I noticed one of my Twitter buddies asking for advice on a new bike recently, so I volunteered to write a post with a few suggestions to consider. There’s no pressure or obligation from me though, it’s fun looking at bikes even vicariously for someone else. Bikes are also incredibly personal, the following are some I find interesting and would consider – but they may or may not work for you/my friend or anyone else. Please simply consider them food for thought or ideas in the price range.
First a couple of observations/opinions. Carbon is not the be all and end of good bikes in this price bracket – don’t be put off by a good aluminium or steel bike, in fact I think it’s a real mistake to do that. There is plenty more than just the frame material in making a good bike. One of the most surprisingly good bikes I’ve ridden recently was aluminium. I like steel bikes too as well as carbon. Late in the calendar year is a great time to look for a good buy if you want to stretch your money further – as long as you don’t mind ending up with an “old” model. If it’s going to be a summer bike for best or nice dry winter days – then mudguards aren’t an issue but do consider them if you want to ride it all year round. Mudguards are fantastic (for riding in the UK).
Without Further ado, here are a range of choices in the budget that I think are worth taking a look at:
Aluminium framed bikes:
Cannondale CAAD8 105 £1,049 – I really liked riding this bike recently – it was comfortable, composed ride and for that money you could also consider upgrading the wheels to something like a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elite S (another favourite of mine) or some Fulcrum Racing 3’s, Shimano RS80s or even some Dura Ace 9000 C24 if you can stretch that far. I think they’d further transform the bike.
Cannondale CAAD10 105 or Ultegra on close out. Reputedly one of the best mass produced aluminium frames for sale. Lighter and crucially more aggressive in it’s geometry. A race bike but reviews always seem to stress the relative comfort as well. Even though the headtube is shorter than the CAAD8, Cannondale equip the CAAD10 with a tall headset cap and a number of spacers meaning you should be able to get comfortable even if you’re not looking to get too low at the front end. There are some great deals on close out 2012 stock and I’ve seen the Ultegra specced bike for under £1400 – a big saving on the £1999 retail. These are terrific bikes as the reviews below will tell you:
If you’re interested – you’ll have to google fast as I think stock is running out. The 2012 colours are much nicer than the 2013 ones too (if you ask me).
Canyon Ultimate AL – another frame with a terrific reputation and a slightly less aggressive geometry than the CAAD10. Being a Canyon, it’s most aggressive on its pricing. A lot of bang for your buck, but you have to buy it online/direct which may put some people off. I think the Athena version and the Di2 ones are the best specs personally.
Kinesis TK3 – A bit out of left field perhaps, but it’s an update of a comfortable all year round frame to give it more of the feel of a summer race bike without restricting its incredible versatility. Even with a more race oriented taper front fork the TK3 should still be comfortable for long rides AND has full mudguard and rack mounts plus room for 28mm tyres. A left field choice but for the budget you could probably do a decent Ultegra or Athena build. First review I’ve seen here: http://road.cc/content/review/72055-kinesis-racelite-tk3
Genesis Equilibrium – A very highly regarded bike offering the classic ride quality of steel, in an elegant modern design. I particularly like the look of the 2013 Copper Equilibrium 20. I’ve not ridden one but I hope to change that before too long. For a bike I’ve not ridden, I’m a really big fan (those I know who have ridden one have been very positive). Reputedly very comfortable, smooth and more of a mile muncher than a race/sprinting bike.
One of my most viewed posts ever: http://girodilento.com/the-stunning-genesis-equilibrium-20-2011/
Rourke 853 Audax or Race. A custom frame and fork made by one of Britain’s most respected builders for £825 and using a classic blend of Reynolds tubing – yes it’s not a typo but there is a catch. With a Shimano 105 groupset for about £400, you could probably get a bike built for around the £1,500 mark with some judicious bargain hunting in components etc. Choose the Audax option for mudguard and wider tyre clearances or race for simplicity/arguably more classic lines. The big challenge with a Rourke is the wait – 6-9 months from being measured up or thereabouts is most likely. This was what I was going to most likely do until I discovered Stoemper, so it’s an option I’ve given a lot of thought too and even had a chat on the phone with Brian Rourke about it.
I’m not a fan of generic frames (it’s just a personal preference) so I’m going to stick with mainstream brands. There are plenty of generic offerings out there if you’re going for maximum spec for your money. For a good carbon frame at this price point you’re unfortunately going to have “make do” with lower spec components than you might wish for e.g. 105 and Tiagra. The good news is that both of those gruppos work extremely well and are no real sacrifice. They’ll do a great job for a long time and as you upgrade over time or as budget allows, the weight will drop a little by little too – if you care about such things.
Canyon Ultimate CF 8.0
Not a generic frame by any means but those German price point direct sellers offering incredible value for money. The cheaper Ultimate CF (versus the new SLX) is slightly heavier but reputedly still a great ride. Again the disadvantage is ordering from a German company and having it shipped to your house in a box. There is a UK customer service centre though. The Ultimate CF 8.0 with an Athena groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels for just over £1600 is fantastic value for money.
Trek Madone 3.1 or 3.5
I believe Trek are having a renaissance and building better bikes than they ever have. In 2012 the Madone 3 series won rave reviews here in the UK and the people I know who own them have also been incredibly positive. The Madone in the H2 geometry is in my opinion a sensible geometry for non-racers. The frames are reputedly very smooth and comfortable and eminently upgradeable. Don’t be put off by the Trek name.
Trek Domane 4.0 or 4.3
Another fascinating bike from Trek (like the new 7 series Madone) is the new Domane which aims to combine comfort and speed in a package that will make it a success in the spring classics. For poor quality British roads it could be very compelling indeed. We’re only seeing early reviews yet – but if you want to ride fast comfortably over long distance and rough roads, the Domane is probably worth checking out. I’ve not seen any reviews of the lower priced 4 series models yet but some interesting thoughts can be found below:
Oh and here’s a gladiator style soundtracked video of Spartacus himself introducing the new bike:
Scott CR1 Comp or Pro on close out
Scott have always focused on light and highly engineered carbon bikes. The CR1 is a slightly sportier geometry that’s still fast, stiff and comfortable. These are popular bikes that review and sell well. They also offer good deals in the close outs and my favourite model the CR1 Pro was being found at hefty discounts online. If this bike interests you, then the CR1 Elite, Team and Comp are also all worth some googling to see what kind of deals you can find
A titanium option: Van Nicholas Mistral Apex:
For circa £1500 you could also pursue a titanium option but at that price it’s got to be towards the entry level as titanium is not a cheap material. What you will get is the springy titanium ride feel on a frame that may last you for life. There are few retailers selling these bikes at attractive prices and again the frame is very upgradeable over time. From the Van Nicholas website it looks a bit like it’s on run out now for 2012 (only 2 sizes left). Here’s a glowing review:
More info: http://www.vannicholas.com/37/Mistral/bike.aspx
One final left field option- Cyclocross
One bike that’s stood out to me for the 2013 is the Cannondale CAADX Ultegra Disc. At £1500 with mudguard mounts for versatility, I think this is a genuinely interesting bike. Bikeradar agree and have already given it a 4.5 out of 5 star review. Ultegra’s a great groupset and I think discs are perfect on a ‘cross bike (but I’m not a purist). You could use this as a road bike or a cyclocross bike and I think it should do a good job of both.
It’s far from an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s food for thought. There are plenty of good brands I’ve left out, partly for brevity, but partly because they didn’t “grab” me as much when I was doing the research.
Good luck with your search and please do let me know whatever bike it is you settle on.
Thanks for reading