Where to set the limit... (Another 'My first road bike'...)

chiark Posts: 335
edited June 2011 in Road buying advice
Hi folks
I know, I'm doing the newbie thing, and I apologise for that. What bike, what size, what equipment level...

I've ridden a mountain bike of one sort or another for the last 20 years (sheesh), and now realise that the huge majority of my miles are on road. I still enjoy the single track, so will be keeping the bike, and still will do quite a few canal towpath routes which the mountain bike is well suited to, but I want to add a road bike to the stable.

I started looking at the cycle to work scheme my employer has just started, but I can only get Halfords stuff. Whilst the Boardman Team Road is nice, it's not quite floating my boat mostly because halfords will not give a test ride, and I'm not buying a bike blind after being bitten doing that once!

Plus I really don't know how much to spend... I want to spend as little as possible, but meet my criteria.

I think I want the impossible, and here's why:
- I want a frame that is utterly sound, and will be the basis of upgrades should I want to go that way.
- I'm not going to race competitively, but do want to do long-ish rides. (I know that's vague!)
- I think Sora is probably the lowest I should consider for performance and durability - my mountain bike is full XT groupset.
- I'd take a great alloy frame over entry carbon
- I am not terribly keen on the Sora downshifts...

I've taken test rides on a Cannondale Synapse alloy Sora, and a CAAD 8 Sora, both 54cm. The CAAD felt like a better fit on the 2 mile circuit I did, but I'm wondering if I will regret that given my more sportive ideals! Perhaps a 56 Synapse would be a good compromise... I'm also considering the Trek 1.2, and the Specialized Allez Sport.

My big query: should I push to go to Tiagra? Or if I'm doing that, why not push more to go to 105, and look for a BB30 equipped bike too with 10 speed? Will BB30 be the future standard for all bikes, including entry level? Will I regret not spending the extra now?

But if I'm then looking at a CAAD 8 105, would I not be better looking at the CAAD 10 105 because I've got an upgrade path?

And, in a few paragraphs, I've gone from spending £600 to £1300... which I find hard to justify!

I think everyone will have gone through something like this challenge. If the Sora downshift mech were like the Tiagra, then I'd have that in an instant and be done with it... Or if the Tiagra was less than £150 jump in price I'd take that, as it seems I'd end up with 105 if I did upgrade...

Size-wise, I'm 6'0, 12 st 10, with about an 85cm inside leg, so I'm thinking 56 is right.

Any advice? Particularly on how to deal with the slight dislike I have for the way Sora downshifts work?

thanks in advance for tolerance of this question again.
Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl


  • TMR
    TMR Posts: 3,986
    Personally, I would go for the Synapse 105 out of all the bikes you've listed. Only you can know whether the expense is worth while though.
  • ShutUpLegs
    ShutUpLegs Posts: 3,522
    Also consider something second hand, £600 will get a pretty decent spec
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Thanks! I was half expecting "TL;DR, try the FAQ" ;)

    I shall nip out and try a 56cm Synapse Sora... And then if I really, truly, utterly can't get on with the Sora shifters I could minimise expenditure and go for a set of 5500 shifters for £130 from Merlin... 700 for Sora vs 1000 for 105 5600... I could do a lot with £300... But then I could go Tiagra for £850.


    I am looking second hand too, both on here, on ebay and gumtree... Not a lot around like this, I guess because people keep 'em!
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • RowCycle
    RowCycle Posts: 367
    I had the same problem when I got my new bike. Kept talking myself up in price. I'll buy another entry level bike £550, but I could go a bit better The next model up is £750. But then for £300 more I could get a 105 Focus with carbon frame from Wiggle. Wow, I can tell my mates I've a carbon bike. But then the Ultegra Focus is only £250 more than the 105... But that's not far off the basic Trek madone which I've always like.

    Before long I'd gone from £550 to £1500.

    Then had to humble up and talk myself back down a bit.

  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    It's really good to know I'm not alone doing that... I started with a budget of £500. Then was persuaded I should really consider Sora the entry level, which pushes to £700.

    And then, just as you did, you get into the 'but it's only X for the next level' and the fear of regretting it later sets in.

    Can I ask what you ended up going for?
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • night_porter
    night_porter Posts: 888
    Considering that you are limited to Halfords anyway they sell 2 ranges of bikes that are both well built and extremely good value for money.

    Boardmans are well liked by nearly everyone who has owned or ridden one, although CB himself says they are designed to be race orientated. Should be worth a look though

    Sram Apex is also 10 speed like Shimano 105 and have the advantage of double tap levers. For £800 you get a lot of bike with a great reputation.

    http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stor ... yId_165710

    Personally I do not believe there is any advantage with 105 over Tiagra. Having an extra gear in the middle of the range makes little or no difference (I have 10 speed Sram Red and 9 speed Tiagra). This bike was my choice when I was in your position and I would definately choose it again (I still have it!).

    http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stor ... yId_165710

    Although sold by Halfords they are made by Merida and are simply brilliant bikes.

    Plus for £500 for a Tiagra equipped bike with Shimano R500 wheels you cannot go wrong. Add to that you can add mudguards these bikes are amazing value for money.

    No doubt someone who has never ridden one will tell you otherwise but I own one and believe it to be true.
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Thanks Night_Porter, that's really useful. I must admit I'm not overly bothered about the cycle to work scheme, as it's not quite as attractive as it used to be with the change of final purchase price, so I've been looking outside of that especially given the advice I received at the nearest halfords.

    I asked the difference between the road comp and the team, and the guy read the spec card for me. Asking what difference BB30 made, I was told 'it's better grease in the bearings'.

