Need some new bike advice. Felt vs. Cannondale? Sram vs. Shimano? Carbon vs. Aluminum


New Member
Feb 2, 2011
I'm new to the forum, I apologize for the double post, realized it should have been here, sorry. I am ready to get back into cycling after a long 10-15 years off. I got on a jogging kick for years, but following my 2nd knee surgery in 5 years, I've decided to get a new road bike. I've spent hours and hours over the past couple of days reading this forum and other forums, as well as picking the brains of a few friends. I am in the market for a new bike, and have narrowed my decision down to a couple bike brands (mainly because these are the brands that my LBS carries, and I very much want to support one of them).

I've narrowed my choice down to a Felt Z series or a Cannondale Synapse series. From all I've read everyone says to ride the bike and see how it feels, make sure the fit is correct, and all that. My thoughts....I've rode both, and considering I haven't been actively riding for so long, they both feel great, and comfortable. I think for me to truly know what feels right and what doesn't, and what I actually 'want' out of a bike, I need to get back into riding. So I think I just need to get a bike and start riding. The decision at I go Carbon fiber of Aluminum alloy? Seems to be great debate about this. I'm 6'1" and 220 lbs (plan to drop below 200 though). I plan to do as much riding as possible, perhaps up to 30-40 miles on some weekend rides (eventually even longer), and I spend a lot of time in the SF Bay area in hilly areas.

Things I need to decide on.

1. Felt or Cannondale?

2. Shimano or Sram components?

3. Carbon fiber or Alluminum alloy? (really torn on this one). I have knee issues, so comfort is of utmost importance to me.

Thank you in advance for your input.
I chose the Felt Z85 - Love it! I honestly don't think you can go wrong with either frame geometry, or either component group. I recommend at least the Shimano 105, and with that, the Felt is a bit less expensive than the Cannondale...

CF vs Al is an ongoing argument - I opted for the the Aluminum framed Felt, and I haven't regretted it at all. I've put over 1000 miles on it and haven't had any issues.

The difference in component group basically comes down to which shifting style you like - SRAM has their double-tap, Shimano uses 2 levers...

I would suggest the Felt Z85 or the Synapse Alloy 5. If you end up thinking you have to have Carbon, you'll be spending 800-1000 more... many people swear by it... I can't really provide any info, as I've never ridden a carbon bike, but like I said I love my Z85....
Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it. The Z85 is definitely high on my list, as is the Z5. They seem to have the same components, and the price difference between the 2 is listed at about $500. So I would be paying $500 for the Carbon Fiber, and am seriously thinking about it.

I hadn't heard of Sram until I began looking at options. They were not around when I was riding years ago, but seem to be getting decent reviews. Both the Felt bikes I'm looking at have 105 components. With the Cannondales I'm looking at, one is sram (apex or rival, I cannot recall right now), one is 105.
Welcome to the forum Walter. Your knees wont know the difference between carbon and Aluminum. Your wallet will. Some people will tell you about the harshness of the ride on an aluminum bike IMO they are full of baloney.
Stick with Shimano you wont be sorry.
FWIW I am 50 years old and ride a Synapse and CAAD 9 the Synapse is much more comfortable to ride and gets used more often than the CAAD. Bottom line is to get a bike that fits you well and you like the way it both looks and performs.
Originally Posted by davereo .
Bottom line is to get a bike that fits you well and you like the way it both looks and performs.

Thanks for the advice Dave. I've got to admit, I really like the way the carbon fiber bikes look compared to the aluminum. But, I suppose it's not too wise to put too much weight on that as a deciding factor.
Originally Posted by walterfredo .

Things I need to decide on.

1. Felt or Cannondale?

2. Shimano or Sram components?

3. Carbon fiber or Alluminum alloy? (really torn on this one). I have knee issues, so comfort is of utmost importance to me.

Thank you in advance for your input.

1. Which ever fits you best. Fit is the key - pretty much everything else is secondary. Fancy paint, lightweight bits or flashy wheels aren't worth a damn if you have bike fit related issues, upto and including pain.

