Alu Road bikes? Comparisons?

by rhodrigo27   June 19, 2014  

Hi all,

There is a lot of chat about Alu vs Carbon etc, There are now however a few decent Alu frames out there and I was trying to get my head round which one is thought higher than the others. You can also get a lot of decent gear on these frames for a lot less than there carbon equivalent.

CAAD10 105 - £1499

Canyon Roadlite AL 6.0 (105) - £899 7.0 (Ultegra) 1199

Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 (Ultegra) - £1499

Trek Madone 2.3 (105) - £1200

Ribble 7046 Sportive Curved (Ultegra) - £1094

MEKK Pinerolo 2.5 - (105) £999 - 3.0 (Ultegra) - £1495

BMC GF02 - (105) - £1099 (Sale RRP1400)

What do people think of these bikes?
Any experiences on them?
What bikes have I missed ?

12 user comments

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Had this dilemma myself not so long ago, although I was after a £1k bike as I was buying through cycle to work, so my experience is with slightly lower-specced bikes than what you're looking at. Similar thinking to you though that a good alu frame with decent components was a better value proposition than cheap carbon (and usually lesser components) just for the sake of it being carbon.

My shortlist was basically mainstream stuff from my couple of LBSs, as it was a first road bike purchase for me and I wanted to be able to see, ride and get properly fitted for it before committing, rather than buying blind online. I ended up trying out the following, all being 2014 models, and I'm pretty sure they all have an upgraded alu version that's more in keeping with your budget:

Cannondale CAAD8 105
Cannondale Synapse 105
Cube Peloton Race
Giant Defy 1
Scott Speedster 20
Trek Madone 2.1

I went for the Trek in the end with the Giant a close second but, to be honest, they basically all rode as well as each other as far as the standard of my actual riding is concerned! After a second ride with the Defy as well, the Trek was ultimately bought on it's looks and the availability in the store.

The Cube was perhaps the best value in terms of the components, but wasn't so nicely put together, the Synapse was a very nice bike but I just couldn't do a deal on it for C2W. Besides, it's perhaps the type of bike I'd replace the Trek with in a few years, when I can afford to splash much more money on a good quality carbon verson.

As for the Trek, my increasing fitness does allow me to get a lot more out of it than I first did, and it's become a very willing ride, eager to get up and go when I put the hammer down. The 105 groupset I've found to be largely faultless too, particularly after the cables had settled. Ok, the ride is harsh on poorer surfaces, but that's what good gloves and shorts help with and, by comparison, I've ridden my Dad's 2013 Cube Agree GTC and it's really no smoother, plus it's basically just as heavy as my Trek too.

It carries the usual hallmark of bikes built to certain price points of the wheelset probably being the first thing to upgrade, but they've taken 6 months of daily riding/commuting and haven't needed any attention yet, so there's much to be said for that, I'm not racing it. Besides, the Madone 2.3 you've listed comes with a better wheelset anyway (plus better brakes, IIRC).

I think the standard forum reply to this sort of question otherwise applies though, i.e. get out there and ride them, and go with the one that suits *you* best.

Good luck and enjoy the search!

posted by parksey [268 posts]
19th June 2014 - 13:20

5 Likes

What are you using it for; sportive/club rides or racing?

Racing, you couldnt go wrong with:

  • Specialized Allez Race
  • Kinesis Aethin (frameset only - £550)
  • Cinelli Experience
  • posted by s_lim [128 posts]
    19th June 2014 - 15:12

    4 Likes

    Bikes at that price are all very good value. I went for the Defy 1. I don't regret that choice for a second. It's lovely to ride.

    My feeling is that it doesn't have as much fashion quality as some (though I think it looks nice) but it consistently gets great ride reviews. Giant make their own frames, not all of them do. The frame gives it a great responsive feel.

    But they are all good. Pick the one you like the most.

    Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

    posted by oozaveared [673 posts]
    19th June 2014 - 15:46

    5 Likes

    The Canyon Ultimate AL 9 is an absolute blinder, lovely bike, just wants you to go harder and faster all the time, but will happily pootle to work if you want. Both stiff and comfortable, how they do it I don't know.

    drmatthewhardy's picture

    posted by drmatthewhardy [359 posts]
    19th June 2014 - 18:11

    5 Likes

    The Kinesis Aithein is a apparently pretty impressive frameset, and probably competing for lightest alu frame you can get. Downside is the 88kg rider weight limit though, I've never seen a frame with a published rider weight limit before...

    posted by giobox [321 posts]
    20th June 2014 - 0:17

    6 Likes

    I went with a 2010 Cube Agree SL - Alu frame, carbon fork and complete Ultegra groupset, for under £1200 at "end-of-season".

    I reasoned that as a 40-something average fella, I'm not going to be putting anything like enough power through the bike to have to worry about flex and other such losses, and could do with a bit of bump-smoothing that a less rigid frame offers. Instead I could put my money towards higher spec components that offered smoother, quieter and basically more enjoyable cycling.

