I'm a beginner triathlete looking for advice on what bike to buy (current bike: cruiser).
Races: Sprint and Olympic distances (half/full ironman a few years down the road)
Price range: $1,000 +/- 500
A friend recommended Cannondale CAAD9-6. What are your thoughts on this bike and what others would you recommend?
Get one that you feel most comfortable on. Fit is an individualized thing and it's probably one of the most important thing to consider when purchasing a bike. Do yourself a favor by going to a bunch of different bike shops in the area and try out as many bikes as you can. See which one fits you the best. After that, choose one that turns you on visually the most. A pretty bike will make you want to ride it more. That in turn will make you more passonate about the sport.
After you have narrowed it down to a few bikes, come on this forum and list the components that are on the bike. The folks here will tell whether you are getting a good deal for the bike or not.
There are a lot of great beginner bikes at the $1,000 price point. Don't be pigeon holed into a brand or brand name. Also remember to budget things like helmet, clipless pedals and shoes, locks, bike computer to measure speed/cadance, flat repair kits, clothes (bike shorts/jersey), locks, etc. Those things can add up to quite a few dollars. You will be in for a sticker shock if you don't budget those things. The only "must have" is a helmet but those other things will make your life more enjoyable.
You can get a good brand new entry level tri bike for about $1k. Yours truely has one such bike that will going on its second Ironman tour in a few weeks. Tri bike vs road bike is another debate :).
Are you planning to ride a lot this winter? If you can wait until Feb/March, consider joining the NTP program. They will have seminars on how to choose a bike (i.e., things to look for or look at when purchasing a new bike). The NTP program will also hook you up with discounts that are not available to the rest of the membership. The only down point to that is that you have to wait until next year. Now is the best time to purchase a new bike since shops are clearing their inventory for next year.
Also, some bike stores will give you a discount on the components (shoes, pedals, aerobottle, etc) if you buy them all when you buy the bike. So like Tuan says, budget for these things into the cost of the new bike and you can save a bunch of cash. Also, I bought mine after Christmas when the store was trying to get rid of the previous year's inventory and saved a few hundred dollars there as well. The bike was a good fit and what I was looking for so I did not get "stuck" with what the store was trying to clear out. I got mine at Bonzai which has a great selection of tri only bikes. Since I bought mine many of the main stream stores are carrying tri bikes as well. Happy shopping : )
The Caad9 is a killer road bike for the price, but it is not a tri bike. If you have intentions of doing half and full ironmans in the near future, I'd get a full on tri bike. Otherwise you are going to be looking to buy a 2nd bike when you are starting to approach those long races.
Tri bikes are all about fit, so make sure you find one that works for you. The geometry varies much more than it does for road bikes from a Cervelo to a Trek, for instance. Not all tri bikes will necessarily fit you.
Fit aside, in my opinion the least expensive entry-level-but-so-good-you'll-never-really-have-to-upgrade bike is the Felt B16 at ~$2000 (could probably get it for 10% lower than that?). Its aluminum cousin is the Felt S32, and is right in your price range if you aren't comfortable moving away from that $1500 max.
I have the Felt S32 and have been happy with it. Wish I could just ride more. My neighbor who got me into doing Tris has an earlier S32 and is still riding it. She regularly finishes in the top 5 of her age group. Sometimes it is not the bike, but who is on top of it!
I can't comment on that specific model, but it seems like most of the posts above are encouraging starting off with a tri bike, so I wanted to provide a different opinion. You don't need a tri bike to do a triathlon. I did my first half iron on a K2 Mach 2.0 road bike that I bought online for <$400. I've since upgraded to a nicer road bike and have done 3 more half irons on it, but the upgrade hasn't made me faster (sadly). Many of my friends in DC Tri have done half irons on road bikes as well.
I prefer having a road bike because it's more versatile. You can do any route/race on a road bike while there are some rides that are a little scary (but still doable) on a tri bike (I'm thinking of the hilly Savageman course, specifically). You might be faster on a tri bike, but you can always upgrade with a pair of clip on aero bars down the road. Aero bars (clip on or not) are nice because you have an extra position to move into while spending hours on the bike. I'm signed up for a full next year, and I think I'll finally get a pair of clip on bars for that reason.
Have to say, with my carbon bike in the shop, I've been riding around fine up to 70 miles on a sturdy, comfy, c. $400, 2003 aluminum Specialized bike from Spokes.
I'm also looking for a reasonably priced road bike. I did my first sprint this fall on my hybrid but need to get a road bike for the dc & nation's olympic's. :)
What websites are good resources for bikes. I'm thinking if I can create a "wish list" from research at the bike shops, I can watch the sites for great deals. Thanks!