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Buyers Guide: The Five Best Bike Values Compared.

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We're comparing five value-oriented multisport and triathlon bikes for the key 2016/17 off-season buying time.

This tool allows you to compare each bike to determine which one best suits your needs. It does not include the key bike buying component of fit and position, that are the most important determining factors in overall performance.

Three Categories: Triathlon, Multisport and Road. 

Use this flowchart to decide which category bike you should be on:

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Of the five bikes listed in the chart both the Cannondale GOAL and the Kestrel Talon are "multisport bikes". These are built for riders who will do both group road rides and triathlons. They can be ridden alternately in the aerobars for solo riding or on the base handlebars for group rides.

The Cannondale Slice 105, Felt B14 and Cervelo P2 are "triathlon bikes". These are designed from the aerobars back to provide a more comfortable, stable, easy to ride position in the aerobars. If the primary reason you are buying a bike is to prepare for and participate in triathlons, a triathlon bike will suit your needs best.

The Cannondale GOAL is the only bike in this grouping that can quickly be configured as an exclusively "road bike" by removing its bolt-on aerobars and installed a rearward offset seatpost. Because of this capability the Cannondale GOAL offers a lot of versatility.

Kestrel Talon Tri: $1399.

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The Kestrel Talon Tri is a standout bike in three areas: price, frame technology and components. At $1299 there is nothing in the industry to match its value.

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The aerobars are an industry best anatomic bend with good quality brake levers and Vision brand 11-speed bar end shifters. The base bar is alloy. The singular criticism in the elbow pads supports are molded polymer, not aluminum. This won't be a problem for riders under 180-pounds but is not ideal for heavy riders as the polymer elbow pad supports may feel flexible to heavy riders. These can be easily replaced with Profile Design alloy elbow pad supports.

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Head tube height on the Kestrel Talon is moderate. It provides a performance oriented position that is lower than the Cannondale GOAL. Every other specification on the front end of the bike is commonplace so nothing requires special tools and everything will work well without adjustment and with only minimal maintenance. It is a basic, comfortable, functional front end.

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Main frame of the Kestrel Talon is an aerodynamic blade shaped molded carbon fiber frame. Kestrel invented this process in the 1980's and it is the defacto construction method for all racing bike frames now. The seatpost binder bolt assembly, the bolts you adjust saddle height with, are modular and could be replaced if ever damaged by a bad wrench. The frame has two bottle attachment points.

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The saddle clamp on the Kestrel Talon is the same as the adjustment clamp on Cervelo's P5, P3 and P2. It is easy to adjust, stays tight when torqued correctly and is lightweight. In short, the industry best design. Saddle is a better than average triathlon specific design that does lack a cut-out.

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Another place the Kestrel has an advantage is in the crank spec. The Oval 520 Compact 110mm bolt pattern crank is very, very nicely designed with a large hollow space in the center to reduce weight and an excellent finish. The chainrings make this component even better with clean, precise machining (no heavy, stamped inner chainring) and an attractive, expensive looking contrasting finish.

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Final high marks on the Kestrel Talon go to the derailleur choice. The Talon has Shimano 105 11-speed derailleurs with the rear derailleur in the short cage, lightweight, high performance version. Remember the price on this bike is $1299, making the Shimano 105 11-speed derailleurs seem like an even better value.

Cannondale GOAL: $1999.

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If you don't know what to buy, buy the Cannondale GOAL.  At $1999 it is not an inexpensive bike, but it is the most versatile bike of this grouping.

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Cannondale GOAL (Good Old American Logic) uses a road bike friendly Profile Design aerobar with elbow pads that mount behind the base handlebar for best rider positioning. The aerobar bend is also an industry best for anatomic comfort in the forearm.

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Cannondale GOAL is built on the successful Cannondale Synapse frame platform. Synapse is a high head tube endurance road frame sold across Cannondale's line in a number of component configurations. One characteristic of the Cannondale GOAL is a higher front end position, making it a good bike for longer distance events like 140.6 distance triathlons and long road rides.

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Cannondale GOAL's lightweight, carbon fiber frame features a split seat tube to help absorb road shock. The seat binder bolt, the bolt you use to adjust saddle height, is recessed into the top of the top tube. The frame also uses flat seat stays and chain stays to reduce road vibration.

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The crank on the Cannondale GOAL is an FSA solid alloy 110mm bolt pattern compact crank with 50/34 chainrings. The crank provides good shifting, but is slightly heavy and has a value-priced appearance. fivebikes80

Saddle and seatpost on the Cannondale Synapse GOAL are both upgrade quality. The seatpost is a zero-offset dual bolt micro-adjust post. The saddle is a Terry men's or women's Butterfly endurance gel saddle, a go-to aftermarket only performance oriented comfort saddle. There is a cut-out for men and women in both versions of the saddle.

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Derailleurs on the Cannondale GOAL are Shimano's new, updated Tiagra 10-speed. This new version of Tiagra is greatly upgraded over previous versions and includes cable routing under the handlebar tape and crisp, responsive shifting with confident lever feedback.

Cannondale Slice 105: $1849

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The Cannondale Slice 105 is an outlier for three reasons: 1. Price. 2. It fits people with short torsos. 3. It is perhaps the lightest weight triathlon bike. The later feature, light weight, is particularly relevant to smaller, lighter riders on hilly courses who usually average less than 20 MPH. The bike features an open seat tube angle for very good comfort in the aero position if its short top tube fits your torso length.

