Giant Defy vs Cannondale Synapse: help me choose my first road bike



Owboduz

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Jun 25, 2013
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This will be my first road bike, but I've been riding hybrids for a long time. I had a previous thread on the topic, but a bit has changed and my thinking has changed since then. I'm more into endurance riding than performance or time trial. I plan on doing more endurance rides with this bike, such as the London to Cambridge and maybe some other charity rides.

I would add the Specialized Secteur to that list as well, but the LBS I've been going to doesn't have it for demo in a large enough frame. I normally wouldn't discount it for that, but I want to test-ride my next bike before I buy it. Unless there's something really compelling about the Secteur, I'll stick to Defy vs. Synapse for now.

The Defy and the Synapse are within £50 of each other for Claris and Sora. Long term, if my groupset bothers me, I expect to replace it with either 105 or Ultegra, so I don't want to make a decision based on groupset vs. cost.

Both the Defy and the Synapse seem to fit me reasonably well. I rode them both around the car park at the LBS. I felt like the Defy had a bit more reach, which is good for me (I have a 188cm arm span), but I suspect that could be adjusted a bit. The 58cm Synapse was probably a size too small for me, so the 61cm model would likely fix the reach.

I'm probably going to want to fit a quick-release pannier rack so that I can bring my bike to work for lunch-time rides. Both the Synapse and the Defy have a single set of eyelets, so a rack should be possible.

I've been on an 8.5 mile ride on the Synapse and didn't have any aches or pains develop. The vibration in the frame was quite reasonable despite 110PSI tyres and some roads with questionable maintenance. I suspect it's the drop bar riding position more than anything else, but I felt like I floated over bumps more, than the bone-jarring jerks that I'm used to on my current bike.

I'm planning to go back and take the Defy out for a ride soon.

I fully expect to conclude that they're pretty similar and that I'd be happy with either. Is there any way to decide between these two bikes based on merits other than aesthetics?
 
I just went through this too. Everybody says 'Get the bike that fits the best'. That doesn't make sense to us having not ridden a road bike before. I have only been riding for about 3 months.

My advice, get a used bike. Find out what you don't like about it. Then buy the bike of your dreams and sell the used bike for what you paid for it. You will have a better understanding of what is comfortable after a few hundred miles. You will likely know what you want out of a bike. And if you lose interest its not a big deal you only paid a few hundred for it.

I did just that and picked up a 2012 Giant Defy 2, Aluminum with Tiagra for $500. It's a fine bike. Very comfortable, shifts are good, rides smooth. I have about 500 miles on it.

I am now selling this bike to my brother. While I could keep it for a long time and be very pleased I feel a need to buy a SuperSix evo.

If you insist buying new I think both bikes will be great. Pick the one that looks the best and buy a bike fitting session along with it.

I am choosing Cannondale because of the shop I will be buying it from. They offer free service for life, 10% rewards and have a fancy Guru machine to do bike fits. The 'dale shop is just more appealing as far as perks and is closer to my house. I did feel I liked the Giant TCR equally and fit well on both.
 
I'll put in a plug again for the Defy. I got a Defy 2 for my first bike and put 600 miles on it so far and still loving it. I think the Defy 3 is 5 years running best entry level road bike for some magazine or other (if those things matter to you). Also, at least in my LBS the Claris equipped Defy 5 is $200+ (USD) cheaper than the Claris equipped Synapse... but for a first bike I'd recommend you get the bike in your price range that puts the biggest smile on your face. That's what I did... except I went a little outside of my price range... but I've never looked back and the Defy still puts a smile on my face. (Especially 40+ mph downhills..... though 7%+ grade uphills still put a look of agony on my face... but again the smile comes back when I hit the top.)
 
If you're talking about alloy frames, I would also say, go with the Defy. The frames are very similar. Giant makes them for Cannondale, I believe. They are made to C-dale's specs (which is probably why there's a geometry difference), but the frame material is similar.

If you were talking about carbon fiber frames, and the 2014 Synapse, it would be a different story.
 
Originally Posted by chevmaro
I just went through this too. Everybody says 'Get the bike that fits the best'. That doesn't make sense to us having not ridden a road bike before. I have only been riding for about 3 months.

My advice, get a used bike. Find out what you don't like about it. Then buy the bike of your dreams and sell the used bike for what you paid for it. You will have a better understanding of what is comfortable after a few hundred miles. You will likely know what you want out of a bike. And if you lose interest its not a big deal you only paid a few hundred for it.
Unfortunately, in this city, the used bikes seem to go for nearly as much as the new ones. There are a few exceptions, but they all seem to be 200 miles from me and collection only. Potentially, that is why they are good deals...
 
