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  1. #1
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    Help me choose a comfortable road bike

    Hello all!

    It's been a while. Several years ago I bought a modest hybrid bike when I really wanted a nice, mid range road bike, and regretted it pretty much from day one.

    Well that bike was stolen last fall, and now that I am over the anger, and summer is approaching, I want desperately to buy the bike I really wanted. I have to convince the girlfriend, as my unilateral decision making days are over, but I have high hopes.

    Here's what I want: I want a comfortable, relaxed fitting bike with a more upright riding position than your average racing bike. I have been looking at a Cannondale Synapst 5 Compact bspbikes.com/product/12cannondale-synapse-5-compact-130125-1.htm Cannondale Synapse 5 Compact - Bicycle Sports Pacific, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Langley[/url] which is right on budget for me, and has the 105 level components I desire. But I don't want to just buy it without educating myself on other, perhaps better options.

    This is a pleasure bike only, I will not race. I will commute on it, ride for pleasure, perhaps do some weekend rides, and if I get brave, the ride to conqer cancer from vancouver to seattle.

    One thig I am concerned about with the synapse, I have heard that on the larger size frames, the handlebars are considerably lower than on the smaller versions of the bike. I am 6'2 so I will definitely be on a large frame. Having a relaxed, comofortable geometry is very important to me, I feel quite unstable if the handlebards are too low.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  2. #2
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    The terms "comfortable, relaxed fitting" are very personal when choosing a bike but you will gain far more comfort if you choose tires and wheels wisely. Most modern bikes come with 23mm wide tires which for the average person are not the best choice by far. They need too much pressure to provide any comfort.

    You should be looking for bikes that will take at least 25mm wide tires and probably bigger, like 28 and 32mm ones. Then you can run sub-100PSI pressures and gain real comfort. Not all frames will take tires above 25mm and some not even those.

    Look at sites like Rivendell and VeloOrange who are anti race bike for general riding. Peter White Cycles works on the same theory but he doesn't sell bikes. There's a load of wisdom on his site.

    Then there is wheel choice. Many modern bikes use low spoke count wheels to be "trendy" and this is a silly way to go. Those wheels are harsh compared to what you should have for your intended riding - hand built 32 or 36 spoke wheels.

    Good luck. Shop wisely and don't be led into the current racy bike culture.
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    I'm not cranky; I just have a violent reaction to stupid people.

  3. #3
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    The Synapse should be fine. But check out the specialized Secteur and Giant Defy as well. Get your Lbs to fit you right and any of those and several others would be nice comfortable bikes.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by NJBiker72 View Post
    The Synapse should be fine. But check out the specialized Secteur and Giant Defy as well. Get your Lbs to fit you right and any of those and several others would be nice comfortable bikes.
    Thanks, I did come across those as well and they did appeal to me. One of them though, I think it was the Defy seemed to cheap out on a few of the components.

    Can anyone who is an expert on geometry give me their thoughts on this bike? www konaworld com/road.cfm?content=zing_deluxe - local shop has it on special, and i like the colour. Bad reason to buy a bike, but if it's otherwise okay....

    Also curious about this one www devinci com/bikes/browse_13#13_41_144 althought it might be a bit out of price range as I think I recall devinicis being higher priced.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    The terms "comfortable, relaxed fitting" are very personal when choosing a bike but you will gain far more comfort if you choose tires and wheels wisely. Most modern bikes come with 23mm wide tires which for the average person are not the best choice by far. They need too much pressure to provide any comfort.

    You should be looking for bikes that will take at least 25mm wide tires and probably bigger, like 28 and 32mm ones. Then you can run sub-100PSI pressures and gain real comfort. Not all frames will take tires above 25mm and some not even those.

    Look at sites like Rivendell and VeloOrange who are anti race bike for general riding. Peter White Cycles works on the same theory but he doesn't sell bikes. There's a load of wisdom on his site.

    Then there is wheel choice. Many modern bikes use low spoke count wheels to be "trendy" and this is a silly way to go. Those wheels are harsh compared to what you should have for your intended riding - hand built 32 or 36 spoke wheels.

    Good luck. Shop wisely and don't be led into the current racy bike culture.
    Thanks Mike.

