First road bike buying advice

cogumel0
cogumel0 Posts: 6
edited July 2015 in Road buying advice
Hi chaps,

I'm turning 30 (damn I'm getting old...) and decided to buy myself a present for my birthday: a road bike.

I've always really enjoyed riding a bicycle, but haven't done it quite as much as I would have liked. In fact, to be completely honest I haven't ridden a bike at all for the past 2 years (I recently started riding a mountain bike that I found in the cellar falling apart and frame way too small for me, but it gets me from A to B and lets me go out for a ride in the evening which feels great - except for the bugs going in my mouth as I live close to a farm).

I've never owned a road bike, hell in fact the most expensive bike I ever had probably cost under £150, so this will be my first. As such, I'm really torn in what to go for.

On one hand, I want to get value for money, I would like to start cycling a lot more (maybe do the London to Brighton next year and London to Paris the year after that?) and as such I don't want to get something cheap and cheerful that will be great for me starting up now but, if I really start taking this more seriously will start slowing me down in a year or two meaning I'd have to invest in a new one. In other words, I'd rather spend a bit more and have something that's a bit more future proof, both in terms of spec and in terms of what the bike allows for if the rider is good, than spend less and later find out the bike is 'holding me back'.

On the other hand, I also don't want to overspec too much. I.e., will I really notice the difference between a set of wheels that costs £300 vs one that costs £600 immediately? Will I notice it in a years time?

So for the last couple of weeks I've obsessed about this and pretty much came down to the following minimum requirements: carbon frame, under 8.5kg, min Shimano 105 (or equiv) groupset, ideally full groupset.

I've looked at brands like Rose, Canyon, Ribble, Planet X, Radon, Chinese frames (and building my own bike), and pretty much any other brand you can think of. In the end, I sort of limited it to Canyon and Radon - they seem to offer the most for your money and have really good reputation (specially Canyon).

I was (and still am) really keen on Canyon, but was undecided between the Ultimate CF SL and the Endurace CF. What attracted me to the Ultimate CF SL 8.0 vs the Endurace CF 8.0 was the better groupset (Athena vs 105) and the (much?) better wheelset (Mavic Ksyrium Elite S vs DT Swiss R 24), but I couldn't justify the €400 difference for the very first bike (paying in Euros, I actually live in Germany - don't speak the language though).

After giving them a call, they convinced me the Endurace CF 8.0 was the right one for me, with the more relaxed sitting position yet still very much a racing bike. I ended up ordering one for €1499. And the next day I got an e-mail saying they were sold out. In fact all Endurace anywhere remotely close to my frame size are sold out.

So, now I'm looking again for something else. My main concern at this stage is with the frame size.

I'm 1.72cm and have an inseam length of around 80cm. I've been to a couple of shops and even though they didn't actually take measurements they both gave me a 52cm bike to try and they both said that was the perfect frame size for me - even before I actually got on the bike. I didn't get to try a 54cm bike though as neither had one in stock, so I don't know if a 54cm would be better for me.

Canyon's online frame size calculator tells me I'm an S, which I believe is the equivalent of a 51/53 frame, depending on model, so that seems to fit.

However, bearing in mind that this is my first road bike, and the fact that the Ultimate has a rather racy posture, would I be better off - i.e., more comfortable, easier to start on a road bike, etc - going for the XS size? What would the difference be?

Then there's the spec itself. The Ultimate CF SL starts at €1599 (Ultimate CF SL 7.0) with Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium One wheels. The next model up (Ultimate CF SL 8.0) is €300 more (after discount of €100 that started today) but has Campagnolo Athena and Mavic Ksyrium Elite S wheels. In my mind, it's worth the difference, but is it really? Again, don't want to overspec to a point I won't even ever notice the difference, but don't want to be held back by the bike in 1-2 years time either.

And then there's the Radon. For €1799 they offer a full carbon bike (Spire 7.0) with full Ultegra groupset and Ksyrium Elite S wheels. The equivalent on Canyons side (with the Ultegra groupset) is the Ultimate CF SL 9.0 which costs €2199.

From what I read, it doesn't sound like it's worth paying €200 for Ultegra instead of Athena, specially as I have no tools for either Shimano or Campagnolo, so I don't think I'd ever consider the Ultimate CF SL 9.0 over the Ultimate CF SL 8.0, so I'm comparing the Ultimate CF SL 8.0 vs the Radon Spire 7.0.

