Let's start here: This isn't your father's aluminum road bike. Not even close. Used to be aluminum road bikes would rattle you to death — the price you paid for weight savings was unforgiving stiffness and a harsh ride. No more. While aluminum hasn't magically become as forgiving as carbon or steel, new methodologies of shaping and butting (just look at those curved seatstays) have made aluminum a far better frame choice than it used to be, and a somewhat affordable one, at that. For the $1,500 Cannondale is asking for the Synapse Alloy 5 105, you get Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, a Tiagra cassette, Tektro dual-pivot brakes, a Shimano wheelset, and a carbon-bladed fork that will smooth out the ride even more. Go with the compact (50-34) chainring choice over the triple unless you live in San Francisco or Peru. And for $1,500 you get a road bike that should take you from easy training rides right into entry-level racing. Start putting in those miles now.