I'll declare my hand and say I'm a huge Cannondale fan - I've got a Six13, an X6 'cross bike, a 1999 F4000 hardtail and a carbon Scalpel.
I've always enjoyed the ride of alloy bikes. They're lively and feel more responsive than the carbon frames, which generally feel dead to me. (Before someone questions my choice of the carbon Scalpel - it was a crash damage replacement - thanks again Cannondale for looking after me - and I had the choice of the carbon or wait 3 months for an alloy ...)
I am currently living in Ottawa and use the cross bike for everything from cross racing, to training on (very rocky) forest trails, to a road bike. I get a really good ride out of it - even with road tyres pumped to 100psi on Québec roads (J'aime Québec - just not the road maintenance there ...)
Similarly, riding the Six13 on NZ roads has always been fine. Oh, and for those who haven't had the dubious pleasure of getting to know NZ road surfaces - a NZ pro who I know tells me that training on NZ roads is the closest thing he can get to riding the cobbles in France and Belguim!
At various times I have gone through the same series of questions about carbon and whether I should follow the flock ... I mean pack. I've ridden road bikes, tri bikes (I was doing duathlons for a while) and, most recently, cross bikes. Overwhelmingly I've been left with one or more of the following impressions (with the bike that I rode in each case listed in brackets in each case):
- the bike rides slower than my alloy frame or the manufacturer's equivalent alloy bike if there is one (eg. Cervelo P3C vs the alloy P2 ... and the various carbon bikes that I beat in the cross season ...
- the ride is smoother - but at the same time it feels dead (eg., Cervelo, DeVinci, Stevens, Specialized);
- there is a slight improvement - but not enough to justify the extra money spent on a frame (eg., Stevens and Kuota) - especially when doing something like fitting a carbon seat post or a full carbon fork makes a huge difference (I transformed an alloy Bianchi XL EV2 by swapping the alloy seatpost for a carbon seatpost);
- there is no discernable difference (eg., comparing a carbon GT hardtail to my 10 year old hardtail)
None of this will match with what you read in the various magazines and on websites ... I could offer you my thoughts on reasons for the various reviews, but will just say "don't believe what you read - ride as many bikes as you can and believe what you feel instead" ...
Over all, I think that the most sensible thing to do with carbon is to use it sparingly and sensibly on an alloy framed bike. The obvious example I'm thinking of is my Six13 - and the few other examples of similar bikes out there. The carbon sections in the top tube and down tube take some of the buzz out the road, but the fact that the frame is primarily alloy - and, importantly the fact that the rear end is alloy - keeps the liveliness and responsiveness of the bike. Worth checking out - especially if you've already discovered the joys of Cannondale!
Oh, and in case you are wondering, based on when my partner was working with a couple of pro teams recently, there are still an amazing number of alloy bikes being ridden in the pro peletons around the world - so don't let anyone say to you that "all the pros are on carbon, so why wouldn't you be too?!" And besides, pro equipment choices are a function of advertising and sales of the sponsors' products ...
I'll now sit back and wait to count how many people slam me for being an anti-carbon dinosaur ...