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Which One Do I Get? Aluminum vs Carbon Road Bikes ($2k-2.5k range)

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Which One Do I Get? Aluminum vs Carbon Road Bikes ($2k-2.5k range)

Old 04-28-20, 08:48 PM
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Imperatore
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Which One Do I Get? Aluminum vs Carbon Road Bikes ($2k-2.5k range)

I'm in the hunt for a nice road bike in the $2k price range (up to $2,500). I noticed I can get the Emonda ALR 5 Disc for $1,999 which seems to have very good 105 components. For an extra $500, I can get the Emonda SL 5 Disc ($2500). Is the carbon worth the extra 500? Is it a low-end carbon that I need to worry about holding up compared to their higher end carbon bikes which are way out of my price range?

I also really like the look of the Specialized Roubaix for $2,200. It has Tiagra components, as opposed to 105. Is that a big difference or downgrade? My problem is I'd pay more for the Roubaix than the Emonda ALR 5 which seems to have better components, so the extra 200 would get me a carbon frame (FACT 10R). Other bikes I have considered, too: Specialized Tarmac Disc Sport (a bit out of price range, but willing to get if it's worth it) - Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 7.0.

Is carbon worth it? Will I regret not getting carbon if I go with the aluminum frame? Can you recommend any of these bikes, or which would you choose out of these? Any other bikes in this price range you recommend? Also, how much slower is the Domane than the Emonda line?

What kind of rider I am and what I'm looking for: I take long rides around the city. I ride primarily for fitness, exploration, speed, and bonding with my dad on rides. I love pushing myself with average speed and max speed. I'm not a racer, I don't want to participate in any kind of race, but I do love going fast. In fact, I have wondered if I need a road bike at all, I get to 29-31 mph on flat sprints on my hybrid fitness bike. If I do end up getting a road bike, I want a good all-around'er and not necessarily a road bike specifically meant for comfort, or speed, or endurance. I want a road bike where I can comfortably do all three (especially speed, though).

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Old 04-28-20, 09:17 PM
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In your budget that's a pretty pricy aluminum bike, or a pretty affordable cf bike

Good thing is, neither is so exotic that you shouldn't easily be able to get a test ride (canyon excluded unless you are near San Diego)

Try em all, you'll figure it out fast. I personally wouldn't spend $2k on an Al bike, I'd get something like an allez elite for much less
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Old 04-28-20, 10:30 PM
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I would advise against cheap carbon. Save your money and get an aluminum bike instead.
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Old 04-29-20, 02:02 AM
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I'd go with carbon as i dont think the "cheap carbon" argument has a lot of merit anymore, given improvements in manufacturing and materials. For all the talk about high-end Al being better than cheap carbon, we forget that "expensive Al" doesnt always exist - if i recall correctly, all the Al bikes in the Emonda series use the same frame. And IME, carbon has a noticeable difference in ride quality - even cheap carbon.

I am of the opinion that one should get the best frame possible - parts can always be upgraded. But Tacoenthusiast has the best advice - try and ride them. Different bikes will have a different feel to them.
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Old 04-29-20, 04:31 AM
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You don't sound like the type of rider that would notice much ride difference in carbon vs. aluminum (I'm not) so the only real gain would be any weight savings. Since you are didn't mention lots of hills, the weight savings wouldn't mean that much.

Back in 2017 I decided it was time (after 20 years) for a new road bike and I went with a carbon Trek Domane - I love that bike. But, last year I did the Seattle to Portland 205 mile two day ride and rented an aluminum Fuji since I didn't want to ship the Domane. The Fuji had similar geometry and gearing, but the wheels and the components were a definitely downgrade from the Domane. I really could not tell much difference in the ride and the STP isn't a very hill ride - I weigh 225 lbs, so the 2 lbs extra weight was a small percentage of bike + rider weight.

Carbon bikes mean using torque wrenches and not clamping bike stands or racks onto the bars, that's been a small negative.

The wheels are a big decision point for me - one level in Shimano components usually saves a few grams but costs a lot of $$- I couldn't tell much difference in the Fuji shifting, which was at least one step down from my Domane.. But even I can notice the difference riding a bike with heavier wheels with shallower rims.

My bottom line is if at my price point I had to choose between aluminum bike with better (lighter, deeper rims, stronger, etc) wheels, I'd probably go with aluminum over carbon. The SL6 in 2017 came with these great Vision 40 wheels - those wheels (and the vibration dampening stuff Trek has) are what really steered me to the carbon bike back then.
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Old 04-29-20, 06:13 AM
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The giant contend line is what i have, aluminum, 105's tubless ready (i went back to tubes), disc....1500$

I freaking love mine, but only been riding going on 3yrs...so i dont know a whole lot...

