New bike for commuting
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  1. #1
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    New bike for commuting

    Hi all,

    I have begun commuting 8 miles each way to work on my old 2000 Specialized Rock Hopper and am looking to upgrade to a road bike. I've made a few posts on here trying to get my post count up to start my own thread.

    I test rode the Cannondale CAAD8 7 Sora and was pretty impressed by it. Only real downside I saw to it were that I couldn't shift well while in the drops. The geometry of it felt really natural to me. Much better than the upright position my MTB has.

    I was thinking of buying the CAAD8 and switching out the FD, RD, chain, crankset, shifters, brakes, BB, and cassette to Shimano Ultegra and then selling the "stock" parts on ebay.

    I could do most of the work myself, minus the BB and crankset since I don't have the tools for it. And maybe the cassette too, but I iirc I only need a screwdriver or two for that.

    I priced out the Ultegra groupset to under $900 on ebay and my LBS has the Cannondale for $1,000, but I've seen it as low as $850 at other shops so I might have some room there. That brings me to around $1800-1900, depending on if I get my LBS to work with me. I figure I could sell the stock parts for a couple hundred at least, which would bring me in the $1500 ballpark.

    I might even switch out the handlebars for something that would allow better access to theh shifters while in the drops. I hear the Felt F95 is a good bike for that.

    Does this sound like something worthwhile doing? Or should I just save up the extra $200 - $300 for a bike that comes already equipped with full Ultegra?

    Or maybe just ride on the stock parts and save for the Ultegra later?

    Also, what's a good helmet/light combo for riding at night?

    Thoughts or suggestions?

  2. #2
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    How far are you commuting each way and what is the terrain like?

  3. #3
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    CAAD's are nice bikes, but I'm not sure they're the best choice for commuters. Still, your commute is short and if you're sold on the fit/ feel of the bike (and it sounds like you are), we can bypass the "what's the best bike" question and move on to assessing your plan.

    Honestly, I don't think it makes financial sense to consider upgrading a bike to the extent you are before even purchasing it. Generally speaking, it's far better/ cheaper to buy what you want upfront.

    That said, JMO, but I see no reason to make a jump to Ultegra on a commuter. While I agree that Shimano's 2300/ Sora 'thumb tab' shifters don't allow for easy access in the drops, anything from Tiagra up alleviates that problem.

    There are several brands/ models offering Tiagras new 10 speed group in the $1200 price range (C'dale may be one), and I think that group will suite your needs rather well. But don't take my word - test ride one, then decide.

    If you're hellbent on going with 105, the same (plan) still holds true - save for the bike that's equipped with it, because buying complete bikes is usually cheaper than upgrading after the fact.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mailmover View Post
    How far are you commuting each way and what is the terrain like?
    About 8 miles each way. Mostly flat, with slight incline for about 60-70% to work. There's a couple steep hills, but they're each only a block long and I can power through them fairly quickly. About half my route is on a busy street, other half is neighborhood or paved bike trail.

    As far as the choice of bike, I suppose I could look at something a little higher end. My plan was to also use this as a weekend bike, which is why I wanted the Ultegra components. I suppose I can try out something with Tiagra or 105 components and see if they fit my budget. Maybe just upgrade the shifters for now and buy the rest of the parts later.

    Everything is a huge maybe at this point, since I still have to test out more bikes. Thanks for the input!

  5. #5
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    I've been happy with 105 for years, and one of my racers has mostly Tiagra.

    Personally, I don't much like the button thing on Sora either. So here's my counterproposal: If you want the CAAD8, get the one that comes with 105, and be happy. If you decided you really were missing out on Ultegra, you could get the Ultegra shifters and still be under the price for the CAAD10 that ships with them, and probably also your total cost if you swap out the Sora stuff. Sora doesn't carry a lot of value on EBay, btw.

