A lot of people have given me some great advice in this thread. Its at this point I'll let you know I didn't follow all of it. I had the best of intentions to do just that...
With that said I should also make you aware of two things...
1. I'm a very fast typer.
2. I'm long winded.
The above can be a dangerous combo!
So since a couple of you asked... heres an update on my bike search.
I went to Providence Bicycle as my first stop in my search today at 2PM. I got home at 8PM!
I walked in and asked for Joe. He was out racing today so instead I was helped by another salesman whose name I can't quite remember as I'm awful with names unfortunately. Great guy though! We started by heading for the Felt S32 which was the bike I wanted to see. As he was showing me its features and talking about it he started asking me questions about my bike experience (very very little beyond being able to pedal one) and what I was hoping to do with it. We talked for a bit about this and he asked me about things like group rides. To which I said yes absolutely I'd like to do those... but I'll have to buy a road bike as well to do those with. So we started talking about the road bike vs. tri bike issue. We spent a LONG time talking about this. We stepped away from the bikes and talked about it for maybe an hour. It was a long and involved conversation. I went into the conversation feeling like I was absolutely going to buy a tri specific bike. I left it by starting to look at road bikes.
The short version as to why I switched to road bikes was a talking point that none of the research I did brought up. Safety. Other than when I was a kid I haven't spent a lot of time on a bike. I have a mountain bike, but I've only used it here and there as an adult. So my bike handling skills are very much those of a beginner. Add to this that I haven't used clipped in pedals before. Also add to this that I live in Providence and there is traffic everywhere on all my running / and what will be my the beginning of most of my biking routes. When we started talking about riding in the aero position and having to leave the aero extensions to get to the hoods and brakes all the time I found this part a little disconcerting. I've had way too many close calls in the past year just running near my home. And I'm really carefull and I don't listen to music when I run and I try and be uber aware of whats going on around me at all times. That split second to move my hands from gear lever to brake hood is going to matter where I'll do the majority of my riding.
We also talked about future riding goals to which I said I'd like to do some century rides, maybe the MS 150, group rides etc. And that I had planned on having to also buy a road bike at some point to do this.
So what we eventually decided on was that perhaps it makes a lot more sense to reverse the order of my purchases. So I move towards road bikes to hone my handling skills and once I'm comfortable there if I still want a tri bike then we can go down that road.
So with that decision made I decided to have a fit done. I'd never been through this before and it was very cool to experience. They measured lots of different things and then we started to look at bikes that could be sized to fit me.
In the end we narrowed it down to two that were in my budget range and had all of things I wanted. They were both cannondale bikes. One a 2008 and the other a 2010. The 2008 model was an almost entirely carbon frame (90%), had upgraded components, nicer wheels, and a nicer seat, whereas the 2010 frame was aluminum and the components although very solid, were one model down from the 2008 model. But they were both the same price. So the mechanics took these two bikes and fitted them to me.
Which speaking of the fit... that was very interesting to me. They printed out three different fits for both bikes. A sport beginner fit, a racing fit, and a tri style fit. We talked for a bit and they suggested that due to my fitness level they thought I could handle a nice compromise between the road race fit and the tri fit although it would lean more towards the road race fit. They took the time to really explain this to me. They also explained all of the things that I can do to the bike down the road to change its fit as I progress as a rider. How I can make it more agressive, and how I can change the fit to a more tri style one and add aerobars once my bike handling skills improve and I build confidence. I really liked that they took the time to explain how I can grow with the bike.
So then we went out and rode them. They fitted standard pedals to the bikes so I wasn't also dealing with clip ins while riding a new style of bike to me. Being that the last thing I've ridden is my clunky heavy pig of a mountain bike these racing bikes felt very different to me. But very good! The acceleration on them is ridiculous. As in ear to ear grin ridiculous. I've never felt anything like it. The fact they both weigh 17lbs didn't hurt either. After tooling around the parking lot till I felt a little more at ease with the brakes and shifting (I love that you can both brake and shift at the same time on these bikes with the SRAm components) I decided to give the hill on Woodward a try. I was stunned at just how easy what I would have thought was a massive nasty hill was to get up on one of these bikes. Granted I'm in better shape now that I've ever been... but still... it was a HUGE improvement over my old bike. I also enjoyed just how well the bike handles on the way down the hill too. I'd never ridden on wheels that skinny before and I expected it to feel squirelly but it didn't at all.
So after a while on the first bike I switched to the second. As far as performance goes it felt completely equal on all fronts except for comfort. I felt really natural and locked in on the first bike, but the second just didn't feel as good to me. I was really feeling drawn to this first bike. But I figured maybe I just love it becuase its the first time I've riddeon a bike in this class before. So I took it out agian for a spin. Nope... I loved it just as much as I did the first time.
So then i hear a voice in my ear that says walk away and go try more bikes at another shop. But then the other voice in my head said... BUY IT! YOU LOVE IT AND IT FEELS GREAT! So yeah... my potential rookie mistake is that I bought it. And I do love it and I'm very very pleased with it. I'm really excited to go tear up the bike path tomorrow morning with it. Why am I waiting till tomorrow? Because by the time I left PB it was DARK! I was there for six hours! We used up the last bit of daylight to teach me how to use my new clip in pedals. Maybe it was just my excitement... but in those shoes I really felt like every bit of power I generated was going into the pedals. It felt much better than when I was just wearing sneakers. Acceleration was even better it seemed.
It at this point I have to stop and say how great the staff at PB were to me. Everyone there listened to my endless questions and never once rolled an eye. My salesman spent hours just talking about bikes and helping me make as educated a purchase as possible. Nooone ever rushed me or got frustrated with me. The mechanics all stopped whatever else they were doing to fit the bikes to me and then get my new bike ready for me to take home. I haven't had as positive a buying experience in a very very long time. Maybe ever. And I'm thrilled that I managed to find a bike at the shop thats only a quick ride away from my front door. Is it possible a better bike for me is out there somewhere? sure... but I really think I may have lucked out. Of course all beginners probably think that too!
So I'm sorry I didn't quite manage to listen to everyone's advice, but I do appreciate it, and at least I can admit it! : )
If your curious I ended up buying a 2010 Cannondale CAAD 9 D4 with Rival SRAM components and the BB30 crankset, Shimano pedals and SIDI shoes. I'm thrilled with it. Its currently all flat black with white tape on the handlebars. But as soon as that gets all dirty I'll have to switch it to yellow bars. I always race in livestrong gear so a black/yellow bike will suit me well!
I can't wait to get a little more comfy with my new bike and then I hope to get in some nice training rides with all of you soon! Thanks again for all the help!"
And here are some pics of my new pride and joy!