    I think actually this is a bit too far into the comfort zone for me. I still want a fast, lightweight bike, just one with a more upright riding position that a hardcore race bike that lance armstrong would ride. Last time I went bike shopping I bought the unsexy hybrid bike because I thought it'd be more practical, but I always felt like it was sluggish and not fun.It wasn't a super cheap bike either.

    I have played with the idea of getting a touring bike, but honestly, I'm not likely to tour anytime soon, and if i do, ill probably buy something used and fix it up for that purpose.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  6. #6
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    I am 6'2" and ride a 60cm Synapse Carbon 5 with 105 components. I am a recreational rider and not a racer. I am pleased with this bike. It provides a smooth ride. I have 10,000 miles on this bike. I am not a bike commuter, so I can't comment on that aspect. I have ridden several centuries on this bike. No problems.

  7. #7
    tlg
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    Go to your LBS and test ride a bunch of different bikes.

    What exactly didn't you like about your hybrid?
    I wouldn't necessarily rule them out. Not all hybrids are ultra heavy grandma bikes. And what you describe for your riding style sounds like you're a good fit for one.

    The cannondale Quick SL1 is similar in price and component group as the Synapse 5.
    And I think it's pretty sexy looking. It has wider tires and more if an upright riding position.

    This is a hybrid too. Quick Carbon 1. $3k and Damn sexy!

  8. #8
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    I recently bought a Synapse Alloy 6 Tiagra. Demo'd the Secteur as well as a Synapse 5 105. It was a toss up between the Synapse and the Secteur but I preferred the Shimano to the Sram on the Secteur. As far as Tiagra vs105 I thought the 2012 Tiagra 10 speed would be all I needed so I saved the cash. BTW I am 6'2" and went with a 58.

  9. #9
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    My Wife and I purchased Cannondale F-600 mountain bicycles several years ago. We could not be happier with them.
    Last summer we looked into road bicycles and revisited our bicycle shop. We road over a half dozen bicycles form both Trek and Cannondale, this process took over three hours. We both decided on Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5 with 105 components.

    Now being new to cycling I must say that the fitting of the bicycle is key for us. When we went to pick them up they spent over three hours for the both of us to set up all the adjustments. My wife tried several different stems during this process.

    There are so many adjustments that make so much of a difference.

    Now with many rides and several hundred miles we are still vary happy with our bicycle shop and bicycles.

    Best of luck on your decision.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlg View Post
    Go to your LBS and test ride a bunch of different bikes.

    What exactly didn't you like about your hybrid?
    I wouldn't necessarily rule them out. Not all hybrids are ultra heavy grandma bikes. And what you describe for your riding style sounds like you're a good fit for one.

    The cannondale Quick SL1 is similar in price and component group as the Synapse 5.
    And I think it's pretty sexy looking. It has wider tires and more if an upright riding position.

    Thanks, but honestly; been there, done that. I definitely want a true road bike, with drop bars. Just with more relaxed geometry, and looking for suggestions in that category.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  11. #11
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    I've got the 2012 Defy 1 and its a fantastic ride -> it should definitely be considered Giant Defy 1 Review - BikeRadar -> a review if you don't believe me!

    Whatever you end up going with, buy from a shop that will throw in a proper bike fit for free -> it doesn't matter how good the bike is if you're not fitted to it.

  12. #12
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    Specialized Roubaix

  13. #13
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    Ditto on finding a good LBS that will take the time to help you find the right bike, fit you properly and be there for service. There are many good bikes. All the major brands make good bikes. I think it's more important to find the right bike shop.

  14. #14
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    I have a 2009 Defy 1, and I absolutly love it. I test rode the Syanpse and the Trek 2.1, the Synapse felt like too much of a 'race' position and handling wasn't as forgiving, apparently i need alot of forgivenss;). the Trek and the Giant stood out immediately. I went for the Giant due to the shops' reputation over the shop with the Trek. The Defy has 'plush' geometry which is a full road bike, but puts you in a less tucked position for longer endurance. look at the head tube on a large or extra large on a plush vs. race bike and you will see the difference, the head tube is a lot taller. I have the full 105 componets and no complaints, i ended up upgrading the saddle and getting shallow drop bars for better comfort, but your kind of riding sounds just like mine. I am 6'3" and Large fits nice and the Defy was right for me
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Help me choose a comfortable road bike-defy-1.jpg  

