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I bought a Cannondale Quick CX4 last year, but I’m not fully satisfied. I want something more robust, fast on the trail, and a better gear set. I’m still eligible to exchange my bike within one year (REI), and I wondered if I should upgrade before the exchange window closes.

I am considering carbon bikes, but I’m aware that these are much more expensive. Any recommendations for carbon and aluminum bikes up to $2,800?

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    Welcome to Bicycles Exchange. This type of question is too broad for this type of forum because the answers would be subjective.
    – Ted Hohl
    Apr 25, 2023 at 5:11
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    Well, it's really hard to give any really advise without knowing a bit of context about what you're trying to achieve and type of riding you're wanting to do. The fact that you're talking about carbon bikes suggests you looking to ride things a lot more gnarly than your current bike. Feel that by asking the question, you've already made your mind up on the exchange and more asking about what to exchange too
    – Hursey
    Apr 25, 2023 at 22:27
  • This question is unanswerable because it is not specific. It's like asking should I move to a different city? Apr 29, 2023 at 13:39

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Shopping advice of off topic, so I am not making a recommendation on make/brand/model.

If you are unhappy with your current bike, first thing is work out why - is it the quality of the bike, or the style of the bike, or a bit of both. With the time you have had with that bike you are in a much better position to work this out. If you have the money for an upgrade, then making use of the exchange policy is definitely an option you should consider.

The question on Carbon vs Alloy - My belief is that an alloy frame is a lot cheaper to manufacture than a carbon frame, and at the same price point, those savings go into components. While alloy is heavier, the difference is 100's of grams/10's of ounces, if that - in fact a top alloy frame is often lighter than an entry level carbon frame. Modern hydro formed alloy frames are a long way from the 'tubes welded together' of 20 years ago, and perform very similar to carbon where it matters. Additionally (just search this site), many people who buy carbon frames tend to worry over every minor mark or scratch and if it means the frame is going to explode and cause a black hole any minute, which has to detract from enjoying the bike.

You can draw from this that I am not a fan of low price-point carbon and think you are better to get a similar price-point alloy framed bike.

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    Totally agree with mattnz regarding alloy over entry level carbon. So much more bang for your buck. Using the exchange opportunity makes a lot of sense in many aspects, not the least of which is a hassle-free way to come off the old bike for a fair price.
    – Jeff
    Apr 25, 2023 at 5:58
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My read of the Cannondale Quick CX4 is that it is a hybrid bike. These are designed for casual use. Many feature suspension components and other MTB styling features because that's what consumers think they want. I suspect most people just ride these on paved paths or roads. This is objectively a poor choice, since a bike of the same price without suspension could have better components otherwise, plus you now don't need to maintain the fork (and yes, these will wear out without maintenance).

If you feel that you now want to do some more proper off-road riding, you should definitely consider buying a more performance-oriented MTB. Now, navigating the landscape of MTBs is difficult, because there are many types - but the same is true of road bikes. Mike Kazimer of Pinkbike wrote a good explanatory article here. My read is that a newer MTBer who doesn't have their eye on a specific sub-discipline may be better off with a trail bike, which is described as the most generalist category of MTB. In parallel, if someone wanted a performance road bike but wasn't set on a specific discipline, I'd steer them to an endurance road bike, or even a gravel bike.

If you need to cover both commuting on paved surfaces and MTB riding, then it may be worth keeping your older bike.

Depending on your interest and ability, and the terrain around you, I suppose it's worth mentioning that some people might consider a gravel bike for mixed road and off-road riding. Even a road-oriented gravel bike can handle some XC trails - the milder ones, and this is not the ideal bike for the task, but it may suit some people's needs.

While REI's policy as written may allow for you to return that bicycle, be aware that everybody else doesn't allow this for good reason. That bicycle is now used, and they can't vouch for its history. Reconditioning it would involve labor, possibly new parts. I don't know if they would put it in an outlet sale, or the probability that it would just wind up in landfill. I would not return this. REI used to have lifetime returns, but social norms changed and some people abused that policy, so they ended it.

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I want something more robust

An "upgrade" isn't the solution to this. Switch to a different type of bike could be the solution.

For example, if you have bought a road bike, and consider it not robust enough, you may want to swap it to a gravel or cyclocross bike. That won't be upgrade, though, it would be an entirely different kind of bike. An "upgrade" would be ditching a $1000 road bike and buying a $3000 road bike instead.

fast on the trail

The only parts of bike that affect its speed are the air resistance and tires. Before buying something expensive, first set up your riding position (mainly handlebar height and distance) to be optimal and then find out what kind of tyres are best for you and install those.

Configuring your riding position and using optimal tires will usually do far more to your speed than buying a different kind of bike.

About the only case where buying a completely new bike might be advisable is if you have an incorrect handlebar style. Generally, it doesn't make sense to install a drop bar to a flat bar bike. However, drop bars provide tremendous speed gains. So if you want a gravel bike, then I'm all for a completely new bike.

a better gear set.

You may be able to swap to a wider-range cassette before having to buy a completely new bike. It may mean using a different rear derailleur to have enough capacity, but still, the derailleur+cassette swap is an insignificant fraction of the price of a completely new bike.

I am considering carbon bikes, but I’m aware that these are much more expensive. Any recommendations for carbon and aluminum bikes up to $2,800?

Carbon generally isn't more robust, so if that's what you're looking for, prefer aluminum and avoid the lightestweight components.

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