JAG
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Old 04-29-20, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
I would advise against cheap carbon.
I would advise against cheap carbon, too.

....but it's not 2005 any more.

The $2500 Emonda SL5 has the same frame as the $5k Emonda SL7. Trek's OCLV 500 is not cheap carbon. None of the entry level carbon offerings from any of the major manufacturers has been "cheap carbon" for a number of model generations.
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Old 04-29-20, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
You don't sound like the type of rider that would notice much ride difference in carbon vs. aluminum (I'm not) so the only real gain would be any weight savings. Since you are didn't mention lots of hills, the weight savings wouldn't mean that much.
How does one “sound” like they won’t be able to tell the difference?

Get the carbon bike, you won’t be sorry. Every bit of marketing telling you that new “high tech” alloy frames can be smoother than a entry level carbon bike is bologna.

If you can, spend the extra $500 -$1000 it’s worth it and you will likely like the bike a lot longer. Just don’t forget that from day 1- you’ll probably want to hop on the upgrade train. My newest bike is 3 weeks old and I’m already considering new wheels just because.
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Old 04-29-20, 06:51 AM
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The ALR is a great bike, so nice that Trek dropped the "S" Carbon and only offers the SL and SLR.

When i got back into cycling I bought a Madone 4 which was in the $2200 price range (2011). It has 400 level carbon while the Emonda SL has 500 level. It was a great bike and really was everything i wanted or needed. The only reason I replaced it was to treat myself after my last child was off the family payroll.

I replaced it with a Emonda SLR with Sram eTap.... AWESOME bike. I do spend some time in Scottsdale over the winter and rent a Emonda SL7 (Ultegra) and can tell you it's almost as nice as the SLR at 1/3 the price. It's the same SL frame as the SL5.

Anyway a SL5 with 105 is a great bike and well worth the extra cash.
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Old 04-29-20, 07:59 AM
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Are you going to be riding hills or mostly flats? The Rubaix has a 10 speed 50/34 front with 11-34 on the rear with a GS cage rear derailleur. The Émonda has 11 speed 50/34 front with 11-28 on the rear with a short cage rear DR.

Rubaix gives you better gearing range for hilly rides. The GS cage will handle an 11-28 cassette if you find you don't need the low gears that the 11-34 gives.

Émonda is better gearing for flatter rides and/or for riders with strong legs and knees that don't have joint pain. It also has a short cage rear DR and that means if you ever do want to put an 11-34 cassette on it, then you'll also have to spend double your money as you will have to change the rear DR out.

Tiagra is a very decent shifting group set. My son's Émonda ALR 2017 came with it. Thankfully it was a long cage DR and when he had too much knee issues on the 11-28, I was able to put a 11-32 on it and he doesn't wear out his knee.
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Old 04-29-20, 08:43 AM
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I don't recall that you mentioned components on these bikes. As a general rule an AL bike at the same price point as a CF bike will have better components and/or wheels.
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Old 04-29-20, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Are you going to be riding hills or mostly flats? The Rubaix has a 10 speed 50/34 front with 11-34 on the rear with a GS cage rear derailleur. The Émonda has 11 speed 50/34 front with 11-28 on the rear with a short cage rear DR.

Rubaix gives you better gearing range for hilly rides. The GS cage will handle an 11-28 cassette if you find you don't need the low gears that the 11-34 gives.

Émonda is better gearing for flatter rides and/or for riders with strong legs and knees that don't have joint pain. It also has a short cage rear DR and that means if you ever do want to put an 11-34 cassette on it, then you'll also have to spend double your money as you will have to change the rear DR out.

Tiagra is a very decent shifting group set. My son's Émonda ALR 2017 came with it. Thankfully it was a long cage DR and when he had too much knee issues on the 11-28, I was able to put a 11-32 on it and he doesn't wear out his knee.
I will be riding in Houston which is quite flat. The inclines are far and few in between, and they're not steep. I'd like to say I'm in shape, with strong legs. 6'2'', 175 lbs and coming from other sports. I'd like a decently fast bike, faster than my FX 3 Disc. Sounds like you're recommending the Émonda, for me specifically? It seems to hit the spot, good quality OCLV carbon frame and the Shimano 105 drivetrain. I read in a comment above that there aren't really "low end" carbon frames anymore and I can rest easy with Trek's OCLV. That puts my mind at ease. I'm still a bit uneasy about dropping this kind of money for something with a 5-10 lifespan, but my mentality about that is different than most, I'm assuming.