  15. #15
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    Update on my search

    Quote Originally Posted by djake View Post
    I have a 2009 Defy 1, and I absolutly love it. I test rode the Syanpse and the Trek 2.1, the Synapse felt like too much of a 'race' position and handling wasn't as forgiving, apparently i need alot of forgivenss;). the Trek and the Giant stood out immediately. I went for the Giant due to the shops' reputation over the shop with the Trek. The Defy has 'plush' geometry which is a full road bike, but puts you in a less tucked position for longer endurance. look at the head tube on a large or extra large on a plush vs. race bike and you will see the difference, the head tube is a lot taller. I have the full 105 componets and no complaints, i ended up upgrading the saddle and getting shallow drop bars for better comfort, but your kind of riding sounds just like mine. I am 6'3" and Large fits nice and the Defy was right for me
    Thanks djake,

    I did briefly check out the Giant Defy 1 at a not so local bike shop as there is no giant dealer in my city that I know of. I didn't get to ride it, and was a tad unimpressed with the knowledge of the salesperson, seemed he didn't know a heck of a lot more than me. But it did seem like a great bang for my buck. On the short list.

    I test rode the Synapse 5 Alloy today and was disappointed. I found the handling very very "twitchy" for my liking, and while the ride was otherwise comfortable, the twitchiness was a deal breaker and made me feel unstable on the bike,

    I also visited a Kona Zing Deluxe, but sadly I was disappointed. Found it a bit harsh. One store classed this as a endurance bike, but I am not so sure, the other store felt it was definitely a "racier" bike. I haven't ruled it out completely, it does have some nicer componenst from what I can see, like ultegra in the back, and shimano cranks. The saddle however is awful.
    KONAWORLD

    The same shop that called the zing an "endurance bike" was pushing the Norco Valence Carbon 3. Valence Carbon Road-Endurance Road Bikes Norco Bicycles Seems like a deal for a full carbon bike, but they didn't have one in my size so i couldnt ride it.

    Finally I happned across a Felt Z85 and I liked this bike best of everything I tried today. It was the most comfortable and it was also a real looker. I also liked my experience at this shop the best About Fort Langley Cyclery. I am slightly confused as the bike they showed me had a totally different paint job that what appears on the website Z85 - Felt Bicycles The one in the shop looked more like this Z85 - Felt Bicycles which is a two year old model, which I suppose doesn't matter, but made me wonder. Anyway, really liked this bike.

    I keep hearing people talk about BB30. Canondale suggest this is now an industry standard, but I am not sure if this is true, or marketing BS. The felt z85 doesn't list this in the specs that I can tell, so if someone can shed some light on this I'd be most appreciative.

    Thanks in advance.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  16. #16
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    Any opinions on my shortlist?
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  17. #17
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    You should try the comparable Trek and Specialized if you have the chance. I say test ride as many bikes as you can and you'll have confidence that the bike you end up purchasing fits pretty well. The Trek 2.1 at $1500 MSRP looks comparable. Perhaps test riding a 2.1 would give you something else to compare. Aluminum frame + carbon fork + 105. The 2.1 has a SRAM Apex version.

  18. #18
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    I went through the rigors of what you are now experiencing. I did not want carbon and was leaning heavily towards the Specialized Secteur or one of the Cannondale Synapse...all of them aluminum with carbon forks and I think the Secteur had carbon seat stays too. I didn't check Felt but what you're showing looks really nice. That was pretty much what I was looking for at the time. Nice aluminum frame with a 105 setup and 25c tires that will smooth out any harshness from the aluminum. Sounds like what I probably would have gotten had the price been right.
    I checked several LBS in the area but had 'iffy' experiences with them and eventually went with a lugged steel bike off bikesdirect.com. I'm not shilling them...just my personal choice. If the guy at a Cincinnati LBS hadn't been such a dick, I'd probably be on a Cannondale Synapse right now. I love the steel but again, it's my personal choice and had I gotten the Cannondale, I'd probably be singing it's praises.
    The cassette on the Felt is a 11-25. I was looking for a little kinder gearing and got a 11-28. The 28 helps me out on those days when I'm really gasping for air but getting the 11-25 is not a deal killer if you really like the bike and, in the long run, will probably make you a better rider. And, you can always swap out the cassette if you want.
    Here's a couple of links regarding the BB30. Again, in my mind, not a deal killer but from my riding perspective only. Others will disagree..
    Does BB30 REALLY make a difference? [Archive] - Bike Forums
    Innovation - BB30
    Crankset and BB swap ?
    Check with some of the respondents in the road bike review. They seem to think that the bb swap was 'worthwhile'. The beauty is, you can ride it for a couple of years and if you think it'll help, then swap it out.

