Right, so just for a change, this isn't a "what bike should I buy" thread, it's a "this is the bike I bought and my thoughts on the alternative candidates".
For contaxt, my current bike is a generic carbon frame bought from Graham Weigh in North Wales.  It has a mix of SRAM Apex and Rival, Omega Mach 1 or Mavic Kysrium Equipe Wheels (depending on the time of year), Speedplays and a Fizik Aliante.  I ride with the local club and enter the odd sportive and time trial.
I've secured a contract working close to home, so have bought a rack and pannier for commuting on that, and set out to buy myself something a bit nicer for the weekend.  Stiffness, handling, still a bit of comfort, confidence-inspiring on the descents, and affordable (see my other thread on impending twins!).
It's worth saying that I've ridden very few bikes, so when you read in reviews that a bike 'stiff at the BB' or handles slightly differently to another bike, I was unconvinced as to how much I would feel these differences.  So anyway:
Kovert FX Race £1200-ish - full carbon with Ultegra and Ksyrium Equipes.
Good spec on paper.  Better ride than the Graham Weigh (hereafter referred to as GW), but like the GW, didn't feel that responsive to pedalling input.  Seems to need wrestling side-to-side if you get out of the saddle, like you're wringing the power out of it.
Cannondale CAAD8 - Alu, 105.
Wanted to find out what the fuss was about re the differences in frame material.  Put a smile on my face straight away, and had me straight into the drops and chasing a car down the road like a daft dog that's escaped from the garden.  However, a fairly harsh ride, and I could see how I might feel a bit beat up after 60 miles.  If I was a crit racer, I'd be all over this.
Giant TCR Composite - carbon, part Ultegra, reduced to £1500.
Not a bad compromise, stiffer than the covert, but didn't feel like I could 'light it up' in the way that the CAAD did.
All the following bikes were at a 20% discount.
Cervelo S2 - carbon aero frame, Ultegra, Ksyrium Equipes, £2000
Ey up, this is quick.  Stiff and responsive, but you feel the bumps as per the CAAD.  Also, I got the feeling it would be twitchy at high speed.  The second half of my little test route included a nice fast section with a very gentle downwards incline.  On the drops and giving it the beans, I could already feel it, not twitching, but communicating a LOT of info and made me think that I'd be wary of doing 35mph+.  It struck me that this is for a ballsy, experienced rider with better handling skills than me.

Cannondale Super Six 105, £1400-ish

Surprisingly similar to the CAAD, nice and quick but you feel the bumps.

Trek Madone 4.9 - Trek's traditional 'Pro' frameset, Di2, Bontrager kit £2080
With a 20% discount off the RRP for the 2013 model, I couldn't not give Di2 a go.   However, if I'm honest, I was a little bit 'meh'.  Don't get me wrong, instant shifting and all that, and the front mech auto-trim is something else, but the differences were sufficiently small that the £400 premium and uglier paint job than the 4.5 were deal-breakers.
However, the frame was awesome.  Stiff, light, willing to accelerate, and just takes the edge off the bumps.  Couldn't call it 'comfy', but I guess that's what the Domane is for.
Trek Madone 5.2 - Aero frame, Ultegra, Bontrager, £2,300
Lovely bike, but the frame properties didn't seem any different from the 4 series.  Biggest difference was that nice Ultegra chainset, really solid.
Trek Madone 4.5 - Trek's traditional 'Pro' frameset, mix of Ultegra and 105, Bontrager kit, £1600.
Awesome frame as above, nicer looking than the others in the 4 series.  Cheaper chainset, but that just means that my christmas present is already known.  I don't mind the same paintjob as the pro bikes so long as there aren't any sponsor logos, so this hits the spot.

Trek 4.5 it is then. THIS IS THE BIKE I BOUGHT! (just to clarify for those who I'd confused - sorry!)
Also of note is that I'm always told that people buy bikes with their hearts.  I didn't, otherwise I'd have been lured by the Cervelo, the Colnago that I didn't get to try, or gone for the Madone 4 on project one with a snazzy paintjob.  The brand is a bit corporate, but the geometry is just right, and the frame characteristics are lush.  I bought this with my head- mostly.


billyman [146 posts] 2 years ago

I have a cannondale and have to agree that it is very firm and harsh but I do love it, you get used to the firmness tbh, downhill 45mph I am fine with, I feel confident on it, and it's so so fast in acceleration I do tend to leave friends behind rather quickly.

I may be thick sorry but I couldn't tell what bike it was you went for in the end ha.

Simon E [2483 posts] 2 years ago

Very interesting and informative. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

Raleigh [1665 posts] 2 years ago


Should've gone for the S2

PJ McNally [588 posts] 2 years ago

Buying with the head or with the heart?

(Great write-up btw - and I think you bought the final Trek, right?  3 )

For me - everyday commuter bike - it has to be with the head. It has to be practical. So I ride a Trek, built up to carry all my stuff, and my daughter.

But my roadie, or my singlespeed - that's where the heart comes in. Because ultimately I don't need these bikes - they are frivolous - so that's where the fun happens!

jasecd [289 posts] 2 years ago

I think I'm being thick as well - which did you buy?

Mostyn [396 posts] 2 years ago

I think you should have bought a Canyon CF or a Cube. Cervelo? Well over-priced.

What the hell did you buy?

Super Domestique [1596 posts] 2 years ago
jasecd wrote:

I think I'm being thick as well - which did you buy?

Glad I wasn't the only one then!  13

I think a Trek - but you should have bought a Spesh Tarmac!!!!!!  16

notfastenough [3655 posts] 2 years ago

Haha, sorry! - have updated the post now to clarify.

I was thinking about Canyon, Cube or Focus, but with the discounts in play, the CF 7.0 was really specced as well, and the CF 8.0 was a bit too much, and is Campag, which wasn't what i was after. The Cube and Focus are available at Edinbugh Bicycle, but the location isn't really convenient for me. That might sound like a weak reason but I'm juggling this with the missus being pregnant, having building work done, and still getting into the swing of things in my new job.

Bear in mind as well, that because Trek have gone with the aero frame design for the 5-upwards (and indeed on the 4 for the new model year), the 4 is their current top-flight version of the 'pro' frameset, so the frame is basically the 6 series of a couple of years ago.

rcdavies [26 posts] 1 year ago

Just come across your blog entry.

I went through a very similar process in September and came to virtually the same conclusion.

Looking for my first carbon bike, upgrading from an ebay alu Trek 1.5 that has served well as my first road bike and now a worthy winter bike.

I used a try-before-you-buy approach; if I'm spending around £2k, I want to be sure that I'm getting what I want.

My first tests were on Trek Madone & Domane 4.5's and the Madone became the benchmark by which all subsequent bikes were measured.

One of my nearsest LBS is a Focus & Scott stockist. Didn't care too much for the Focus offerings although they were good value. The Scott (CR1 Pro I think) had a good level of kit and felt very fast. It was a contender.

I then used my local Evans shop to try a couple of Italian thoroughbreds. Evans may not be too well thought of but they can order in a great range of bikes to try out and will price match a number of online retailers. Colnago CLX 3.0 just didn't fit me well and felt heavy. Bianchi Infinito (not CV) was beautiful and heart-grabbing.

In the end it boiled down to a heart vs head decision and I went with the Madone 4.7, all Ultegra upgrade from the 4.5. It was £400 less than the Bianchi @ £1980 with Ultegra pedals thrown in. I absolutely love it - it smoothes out the tarmac but is so fast. Now we are through the winter and back on summer bikes I can't wait to get on it as often as I can. Bought with the head but it rules my heart now.