Thank you again for your detailed input!
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Old 04-29-20, 08:46 AM
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I don't know if brand means anything to you but when looking at AL I don't think you can go wrong with a Cannondale CAAD13 or a CAAD12, if you can find one leftover.
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Old 04-29-20, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
I don't recall that you mentioned components on these bikes. As a general rule an AL bike at the same price point as a CF bike will have better components and/or wheels.
This is where I'm at of a bit of loss. I'm very much a novice. I don't necessarily know what's "better", I'm not in the know about certain components and what not. I have a very basic idea of some things, like Ultegra and Dura-ace are at the top. 105 is very good. But that's where my knowledge ends. Is 105 absolutely better than Tiagra? Looking at these specific bikes I'm looking at. I have no clue whatsoever if the tires and other components are as good as others.
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Old 04-29-20, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by phrantic09 View Post
How does one “sound” like they won’t be able to tell the difference?

Get the carbon bike, you won’t be sorry. Every bit of marketing telling you that new “high tech” alloy frames can be smoother than a entry level carbon bike is bologna.

If you can, spend the extra $500 -$1000 it’s worth it and you will likely like the bike a lot longer. Just don’t forget that from day 1- you’ll probably want to hop on the upgrade train. My newest bike is 3 weeks old and I’m already considering new wheels just because.
I'm definitely leaning towards the Émonda SL 5 Disc now. It seems that modern carbon frames are all of pretty good quality and I don't have to worry about low-end carbon anymore.

As far as me being able to tell the difference, I'm a novice, but I'm a very fast learner and I'm able to notice and appreciate the details. I've truly fallen in love with biking and I'm catching on quickly. Thank you for your response!
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Old 04-29-20, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
I would advise against cheap carbon, too.

....but it's not 2005 any more.

The $2500 Emonda SL5 has the same frame as the $5k Emonda SL7. Trek's OCLV 500 is not cheap carbon. None of the entry level carbon offerings from any of the major manufacturers has been "cheap carbon" for a number of model generations.
That's actually a load off. I'm a bit of a worrier and I've been reading about "low end" carbon and I've been worried about that. I absolutely cannot afford a truly high-end $4,000-5,000 road bike. It's good to know the entry-level carbon frames from the major manufacturers are good quality. That said, how long of a lifespan am I looking at with a modern carbon frame with frequent usage in the city? One more question, if you don't mind. You said the OCLV carbon is good, what about Specialized FACT 9R and FACT 10R?
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Old 04-29-20, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
I'm still a bit uneasy about dropping this kind of money for something with a 5-10 lifespan, but my mentality about that is different than most, I'm assuming.

Thank you again for your detailed input!
Are you saying a carbon fiber bike has only a 5-10 year life span? What's gonna have after that, it assplodes?

My SLR is a 2015, so this is my 6th season of riding and i've put over 25,000 miles on it. My son has a 2011 Madone and a 2009 Cervelo P2. Both work like new.
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Old 04-29-20, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by GlennR View Post
Are you saying a carbon fiber bike has only a 5-10 year life span? What's gonna have after that, it assplodes?

My SLR is a 2015, so this is my 6th season of riding and i've put over 25,000 miles on it. My son has a 2011 Madone and a 2009 Cervelo P2. Both work like new.
As I've said, I'm mainly going off of what I've read. I'm a complete novice, so apologies for that. I was about to reply to your first comment. I learned a lot and I'm feeling a lot better about modern carbon frames now. It really looks like the Emonda SL 5 Disc is the bike for me. I'm a bit of a worrier and I have a fascination with things that last. I'm an amateur historian who loves ancient Rome, so I think that's where that fascination comes from, haha. I'm also trying to research as much as I can before dropping this kind of money on a bike. I can swing the 2.5k now, but it's by no means a normal purchase. I'm glad to know the Emonda SL5 will last for thousands and thousands of miles.

Thanks again. And by the way, clicked the link in your signature and checked out your Émonda SLR Project One. That is one gorgeous bike, man! Enjoy!
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Old 04-29-20, 09:08 AM
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Yes, it sounds like the Émonda might be the bike for you. Try and get a decent test ride on the choices and see what they feel like. Also try out a size up and down if possible.