    I wish I was joking, I really do, but after that I'd rather give someone with a passion for bikes my money! And to someone who will let me take a test ride: the geometry and fit is more important than the groupset...

    Plus I mostly work from home, so am probably not properly eligible for the scheme!


    That Carrera you've linked to ticks every point, plus at 499.99 it sneaks under the 500 quid cutoff for value on the c2w scheme, meaning option to buy is %18, not 25% after a year. It'd cost me £22 a month, and £90 to buy it after 12 months...
    The Team would cost £45/mo, but then cost me £250 to buy...

    The snob in me is screaming though... ;) I can't help but feel I'd have to justify it every bloody time I ride it, and I'd turn into one of those Skoda owners who has to tell people how much better it is than a VW, even though it's the same car for a lot less money. We all know at least one of those :D .
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • mr_poll
    mr_poll Posts: 1,547
    If you want to test ride - whereabouts do you live, some BR's can probably suggest some good shops in your area.
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Good idea - Leeds :D

    I've test ridden the Cannondale stuff at Evans in the centre, and they were exceptionally helpful so if I go down the Cannondale route I'll end up going back to them.

    I'll try a different halfords, too.
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • night_porter
    night_porter Posts: 888
    Just for info I have 5 bikes:

    Planet X SL Red carbon - summer fun bike

    Giant Defy 1 - summer commuter bike

    Carrera Vanquish - winter commuter bike

    Giant Cypress - hack for shops and turbo

    Raleigh Tandem - Taking my daughter to school

    I ride them all and have even ridden 4 different ones in one day for real journeys.

    Before you ask yes I do have a car too or as I like to call it "support vehicle"
  • buckmulligan
    buckmulligan Posts: 1,031
    Yeah, having just bought my first 'proper' road bike, I'd definitely go for at least a Tiagra groupset. Once you start clocking up some serious miles, you really appreciate how smooth and shifting it is compared to the Sora (especially under load). I recently rode a friend's bike with a Sora groupset and it felt very clunky in comparison (but then again I do keep my drivetrain OCD clean).

    Not sure about 105 as I've never tried it, but if the only discernable difference is a few grams in weight and an extra gear on the back, I really wouldn't bother.
  • Avezius
    Avezius Posts: 132
    Which cycle scheme does your employer use?

    Cyclescheme get around the revised fair market value fee by offering a further 36month hire agreement for £0 per month after a small deposit. At the end of the 4 years the bike is worth...that initial deposit you paid (7% for bikes over £500).

    Basically it's a tax fiddle to keep the low fair market value - as long as you don't mind the bike not being "yours" for that extended 3 years. If your scheme offer's this, it becomes more attractive again.

  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Hi Dan, yes, ours works like that, but I don't like being beholden to anyone :D
    Buck, thanks, I think Tiagra might be where I want to be.
    Night_Porter, nice collection!

    Well, just been to Halfords. The chap there told me not to bother with the Vanquish as the frame isn't nearly as good as Boardman, and that I'd be better off spending 150 quid extra to get the entry level boardman with worse kit. :shock:

    Also went to the Edinburgh Bike Shop, as they have both specialised and cannondale... Really helpful guy (Adam) who recommended the Cannondale as being better value for money than Specialized in this year's bikes - last year was a different story though. I mentioned I wanted a bike I could upgrade, and he said if I'm thinking of upgrading to 105 in the future, go for 105 now otherwise it'll cost a hell of a lot and I'd never do it :)

    he could have a point.

    So i need to decide whether to spend 700, 850 or 1000 first, it seems.

    The one thing that stops me buying a sora right now is knowing I'd want the Tiagra (or better) shifters. Damn.

    In terms of shops now visited:
    - Halfords Guiseley. Avoid at all costs.
    - Woodrup. Excellent advice, Specialized only (plus others, like scott, and more)
    - Evans. Superb. Two test rides taken on Cannondale CAAD 8 and Synapse
    - Halfords York Road. See above. Friendly, but no test rides.
    - The Bike Shop. Specialized dealer (plus others), good advice.
    - All Terrain Cycles. Bit uninterested in selling a bike at this level it seems? Recommended Trek, saying Cannondale were too expensive for what you get.
    - Edinburgh Bikes. Again, great advice. Recommended Cannondale CAAD 8 Tiagra but had no stock.

    So i need to make my mind up on budget, then go and ride for more than a couple of miles...

    All advice greatly appreciated, thank you so much, keep it coming!
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • night_porter
    night_porter Posts: 888
    Hmmm so you take the advice of a Halfords monkey over an owner eh?

    Shhh don't tell the guy from Halfords but they are both made by the same company in the same factory and use the same(ish) components. Unless of course it all happens to be a pure coincidence?

    But hey a salesperson would tell you to buy something more expensive now wouldn't he?

    Still it is your money and you have had my advice, so it is your choice!
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Indeed, thanks very much NP: that's worth more than a Halfords monkey!
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Well, after another test ride and a decision on how much to spend, I've ended up with...

    A Cannondale Synapse Alloy 105, 56cm, adding 105 pedals. Pick it up on Monday :D
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl
  • night_porter
    night_porter Posts: 888
    Very good choice, I am sure you will enjoy it so much more having agonised and justified the extra money.

    Welcome to the oh damn I just had to have it club.... :lol:
  • chiark
    chiark Posts: 335
    Cheers Night Porter, and thank you very much for your help and advice - it was greatly appreciated.

    At the end of the day it was a lot less than a gym membership would cost, and after my first ride last night I've made the right decision. Ended up going a huge amount faster than on my MTB, but of course that left me quite a lot more knackered ;) . Really looking forward to getting out again tonight or tomorrow!
    Synapse Alloy 105 / Rock Lobster Tig Team Sl