Road bike choice - help please?

Any keen cyclists on the forum?

My ancient 35 year old (owned since a teenager!) road bike is now impractical to maintain as parts are scarce, so I need a new road bike. Initial question is simple - experienced MTB rider not up to date on road bike advances needs guidance through the myriad of options? A few issues which complicate the choice. Thoughts…

Budget: Is tight (just had to buy a new car) so looking at secondhand up to the £800 mark, can stretch to just below 1K if necessary.

Use: Urban cycling all rounder for running errands and short fitness rides under an hour duration (20-30 miles max). Will need something to cope with uneven surfaces and paths (local roads are abysmal). Want something that’s light, fun, fast and nimble, yet forgiving - I’m getting old!

Frame material: Having never owned a carbon frame I’m curious, but concerned about fragility. Really like titanium, but are pricey and scarce. Aluminium not so keen due to road chatter, unless made by Cannondale (CAAD10 or 12). Steel? Possibly (current frame), but bottom of the list as I fancy a change.

Options: First thoughts are an up to date enduro bike - Giant Defy, Cannondale Synapse, Specialised Roubaix etc, or a flat bar racer such as a Giant Fastroad Advanced. Then an MTB friend suggested something like a gravel / cyclo cross bike like a Giant TCX, which is an interesting idea. I’ve been spoilt with disc brakes on the MTB, so discs would be preferred option if achievable on a road bike.

I did even consider buying an older XC MTB, fitting slicks and making a lightweight component swap project out of it, but this could get pricey very quickly, and of course would still be an MTB.

Fit: I’m 5’10". So on the cusp of between M and M/L, so experience of Giant / Cannondale road specific fit would be of great help.

For ref: LBS stock Giant, Cannondale and Specialized. I’ve been in touch with them (they maintain my MTB), but get hardly any second-hand road bikes traded in, but would prioritise their stocked brands for parts access and servicing. They have been very helpful, suggesting the Giant Defy as a cracking all rounder even though they have nothing available (sold all their stock in my size).

As ever, thanks in advance for the shared expertise.

I would look at a good quality urban focused hybrid for what you want. I have a Scott that is five years old and it works great for riding about town, some rides focused on fitness. Visit a couple of your local cycle shops,chat with them, sit on a couple of bikes and see what they advise.

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I rate the service I’ve had from Spa Cycles in Harrogate very highly.

They do a steel frame Audax bike for £990. Looks decent to my eye. Carbon forks.


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I can’t really help as I have very little experience/knowledge - my present bike (Kona Dewdrop ~2008 model - I seem to recall they reduced the gear range in a later incarnation, and I think discontinued now) having been bought on different criteria. My main point of posting is that my bike does have disk brakes, and they are great for road use, braking limitation in the wet purely being tyre grip. I never want a bike with rim brakes again!

FWIW my main criterion was as wide a gear range as I could get on a road bike, not wanting a mountain bike with fat wheels, and wanting a higher top gear than they have. I also wanted drop bars for occasions when I want to reduce wind resistance, to which I had added I brake repeaters from Cane Creek) on the level section of the bar, my normal riding position. And I added mudguards and a rear carrier to make it practical, and an air horn for survival. Unfortunately whilst not exactly heavy despite aluminium frame it’s not as light as I’d like - but light is a case of an exponentially inverse cost relationship - and the real weight of a bike is something incredibly difficult to get out of manufacturers. My price limit had been as much under £1k as possible, but treating myself to my first brand new bike in about 48 years of cycling! (total incl accessories was ~£850 in 2009)

But it makes for a good commuter bike, and OK on longer routes. Very bottom gear only needed on steepest of hills (second bottom quite often, though), while I have not yet found the top gear so low that I can’t keep up.

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I rode a Cannondale for a few years and was quite a nice bike. A friend has a Specialized and had an issue and they sorted it straight away with a replacement which I was impressed with. I was thinking of buying a sub 1K bike for the winter and I looked at the brands you have and apart from the paint there was not a lot in it. They all seems to same Shimano groupset (Bianchi had a Campag groupset which was nice) and all the frames were machine welded, meaning hard to get a bad one. I would go to a shop, ask to test ride your short list and take it from there. Discs are awesome on the road and if hydraulic rather than cable operated maintenance is very low. Cross bikes tend to be lower angles (head 73-74 degrees) compared to road bikes (74-75 degrees) so can be a bit comfier/more compliant.

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My disks are cable operated. I’ve done I guess something like 10k miles (about 1000 a year): only maintenance needed has been periodic (maybe every 3-6 months) slight rotation of an adjuster on both sides of the two disks to compensate for pad wear. Still on original pads, though I think not for much longer,

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I would have a look at both Cotic (whose Soul I ride) and Orange to see what they have to offer outside the rather boring Thaiwanese assembled bikes.

Something like this might be ideal:


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Don’t know where you live but James Cycles in Sheffield are outstanding in their customer service and choice. Will let you test ride bikes round the park next door.