The only difference in Tiagra and 105 is one gear. The quality and durability is almost the same. More gears are a plus for me, if everything else is the same or equivalent. However color might override that if I am drawn to a particular color scheme I can't get close to on the other.

Don't blow all your money on one bike. After you've ridden a while you might find you've changed, hopefully it's just becoming a better cyclist, and will want a different bike to address something your current bike is lacking. Even if all you do is road biking, you might want to have different road bikes set up for different conditions.

Trek, Giant, Specialized, Cannondale are common in the LBS's around me. They are all very good bikes, as are most any other brand that are sold in dedicated bike shops.

What kind of gearing did you have on the FX 3? Do you find it adequate for the type riding you will be doing? Use that to compare with the gearing on the new choices.

Last edited by Iride01; 04-29-20 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 04-29-20, 09:14 AM
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I'm reading you can get a very good bang for your buck with Giant. What would be the Giant equivalent of the Émonda? I wouldn't mind checking those out either. I've exclusively been looking at Trek and Specialized.

I've avoided Canyon, even though I love their bikes, mainly because of my relationship with my bike shop here in Houston. I'd much rather buy something from my shop, Bike Barn, and have a much easier time with maintenance and stuff like that, than bringing in a Canyon. Is that a thing?
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Old 04-29-20, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
I'm a bit of a worrier and I have a fascination with things that last.
Nothing lasts forever. A bicycle will wear if you use it. Tires, tubes, chains and brake pads are the common ones. Cassettes, chainrings, bearings also need maintenance and replacement.

I clean my drivetrain every weekend which is about 150 miles. This has greatly extended the life of the cassette and chainrings. I also lube the chain, jockey wheels and pivots on the (dual pivot) brakes. I have ceramic bearings and lube them as per manufacturer specification. I also dismantle my bike every winter and clean / service all the components. As you can see i'm a bit obsessive, but i have the mechanical skill to do my own work and enjoy riding a bike that is in "as new" condition all the time.

After you buy the bike, see if any shops offer classes in maintaining and invest in some tools. It will help pyou keep the bike for a very long time.

Remember the most expensive bike you have is the one you don't ride. While my bike cost "stupid" money, i'm under 50¢ per mile and it's greatly help my general health.
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Old 04-29-20, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
This is where I'm at of a bit of loss. I'm very much a novice. I don't necessarily know what's "better", I'm not in the know about certain components and what not. I have a very basic idea of some things, like Ultegra and Dura-ace are at the top. 105 is very good. But that's where my knowledge ends. Is 105 absolutely better than Tiagra? Looking at these specific bikes I'm looking at. I have no clue whatsoever if the tires and other components are as good as others.
Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
That's actually a load off. I'm a bit of a worrier and I've been reading about "low end" carbon and I've been worried about that. I absolutely cannot afford a truly high-end $4,000-5,000 road bike. It's good to know the entry-level carbon frames from the major manufacturers are good quality. That said, how long of a lifespan am I looking at with a modern carbon frame with frequent usage in the city? One more question, if you don't mind. You said the OCLV carbon is good, what about Specialized FACT 9R and FACT 10R?
Re frames: just as Trek has its different grades of carbon, so does Specialized. For the most part, the main difference between various grades of carbon is weight - frames in the same family (be it Emonda or Tarmac or whatever) will have very similar characteristics: you'll probably have to compare very closely to notice a difference. So at a beginner level, i wouldnt fuss over 9R vs 10R, OCLV 500 vs 600. To put it in perspective, i want an all-road bike and am looking at a Domane SL vs SLR - and the main reason i am considering the SLR is just for the paint job. If the SL series came with the same Viper Red, I'd just get the SL and move on with my life: the grade of carbon absolutely does not factor in my purchase calculus in any kind of way.

As for groupsets - it is arguable about how big the difference in shift ease between various groupsets is. I would imagine the deterioration in shifting due to cables loosing/stretching over a year is probably more than that between tiers of groupsets. If you coming down from Dura Ace to Tiagra, you may notice a difference. But if you are starting with Tiagra, you will be quite satisfied with it. The only "downside" to Tiagra is that it is 10 speed, and the market these days has moved on to 11 and 12. In a vacuum, does it matter? Not really: about the only downside is that you may not be able to share wheels with someone else who has a 11 speed bike. From a riding point of view, 10 vs 11 gears wont give you an easier or harder gear - it will just change the spacing between gears. As someone who has only migrated from 10 to 11 in the past year, there really hasnt been any difference that i have noticed. And if you do choose to upgrade, 11 speed groupsets are cheap enough - you can do so later.