    Not regretted that decision for a minute. I absolutely love it.

    neildmoss's picture

    posted by neildmoss [202 posts]
    20th June 2014 - 15:04

    6 Likes

    I bought my first road bike four years ago, having ridden mostly touring/commuting type bikes. I narrowed my choice down to suit budget, intended use (sportives, fun, fitness, not racing) and local availability. I eventually went for a Trek 2.3 and was not, nor have I been, disappointed. It transformed my riding. It's a really good bike for the money - especially since it comes with a full 105 groupset.

    I've still got it and use it regularly (same uses as when I purchased it), though I have upgraded the wheels, forks and saddle. After much deliberation I chose a pair of custom made wheels (DT Swiss RR415 rims, Dura Ace hubs), which cost about £600. They made a significant difference to how the bike performed. They are much lighter than the wheels that came with the bike and do a very good job of providing me with a vastly smoother and more comfortable ride. I noticed straight away how effective they are in soaking up the bumps and roughness of uneven road surfaces. They also handle the hills pretty well too. The other major upgrade I made was the forks. I damaged the originals (carbon forks, alloy steerer) in a crash and took the opportunity to upgrade them. I went for a pair of Ritchey WCS full carbon (these had a slightly larger rake of 43mm than the 40mm of the original forks). As with the wheels, the upgraded forks do a great job of increasing comfort by smoothing out the bumps. The increased rake has also made the ride a touch more lively, which is great when cornering. The third main upgrade was the saddle. I now have a Specialized Toupe Pro, which I find much more comfortable than the one that was originally fitted (it's also about 150g lighter).

    The upgraded wheels, forks and saddle together have shaved about 850g off the original weight. Not a massive amount but the gains in comfort and performance have been well worth it (it's still 850g I don't have to carry up hills though). The upshot is that I've got a decent bike. (I'd love a nice carbon fibre bike a level or two above the Trek 2.3 but simply cannot afford it Sad ) In the meantime, the 2.3 continues to serve my needs well.

    cavasta's picture

    posted by cavasta [209 posts]
    21st June 2014 - 18:56

    6 Likes

    Having upgraded my main bike a few years ago, I bought a Cinelli Experience frame, and transferred all the older cycle parts (mix of Dura-Ace, Ultegra and FSA), to it. It's since had a few upgrades and is now my partner's bike. She loves it, and the admiring looks and comments people give it. I think the bottom line is if you get a decent frame, in this case Columbus tubeset. If you get the right cycle parts on it, you will get a decent bike.

    posted by philsinclair [11 posts]
    22nd June 2014 - 7:13

    5 Likes

    I'd put a word in for Felt. I have a Z95, which has a fairly relaxed (sorry 'endurance') geometry. It has been a great entry level bike and has the normal carbon forks which keep things smooth. The only issue I had was the wheels/hubs which were poor but you get what you pay for. Upgraded wheelset and all was well again.

    For the money you have you have plenty of choice and can enjoy better components. Happy hunting!

    posted by jimcycle [1 posts]
    22nd June 2014 - 11:14

    5 Likes

    Another online brand to consider is Rose, which price wise are on a par with Canyon however, you have a little more flexibility with altering the specifications to suit your own preference. Furthermore, they have a UK representative who I believe through prior arrangement can organise a test ride.

    I do concur with the OP that Aluminum is a very good alternative option to Carbon and should not be dismissed lightly.

    posted by boyfrom64 [2 posts]
    23rd June 2014 - 9:20

    5 Likes

    I have a Kinesis Aithein and a Giant TCR SL (alloy) - both sub 1200g frames. I don't think the TCR SL is available in the UK this year. They both feel a bit more rattly over the bumps than my KTM Revelator (carbon) but both still feel very rapid. The Giant feels a bit stiffer front to back but the Kinesis probably a bit more fun. Cheaper or older designs of carbon frame aren't much lighter than these.

    Of the bikes the OP mentions, only the Canyon and Cannondale CAAD frames will be competing with the lightest alu frames on the market. The other alu frames mentioned might be 'good' so far as ride comfort/handling but their manufacturers don't publish frame weights for a reason.

    I'd bet that Kinesis put a weight limit on, partly because they're a smaller company and so can't afford to be replacing frames from underneath relative 'clydesdale' size riders.

    posted by mtbtomo [95 posts]
    23rd June 2014 - 20:50

    4 Likes

    My wife decided she needed a road bike earlier this year and tested a range of bikes in the £1000-£1500 bracket. The LBS put her on a carbon Specialised and she said she didn't notice any difference from the alloy bikes. She settled on a Trek Domane (mens frame), with the seat damping, which had a 105 groupset (not so on the carbon bike). She just 'caned' other people on carbon bikes up Alp d'Huez, Col d'Ornon and Ballon d'Alsace (incl me on steel). It's all down to the 'engine' in the end.

    Shades

    posted by Shades [219 posts]
    25th June 2014 - 9:40

    2 Likes