The price difference is €100 in the favour of the Radon Spire 7.0, but Canyon seems to be a much more established brand, with far better customer satisfaction and reviews being done. I did find a comparison in a German website between the Radon and the Canyon and even though they both scored really well, it said the frame was better on the Canyon, so I think it makes sense the €100 difference for better customer service and a better frame.

I know this is a really really long post, but as I said I've been obsessing about this for a while now and neither of these companies allow you to "try before you buy" unless you go to their showrooms, which I'm not prepared to do as I live quite far away, so I want to make sure I get the right thing.

So...

- Do you think I should go for an XS frame size instead of the S frame size?
- Do you think the geometry on the Ultimate is too steep for someone just starting on the road bike thing and I should wait until the next Endurace models from Canyon to come out?
- Am I obsessing too much about 'just a bike'? (actually don't answer that one!)
- Is that much difference between the Ultimate CF SL 7.0 over the Ultimate CF SL 8.0 that justifies the extra €300 for a newbie in road bikes (though remember again I don't want to be limited by what the bike can do 1-2 years from now)?

Comments

  • I think you need to give every single aspect of this purchase a LOT more thought and consideration
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • cogumel0
    cogumel0 Posts: 6
    Ok, I might agree with you, but why do you say that? Where is my current line of thought faulty?
  • gdcfc1
    gdcfc1 Posts: 127
    Irony, dude
    looking into the +1
  • rowlers
    rowlers Posts: 1,614
    Sooooo much to read in the 1st post, I'd guess most are just gonna skip it and move on to next thread!

    Summarise your requirements, height/weight what your going to use it for etc... and you'll get more replies ;)
  • I'd say, if you have the money then go for the higher spec one.

    In my experience, I'm much more likely to regret going too cheap than going too expensive. If you go cheap, you'll probably then end up obsessing about upgrades and end up spending more in the end than just getting the "right" one in the first place.

    I'm thinking about the Endurace CF9.0 myself. Main delaying factor is that my wife says I have to sell a couple of bikes first (more from the point of view of space than that I will get much money for the bikes that need to be sold). The Endurace will suit me more than the Ultimate - I'm into my 40s now and I'm only going to get less flexible rather than more flexible and I would happily trade a little bit of speed for a bit more comfort.
    Never be tempted to race against a Barclays Cycle Hire bike. If you do, there are only two outcomes. Of these, by far the better is that you now have the scalp of a Boris Bike.
  • DKay
    DKay Posts: 1,652
    If you've never had a road bike before, then I personally wouldn't be looking to spunk well over a grand on your first one. I'd buy something cheaper first, possibly secondhand, as it will still feel like a rocketship compared to a £150 clunker. Then either relegate the cheap bike to winter duties, or sell it on for a minimal loss and upgrade when you're sure you like the sport, you understand what geometry suits you best and your skills and fitness has improved to the point where you'll get the most from a better bike.

    This is what I'd do anyway.

    *edit* I'd say a 52cm/size S frame would suit you best at your height. I'm 164cm with a 75cm inside leg and both of my bikes are XS.
  • It's probably not what you want to hear but I agree with post above about not splashing so much cash on your first bike. There are some cracking aluminium bikes out there for well under a grand with 105. Save some cash for maybe a wheel upgrade and if you don't already have it some high quality clothing, especially winter stuff, which will make a big difference in how much you ride.

    If you really get into it in a consistent way then in a couple of years go for that dream cf bike, and you have your winter "beater" already in hand.

    Just my twopence worth!

    Hope you enjoy whatever you decide to go for in the end :-)
  • bing gordon
    bing gordon Posts: 662
    Just get a Specialized and be done :)





    (Puts tin hat on for incoming)
  • markhewitt1978
    markhewitt1978 Posts: 7,614
    Too long didn't read. However Canyon make good bikes, I hired one in Mallorca, an Ultimate CF SL and it was a dream to ride.

    Will you notice the difference between a £300 wheelset and £600 - probably not. But; you would notice the difference between a £100 set and a £300 set.

    Your requirement of getting 105 is a good one, just make sure it's 11 speed 105 (often referred to as 5800)
  • RonRon83
    RonRon83 Posts: 11
    I would also take in consideration the selling 2nd hand issue.

