Help - carbon road bike.

by bikegirl   June 7, 2014  

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 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

> 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.

posted by timtak [40 posts]
11th June 2014 - 3:35


Just for info 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

posted by chiv30 [997 posts]
11th June 2014 - 6:28


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. Smile

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 - 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.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~
Manx nerd peddler ~

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
11th June 2014 - 7:55


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.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1504 posts]
11th June 2014 - 8:03


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

Canyon Roadlite Centaur/ Veloce groupset, Shamal wheels

Miles253's picture

posted by Miles253 [208 posts]
11th June 2014 - 11:16


How about the Focus Donna?
The 2.0 model comes with 105 at £1,599:

the 1.0 with Ultegra for £1,999:

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.


posted by lukea-d [52 posts]
11th June 2014 - 12:42


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 -

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.

posted by MuddyGoose [39 posts]
11th June 2014 - 16:31


Consider a Canyon or a Focus. But if you are spending up to 2k on a bike, I vote for a BMC Road Racer SLR02 or a Cannondale supersix evo (105 builds) if you are dropping serious money...

You may be tempted to go for Ultegra but are you going to have a go at racing? If not - don't bother. Really not going to be worth the extra couple of hundred that could go towards a better set of wheels. Also, quite frankly SRAM Force is far superior and cheaper than Ultegra - so keep an eye out for that.

However I don't think this is the answer.

Why not a quality aluminum bike? Some people just won't want to ride carbon in winter - crashing on carbon "can" be more catastrophic than aluminum.

This is a superb machine - and it's got Campag on...

posted by Mrmiik [158 posts]
11th June 2014 - 17:27


Lots of cool stuff suggested, but buying online (canyon for example) for your first road bike has danger written all over it.

Bikegirl - question for you, where are you based? People here should be able to suggest good local road bike shops (although you may already have some lined up).

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3682 posts]
11th June 2014 - 18:37


I have to thank everyone for the suggestions, I'm really impressed with the level of support I got on this forum!

I have to agree with notfastenough, I am steering clear of online purchases. I'm very keen on trying the bike and making sure it's comfortable, etc.. I also want to use the cycle scheme voucher for £1000, so that won't be possible with most of these online retailers (such as Canyon, from what I gathered on this forum). I would also love to be able to build the bike on my own, but that is unfortunately not possible at the moment. Smile

Mrmiik, I do consider racing in the future, but I don't think I want Ultegra.. I actually heard some bad feedback about the Ultegra 11 speed related to the front derelleur, not sure how accurate this is, as I only heard from one person (a GIANT salesperson). In any case, I've seen the new 105 (5700 11 speed) online and the front derelleur seems similar to the Ultegra 11 speed, they surely would not make a mistake twice... If anyone has any info on this, I would appreciate it. But 105 seems to be a very reliable groupset, so I've decided to stick with it and save a bit of money there.. I could even get a carbon frame with Tiagra and then upgrade it to full 105 11 speed later (such as the model dreamlx10 suggested above for about £1000).

Regarding the other suggestions, I had good feedback on Cubes, too. The carbon Cube frame has a good price, but no internal cable routing? And I did not really like the ALU frame colour scheme Sad

To address the bike fit comments, I have done a proper bike fit and the models I listed on my post all fit me. Scott does also fit me, but the Aluminium model I could go with (Contessa Speedster 15) is not available on my size...then the carbon models are more expensive than the ones short listed above. Treks don't fit me well so they're also ruled out.

I have tried the Norco.. It did feel comfortable, it weights 880grams. The down tube on the bike seems a bit thick though. I haven't yet reached a conclusion if this is a reputable carbon frame. If Norco does reputable carbon MTB bikes, the material would logically be good? It's on sale from 1500 down to 1275 at the moment... I wonder how would this frame compare to a Focus, Canyon or Planet X as suggested above, all for around £1500?

Regarding my location, I am in Berkshire, but can get to London very easily..

