Your Opinion

Oh wise bike sages, a friend of mine is shopping for an all-carbon bike (meaning he’s in the market for a $2-3,000 bike). He’s narrowed his choices down to two bikes: the Specialized Tarmac or the Cannondale Synapse.

Generally speaking, this would be a simple recommendation for me. Most Cannondales have a persuasive piece of writing across the chainstays reading "Handmade in the USA," and that’s usually enough for me to decide. But the truth is, I have no experience with full-carbon frames. This is complicated by the fact that the shop mechanics are recommending the Tarmac over the Synapse for racing purposes.

I should clarify that he’s buying the bike for long distances–LOTOJA–so comfort is a priority. He also wants it to be "the last bike [he] ever buy[s]," meaning he doesn’t want to replace the frame in five years or something. He’s a bit of a climber, so weight could be in that mix as well …

I’d love to give the guy some advice, but the truth is that it’s a little out of my experience, price range, or league.

So let me know what you think.


19 thoughts on “Your Opinion

  1. Unknown

    I guess he\’s ruled out the Trek Madone or Pilot?  Of course, I think C\’dales are the best, but that\’s aluminum, and I don\’t know how their carbon is.  My opinion is not a very valuable one due to my inexperience with carbon road bikes, but Trek has a very long history of making excellent carbon road and mtbikes.
    P.S.  Forget about "plush" road bike rides.  If you just want to go fast, go hard core!  Go aluminum Cannondale! 

  2. Jord

    I attempted to find you just before I got off, I wanted to see you doing peasant work, however you evaded me. Hope it\’s as much fun for you as it was for me!

  3. Tom Stormcrowe

    I like the multiple axis composite that Specialized uses! It\’s VERY strong! If I were looking at carbon Fiber, that would be a major consideration!

  4. Unknown

    I test rode several carbon bikes last fall, all felt good. I liked the Specialized Roubaix Expert for all around riding. It was the most comfortable geometry, handled well without the twitch of some of the others, but stll very responsive. A buddy ride a Giant OCR and likes it alot. At that price range, I think all are good, but would take the Roubaix for the all-day rideablity.

  5. Zed

    Botched- I know, I\’d be looking at a Six13 if I were him, but he\’s thinking all-carbon.

    Jord- it was a blast, actually. I always enjoy my time on the phones. I couldn\’t believe how much info needs to be updated in the system, though. Custom\’s messed.

    Tom- They had a full PDF about their engineering, etc. It\’s really non-specific, though. They keep saying it\’s "70% stiffer than most the aerospace material most carbon frames are made of," etc. Perhaps it\’s the English graduate in me, but I don\’t like their syntax. When the graph comes up, they compare only the stiffness and weights of other frames (in this particular case, the actual bikes weigh in at 16.8 lbs for the Cannondale and 17.5 lbs for the Tarmac), but the comparisons end there. Of course, I am a little Cannondale biased.
    I might just include some more info for you guys to help me make an informed recommendation.

    Boz- I like the geometry and the frame shape of the Roubaix over the Tarmac. Maybe I\’ll mention that to him.

  6. Tim D

    I agree with Boz.  I have a friend with a Roubaix.  It is a great all day bike.  I read somewhere that one of the pro teams got the prototype Roubaix just for riding Paris-Roubaix, and liked them so much they rode them for the rest of the year.
    I don\’t think anyone has called me an athlete before, intense or otherwise.  Fat git usually suffices.

  7. Zed

    I\’ll pass the word.
    Hey, TimD, I\’m still not getting through to your blog. Face the facts: doing a triathlon with zero training since the last race is pretty intense. Hey, but fat git rhymes with hilarious brit …

  8. Unknown

    Neither.  I\’d go with the Felt F4C.  Best bang-for-the-buck in this category, full carbon, mostly Ultegra & Dura Ace, enough money left over in the $3k budget to buy pedals, maybe upgrade to Zipps and pay the entry fee at his first crit left over.  And it\’s a Felt, very, very nice bikes, Made in the U.S. of A.  You can also get a nice Seven built up for around $3200…
    If I had to choose between the two, I\’d probably go with the Specialized.  Both bikes are really good and basically the same, the Specialized has a Dura Ace crank, the C-dale has a proprietary carbon crank – six of one, half dozen the other (I\’d probably want the Dura Ace, it won\’t scuff up and it\’s proven stout).  The only noteworthy difference is that the C-dale has a Dura Ace rear derailer, which will probably hold up slightly better after 10k miles.  Still, the C-Dale costs around $500 more, that\’s a lot for a component upgrade that the LBS would charge you $75 for (with trade-in on the Ultegra).  The Specialized is also just a flat out fiiiine looking ride, yes, aesthetics matter…

  9. Iain

    I had the opportunity to ride both a Specialized and Cannondale last year. Both aluminum admittedly, but there were some differences in geometry that made a big difference to me. I found the Cannondale\’s more conventional frame fitted me much better, although I am taller than your average cyclist. I agree with Al\’s comment about aesthetics but if your friend wants to keep the bike for a long time the Cannondale\’s classic style might outlast the Specialized. That said, for comfort and longevity, would he consider titanium?