    I don't use a helmet mounted light. I have an older Cygolite that I mount to my handlebars. Get something bright. Cygolite's customer service was pretty good when I had to use it. They fixed a battery for me and didn't charge. The battery was damaged from banging around in the bottom of my messenger bag, basically. While I can see some arguments for a helmet mounted light, I find that curves I encounter riding the road are generally long enough that I'm looking in more-or-less the same direction as the bike.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    If you want the CAAD8, get the one that comes with 105, and be happy. If you decided you really were missing out on Ultegra, you could get the Ultegra shifters and still be under the price for the CAAD10 that ships with them, and probably also your total cost if you swap out the Sora stuff.
    I think this plan makes the most sense.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by rodzghost View Post

    I was thinking of buying the CAAD8 and switching out the FD, RD, chain, crankset, shifters, brakes, BB, and cassette to Shimano Ultegra and then selling the "stock" parts on ebay.
    Assume you won't get much if anything for the Sora group. Recent ebay sales are in the $100-$150 range.

    You're better off just spending a few extra bucks now and getting something that already comes with SRAM Rival or Shimano 105 right off the bat. Probably no reason to jump to Ultegra.

    PS - the bike itself has nothing to do with how easy it is to shift in the drops. It's the shifters that determine this. I have no problem with 105 or Rival. Note that the Rival allows you to shift while the brake lever is pulled as well, which some people like. The 105 allows you to address the reach of the levers, which may help.

    Ray
    "It ain't a teacup that the Queen gave you - it's a bike. Ride it!"

  8. #8
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    if I understand your budget and what you want correctly I would get two bike.
    one old beater probably off craigslist that will easily take fenders and a rack for about 300 then a 105 Caad10 for about 1400 (I think, haven't priced caads in a while).

    getting an Ultegra bike, or anything other than a beater for that matter, to ride 8 miles and chain to a sign post all day probably in the rain sometimes doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

  9. #9
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    There are some great deals to be found on CL , like said above get two really nice bikes for cheap! Just have to be patient to search them out.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post

    getting an Ultegra bike, or anything other than a beater for that matter, to ride 8 miles and chain to a sign post all day probably in the rain sometimes doesn't make a ton of sense to me.
    I lock my bike in locker, so it's not out in full view or in the rain.

    As far as 2 bikes, that seems counter-productive to me as I'd rather put all my money into one awesome bike that will get me to work quickly and efficiently. And, also serve as my weekend bike.

    That being said, I test rode 6 bikes today. There was a nice little uphill climb with a few twists and turns right by the shop that I took all the bikes on. Needless to say, I was quite tired after taking all those bikes up (and eventually back down) there.

    I initially fell in love with a Trek 2.3 with the Bontrager Race wheels and 105 shifters. I was testing out various bikes in the $1000-1100 range and this may have been partly why I liked it so much. It really did outshine them all.

    I wanted to try a Trek 2.1 when I came in, but it wasn't assembled yet, so I left for a couple hours while they put it together and came back to test it out. And of course, the 2.3 was better.

    THEN, I tried out a Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5 and was completely blown away by the carbon frame. True, it is a $2000 bike, but it was hands down the BEST bike of all the test rides I did. I am now torn between getting a nice aluminum bike with 105 components, or spending the extra cash for a carbon bike.

    Here are my choices:

    Trek 2.3:
    Aluminum frame (bike weighs about the same as the carbon bikes listed here)
    Bontrager race wheels (lightest of the 5, seemed to be the easiest climb)
    105 group
    =$1450


    '10 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6 Triple:

    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    Tiagra group with Sora FD
    50/39/30 crank (not a fan of the granny gear)
    =$1550

    '11 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6

    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    SRAM Apex group
    =$1650


    '10 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 5
    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano RS10 wheels
    105 group with FSA Gossamer crank
    =$1950

    '10 Specialized Tarmac Elite*
    Carbon frame/fork
    Mavic CXP22 wheels (about the same as the Shimano R500)
    105 group
    =$1950

    *The Tarmac is actually a size smaller (52cm) than all the bikes I rode. Would I be able to compensate for this with stem and seat adjustments? Should I even consider this one?