Thanks again all!

posted by bikegirl [11 posts]
11th June 2014 - 19:42


Ok, on the groupset issue... from a personal perspective, if you were going to go Shimano, then you want 105 and upwards. 10 speed is perfectly fine - infact the chains and cassettes are cheaper, more compatibility... blah blah blah...

105 suits most people fine, but in personal experience I have found Campag Veloce to be as good as Ultegra (on a bike riding trip my Veloce set up was far more reliable than my mates Ultegra (similar age of kit on both our bikes) - and I never adjust my derailleurs!). However, I ride in Belgium where the campag/shimano split is abit more even - so I can easily get it serviced over here, and I've never had issues getting my Campag bikes serviced in Cheshire or around Stoke-on-Trent!

This is why I recommended the Cinelli - Stunning Italian bike and always gets loads of top reviews - you will find it in the 'best bikes for a grand' and best low cost racing bikes'.

Regarding the brands you mentioned - Focus bikes are not available to order online and most shops in the UK will give you a bike fit as part of the package. I have a Focus Cross bike (With SRAM) and I bloody love it - when it comes to get a summer bike the Izalco is on my shortlist.

Being a bike tart, I would be hesitant to go for the Planet X, but Ribble do what is essentially a debadged De Rosa frame (!!!) in lovely stealth black - and you can build it how you want.

With the Canyon - you are close to getting the frame the guy who just won the Giro rides - great bikes.

At the end of the day, you seem to be getting serious about the details of bikes. I managed to pass a load of guys who had resorted to pushing their De Rosas and Cervelos uphill and leave them for dust on my brother's Genesis Volant 00 with 2300 (below Sora) on a sportive in Wales last month - it's more about the engine at the end of the day.

Anyhow feel free to disregard my advice, as mentioned I'm a bike tart with a penchant for all things Italian!

posted by Mrmiik [158 posts]
11th June 2014 - 20:14


Just don't worry about internal cabling.

It might look neater and have very slight benefits for aero or in keeping the cables clean but.....
-cables round the bb are normally exposed either way;
-every time you want to change cables you need to feed a sleeve over the old cable and through the frame so you're not fiddling trying impossibly to poke a cable through;
- internally cable routing isn't sometimes the best routing either - the cables on my externally routed bikes are all smoother.

Some frames may have internal guiding but a lot don't.

posted by mtbtomo [161 posts]
11th June 2014 - 20:25


+1 on all this. You will also make your local bike shop mechanics happier Wink

posted by Mrmiik [158 posts]
11th June 2014 - 20:46


+1 for the Cervelo R3 105. Some great upgrade potential there too, you can get an R series down to some pretty silly low weights. Like the Canyon option, you're also getting a frame with serious race pedigree.

posted by giobox [357 posts]
12th June 2014 - 2:07


Mrmiik wrote:

Why not a quality aluminum bike? Some people just won't want to ride carbon in winter - crashing on carbon "can" be more catastrophic than aluminum.

This is based on what? A crash is a crash, and I really don't think frame material is going to be all that big a factor in your injuries.

If we're talking repairability, damaged aluminium frames pretty much have to be thrown away after a crash too. It might still be metal, but very, very different from steel in this regard.

posted by giobox [357 posts]
12th June 2014 - 2:12


I have one bike with 105 and another with Ultegra. I had read that the difference is minimal, but I notice
1) the flex of 105 cranks
2) the bumpy non ergonomic design of 105 brake knob (hoods?) as opposed to the nice, round hand-shaped knobs out of the top of Ultegra brakes
3) Very largely aesthetically, a less satisfying gear change click
If I could do it all again with a choice then I'd like Ultegra cranks and front cog, and Ultegra brake handles.

I think that the Mekk sounds like a bargain.