  10. Tim D

    Looks like my blog died again sometime this afternoon.  I had some problems with the confirmation when I created it, but thought they were sorted.  I\’ll let you know when it is up again.
    PS saw your comment on Erica\’s blog.  I lost the juvenile when the old blog died.  Doesn\’t mean I\’ve grown up any though.

  11. Zed

    Al- I should have put more detail about the actual bikes on here. The prices are almost exactly the same for the two bikes as the C-dale shop swapped out everything with 105 components (still decent) including the C-dale carbon crank. Aesthetically speaking, I actually like that Synapse more, but that\’s my take on it.

    Iain- I actually recommended a custom ti builder to him, a friend of mine to be specific, but he didn\’t seem too interested. I know the custom ti bike can go for as little as $1500 depending on the components, and they last forever, so if I ever upgrade my bike, that\’ll probably be what I go for.

  12. Unknown

    Well, the C-dale downgrade to the 105 components explains why the shop is telling your buddy to go for the Specialized.  The Specialized with all Ultegra and some Dura Ace, will definitely work noticeable better, longer, under heavier strain, than the C-dale with 105 bits.  105 is a good gruppo and probably wonderful for everyday commuting and training use, but it ain\’t perfect and if it falls down at all in a race it will hurt.  A guy with an awesome engine can get away with sketchy shifting and braking; us lesser mortals can\’t suffer equipment failure and remain competitive.  A good explanation of the functionality of the different Shimano groups that I\’ve seen elsewhere and can\’t take credit for is: Ultegra is 95% as good as Dura Ace.  105 is 95% as good as Ultegra. Tiagra is 95% as good as 105. Sora is 90% as good as Tiagra.
    Pretending for a minute that these numbers are objective, if you compare them to the Dura Ace benchmark, it sheds light on why people go nuts about the quality of road gruppos.  It means Ultegra is almost as good (95%) as DA, 105 is 90% as good as DA, Tiagra is 85% as good as DA, and Sora is 77% as good as DA.  Yeah, you could say it\’s all hogwash, but after having trouble finding a couple rear cogs this last weekend pounding up a hill in my red zone during a crit, I\’m here to tell you it matters if you are riding at 100%; my 105 rear derailer, even though it is properly adjusted, simply couldn\’t hang under the pressure I put on it.  Man, that was demoralizing.  And slowing when it happened.  If you try riding with some of these these different gruppos, that percentage comparison comports with seat-of-the-pants feel.  It\’s hard to tell the difference between DA and Ultegra, but DA versus 105 is immediately evident.  I\’m planning on upgrading the drivetrain to Ultegra over the summer.  And changing to a compact crankset in order to get more precise shifting on the front.  If your buddy is going to race, the components might matter, especially if he\’s doing shorter, faster events like crits & circuit races & hillclimbs, where a couple seconds might make a difference in placing. 

  13. Zed

    I\’d have to admit that I\’ve had some shifting trouble with my Tiagra shifters in recent weeks. I\’m still looking for an upgrade to 105, though.

  14. Tom Stormcrowe

    I rode the Specialized carbon frame, Caloi, and it is stiffer. It did quite well, as I was also 100 pounds heavier! I\’m thinking pretty strong on getting a Specialized carbon frame roadie next year, I have the wife convinced! WOOHOO Now all I need after that is a nice long frame CromMo steel tourist, like a Rivendell or Bridgestone, and a single speed fixie, and a Banshee Chaparral, and a Ferrari Enzo to drive when I want to burn petroleum!::GRIN:: Lord, sounds like I\’m having a midlife crisis!

  15. Zed

    I like Al\’s idea, get a Seven for your commuter.
    I don\’t mind that Specialized has a stiffer frame than most, but is a Tarmac stiffer than a Synapse? The friend is actually leaning toward the Tarmac anyway. We\’ll see which one he picks. Good for you for convincing the spouse to let you buy carbon. That\’ll be a nice ride.

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