Specialized do some nice bikes too and there's a few good Specialized dealers in the SF Bay Area. Factor in that some of the big Specialized dealers will give a BG Fit (Specialized Body Geometry) for free when you buy a bike. It's a little more thorough that a basic fit and should put you in the right ballpark.

2. Shimano - no question. SRAM may be lighter but lack of weight doesn't compensate for lack of reliability...

3. Bike design and bike fit are more important that material - but I do have to say that my Cannondale Hi-Mod is mystically stiff where it needs to be yet magically comfortable in the NorCal High Sierra mountains...

Your knee issues from running will be impacted more by your position on the bike rather than bike ride quality caused by frame design or the materials used.

If you have knee issues, I'd highly recommend a trip to Psoas Massage and Bodywork in SF... and no, I don't work there :p No skanky flea bitten chicks offering happy endings - they're just very good at fixing things that hurt.
Thanks Davereo and Swamp. I don't actually live in the Bay, but spend a ton of time there and will be riding there quite a bit. I'm a few hours south in the central valley. Really leaning toward a Felt as the guy that runs the shop is a top notch mechanic and will thoroughly fit me (process he says will take 2-3 hours). Really looking forward to getting out and riding.
Walter -I'm not going to get into all the fit and size and comfort stuff because it's already been said above, but it seems like your leaning towards the felt - nothing wrong with that, but the big decision of ALU or CARBON ? guys like you and me may never be able to utilize the performance that these type of bikes have to offer , but what the hell , we can sure give it a try ! Myself - carbon fiber,Felt AR series,Shimano DA , and it's not about being able to afford it or not , it's about what you want to surround yourself with ( surround yourself with excellence if at all possible ). this purchase for you has a lot to do with your health . so ask your self what you are willing to spend on your personal health .

heres how I look at it .
2500.00 $ divided by 36 months = 69.44 per month ( riding same bike for 36 months). are you willing to make that investment for your health? my guess is that you probably are.After all if your going to get a new bike , you obviously have your future health in mind. So - CF or ALU , both types offer excellent choices , but what type of bike do you see leaning against your leather couch .That's the question Walter .
In my expeerience, definitely aluminum for a guy your size.
Between the Z series and Synapse, I'd chose the CAAD 9 or 10/img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif
From what I've gathered about Felt bikes in general, they tend to be flaccid in that most important for racers of my size - bottom bracket/chainstay junction.
If you've got reasonable power, you'll flex the heck out of either the Felt Z85 or Cannondale Synapse. They'll feel very muted and soft when pumping appreciable torque through the pedals. However, if you're the high spin type, they'll be sufficient. At your/our weight (I'm 195), to avoid the spongy pedal feeling with either make, you'd need to pop for the top-of-the-line pro models - a nice pile of dough, for sure. Aluminum frames today are very good and not as "harsh" as they once were considered. Heck, lower the air pressure in your tires if it's a significant issue for ya'...

Shimano has been my only experience, and I'd say it's not much worse or better than the others out there. People I know with SRAM don't complain about it any more or less than Shimano. I chose Shimano because it came on my first road bike, is readily available, and it's cheap -relative to Campy.
I'm a 220 pound rider, with a lot of leg strength - and I have not noticed any issues with the Z85 frame -

I'll totally admit that this is my first road bike, and I'm not sure I would know if the frame is flexing under power (climbing for instance), or not... I've never ridden a higher end bike to be able to feel the difference...