I wonder what percentage of those people who recommend bikes made out of aluminium, or name brand carbon, sell them.

posted by timtak [40 posts]
12th June 2014 - 2:56


+1 for the Cinelli. I race on mine, but I have to be honest and state that only the frame and forks are original. However, you can pick one up for less than a grand, and spend the rest on wheels, a decent crankset (the Miche set provided is balls), a carbon seat post and stem. You'll have a phenomenal, responsive and good looking bike

s_lim's picture

posted by s_lim [153 posts]
12th June 2014 - 7:11


giobox wrote:
Mrmiik wrote:

Why not a quality aluminum bike? Some people just won't want to ride carbon in winter - crashing on carbon "can" be more catastrophic than aluminum.

This is based on what? A crash is a crash, and I really don't think frame material is going to be all that big a factor in your injuries.

If we're talking repairability, damaged aluminium frames pretty much have to be thrown away after a crash too. It might still be metal, but very, very different from steel in this regard.

Nope - I would ride my carbon bike in the winter - but not in the wet. This is just to keep it clean and well functioning. All bikes fail, but I'd rather break an aluminum frame than a carbon one when hitting a patch of black ice.

posted by Mrmiik [158 posts]
12th June 2014 - 8:03


Ultegra much better than 106. But an affordable upgrade at a later time. I had Campag Veloce on my hire bike for a recent ride (cough - Cingles) and didn't really enjoy it. It seemed like 106, but it kept dropping a chain (weirdly on the same part of the road, but each time different gear). Hardly a scientific look at the two, but all the Shimano riders agreed that the feel of the gears was less preferable.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1504 posts]
12th June 2014 - 8:36


> But an affordable upgrade at a later time.
Good idea, I thought, and considered replacing the 105 bits on my Felt Z5 that I don't like but, the cost of new pair of Ultegra brake levers and crankset is 416 UKP in total.

I can't recommend Ultegra on cheap carbon enough. You can get a Carbon Mekk with mostly Ultegra (including all the bits were I think Ultegra important) for only £1,100. What a bargain! A whole bike for not much more than twice the cost of the crankset and levers!

posted by timtak [40 posts]
12th June 2014 - 9:44


My first bit of advice would be to find a place with lots of different bikes and try them out. Bikes can feel incredibly different, and you'll be able to at least reduce the options to a few that work for you personally, rather than going by reviews, price & spec. Then you can compare price & spec...!

The comment about saving a bit aside for wheels is valid, but you don't have to spend thousands to improve on the standard ones. I got some Ultegra 6700's for £220 which are nice - lighter, and stiffer than the standard ones that came with my bike.

Have you thought about Cannondale - SuperSix or Synapse with 105?

posted by BikeBud [148 posts]
12th June 2014 - 13:02


Bikebud, Cannondales do fit me and they're slightly cheaper than the GIANT and Ridley, but I did not really fancy the frame colours and their look Sad

timtak, that Mekk price is really interesting, but unfortunately don't want to buy online and want to use cyclescheme voucher... Sad

Now with all this pro-Ultegra comments, I started looking at another option, the

This is a carbon frame, lower quality carbon than the 2014 LIV/GIANT AVAIL ADVANCED 2, lower quality wheels but full Ultegra 11 speed.

So the AVAIL ADVANCED2 is £300 more for better carbon frame and wheels, but 105... and I think I like the white frame better...

Any comments between these two bikes? Is this 300 pounds worth the better carbon and wheels compared to a lower quality carbon+ultegra? I could always upgrade the groupset to Ultegra in a few years time but I'd still have a better frame?

Thanks again you all!

posted by bikegirl [11 posts]
15th June 2014 - 15:13


+1 for try-before-you-buy. I see near-new bikes on sale all over ebay and elsewhere because people bought bikes they didn't really get on with.

And +1 for build-your-own.

The key thing for starting out is to maximise the quality/price relationship, because you'll quickly tire of any compromises, and then be on the hunt for a better bike, and have to sell your near-new bike at a heavy discount.

drmatthewhardy's picture

posted by drmatthewhardy [546 posts]
15th June 2014 - 23:18


Regading the technology of those two frames, from Giant
High-performance T-700 [Toray T700] raw carbon fiber is used to produce custom composite material in Giant’s own composite factory. Extremely lightweight, stiff and compliant, these handcrafted frames feature the monocoque construction.