    Why?

    It's your first bikes, so it's 1 out of the 2, in a short while:

    1. You don't like the hobby, you will want to sell.
    2. You will really like the hobby, you will upgrade.

    In terms of which specific model, go out and test, this is the only way to go, for sure if you are a beginner.

    Hope I'd help,

    Have fun and ride safely
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    Sorry to buck the trend but I disagree with the whole cheap first bike thing.
    If you really like cycling, not only will you upgrade, but you may well keep the first bike as a second/winter bike.

    Why ride around on a worse bike than you need to for ages and then have a second/winter bike, that you don't like/want to ride, when you eventually get a new one?

    Aim high, then aim even higher for your next bike.
    Having a decent first bike is more enjoyable and gives you more options (as a main bike, second bike, or even if you sell it) when you come to move on.

    If you find you do not like cycling, sell it (it will be easier to sell if its decent) and move on.

    Just make sure its not too big and don't go crazy (£1000-1500 should do it).
  • bagz3
    bagz3 Posts: 253
    What is your actual budget?
  • ai_1
    ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    Sorry to buck the trend but I disagree with the whole cheap first bike thing.
    If you really like cycling, not only will you upgrade, but you may well keep the first bike as a second/winter bike.

    Why ride around on a worse bike than you need to for ages and then have a second/winter bike, that you don't like/want to ride, when you eventually get a new one?

    Aim high, then aim even higher for your next bike.
    Having a decent first bike is more enjoyable and gives you more options (as a main bike, second bike, or even if you sell it) when you come to move on.

    If you find you do not like cycling, sell it (it will be easier to sell if its decent) and move on.

    Just make sure its not too big and don't go crazy (£1000-1500 should do it).
    For a newcomer I think anything with Sora or better groupset, a half decent alloy frame, R500/Aksium/Fulcrum Racing 7 level wheels, good tyres and a saddle that suits them, will, if sized correctly be more than enough bike to get started and stay useful and enjoyable for time to come.
    An experienced cyclist may be able to detect differences in handling, gear change smoothness, weight on the hills etc but I don't believe these things have much impact on a beginner for the first year or so. I started 4.5 years ago on a second hand alloy Specialised Tricross cyclocross bike with road tyres and though I've since ridden a few nice few Ultegra level carbon bikes and I now own one, I don't for a second regret not spending more at the start. For one thing a beginner may well have different geometry requirements to a more experienced rider. I now use a much lower bar with a bit less reach and a narrower handlebars. I don't think I would have been comfortable like this when I started and my current bike, which is perfect for me now, could not have provided the more upright position I needed until my body got used to riding.

    I think a cheap (but not rubbish) but not rubbish first bike is the way to go. You can sell it later if you wish. And you'll know exactly what you want, if or when you upgrade.
  • keef66
    keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Our eldest son bought his first road bike last year. He was on a tight budget, but looks were also an important consideration for him. Bagged the outgoing Wiggle special Felt F95 for under £300. Sora shifters / mechs, FSA chainset, basic Felt branded wheelset / Alex rims and Felt branded calipers, bars, stem, seatpost and saddle. He's a fair weather cyclist, so the lack of mudguard mounting options doesn't matter to him.

    It's served him well so far; he's become obsessed with Strava :roll:
  • grenw
    grenw Posts: 803
    My wife just bought the bottom of the range AL Canyon Endurace - it meets all of your demands (weight, 105) only it's not carbon but it's darned light and was a bargain at £850. Full 105, Aksium wheels and full carbon fork. It's proved itself on everything from multiple turbo sessions a week to a 205 mile coast to coast the other week.

    Just for sizing. She's 5' 5" and her XS fits perfectly.
  • Giraffoto
    Giraffoto Posts: 2,078
    Aluminium frames can be pretty good, and you'll save money for clothes/shoes/helmet
    Specialized Roubaix Elite 2015
    XM-057 rigid 29er
  • cogumel0
    cogumel0 Posts: 6
    Wow, definitely didn't expect such a massive number of replies.

    It seems that there are two schools of thought:

    - Buy something cheap and cheerful first, upgrade later
    - Buy something better than what you need *right now*, so that you don't have to upgrade again in 1-2 years time.