I think for a recreational rider, it is not a problem, but that *could* be my uniformed opinion :)
Thanks for all the comments, opinions of others certainly help a lot when making a purchase that I really don't know too much about. And I can certainly understand where maddogbubba is coming from, and wanting the high end items, makes you feel good about what you're doing, and makes you want to get out there and ride your bike...when you look at it and are happy with what you have. The CF just looks so much sexier!! But...all that said, I've pretty much decided to go with the Z85 Aluminum frame, for a couple of reasons. From all my discussions and readings, both on this forum, and with other cyclists I know, no one has convinced me that I would truly benefit from the CF, the weight difference between the 2 is extremely minimal for someone at my level. I really wanted for people to tell me....'absolutely, go with the CF, it will make a huge difference', but in reality, I heard the opposite more often than not. And the main reason I think I'll go with the Z85 is it's $500 cheaper than the the Z6, and I can use that $$ toward a bike rack for my car, shoes, pedals, and other gear I'll need, and I would also like to get my lady on a bike, and I can use some of the extra money toward a bike for her. I think all along I knew it was the wise decision to make, but damn....that CF bike looked so freaking sweet!! But for where I'm at in the sport/hobby right now, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. A few years down the road, I may feel differently. And I feel a lot like ccallana regarding his comment about my first road bike, and probably wouldn't even know if the frame is flexing and what not, because I don't know what that even feels like at this point.

So...big thanks to all those who commented, I truly appreciate it. I am so excited to get out there and ride. I just have to wait a couple of weeks because the Z85 is back ordered in my size. Soon! Happy riding.
Shimano for reliability. You will have to decide between Felt and Cannondale for yourself.

Felt and Cannondale are both great companies. They mechanic at the shop that is going to take 2-3 hours to fit you is a good reason to lean towards the Felt. A proper fitting takes a good 2-3 hours so you know that he is most likely doing it right. But both Cannondale and Felt make good, dependable bikes.

Shimano beats SRAM hands down in my opinion. One of the most knowledgeable members of this forum, Peter at Vecchio's Bicycling in Colorado says that SRAM is mediocre equipment with a large advertising budget. My experience with SRAM components is limited, but what I have learned first hand about them is that their customer service is a joke. Shimano is *usually* fast and responsive, very helpful and interested in resolving problems to the satisfaction of the customer.

Good choice on your frame. All the reasons that you stated for going with aluminum are sound judgment calls. Years ago, in the infancy of aluminum frames, the ride of an aluminum was a bone jarring experience. Over the years though, new aluminum alloys, frame designs, and tube butting have given aluminum frames a much more comfortable and forgiving ride. I'm sure that you will be satisfied.
Similar background ... 52 yo and no riding for 15+ years - never any real road riding. Back into it 2 seasons ago for a 100 mile charity ride. Started off retrofitting a 1990 "mtb" with new wheelset, slicks, and a more broad gearing scheme. Weighed 218 when I started training in May 2009 and was around 200 for the century ride in October 2009. 4,000+ miles of "training".

Same century ride in Oct 2010, but this time started the season at 205lbs with a carbon framed project bike and rode the century at 188lbs after another 4,300 miles of training. Completed the 6,500 ft of vertical and 101 mile charity ride in 5 hours 20 min moving time (5:40 elapsed time) and felt virtually no fatigue at the end. Could have easily kept on riding. Didn't have a time goal when I started the event, but think I could have pulled off 5:15 or better if I hadn't dilly dallied around at the start. Looking forward to Oct 2011. Love cycling! Should have started much sooner in life.

I won't argue on the Shimano vs Sram issue because I have very limited experience ... 1 season and 4,500 miles on my Sram Force gruppo, but it performed flawlessly last season. My wife's ultegra triple was a little finicky at the FD, but we've got it under control and are both looking forward to next season's rides. :)

So basically saying ... don't get too bogged down in detail. Pick a bike that you like, that fits, and go out and enjoy it.
Originally Posted by kdelong .

Years ago, in the infancy of aluminum frames, the ride of an aluminum was a bone jarring experience.
Unless you got a Vitus 979 which was a noodle on wheels. Didn't stop guys like Kelly winning classics on them - even if they were prone to snapping forks and coming unbonded with no prior warning...

The joys of applying different technologies to bikes - it's all fun and games until you're grinding your face across the pavement at 25mph and someone loses an eye. :)
Glad to hear that you have made your decision, I'm sure you will get lots of performance and satisfaction with the Z85 , and I'm sure it will look good with a leather couch as a backdrop . ENJOY .

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