Well, I am on my second road bike of the decade now. After building up the steel Ritchey Logic bike, a project that really came out well, I decided that I was liking it well enough to dive in a bit deeper. The Ritchey was built with SRAM Rival 10spd (love Doubletap), an FSA Mid Compact crank with 52/36 rings running into a 12-28 rear cassette, FSA brakes, stem, and seat post, Ritchey bars and tape, Ritchey pedals, and a Specialized saddle. The wheels were American Classic tube-type Hurricane wheels with Conti 700x25 GP4000s.
It came in at 18.5 lbs with pedals and was really a fine bike. It rode like a steel bike…smooth and silent... and that carbon fork kept the weight down. I did a few centuries on it and some all around group rides, training rides, etc. It was obvious that road riding was not a fad for me and I rode it more than anything else all summer. But there were a couple of things I wanted to change a bit, so I began thinking about the next road bike.
The 59cm frame was just slightly long in the reach for me. I was barely ok with a 10cm stem and that was a short as I feel is good for a road bike for someone my size. It was a great handling bike all in all, but I was thinking I would like to back off the HT angle a bit from the 73.5° setup the Ritchey had. I was also ready to try a good carbon frame and 11spd shifting. What I was not ready for was disc brakes, thinking that the refinement is still happening on the road side. Next bike, for sure, but not this one.
So I began looking around to see what was turning heads and setting the bar for endurance/sport bikes without costing me a fortune. As much as I would have appreciated the higher end lay-ups in carbon frames like the S Works or Hi Mod type of stuff, I did not want to spend that much. This was not going to be a 'super bike' build then, but just really, really good. Working on a budget then, I looked at three bikes that were at the LBS: The Specialized Roubaix SL4, the Cannondale Synapse Carbon, and the Giant Defy Advanced. All were similar in spec and weight, and I only was able to ride them in the basic bike shop parking lot situation, hardly ideal.
Reading about the bikes as much as I can, I knew that the Giant Defy and Defy Advanced had set the bar for the endurance road bike market. I had recently bought my wife the women's version of that bike, an Avail Advanced, and she absolutely loved it. The Roubaix was where the modern endurance bike met the masses and it was loved by MAMILs everywhere. But the Synapse had been re-done for 2014 and the new carbon layup, combined with a more sporting geometry than some others in its class, really had me intrigued. Riding them, the Roubaix seemed a bit stodgy. The Giant was likely the best of all and had a great, stable, yet fun feel to it. The Synapse was the sportiest of the three and snapped up pretty well when asked to, but was as comfy as any of them.
In the end, the Synapse worked out the best for me as I was able to get it with a lower spec'd grouppo and work out my plan of replacing the parts and putting my own stuff on there. So, since the frames/fork are all the same across the bottom few models, I bought a Shimano 105 bike and stripped it. On went a complete SRAM Force 11 speed group and a compact crank in a 172.5mm length. I was finding that the 175s that I run everywhere else…MTB, SS, etc, seemed to be a bit tiring to spin all day on a road ride. I used the same model of Ritchey bars, added a Ritchey stem and tape, and the same model in a Specialized Ronin saddle.
The wheels were a pretty big step up. A set of American Classic tubeless Argents with special graphics shod with the same 700x25 Contis looked amazing and are darn light and stiff. Tubeless ready, but not yet for me.
The end result was a bike that weighs 2 lbs less overall and accelerates and climbs better than the Ritchey, although the steel bike still out-smooves it. I also got a better fit in the 58cm Synapse and even with a 110cm stem have a cockpit that is 1/2" closer at the brake hoods. Perfect. I also got a bit more stability in the overall vibe of the bike, something I notice on rough, fast corners and even on long straight sections of road, in the wind, etc. Except for the slightly reduced comfort and the loss of some uniqueness, the Synapse has been total win.