T-600 [Toray T600] raw carbon fiber is used to create the composite material used for these lightweight, stiff and compliant framesets. Blending performance and value, this technology features modified monocoque construction.

From Giant
Q: Is there more than one type of raw carbon fibre?
A: Yes. There are several raw fibre thread types available. T-800, T-700, and T-600 are used in Giant’s composite bikes, each is chosen to maximise and match the engineering goals of the frames used.
Q: What are the differences between T-800, T-700 and T-600 carbon?
A: Each is defined by its tensile strength, weight, elongation (base stiffness). For example: The higher the tensile strength… the less material you have to use to achieve the performance value goals for each given frames intended usage. Note lower weights are achieved by using T-800 material that is lighter than lower grades coupled with less material overall needed yields weight savings and less elongation (increases stiffness).

Again, Giant data

From the image on this page in Chinese on Toray fibre

T600 T700
Number of filaments same same
Tensile Strength 4149 4900 Mpa (+18%)
Tensile Modulus same same
Elongation 1.8 2.1 (16% stretchier)
Yeild 1700 1650 g/1000m almost the same
Density 1.79 1.80 g/cm almost the same

The T700 (industry standard) is about 20% stronger. Or perhaps
20% lighter for the same weight. And at the same time more forgiving/
stretchy for improved ride quality and durability perhaps, but they'd
be able to design in the stiffness so it won't be stretchy in a bad way.

On various places on the web, T700 is quoted as being the standard
fibre, with better bikes using T800 and T1000, and little mention of
T600 but Giant would be the company to have the design expertise to make it work, at a weight premium I guess.
If you are buying offline perhaps you can try them out.

posted by timtak [40 posts]
16th June 2014 - 1:26


The modulus marketing stuff really can't be used to make bike purchasing decisions. Every brand has it's own definition of what constitutes high or mid modulus etc. They are almost completely meaningless marketing terms.

posted by giobox [357 posts]
16th June 2014 - 1:40


Hi All

Would anyone consider buying a demo carbon bike? I'm thinking about one of these GIANT demo bikes that were within my options and much cheaper now. My concern is that a damage on carbon frame would not be visible? Any comments really appreciated.

posted by bikegirl [11 posts]
11th August 2014 - 11:59


Hi All

Would anyone consider buying a demo carbon bike? I'm thinking about one of these GIANT demo bikes that were within my options and much cheaper now. My concern is that a damage on carbon frame would not be visible? Any comments really appreciated.

posted by bikegirl [11 posts]
11th August 2014 - 11:59


Since you seem to have delayed your purchase decision for 2 months we're now heading into the 2014 end-of-season (!) sales. I've managed to pick up a Bianchi with a cool 15% discount! Party

“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.” James E Starrs

posted by truffy [649 posts]
11th August 2014 - 15:30


Yes.. longer than 2 months, actually Sad. There are some advantages of getting a 2015 bike with my required spec, which is getting the new 11 speed 105. But this demo bike came up with a very good discount, so wondering what are the cons of this purchase. Warranty will be the same as a new bike and they will change things like wheels, break pads, etc. It's actually the frame and non-visible damage that I worry about...

I have my eyes on this Bianchi, but still so expensive Sad
Bianchi Intenso Dama Bianca 105 Compact 2014 Women's Road Bike

posted by bikegirl [11 posts]
11th August 2014 - 16:05


Giants can have seatpost / seat tube issues (I think I read that on here somewhere, have a search), something about the seatpost clamp bolt needing to be constantly tightened.. and the seat tube cracking. Giant weren't too clever at addressing the issue either so...

You've got a half decent budget there so you don't need to bother with the likes of Giant or Norco. Look to something with a bit of provenance in the road world, maybe a Colnago or Bianchi.

I wouldn't get too hung up on different types of carbon yet, to be honest at this level it's all very similar. Two things I would spec. though would be a carbon seatpost and bars, just for comfort really.

Happy hunting!

posted by realdeal [21 posts]
11th August 2014 - 18:27