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@Innocent_Bystander Sorry IB, I did not mean to suggest cable operated needed a lot of maintenance, more on a relative scale a bit more than hydraulic.

Ah, OK.

I have wondered about the benefit of hydraulic on a push-bike - the weight must be a tad more. Does the fluid need changing every 3 years or so like a car, or is it less critical because the forces are so much less, almost never neever needing changing?

Thanks for the shared experience folks - much appreciated.

I’m based on the Fylde Coast, so a little bit out of reach of some of the big city retailers, and as mentioned, my budget really limits me to the used market, unless there are gems I’m unaware of. Hence the questions about fit and brand ownership experience. Cannondale, Giant & Specialised are catered for locally. Out of those makes, I only have experience of the early Cannondale MTB headshock XC bikes (which I really liked).

I had an Orange MTB and although it was good / ok, I was never blown away by it. Kept it a few years and sold it on.

Open to suggestions as to other UK makers, but that approach usually costs more, and of course location restrictions apply, so the mainstream far eastern made bikes are the logical choice really. Like those Cotic MTBs though.

@Innocent_Bystander TBH I have never weighed them but I would not imagine there is much difference in weight, I could not eat that pie before going out and I am sure that would make bigger impact :grinning: As for fluid change, my mountain bike has had same fluid for 5 years and still feels nice and smooth with no spongyness but I should really think about changing it I suppose.

Yes - I avoided recommending a Cotic MTB as I know you are looking for a road bike but there’s a gorgeous Soul going on ebay at the moment!

It’s what I ride and I love it!! There’s a springiness to high end steel that to my mind just feels so right and makes it feel incredibly alive on road or trail.

The Soul is Reynolds 853 and certainly a fun steed which I use on road and off.



I know what you mean about a steel frame’s give and flexibility, not dissimilar to titanium frame but more accessible cost wise.

My old steel clunker is now starting corrode on the inside :frowning:
A good all rounder!

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If your employer is signed up to the Cycle 2 Work scheme look into that. It’s a tax efficient way of buying a bike through salary sacrifice, and a couple of weeks ago the long-standing £1000 limit was abolished so there’s a lot more choice.

For those not familiar, employers can sign up with a C2W provider (and really should have by now), the employee takes a loan to buy a new bike of his or her choice (and any accessories - lights, helmet etc) and repays it net of tax & NI over 12 months, which results in a decent saving. At the end of the 12 month hire period a nominal payment usually 7% of initial value secures ownership, or that can be deferred for a further 1, 2 or 3 years. At 3 years its residual value is deemed to be zero so the fee to take ownership is nil.

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Spa quote a bike weight c.10.2kg for a 54cm steel audax with triple chainset.

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My advice under no circumstances get a flat bar road bike as it limits your options. It’s the worst of both world’s. If you want to join group rides with local clubs then a flat bar road bike will not make the cut.

Out of the brand names you can’t go wrong with any of them. With disc brakes you will have to pay more , you need to be looking at £1200 to 1500. But it’s the way to go. All the big name brands will slowly drop rim bike versions over the next 5 years. If u get the bug u will be looking for another bike in a couple of years and want to use your current bike as a winter bike. Hence why it will be good to with disc version as u will be able to swap and change components/wheels from bike to bike.

Im 5 10 and have medium Giant TCR from 2011 but the top tube was 555mm, I note that’s slightly changed to 550mm. So I would test out the different frame sizes. Bike fit is essential to get saddle height and stem/reach and other variables correct.

Groupsets I would be looking for Shimano 105 especially with discs. (ultegra would be higher up the order) In terms of cost for bike look at it like this. 12 years ago I spent £1200 on Scott CR1 bike in that time I did over 60,000 miles on that bike. You compare that to a car and it’s a bargain. Mind at the end of it’s life (accident wrote it off) I had changed every component on it.

There is theory that good aluminium will beat a cheap carbon. I have no experience of this.
If it was me I would consider gravel/cyclo cross option. But u can also transfer the endurance bikes to a gravel bike by changing the tyres, u just probably wouldn’t be able to put 38c tyre on them. But u don’t need a 38c tyre in most circumstances.

The other recommendation is to get liability insurance. Especially after the news story last week regarding the cyclist who collided with the pedestrian. I’ve had a horrific accident last year when a van cut the corner turning right. So the liability insurance will save me solicitor expenses if I had to go the no win no fee route.

Also allow expense for helmet/shoes/pedals/lycra and be comfortable on what to do in case of puncture. Not used tubeless, but i’ve heard they can be a nightmare if they puncture out on the road.

Group Secretary for the Bristol Road Club


Just to advise is that the 2020 bikes will come in from September. So bargains can be had on the 2019 range from end of August onwards.


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I’ve noticed older ranges being discounted. However, I’ve never understood tge fashion thing with bikes, why they change colours, etc (as opposed to gradual evolution of components) - the reality is not that last year’s range is discounted, but this year’s is deliberately at a premium price because fashion freaks will pay it…

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