    Good luck in your search. I really like the Felt but don't let me influence you. My GF gave me grief because I took so long to make a choice but buying a bike is really a very personal thing. Take your time and look around. There are a bunch of great bikes out there.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueGrassBlazer View Post
    I went through the rigors of what you are now experiencing. I did not want carbon and was leaning heavily towards the Specialized Secteur or one of the Cannondale Synapse...all of them aluminum with carbon forks and I think the Secteur had carbon seat stays too. I didn't check Felt but what you're showing looks really nice. That was pretty much what I was looking for at the time. Nice aluminum frame with a 105 setup and 25c tires that will smooth out any harshness from the aluminum. Sounds like what I probably would have gotten had the price been right.
    I checked several LBS in the area but had 'iffy' experiences with them and eventually went with a lugged steel bike off bikesdirect.com. I'm not shilling them...just my personal choice. If the guy at a Cincinnati LBS hadn't been such a dick, I'd probably be on a Cannondale Synapse right now. I love the steel but again, it's my personal choice and had I gotten the Cannondale, I'd probably be singing it's praises.
    The cassette on the Felt is a 11-25. I was looking for a little kinder gearing and got a 11-28. The 28 helps me out on those days when I'm really gasping for air but getting the 11-25 is not a deal killer if you really like the bike and, in the long run, will probably make you a better rider. And, you can always swap out the cassette if you want.
    Here's a couple of links regarding the BB30. Again, in my mind, not a deal killer but from my riding perspective only. Others will disagree..
    Does BB30 REALLY make a difference? [Archive] - Bike Forums
    Innovation - BB30
    Crankset and BB swap ?
    Check with some of the respondents in the road bike review. They seem to think that the bb swap was 'worthwhile'. The beauty is, you can ride it for a couple of years and if you think it'll help, then swap it out.

    Good luck in your search. I really like the Felt but don't let me influence you. My GF gave me grief because I took so long to make a choice but buying a bike is really a very personal thing. Take your time and look around. There are a bunch of great bikes out there.

    Ah well, be glad your girlfriend only gave you grief for taking so long to decide, mine is dead set against me buying the bike at all. To be fair, we are not in the financial position to justify it right now. On the other hand, waiting until the end of the summer when we do have the money, as she suggested, or making it a Christmas gift makes to sense to me! So wish me luck on my planned combination of begging, grovelling and sweet talking.

    I think at this point I am pretty set on the Felt. I am torn though becuase I am certain the bike the shop has in stock is a 2010 model, and it seems the 2012 received some better wheels and some other minor upgrades. On the other hand, the 2010 has a much cooler colour scheme. I can understand why the LBS still has '10 models in stock as they are a very small shop that I think caters more to an older crowd, and "comfort" bike buyers simply due to their location.

    Still not understanding the fuss about BB30. Cannondale suggests it's stadard, but as far as I can tell the Felt Z85 does not use it, and almost every spec sheet for every bike I have looked at is alarmingly vague in this respect.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  20. #20
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    I have a 2011 Scott CR1 which is pretty impressive and comfortable and a 2012 Roubaix SL3 expert which is OUTSTANDING. Person I ride with has a Carbon Synapse with 105s and loves it. I got the Scott as a backup bike as the daughter took my 2008 Roubaix...i am pleasantly surprized by the ride and build of the Scott which i only paid $1450 for a carbon frame fully equipped with 105 flight deck. To get to your point however, out of all the bikes I have ridden the 2008 Roubaix expert with the 8r carbon layup was by far the most comfortable. My partner on the Synapse also thought the 2008 Roubaix was a phenominally smooth ride...he just felt like he never fit right on the bike. If comfort is your top priority you really should look at the now entry level 8r carbon Roubaix's (got to love trickle down tech)...they may not be the stiffest...though i think they are more than stiff enough...they are truly one comfortable ride. When I was testing the different bikes just a month or so ago (when i purshcased the Scott) nothing rode as smooth as the 8r Roubaix ... the closest that i tested being possibly the Giant Defy composite (their carbon 105 entry). I ended up picking the Scott CR1 totally on price as it was a backup bike to leave at work and have been pleasantly surprized and glad I got it...bike inspires one to go fast. So if i was to pick a bike for just comfort I would recommend the 8r carbon layup Roubaix with the Defy Composite being next. You throw comfort, climbing, and stiffness in the mix and it would be the SL3. If you test them and like the ride i dont think you can go wrong with practically any bike mentioned in these thread...we are in great times for biking with a lot of good options out there. Good luck and as long as you ride the snot out of it you scored...