    I have only ridden the Trek 2.3 and Synapse Carbon 5 so far, but plan to ride the rest tomorrow.

    As far as the wheels, it seems the Trek 2.3 and Carbon 5 have the best of the bunch, with the RS500 and Mavic CXP's being about equal. It seemed to me that the weight savings on the wheels between the Trek 2.1 and 2.3 were quite drastic. Components were also a little lower end on the 2.1 so that may have skewed my judgments as well.

    Am I crazy for considering going up to almost double what I was planning to spend (original budget was $1000)? The ride quality completely blew me away with the carbon frame and I just can't decide anymore.

    Sorry for the long post guys.

    TL;DR: $1500 for nice aluminum bike, or $2000 for a nice carbon bike? Or, keep it simple with a $1000 bike with mid- to low-level components?

    Keep in mind I'll be riding a minimum of 80 miles a week, and plan to do weekend rides as well.

  11. #11
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    If you are confident your bike will be kept in a secure location during commutes, you prefer CF to aluminum (at least on test rides) and can afford a CF bike, I don't think you'll be sorry you opted for it, long term. I base this partly on the fact that you're looking at this as a do-it-all bike, including weekend rides.

    However, consistent with the mindset that the frameset takes priority over components, I'd use the same philosophy re: the OE wheelsets. Generally speaking, no matter the price point of a bike, wheelsets (along with cranksets) seldom match the quality level of the package.

    That said, I don't know where you're getting that the Bonty's are the lightest of the group, but if it's claimed weight, take those numbers with a grain of salt. Also, there are more considerations than weight alone when choosing wheelsets (namely, durability), but all that aside, the moral of the story is to not choose a bike based on the wheelset alone.

    Re: the Tarmac, I strongly advise against compromising on fit to get that "great deal, too good to pass up". You're going above your original budget to get a bike you prefer, so I suggest keeping with that theme and getting the one that fits/ feels best. In a few years, you'll forget that it may have cost ~5-10% more than some others.

    Lastly, as I previously suggested, if any of the models you have listed are offered with Shimano's new 10 speed Tiagra (I know Tarmacs are) I suggest test riding one before deciding. I think you'll find it's a refined, well performing group, and might well save you ~$200+ over 105.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ352 View Post
    Lastly, as I previously suggested, if any of the models you have listed are offered with Shimano's new 10 speed Tiagra (I know Tarmacs are) I suggest test riding one before deciding. I think you'll find it's a refined, well performing group, and might well save you ~$200+ over 105.
    Thanks for the input. Some of the bikes I tested yesterday had the Tiagra shifters and I found them to be better than the Sora. I couldn't really tell the difference between them and the 105's TBH, other than the fact that the 105's did away with the little gear indicator.

    I'm leaning mostly towards the Tiagra-equipped synapse, altho it comes with a 9-speed tiagra RD. Since it has 3 cogs on the FD, I think that will be fine as far as finding the right gear goes. I can always swap out for the 105 cassette. I see a few used ones on ebay (pull-offs) in the $30 range. I'm just not sure if those would fit with the rest of the drivetrain? My commute doesn't have too many hard hills anyway, and with my MTB, I didn't need a huge range of gears to keep up a comfortable pace.

    Or maybe even just add another sprocket. It doesn't look too hard from the videos I just watched.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodzghost View Post
    Thanks for the input. Some of the bikes I tested yesterday had the Tiagra shifters and I found them to be better than the Sora. I couldn't really tell the difference between them and the 105's TBH, other than the fact that the 105's did away with the little gear indicator.

    I'm leaning mostly towards the Tiagra-equipped synapse, altho it comes with a 9-speed tiagra RD. Since it has 3 cogs on the FD, I think that will be fine as far as finding the right gear goes. I can always swap out for the 105 cassette. I see a few used ones on ebay (pull-offs) in the $30 range. I'm just not sure if those would fit with the rest of the drivetrain? My commute doesn't have too many hard hills anyway, and with my MTB, I didn't need a huge range of gears to keep up a comfortable pace.