I would advise against obsessing about Part X on one bike vs Part Y on the other, You dont ride parts. You ride the bike as a whole - and bikes ARE different when it comes to responsiveness and how they feel to ride. The Roubaix is designed as a cobble-crunching bike, and may be smoother than the Emonda. Which of the two accelerates better, i cannot say - you will have to ride them to get a feel. The Tarmac is, IMO, one of the nicest all-around frames in the market these days, combining light weight, stiff/responsive handling and aero in a great package.

Given that this is a big purchase, go out and ride the bikes, even if it is around a parking lot. You are likely to find that the ride quality of one appeals to you more. Get that. If you are tied, get the color you like more or the one that just excites you more. If you are still tied, get the one where you have a better connection with the shop.

So in short: get the bike that sings to you the most, ride the truck out of it. Dont even think of any upgrades for a year or so.

PS: If you are getting the current Emonda, note that 2021s are about to be released soon, and try to negotiate a 10-20% discount on the bike.

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Old 04-29-20, 09:51 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
That's actually a load off. I'm a bit of a worrier and I've been reading about "low end" carbon and I've been worried about that. I absolutely cannot afford a truly high-end $4,000-5,000 road bike. It's good to know the entry-level carbon frames from the major manufacturers are good quality. That said, how long of a lifespan am I looking at with a modern carbon frame with frequent usage in the city? One more question, if you don't mind. You said the OCLV carbon is good, what about Specialized FACT 9R and FACT 10R?
I thought that I'd made it pretty clear - you're not going to buy a cheap carbon frame from a reputable manufacturer. Specialized is a reputable manufacturer.

As far as lifespan... a carbon frame isn't going to wear out. Don't abuse it, don't crash it and it'll last. An aluminum frame is the same - don't abuse it and don't crash it. Where carbon often has the advantage is repairability - they can frequently be repaired, which is often not the case with really lightweight aluminum.
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Old 04-29-20, 10:01 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
I'm reading you can get a very good bang for your buck with Giant. What would be the Giant equivalent of the Émonda? I wouldn't mind checking those out either. I've exclusively been looking at Trek and Specialized.
The Giant TCR would be the equivalent of the Emonda/Tarmac. And yes, Giant is great value for money - and it is typically easier to get discounts on their bikes as well (around these parts of Asia, 20% off is pretty standard). You should be able to get 105 at or within sniffing range of $2500 - and pretty much everyone i know who has a Giant loves their bikes (a Giant is the leading candidate for my next bike too)

Oh, Iride01 makes a good point above - have you consider an all-road bike, instead of a pure road bike? Something like a Giant Revolt or Trek Domane? These will be slightly heavier than the corresponding road bike (although the bulk of that difference is in wheels and tires), but will give you more freedom to explore gravel and dirt roads - and if the need for speed kicks in, you can put on skinny tires and not lose much over a pure road bike (the main differences will be in agility, cornering, etc - which may matter if you are racing in a pack, but not so much to riding alone). These bikes are probably better "single, do-it-all bikes", actually.

Last edited by guadzilla; 04-29-20 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 04-29-20, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Imperatore View Post
I'm reading you can get a very good bang for your buck with Giant. What would be the Giant equivalent of the Émonda? I wouldn't mind checking those out either. I've exclusively been looking at Trek and Specialized.

I've avoided Canyon, even though I love their bikes, mainly because of my relationship with my bike shop here in Houston. I'd much rather buy something from my shop, Bike Barn, and have a much easier time with maintenance and stuff like that, than bringing in a Canyon. Is that a thing?
The giant would be the TCR and there's a brand new version just released

The first bike is always tough because you won't really know what you want until you've ridden a bit, you're almost guaranteed to miss the mark a little no matter how much research you do

I started with an aluminum allez, went to a CF endurance bike (Cannondale synapse) then to a race bike (canyon ultimate)
The canyon ultimate with ultegra was literally $100 more than the Cannondale synapse with 105 and that was 5 years later. The value there is huge but you do need a bit more knowledge to take advantage of it. I particularly wanted the ultimate because of rim brakes, I wasn't ready to invest in new roof racks and tools and learning disk brakes.
I was in southern ca and had a chance to stop by the canyon facility so I didn't buy sight unseen, I sat on a few bikes and got "fitted" with their digital fit system
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