    While true that I do not know how often I am going to use the bike or even if I'm going to enjoy it, I fear that if I go for something cheap and cheerful I won't be giving it a proper try at all. The chances of me being disappointed will be far higher and therefore I'll be more likely to just give up on it very early on.

    That's my concern with the first approach, and why my line of thought is far more in-line with the second suggested approach.

    I've found some really good bikes made by Radon (the bike specks are incredible value for money and they have really good reviews in German websites, despite being quite unknown outside of Germany) and am currently looking at purchasing with them.

    I am no longer considering Canyon at all, long short story is I actually placed an order with them and the customer service went really wrong in all possible accounts so I ended up cancelling it.

    Right now, I'm revisiting the alu vs carbon argument. Radon's bikes start at €999 (£720~) for an alu frame, carbon fork, Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels.

    For €1279 (£920~) I could go for an alu frame, carbon fork, full Shimano Ultegra, Mavic Ksyrium Equipe S wheels, etc...

    Their first full carbon bike starts at €1799 (£1300~) with full Shimano Ultegra, Mavic Ksyrium Elite S and a few more goodies, but I'm just not sure it's worth it.

    On one hand, it seems like a massive amount of money to pay for the carbon vs alu, on the other hand comfort is definitely one of the things that involuntarily will be influencing me in deciding whether to take this as a sport or not and how much I will be cycling...

    Thoughts?
  • cogumel0
    cogumel0 Posts: 6
    Just to add, if Radon had a full carbon bike with carbon fork, Shimano 105 and Mavic Aksium wheels I don't think I'd even be asking this question.

    From what I read, it seems like the difference between 105 and Ultegra is smaller than ever (and the groupset can always be upgraded anyway) and while I'm sure that there's a massive difference between the Mavic Ksyrium Elite S and Mavic Aksium S wheels, it is unlikely I will notice it *that much* in the first 1-2 years at which point I should probably start looking at replacing them anyway...

    The frame however... is not so easy to just swap out, and that's why I'm so torn between going carbon or alu atm.
  • ai_1
    ai_1 Posts: 3,060
    Just to add, if Radon had a full carbon bike with carbon fork, Shimano 105 and Mavic Aksium wheels I don't think I'd even be asking this question.

    From what I read, it seems like the difference between 105 and Ultegra is smaller than ever (and the groupset can always be upgraded anyway) and while I'm sure that there's a massive difference between the Mavic Ksyrium Elite S and Mavic Aksium S wheels, it is unlikely I will notice it *that much* in the first 1-2 years at which point I should probably start looking at replacing them anyway...

    The frame however... is not so easy to just swap out, and that's why I'm so torn between going carbon or alu atm.
    This is why I would advocate the cheaper bike first approach. At the beginning, you really have no experience on which to base decisions. You don't know how much time you'll spend onthe bike, whether comfort is even an issue for you, whether you'll be going in search of hills or prefer flatter rides. Also, if buying online without a bikefit and without experience, there's a high likelyhood of ending up with a poor fit - this is far more important than any aspect of the bike spec.

    For groupsets - Ultegra 6800 is great but 105 or even Tiagra and Sora work very well too and they won't detract from your enjoyment of the bike. They're a little heavier which is mostly irrelevant but functionally they work fine.

    What it comes down to is this:
    Any bike you buy will, in most respects, be far superior to a Tour de France winning bike of the past.
    Current gears from Sora level up (and equivalent SRAM and Campagnolo) work extremely well. Brakes work very well too aside from the fact that cable driven rim brakes are still the norm. As you move up the price brackets you get reduced weight, slight improvements in refinement and maybe an extra sprocket but functionally there's not a whole lot of difference. I truely believe the groupset will not impact your enjoyment of cycling or have any bearing on how much you do and how likely you are to keep it up. If there's one thing that might but probably won't have an impact on these things it's the feel of the hoods. I considered SRAM Force last time around but changed my mind after a test ride, because I didn't find the hoods terribly comfortable for my hands and position, I might have grown to like them but didn't want to take the chance.
    IMO an expensive bike (€1000+) will be a bit of a lottery. It may well be a great bike but it might not be perfectly suited to you. Whereas a good but cheaper bike (€500-€1000) will give you a great intro to cycling and is much lower risk. If you're happy with it but want something more upmarket later, you can keep it as a backup or if there are any sizing issues or you just don't want it anymore, you can sell it without losing a huge amount of money. Either way, if you do go for a more upmarket bike later you'll know exactly what you want and have a good idea what it's worth to you.

