'Proper' road bike - Advice requested please!

by RaisedOnBruce   September 13, 2012  

I currently have a Specialized Sirrus Comp that I love using for commuting but I keep seeing road bike users fly past me. I think it is time for me to upgrade to a proper road bike for the 15-20 mile commute into London (round trip), plus proper Sunday morning riding.

I have test ridden the following:
Cannondale Synapse Alloy 105
Specialized Secteur Comp
Specialized Roubaix Elite

Comparing the first two is like comparing apples with apples as they are both high end aluminium with 105 components whereas the Roubaix Elite is Carbon and therefore a different product.

I can get a deal from my LBS on the Synapse at £1,000, the Secteur at £1,050 and the Roubaix at £1,500.

The question is this: I couldn't really pick a winner between the Synapse and the Secteur, but the Roubaix did feel better quality. For my proposed use, am I better off spending the extra £500 on the Roubaix, or better off saving my money with one of the alloys? I have heard that one shouldn't get hung up on carbon, because it's not for everyone and requires annual checks?

If it helps, I don't want to have to upgrade again in a couple of years' time.

Thanks in advance for anyone's views!

10 user comments

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Three nice bikes.
I agree you shouldn't get hung up on carbon, as a good alloy frame can perform better than poorly made carbon one.
The Roubaix, however, is a well made carbon frame that will out-perform the Secteur in every respect except the price, so if you can really afford it then why not spend the extra cash and get the better bike?
Carbon is different, but don't panic about it. Look after your bike in the normal way, with regular careful cleaning when it gets dirty or wet, and if there are any cracks or notches you'll spot them, same as with an alloy or steel frame. No need for professional inspection, unless you actually find a crack or the bike has had a severe impact like in a crash.
Do budget for a torque wrench though...

Chris's picture

posted by Chris [108 posts]
13th September 2012 - 14:02

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First thing's first. You are about to receive an avalanche of replies suggesting that you should buy something else. Planet-X, Ribble, Cervelo, Canyon and a few others will probably be mentioned. Yes, maybe you could have more bike for less cash. However, you've got a decent shortlist, and an LBS that (by the sounds of it) you're happy with and that let you ride their bikes. That's a great start, so I reckon stick with that.

I think any of these would be a good purchase. When you say that the carbon bike feels better quality, can you explain what you mean? Is it the handling, components, or that the feeling of road buzz is muted on the Roubaix?

Chris is correct above that good alloy can be more satisfying than cheap carbon, and that the Roubaix isn't cheap carbon - it's a quality bike.

If you buy the alu, are you the kind of person (like me) who will be hankering after the Roubaix in a couple of years anyway? Will the extra cost hurt your pocket? Only you can decide on whether that's justified really.

Bear in mind though that if you start going out on Sunday mornings as well, and trying to up your speed, before long you'll be hankering after other bits as well - "hmmm, I'll go faster with a good pedalling technique mated to clipless pedals - I'll need shoes as well" - "hmmm, that commuting jacket isn't so handy once the weather has warmed up - I need something more compact that I can put in a pocket" - "hmmm, these shorts are great for a 10-mile run to work, but they chafe by the time I'm halfway through a 40-mile run on a Sunday - time for some new ones!" - "am I going any faster? I need a computer!"

Good luck!

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3320 posts]
13th September 2012 - 15:07

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Thanks Chris - you advise getting a torque wrench: I wouldn't have the foggiest what to do with it! Is it necessary and what is it for (and more importantly, what happens if it's not used?!)

posted by RaisedOnBruce [4 posts]
13th September 2012 - 21:02

1 Like

Thanks NotFastEnough - Re the Roubaix, the moment I started off on it, it just felt like proper quality. Maybe the difference between driving in a VW and driving in a Merc. I wasn't expecting any difference, and was pleasantly surprised I could notice one at all. The componentry was similar to the alloys (as you would expect, bearing in mind they are the same), but beyond that, I cannot pretend to claim that the handling was better, and I don't think I understand enough about road buzz (or lack of it) to pass judgement on that side. It simply felt better to a layman like me.

posted by RaisedOnBruce [4 posts]
13th September 2012 - 21:03

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Well carbon is a precision material, so it's best to only tighten stuff as far as the stated torque rating. Where steel might just bend a bit (then you could bend it back) carbon would be damaged, so a torque wrench is recommended to prevent over-tightening. That said, I don't have one- I think they become more important if you use carbon bits that secured by bolts (bars/stem/seatpost) or need to affix cleats to carbon-soled shoes. I only have my frame in carbon so i don't worry about it.

Road buzz is the vibration you feel through the saddle/bars from less-than-great road surfaces, and alu tends to transmit this more than carbon, hence me thinking that maybe you meant the roubaix felt more plush/comfortable. Either way, it's a lovely bike.

Here's a question - is the LBS sorting a bike fit? That will make a big difference regardless of which bike you choose. It might also account for you feeling more at home on one particular bike, if they weren't all set up the same.

If you fancy it, and can afford it, go for the merc! Just don't blame us when you spend nearly as much again on kit! Big Grin

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3320 posts]
13th September 2012 - 23:01

1 Like

Which bike 'felt right'. You could get a quality bike but if it doesn't feel right then you won't enjoy it. Also looking to the future you can always upgrade components rathe than buying a new bike. When I got my Cannondale. As soon as I sat on the saddle I smiled and knew this is the one! Probably many on the forum will have had the same experience. As for the torque wrench. Many components now need tightened to a spcecic torque as over tightening will damage the component/frame/bearings. Is a very good investment

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
13th September 2012 - 23:02

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Have you considered second hand? I'm not just saying this because I'm trying to flog one of my bikes.
For your budget you can get something wonderful. (like a carbon Condor, just plucking an example out of the air).
No but seriously - unless I'm earning funny money, I very much doubt I'll ever buy a complete bike new again.

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
14th September 2012 - 11:15

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Actually, he's got a point. If you're a tall lad, bashthebox's bike is awesome. The wheels on the Condor are fab as well, whereas with most new bikes, the wheel spec is a. the thing they skimp on first, and b. makes the most difference to the bike's feel and performance.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3320 posts]
14th September 2012 - 13:23

1 Like

Thanks guys. I am open minded to buying secondhand but BashTheBox's would be too large, as I am after a 56" frame. My view is that if I am getting second hand, it has to be a good deal and I haven't seen many of those out there (or maybe I'm just not looking in the right places).

Incidentally, on Gumtree there is a Roubaix Comp on there in pristine condition that was advertised for £900 but went for £650 supposedly. No detail on the bike, and it would be deeply unfair of me to question its authenticity, but seriously, WTF? I'm surprised the seller didn't just add "Nicked not 10 minutes ago from outside the station".

posted by RaisedOnBruce [4 posts]
14th September 2012 - 13:57

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RoB, have you looked on Bikeradar's classifed section? Loads of good stuff there.

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
14th September 2012 - 15:44

1 Like