  21. #21
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    Hmm, you dismissed the advice to run 25-28mm tires, and that's too bad. Good luck finding your comfortable road bike.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by turbogrover View Post
    Hmm, you dismissed the advice to run 25-28mm tires, and that's too bad. Good luck finding your comfortable road bike.
    Um, no I didn't?

    The bike that is at the top of my shortlist, the even ships with 25mm tires. Yeesh. I did, very politely, regect some advice to buy a steel frame, not too sporty, kind of bike like this Photo Gallery because it quite simply didn't appeal to me in the slightest, and the last time I picked a bike that I wasn't super exicted about, I regreted it non stop every time I got on it.

    I never said anything about tires.

    Why the smartass attitude? Have I done something to offend you?
    Last edited by jtimar; 04-01-2012 at 12:25 PM.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosock View Post
    I have a 2011 Scott CR1 which is pretty impressive and comfortable and a 2012 Roubaix SL3 expert which is OUTSTANDING. Person I ride with has a Carbon Synapse with 105s and loves it. I got the Scott as a backup bike as the daughter took my 2008 Roubaix...i am pleasantly surprized by the ride and build of the Scott which i only paid $1450 for a carbon frame fully equipped with 105 flight deck. To get to your point however, out of all the bikes I have ridden the 2008 Roubaix expert with the 8r carbon layup was by far the most comfortable. My partner on the Synapse also thought the 2008 Roubaix was a phenominally smooth ride...he just felt like he never fit right on the bike. If comfort is your top priority you really should look at the now entry level 8r carbon Roubaix's (got to love trickle down tech)...they may not be the stiffest...though i think they are more than stiff enough...they are truly one comfortable ride. When I was testing the different bikes just a month or so ago (when i purshcased the Scott) nothing rode as smooth as the 8r Roubaix ... the closest that i tested being possibly the Giant Defy composite (their carbon 105 entry). I ended up picking the Scott CR1 totally on price as it was a backup bike to leave at work and have been pleasantly surprized and glad I got it...bike inspires one to go fast. So if i was to pick a bike for just comfort I would recommend the 8r carbon layup Roubaix with the Defy Composite being next. You throw comfort, climbing, and stiffness in the mix and it would be the SL3. If you test them and like the ride i dont think you can go wrong with practically any bike mentioned in these thread...we are in great times for biking with a lot of good options out there. Good luck and as long as you ride the snot out of it you scored...
    Thanks!

    I did have a chance to hope on a Roubaix, and it's was quite nice.
    ~Jonathan
    Limelight Media

  24. #24
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    Felt Z85 owner here! Can't say enough good things about the bike. Last week I put on some 25mm Gatorskins and the ride is even more comfy! The 23mm tires I had before certainly put a lot more chatter into a ride over bumpy tarmac.

    The gearing it ships with is a bit extreme(compact w/ 28T in back) if you live in an area with no hills but that's an easy cassette swap if need be. I live between two mountain ranges so it comes in pretty handy.

  25. #25
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    It sounds like you need a Trek 7.7 FX. I don't think you would be happy with the road bike. You sound like you think you will be gaining more from going to a road bike than you actually will. If you came strolling into my shop, I would definitely try my best to sell you on a Trek FX. They are very comfortable bikes but at the same time, you have a bike that will be pretty damn fast. I'm only mentioning the Trek because that is what I sell and have experience with. I'm sure if you have better experience with another brand that they will have a bike comparable to this.

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