    Or maybe even just add another sprocket. It doesn't look too hard from the videos I just watched.
    Just to clarify a couple of points....

    I specified 10 speed Tiagra because that's the latest iteration and (IMO) has some worthwhile refinements over the previous (9 speed) Tiagra. But the Synapse is a fine choice, and the additional cog alone (again, IMO) is of minimal importance in real world riding conditions. And as you suggest, a triple up front further minimizes the need to go with 10 speed.

    Re: upgrading to a 10 speed cassette from 9 speed, that won't work by itself. You'd also need to upgrade to 10 speed shifters and chain. Financially, not worthwhile for the aforementioned reasons. You simply don't need that additional cog. And actually, it's more important to match overall gearing to your fitness/ terrain, and triples provide some latitude there.

    Whatever you decide on, make sure the bike fits well and rides/ handles the way you like. Those attributes will make you want to ride more than 9 or 10 speed, or Tiagra versus 105.

  14. #14
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    Agree with the no reason to jump to Ultegra - recently was using the 105 and now uprgraded the bike which has ultegra, and its not too noticeable.

    For a commuter bike - if you are looking in the range around $1500. Try to get a deal on a 2011 Trek Madone 3.1 carbon. I know the 2012 is around $1700 as well. good luck.

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    Are your bikes in your office or very secure for commuting? For me my primary concern is theft, and as a result when I commuted I did so with very cheap bicycles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whason View Post
    Are your bikes in your office or very secure for commuting? For me my primary concern is theft, and as a result when I commuted I did so with very cheap bicycles.
    I lock it inside a bike locker at the BART station where my vanpool picks up. Couple riders in my van have been doing the same for the past 9 years with no incidents. It's a pretty secure location.

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    So, I've got my choices pretty narrowed down to these two bikes:

    '10 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6 Triple:
    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    Tiagra group with Sora FD
    50/39/30 crank (not a fan of the granny gear)
    =$1550

    '11 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6
    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    SRAM Apex group
    =$1650

    Question is, am I shorting myself by choosing the carbon frame over the nicer components? Tiagra and Apex are pretty entry-level, and I could get a 105-equipped bike for less money, but on an aluminum frame. I really liked the Trek 2.3 with the Bontrager wheels, but those carbon frames are just way too nice of a ride.

    Is $200 more worth the carbon frame and lesser components? Would 105 be more durable than Tiagra or Apex?

  18. #18
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    If I were in your position and had to choose a commuter bike suited to the daily abuse endured over time by commuting duty, I would not be opting for a CF bike as my main choice.
    Keep in mind that whatever bike you buy will get banged around in storage and may even fall over a few times getting it in and out of storage despite your best efforts to keep it from getting hurt.
    I get that you've been enamored with the CF ride mystique, but consider that you'd be better off with a metal frame bike (alu/Ti/steel) vs a carbon frame one solely because one wrong fall or a tight jam squeeze in a storage locker may leave you with a crack in a carbon seatstay, a chainstay, or the top tube and you'd be hosed then.
    That's why I agree with those who suggested earlier you consider getting two bikes, one beater for your commute, and another nice one for your weekend riding enjoyment.
    debonked.

  19. #19
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    As far as the durability of the carbon, my research indicates it is no less durable than aluminum. A bad fall can wreck an aluminum bike just as bad as a carbon. That is from these forums as well as others around the web. Plus, since I will be buying new, I will have a lifetime warranty.

    I get that you personally would rather have two bikes but my mentality is that most of my riding will be done commuting vs weekend rides. Why spend the majority of my time on a junker when I could be on a sweet ride?

    I appreciate the feedback but I have already stated that I want one nice bike.

    So back to my original question, what are others thoughts on a cheaper aluminum frame with 105 components vs a full carbon bike with tiagra or SRAM apex?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodzghost View Post
    So, I've got my choices pretty narrowed down to these two bikes:

    '10 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6 Triple:
    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    Tiagra group with Sora FD
    50/39/30 crank (not a fan of the granny gear)
    =$1550

    '11 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 6
    Carbon frame/fork
    Shimano R500 wheels
    SRAM Apex group
    =$1650

    Question is, am I shorting myself by choosing the carbon frame over the nicer components? Tiagra and Apex are pretty entry-level, and I could get a 105-equipped bike for less money, but on an aluminum frame. I really liked the Trek 2.3 with the Bontrager wheels, but those carbon frames are just way too nice of a ride.

