I'm trying to decide on a road bike. I ride a lot, and I'm doing the Montauk century and probably various other longer rides in the near future. So far, I've been training on a mountain bike/hybrid, but it's time for an upgrade. I want a bike that will be comfortable and reliable. Speed isn't the most important thing, nor is weight (although of course I'd prefer lighter). I do want components that won't give me a hassle though.
I went to my local bike shop (which I love) and was "fitted" for road bikes. I did short test rides on a few bikes that I was told would be good fits for me, and the one that seemed best was the Giant Defy 1, which has an aluminum frame, carbon fork and seat post, and Shimano 105 components. I'm slightly hesitant about getting an aluminum frame because I hear it makes for a less comfortable frame. But the guy at the bike shop says steel frames aren't very common anymore, so looking for a steel bike would reduce my options significantly. Thoughts on steel vs. aluminum frames? Will the carbon fork/seat post cancel absorb enough shock that that having this bike would be similar to having a steel frame? Also, suggestions on bikes with steel frames? My budget is pretty much capped at $1500, and I want decent components, so I realize those are limiting factors.
Well, how fun! I think finding a bike is a lot of fun, and it sounds like you are doing a lot of good stuff to find the right one. From what you wrote it sounds like you will be most happy for a 105 component set (or equivalent). That will offer you a good combo of performance and price. To answer one of your questions, steel frame bikes are not at all common any more for road style bikes, unless you are getting some super cool custom. That being said, you can get a very compliant ride from an aluminum/carbon mix bike. The reason large companies do not use steel anymore for road bikes is its hard to get a steel bike light and attractive on a mass scale. Steel is a great material to use, but it takes the hands of a craftsman to make a bike that can keep up with carbon and aluminum.
I like the Giant Defy 1 you are looking at, I believe it was featured in Bicycling magazine in the last month or two. Sounds like its a lot of bang for your buck. I will offer up 2 more ideas for you to consider. I know you said $1500 is your top so I found this bike, bicycling just rated it well on there website and it looks like it might fit your budget if you find a good deal. Second, consider this bike from Fuji. This bike is on sale at Performance bike a lot for around $1500. I know Fuji is misunderstood, but they make some very good bikes and are now sponsoring a pro team. They have an amazing bike they make for there pro team and that technology is makeing its way down the lines to there lower priced bikes. I know a couple people that ride this bike and its very stiff and high performance. Have fun looking, I hope I was able to offer you some advice you can use. Keep us posted!
In July 2008, I purchased a Giant OCR A1 which is a combo aluminum/carbon fiber frame. Front fork, seat stays and top tube are carbon, bike has all 105 components. I test rode several other brands comparable bikes with 105 components, but the Giant was the best fit for me and I felt the best value for the money. I paid $1300 for the bike. This is my first road bike and I have been very happy with it. After about the first month I did upgrade the saddle, the stock saddle was tolerable, but the new one is an improvement. I now have about 1700 miles on this bike and am very happy with it. I know Giant has changed their line/models so I am not sure which model if any is comparable to my OCR A1. My experience with Giant has been positive and I would recommend this brand to you. Hope this is helpful
Have you considered a Specialized Roubaix? There are several Roubaix models (check them at Specialzed.com). "List prices" range from $1,900 to $8,500. If I am not mistaken 2009 Roubaix models are all full-carbon frames with "zertz" inserts and carbon seatposts (note: zertz are vibration-absorption inserts). More money will buy higher-grade carbon frame (lighter & stiffer) and components. Roubaix carbon-frame grades go from 6r at lowest price point to 10r on the Roubaix S-Works top of the line. (they also have a carbon 11r but not offered on the Roubaix). A few months ago I asked Specialized customer service and was told each grade you go higher the frame is 150 grams lighter. Even at the lowest price level you will have an entry-level plush bike designed for comfort featuring full-carbon frame and seatpost with Shimano 105. Finally, if you don't mind previous model-year bikes (model-year 2008 or 2007 for example) I suggest you look for a brand new 2008 or 2007 and you will pay much less. Another option is to wait for the launch of the 2010 model year (in July or August ?) and buy a 2009 model at a discounted price. Hope this helps.
The Defy is a good starter. I would suggest a FUJI CCR1 or Team Pro, you can usually find a last years model like I did a month ago. I got a Fuji Team Pro with Dura Ace components for 1,700, you could get into the CCR1 with Ultegra for around your budget. Both of the bikes are full carbon, light, and a really good deal for the money.
Are you open to buying a "new" used bike? If so, check craigslist or other sites. I found a great full carbon bike ('08 Colnago CLX) with DurAce 10 for $1100 with shipping. I had a '06 Trek with carbon fork and seat stay before. Good bike but does not compare to a full carbon ride.
Good luck on your seach for a new bike.
This started as a discussion of ROAD BIKES. Stranger, per usual, gave some good advise. At your price point Aluminum is probably the best deal and 105 is race ready should you want to. Tires and pressure play a big part of the ride quality and the carbon fork will dampen it for you well. Wear nice gloves and padded pants and you will be fine. Have fun and wear sun block which will keep you cooler.
Now to the knucklehead who responded previously. Bicycles are legally entitled to ride on the road and cyclists have been instrumental in the history of this nation and the world in getting roads built in the first place. They are called road bikes by the way. In any case most riders don't ride on highways. We ride on the road and if they are built properly they have enough of a shoulder for you to get by without much of a delay while you are on your way to doing emergency brain surgery or whatever it is that you do that has an impact on the lives of other individuals. If more people rode to work and the roads were constructed to accommodate them traffic would be minimized and you could rev your way to your destination without the burden of the cars in front of you impeding your way. And by the way, your fuel costs would be minimized since the demand would be less. So, write your county road commission or attend a meeting, tell them you think bicyclists should not be at risk from drivers on their cell phones and the roads should have an adequate shoulder as it may already be mandated to build them as such, and then you and everyone else will be better off. Bicyclists aren't inhibiting traffic, we are traffic.
I went with a Trek 1000 in 2004. It may be low end but I just keep upgrading parts as they wear. I am going on 14.,000 miles on the bike. It is comfortable for me, cost wise and fit. Don't get sucked in by all the glitter. Keep your budget in mind. Sizing is very important. And after all "IT'S NOT THE BIKE".
Glad you are happy and riding. In the end that is what it is about. I could run with your comment about it not being the bike but depending on the riding one does a precision built bike built for you rides true and fast. Components that cost more usually last longer as well. Change your chain when it gets strethed, .75 on the checker so you don't wear out the gears and cogs too fast and ride ride ride!