Those bikes you've looked at are all great bikes, but what do you mean by looked at? There is nothing better than going to a good local bike shop and giving candidate bikes a test ride - remember, you're under no obligation to make a purchase. Importantly, a good bike shop should be able to guide you through finding the right frame size and how to adjust the bike to fit your body, which I'd argue is ultimately more important than the bike itself (and components on the bike are least important, almost all of them can... and if you're me... will!.. end up getting swapped out over time).
I ended up trying a few Cannondale bikes and a Scott bike when I was choosing my first road bike last year, and felt than the Cannondale Synapse best suit my needs - though the bike has changed quite a bit since then as I've learnt more about myself :) This is also something that it might be worth keeping in mind - cycling is a big sport, and you might surprise yourself just how much you like it. When I got started I thought I was only interested in sportives, and now here I am finding myself training every other day and racing at the weekend... My point being it might be better to spend a little less in case your goals radically change in the future. It's a bit awkward if you buy a stiff racing frame only to realise you're much more interested in really long gently paced rides (or of course the other way round!)
Also, I should point out that this club has a huge range of abilities - so don't feel you need a flashy bike just to keep up! You'll be sure to find riders who match your ability or provide a good challenge either way. That said... if you want to go and break the bank, I'm not going to try and stop you ;)
Sorry this is a bit of a general comment, but hopefully that helps!
Thanks Ollie - that's super helpful!
I'm heading to go test ride the Dolce and Synapse today and have already tested the Specialized Allez (although as it was the first road bike I'd properly tried, anything was better than my hybrid! It sounds from all my online research like fit and comfort triumph everything else but I doubt my own ability to discern what's comfortable when I'm so road-bike-inexperienced..
Glad to hear I should fit in ability wise :) I have strong - but as yet untrained - legs!
@JennMairead I am also a female with long legs, and all my frames are 'male'. The major thing I changed was a shorter stem (standard 200mm, mine 100mm) to compensate for shorter arms (so no lower back pain due to overstretching), and shorter handlebars to match my shoulder width (to net get pain in my shoulders/higher back). If you buy new from a shop you should be able to get this for free or only a little bit extra, as they just swap the handlebars and stem.
I find a good fit is more important then weight on your comfy/heavy/slower -> less comfy/light/fast scale. Also everyone is different so some frames just are better for you then others independent of prize.
Good luck with finding your bike and with future rides.
I've just bought a Synapse (carbon) and it's my second bike since going back to cycling in late 2014 after 20-odd years as a Basketball player. Injury forced the change and the first bike I bought was a Rose DX2000 Cross bike (slightly over your budget but great value). That's an aluminium cross frame with 46/36 chainring and yet I did both the Tour of Cambridgeshire and PrudentialRide100 on it in 2015 with a 29km/h and 27km/h average respectively. I have a set of road wheels and cross wheels so have just swapped as and when. I've enjoyed my riding on it so just shows you don't need to overly obsess on a 'race', 'sportive' or 'gravel' bike. Most bikes can do most things.
It took me that long to get an idea of what I wanted from a bike as well as being able to choose a frame that would fit me. I got myself fitted on the Rose last March and used the data (particularly stack and reach) to buy the Synapse. The Rose came with disc (mechanical) and 10spd 105, which I believe is now equivalent to this year's Tiagra. The Synapse is also a disc bike (Sram Red HydroR). I like disc brakes and wouldn't buy a bike without them as they fit what I use the bike for. Cross off-road through Epping Forest and surrounding bridleways/towpaths on the Rose and long(ish) and steady(ish) rides on the Synapse plus sportive (this year's Velothon Wales, ToC and RideLondon100). I like a comfortable position so chose an endurance model. I narrowed my choice using my fit data, something you haven't got, so Ollie's advice is spot on, try the bike if you can. I notice you are looking at a Specialized Allez, why not the Roubaix? Finally, if you're looking to stretch your budget, a look at online retailers Rose or Canyon might be worth having.
Whatever you chose, get it fitted properly and just enjoy riding it. When I bought my Rose, within 12 months the equivalent groupset had gained a cog at the rear and hydraulic brake operation, things move so fast there's no pleasure trying to keep up!
Oh, and ability-wise, I'm 1m89 and 110kgs and I chose the club as it is so welcoming. I have cycled with members on organised rides and on the track and have never felt out of place. Very welcoming, so much so that I cycle an extra 30kms to and from home in Woodford to attend the weekly ride, when I do.
One thing that is worth considering is that we have discounts at many stores in Islington.
Join up and you can take advantage of these discounts (and also any bike fitting services they offer as part of buying a bike).
Thank you everyone!
Have looked into discounts (cheers!) - Swift Cycles could be an option if I go for the Cannondale. Otherwise I feel like I've had so much time from the Evans staff that I should give them my custom now!
Thibaud - that's all super useful. I hadn't fully realised that when people had told me 'find what's comfortable' that (in general) each model refers to the frame and then components raise the price up and down. So actually just testing all the frames first and ignoring all the rest is more helpful (although I LOVED the disc brakes that were on both bikes - Synapse and Dolce - that I tried yesterday. They both seemed more comfortable than the Allez, although that was the first road bike I tried so maybe I was just overwhelmed by the difference!
I think I need to try the Emonda and women's Synapse (@Martine I definitely noticed the benefits of the narrower handlebars on the Dolce!) to see if I notice them, but I can now see why comfort is most important and then I'll just buy the best components I can afford once I've chosen the frame.
Thank you so much everyone for helping me build a better picture of what I'm looking for and getting and in need of! :)
Remember you can tweak any of those bikes to suit your position/needs. Your unlikely to feel the difference in construction without really hammering it. Also put the weight issue aside get something you will love to ride...but also live some ££ for some good kit as this can effect your ride more than the bike sometimes.
Hello everyone, I'm on the cusp of joining ICC as soon as I've picked up my new road bike. I want to be sure that whatever I get is suitable for the rides that the club does (and things like the Chalfont ride in June etc). I was hoping I might get some advice/thoughts from the more experienced bike owners please! I want to use it to commute (over Crouch Hill and Ally Pally/Muswell Hill) but also for much longer cycles. I'm 5"8 with long legs so I'm not sure I 'need' a woman's bike, but this will be the first bike I choose for myself (I do all my cycling on a friend's old Trek hybrid currently, so anything will be an improvement) so really I've no idea what I'm talking about!
The bikes I've been looking at are:
Specialized Dolce Evo 2016
Trek Lexa SL
Cannondale Synapse Tiagra Disc
Trek Emonda ALR4 or 5
I believe they're in order of comfy/heavy/slower -> less comfy/light/fast
My budget is roughly around £1000 but I fell in love with the Dolce Evo hence considering that!! I just feel overwhelmed by choice and brakes and gears and what I really need to keep up with a cycle club but stay comfy all day!
If anyone has any wisdom I'd love to hear it... and I hope to meet many of you out soon on some rides :)