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Handlebars on the Cannondale Slice 105 do leave room for improvement. The straight extensions are uncomfortable and come very long out of the box with the expectation that you'll disassemble the cockpit and cut the aerobar extensions to the correct length to match your forearms. That is a fair bit of work and ultimately the aerobar bend isn't comfortable. We recommend upgrading these to Profile Design aerobars.

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Stem, head tube and front brake on the Cannondale Slice 105 are all solid with some extra appeal from the fork crown and down tube integration. The little polymer cable management cover behind the stem makes the front of the bike look finished and streamlined.

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The main frame on the Cannondale is all carbon fiber and uses a "truncated airfoil" shape with flat trailing edges. There are two bottle mounts. The seat stays on the frame are very thin and light. They provide much of this bike's nice ride quality on bad roads and save weight.

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The seatpost on the Cannondale Slice takes extra work to adjust for saddle angle because one of the bolts is concealed head-up under the saddle. You have to remove the saddle entirely to adjust it unless you switch to a saddle with a comfort cut-out like ISM Adamo or Cobb Cycling to pass a wrench through. The original saddle on the bike is wide, padded and reasonably comfortable for most riders.

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Crank on the Cannondale Slice 105 is an FSA black coated hollow spindle crank with nicely machined chainrings. It is a 110mm bolt pattern with 52/36 chainrings, a nice combination for moderate to rolling courses. Expect good front derailleur performance on this combination.

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Cannondale gets good marks for using a sporty, lightweight, precise shifting short-cage Shimano 105 11-speed rear derailleur on the Slice 105. No complaints here, it works perfectly with the aftermarket shifters on the aerobars.

Felt B14: $1999

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A legacy bike for Felt that uses a frame shape with multiple Olympic Gold Medals and Ironman wins. The all carbon fiber frame is proven, has moderate geometry that tends to fit the middle 70% across its size range and even has a nice finish.

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The Felt B14 cockpit uses a proprietary "f" bend aerobar extension that has a wide adjustment range and can be cut to achieve different effective bends. The elbow pads adjust for width and fore/aft over a narrow range so accurate fitting on this bike is important with its narrow adjustment band. Polymer grips on the base bars feel nice especially on cold hands after the swim.

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Head tube, cable routing and fork crown are nicely done and unremarkable. Head tube height in each frame size on this bike is down the middle of most brands making it easy to find a comfortable stack height on the front end of the bike.

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The carbon fiber, aerodynamic shaped seatpost on the Felt B14 is easy to adjust without removing the saddle in most cases. The saddle on the B14 is very nice, a high performance Prologo Evo Tri, but it is a racy saddle not every rider will appreciate. New riders and overweight riders may need an ISM, Terry or Cobb saddle as an alternative. Seatpost binder bolt used to adjust saddle height is very, very good and uses a larger allen wrench than other bikes in this review (a 5mm Allen wrench at 8nm of torque).

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You give up finish quality and light weight on the Felt B14 crank to get the nicer Shimano Ultegra 11-speed derailleurs. The bike comes with 50/34 gearing on a 110 mm bolt pattern. Shifting is fine but the crank looks clunky compared to others in this price category. The Ultegra derailleurs may make up for the crank.

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The Felt B14 has the most expensive, highest end derailleurs of any bike in this comparison. This is a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed derailleur set. They are shifted by a pair of Micro Shift bar-end shifters on the aerobars.

Cervelo P2: $2799.

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Cervelo's P2 is the most popular triathlon bike in the history of the sport. More Cervelo P2's have been sold than any other triathlon bike. While the bike is more expensive by a substantial margin than any other bike in this comparison, including the Shimano Ultegra equipped Felt B14 (the P2 has lower level Shimano 105) the reason for the higher price is the Cervelo frame.

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The Cervelo P2 cockpit is basic but highly adjustable for fit and very comfortable. Elbow pads have a wide range of width and fore/aft adjustment. Shifters are genuine Shimano brand 11-speed bar end shifters. In general this is an excellent cockpit that needs no modifications beyond adjustment for fit.

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The head tube on the Cervelo P2 is one of its unique performance oriented aerodynamic features. The head tube shape of the P2 is used in both the more expensive P3 and P5 bikes. The fork shape melds into the head tube and the down tube is close to the front tire, another aerodynamic design consideration. These frame features are what account for the higher price and likely better performance on the P2.

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This frame shape is what you pay extra for on the Cervelo and it is worth it if you consistently average nearly 20 MPH on the bike. It is aerodynamic and stiff. The Cervelo BBRight bottom bracket improves resistance to lateral deformation under pedal load at low speeds on steep climbs offering a tangible performance benefit across the entire speed envelope. The seat tube is very close to the rear wheel, another aerodynamic feature, and the seat stays are aerodynamically shaped. There is a mystery bolt on top of the bottom bracket for an accessory mount, but no accessories mount here yet.

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Saddle clamp, seatpost and saddle are likely the best in this comparison on the Cervelo P2. The ISM Adamo triathlon saddle is a very high quality, high end saddle that many athletes upgrade to after their original saddle becomes too uncomfortable. Saddle angle and fore/aft adjustment are easy.

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The crank on the Cervelo is a special version of the FSA Gossamer that is compatible with the BBRight bottom bracket. It is a 110mm bolt pattern compact crank with 52/36 chainrings.

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Recent Cervelo P2's have come with a Shimano 11-Speed long cage rear derailleur. It's reliable with the Shimano bar end shifters on the aerobars and the longer cage on the derailleur allows you to use a very large cogset in the back to make hill climbing easier.