm sure I'd notice the difference if I rode a £7000 high end bike but that's 10x more cash!

Read my blog on it if you like - poggiodelre.wordpress.com

These bikes are still available on Wiggle in certain sizes with various specs. You can take the Ultegra Di2 version for £1500 if you fit a 47 cm frame!

Alternatively have you looked at the Planet X bikes? They do women specific and you can have Ultegra on the RT-58 for £1399.

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