    Is $200 more worth the carbon frame and lesser components? Would 105 be more durable than Tiagra or Apex?
    Seems to me from everything you've posted you're pretty well set on going with a CF frameset, so I think if that's where you're placing your priorities (over alu with 105, for example), it's a fine plan.

    I think all frame materials have advantages and disadvantages, so I see Doolab's point, but a frameset is the heart of a bike, dictating fit, handling and (to some extent) ride. So IMO (depending on uses/ circumstances) I generally place a priority there. Bolt-ons (like wheels, FD, RD, etc.) either wear out or are routinely upgraded, so I wouldn't buy a bike based on wheelset or components alone.

    Two things to note. First, you mentioned that you'd have a lifetime warranty with C'dale. While that's true, it only covers defects, not damage sustained in normal use. So if something were to happen to your bike, you'd probably be offered a discount under their crash replacement policy.

    Second, While Tiagra and Apex are ~four models down from the companies top of the line offerings, many race both groups, so I wouldn't categorize either as entry level. Shimano's 2300 and Sora groups are generally considered entry level road groups.

    Lastly, durability will be comparable across both companies product lines. What you get as you go up the model line is slightly lower weight, slightly better finishes and slight improvements in refinement.

  21. #21
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    Alright, well I finally got around to test riding the Synapse Carbon 6 and I was very impressed. I really liked the SRAM Apex group as well, and I definitely prefer it to the 105. I think I may have shown too much of my enthusiasm, though, since the LBS didn't extend their typical 10% off offer on last-gen bikes.

    I am still torn between getting this over the Trek 2.3 since it really did feel like the Trek was much easier/faster on the hill I've been testing all the bikes on. It's also over $400 cheaper than the Synapse Carbon 6. I just can't get over how smooth the CF frame is, though. It's a really tough decision.

    At this point, I think I'm ready to leave things to fate and sit on my purchase for awhile. I still need to sell some stuff in order to pay for the bike anyway, and I have been known to make impulse buys on expensive things. If it's still there when I have the cash saved up, then I'll know it was meant to be.

    Also, I have yet to test out the Trek 3.1 which is on sale for $1600. Maybe next week I'll get a chance to see how that one compares.

    Thanks for all your input, everyone!

  22. #22
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    I commute on a carbon bike w/ no problems whatsoever. (Although I admit- I use a nicer carbon bike for weekend, training and social rides).
    I'd go for the carbon/Apex combo. Frame is the most important and I think cf will be fine for your intended purpose. (Know that it will get a little dinged up though). Components are next, and it's always better to get a bike w/ the level of components you want, rather than upgrade and sell the take-offs.
    Capt Willard: "Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger."

  23. #23
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    When I was working in a small office and could keep my bike inside last summer, I switched to commuting on my racer.

    Bikes that get ridden get hammered on. Mid-range parts are likely to do better than low-end or aging parts for this job. If I had a lot of race-day-only stuff hanging on my nicer road bike, I might be more hesitant. But my main competition disciplines don't include road and that bike's got a mostly 105 build, with 32-spoke wheels. Really, what I'm thinking about when I choose replacement parts for it is the hours and hours of training every year, and not the possibility that I'll do another race on the road sooner or later.

    If I choose to use lower-end stuff on a commuter, it's because it's a bike I'm putting at greater risk of theft or vandalism, not out of worry about what riding it will do to it. In fact, one of my frustrations in cheaper commute bikes has been that I beat them up too much in riding them, and my current one is a bit more expensive, which I hope (so far, this hasn't been working out too well, too many parts pandering to people's desire for a racier setup) will translate to less screwing around with maintaining and repairing it.

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