Originally Posted by Owboduz
Unfortunately, in this city, the used bikes seem to go for nearly as much as the new ones. There are a few exceptions, but they all seem to be 200 miles from me and collection only. Potentially, that is why they are good deals...
Don't take this query the wrong way ...

BUT, isn't THAT a good thing?!?

  • because doesn't it mean that you can not only offset the purchase of your new bike with the cycle to work programme subsidy + the sale of your Trek?
  • or, were you planning on keeping your Trek?
  • or, is your particular Trek amongst the bikes which has not retained its value for this-or-that/whatever reason?
 
Test ride each for a day and buy the one you like best. Both will be great bikes, obviously being fitted to the one you chose is the most important thing. A decent LBS will have bikes on the shop floor they'll let you take for the weekend, if not find a better shop.
 
In the end, I bought a Vitus Razor. It showed up yesterday. All I had to do was attach the handle bars and the pedals. I've had it out for one ride and I'm quite happy with it so far.
 
Originally Posted by Owboduz

In the end, I bought a Vitus Razor. It showed up yesterday. All I had to do was attach the handle bars and the pedals. I've had it out for one ride and I'm quite happy with it so far.
FWIW. It sounds like you made a smart purchase ...

  • this may be stating the obvious, but if you are good to the bike, it will be good to you.
 
That was probably a good move. Like someone else mentioned originally, it'll take a full season before you learn what you do and don't like about the bike. If after that you feel like upgrading, you'll be shopping much more intelligently and with a much more specific set of requirements in mind. It's a fine line between not wasting money on a double purchase and not getting stuck with an expensive first bike that isn't really what you want.
 
AyeYo said:
That was probably a good move.  Like someone else mentioned originally, it'll take a full season before you learn what you do and don't like about the bike.  If after that you feel like upgrading, you'll be shopping much more intelligently and with a much more specific set of requirements in mind.  It's a fine line between not wasting money on a double purchase and not getting stuck with an expensive first bike that isn't really what you want.
That is, essentially, what forced my hand. I couldn't justify spending so much more when it was my first road bike. I got a road bike with a carbon fork and eyelets for mud guards or a rack. Those were my original requirements, but I paid under £400 for it. The Claris group set works well enough. When I get into too high a gear on the big front ring, the chain drags a little on the front derailleur, but I'm sure that's a simple tweak. If I find myself really wanting a wider variety of gears when I do the London to Cambridge this year, I'll look at upgrading the group set. Other than that, I guess there might be some value in upgrading the rims, though the ones that came with the bike are reasonably light and have a reasonably deep section. I would hesitate to call them aero, but they're not bad. Probably too many spokes for a race rim. The pedals have to be replaced. They are cheap resin pedals that don't even have holes for toe clips. It might be time to take the plunge on clip in pedals and shoes! Other than that, I wish electronic shifting would hurry up and trickle down already!
 
Originally Posted by Owboduz


That is, essentially, what forced my hand. I couldn't justify spending so much more when it was my first road bike. I got a road bike with a carbon fork and eyelets for mud guards or a rack. Those were my original requirements, but I paid under £400 for it.

The Claris group set works well enough. When I get into too high a gear on the big front ring, the chain drags a little on the front derailleur, but I'm sure that's a simple tweak. If I find myself really wanting a wider variety of gears when I do the London to Cambridge this year, I'll look at upgrading the group set.

Other than that, I guess there might be some value in upgrading the rims, though the ones that came with the bike are reasonably light and have a reasonably deep section. I would hesitate to call them aero, but they're not bad. Probably too many spokes for a race rim.

The pedals have to be replaced. They are cheap resin pedals that don't even have holes for toe clips. It might be time to take the plunge on clip in pedals and shoes!

Other than that, I wish electronic shifting would hurry up and trickle down already!

That's actually completely normal. You're always going to get derailleur rub when cross chaining, which is one of the many reason you shouldn't cross chain.
 
AyeYo said:
That's actually completely normal.  You're always going to get derailleur rub when cross chaining, which is one of the many reason you shouldn't cross chain.
I don't think I was clear. I get chain rub with the big front cog and the small rear cogs. That's not cross chaining, is it?
 
I thought you meant big/big. That needs an adjustment which you can do youself in a couple seconds with a screwdriver. Just look up a youtube video or shift into that gear combo and turn the high limit screw a hair until it's not rubbing anymore. It shouldn't effect shifting otherwise.