I have been doing a bit of research on upgrading my current ride and have stumbled across a lot of reviews on the CAAD9, mentioning that this bike has one of the best frames on the market. Is this really the case? I have never ridden a full carbon bike and my current bike (Merida 905-20 Road race) is a alu/carbon mix, would this bike be a substantial upgrade.

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I come from Parramatta usually three times a week, but I certainly come up lilyfield road, I take lilyfield rd at around 17 kph.
this one is crying our for a reply from a 'low-end carbon' user - in my case i have a wilier izoard frame which i guess in oz would retail around 3k (5k specced up as per http://www.bikeexchange.com.au/bikes/list?page=2&search[bikeMakes]=99&search[isBike]=1&search[per_page]=10- this replaced my bianchi alu, which was a great frame but nothing like the wilier in terms of comfort, stiffness and responsiveness - and bianchi have probably just as good a reputation with alu as cannondale (they were fine for Pantani ...). The Izoard is hand made in Italy by one of the oldest manufacturers in the world - and Wiliers are currently deployed in the pro peloton by Lampre, so plenty of pedigree along the lines of the admittedly hyper-fashionable colnagos and pinarellos.
I have a CAAD 7 (2003) which is basically the same as the CAAD 9. I got the frame on its own second hand for $750 and I've had it for about 4 years now. It's an absolute classic frame. If you google reviews of the CAAD 7 from when it was current you will see how much enthusiastic praise is directed its way. When the CAAD 7 came out (circa 2002) it was also the lightest bike on the market - even against carbon. It's by no means light compared to modern carbon frames - I think it's about 1.5kg versus some carbon ones now are about 700grams.

It is a very stiff frame - I don't think you could find a much faster aluminium frame. The only bike i've tried which feels stiffer/faster is a Cervelo Soloist (not that i've tried a huge number of racing bikes, maybe 10-20). As a consequence it is uncomfortable, i find it wearing on long rides, but it's fine for less than 100km. Lower tire pressure (try 85psi front, 90psi rear), maybe using 25mm instead of 23mm and a good seat can really help with this though.

It is a lot classier than a low-end colnago. I've ridden an 'Arte' and it just doesn't feel the same. I wouldn't go a carbon frame unless you can get the top-end; Scott is good for this as you can get the Pro-Level frame with 105 for about $4-$5K, whereas for most bikes you can only get the top level carbon frame with a bike from $7K-$15K.

I've always told everyone who asks me about buying a road bike under $4K to get the CAAD 9. No one has listened yet but i wait in hope!!
I am a little confused by the regular references to 'top level carbon' in this thread. Are we talking material type such as 3k, 12k, 50HM1K or are we talking hand-layup, carbon dropouts and the like?

(Not that this is especially relevant to the thread, but I am one for semantics).

For me, for around $4k I would be looking at machines like the Pinarello F4:13, BMC SLC01 or maybe something from the Cervelo stable (I am a big fan of carbon).
A large majority of the carbon frames come out of Taiwan and Asia from manufacturers such as Ten Tec (Cervelo, 3T, Scott, Trek), Martec (Specialized,Gary Fisher, Kuota, Bontrager) and Carbontech (Pinarello, De Rosa) and numerous other manfacturers (the new Ritte Bosberg is a sprayed CG1 also sold by Pedalforce for about $700 less).

Simply, I would not have a problem ridge any carbon from a reputable company - the guys in Asia have been investing in carbon technology for a long time and know their stuff. The fact that there are design challenges relating to CF means the that designs have evolved understanding of the material has increased and I think that badly designed CF frames are few and far between now. To say sub $4k CF bikes are a risk is I think disingenuous to the companies that create lighter stronger and better machines year on year.

Incidentally, if a sub $4k CF bike is 'a risk' how does that distill to the frame price? - a nice group and wheelset will easily push the cost of any frameset above that figure.
I think kylie means $4K for the whole bike, not $4K for the frame only which i think excludes some of the frames you mention, pinarello, cervelo, etc.

I don't think that a cheap carbon bike will fall to bits, but the issue is that at the entry level the fact that a frame is 'carbon' is a bit of a gimmick - it doesn't mean it's automatically better than an aluminium or steel frame at the same price point.

There are many different types of carbon (material) some which aren't as good as high grade aluminium for making a good racing bike. The frame design and build also matters. I would say you'd need to spend considerably more to buy a carbon frame that was as good as a CAAD 9 frame.

Bringing this thread back to life... I have a CAAD9 and love it. Cost peanuts on Gumtree and have now done over 15,000km on it.

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