    Incidentally, the two hardware choices that I think will have the most significant impact on day to day use of the bike are rim brakes versus disk brakes and mechanical groupset versus electronic shifting. The latter is probably out of your current budget anyway and disk brakes are still pretty new on road bikes with a limited selection of bikes available.

    We tend to obsess about the hardware a bit on these forums because they're something to talk about. In reality cycling is about the person, not the bike. Almost all bikes are now reasonably comfortable and the hardware generally works very well.
  • DKay
    DKay Posts: 1,652
    Wow, definitely didn't expect such a massive number of replies.

    It seems that there are two schools of thought:

    - Buy something cheap and cheerful first, upgrade later
    - Buy something better than what you need *right now*, so that you don't have to upgrade again in 1-2 years time.

    While true that I do not know how often I am going to use the bike or even if I'm going to enjoy it, I fear that if I go for something cheap and cheerful I won't be giving it a proper try at all. The chances of me being disappointed will be far higher and therefore I'll be more likely to just give up on it very early on.

    Thoughts?

    A sub £1000 road bike doesn't have to be 'cheap and cheerful'. Bikes in that price bracket are very good and I think it's safe to say; that if there is a chance you're going to give up road biking, an extra 10% of ultimate performance of a much more expensive bike won't make a jot of difference.

    If you want to spend more because you want the extra kudos of having a more expensive bike, then that's fine. But I think you're trying to kid yourself that you want the more expensive bike, because it will motivate you to get out more.
  • cogumel0
    cogumel0 Posts: 6
    Right, so I just went and tried 2 bikes at a bike shop, one carbon, the other aluminium.

    Both from the same company (Cube), both with the same groupset and I believe the same wheels. Both with the same seat post and saddle and both same frame size.

    Obviously the geometry of the frame etc is not something I can control, but I tried to make it as similar as possible across the two bikes.

    I first rode the aluminum frame bike, and I found it quite responsive good transfer of power and sort of fast too, but I found I could feel every tiny little imperfection on the road. When going down the pavement, I could feel the bit where the two stones joined together. When riding on tarmac I could feel the small little imperfections on it. I went down a rather uneven road with road bumps and tree roots growing under the tarmac pushing it upwards and I found I could barely stay seated, but also that there was a lot of vibration coming through the frame.

    This is not to say that it was a bad ride, I quite enjoyed it with the exception of going down the 'crap road'.

    I then got on the carbon bike and did exactly the same route.

    The very first thing I noticed was how much smoother it was. It was like I was riding on air. I could no longer feel the small imperfections in the road, I couldn't feel the joints between the stones in the pavement, it was all just smoothed out. Even when going on the 'crappy road' I felt there was a lot less vibration which meant I could keep pedaling through most of the beating the bike was taking. I was also able to stay seated through most of it.

    So, in short, as far as comfort goes I could tell a massive difference between the two.

    However... I also felt that the carbon bike felt a bit 'dead'. Since all sensation was smoothed out and it felt like I was riding on air, there was no 'communication' between the road, bike and rider. I also felt like the power transfer was not as good as the aluminium one or that I could go as fast. I felt I needed to use far more energy to achieve the same results.

    Now, it is entirely possible that this was simply because since everything was smoothed out on the carbon frame, it also removed the sense of speed and as a result I was actually going at the same speed or faster just without realizing it. Maybe the feeling of using more energy for the same effort was actually using more energy for more speed. Maybe it was because I rode the alu bike first and was already tired by the time I got to ride the carbon one. Maybe it's because the carbon fibre bike was very much an entry level carbon bike (~£1000 with full Shimano 105), no idea.

    Anyway, I now know that the difference in comfort between alu and carbon is quite big, but so is the feel of the ride, which is something I enjoyed more on the alu one.

    I'm sure this is something that I can get used to if I go for carbon, but rather than answering questions I think this just raised even more new questions...

  • I'm sure this is something that I can get used to if I go for carbon, but rather than answering questions I think this just raised even more new questions...

    Yes, plenty more options to consider.
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles