Believe it or not but Cannondale started out as a manufacturer of precast concrete moulds in 1971. The brand’s first product with wheels, however, was the Bugger bike trailer before the company developed its first aluminium touring frame in 1983.
In 2000, Cannondale invented the BB30 bottom bracket standard which was widely adopted throughout the bike industry, allowing for lighter, stiffer cranks.
But somewhere down the line, the company experienced a bit of a rough patch declaring bankruptcy in 2003. They were later purchased by Dorel Industries, who have owned the brand for the past 11 years.
Click through for our look at Cannondale tech explained
Cannondale road bikes
Cannondale was a bit late to the party when it came to the aero road bike concept, but when the American outfit did finally release one, it swung for the fences – there is no mistaking the SystemSix for anything but an aero roadie. According to Cannondale’s inhouse research, at any speed over 15kph, aerodynamic drag comes into play and the foil-shaped tubing and integrated bar and stem make it faster than the SuperSix Evo on anything less than a six per cent gradient.
The frame is disc only and has room for 28mm rubber, though the Cannondale says its optimised for 23mm rubber – albeit on the brand’s super-wide carbon wheels – despite the well-proven benefit of fatter tyres and the majority of riders moving to plumper casings.
At the front, the SystemSix uses what appears to be an integrated aero bar and stem, but it’s actually a two-piece system which solves one of the adjustability issues with such cockpits.
The top-end Hi-Mod models also come equipped with a Power2Max power meter; however, you have to pay extra to activate the unit.
Cannondale also offers a Women’s specific build, which consists of the same frame with different touchpoints.
The SuperSix is a stalwart of Cannondale’s range having first appeared back in 2004, albeit as the Six13. Serving as the brand’s all-out lightweight, uber-stiff race bike it received a complete revamp in 2019 replete with truncated aerofoils. It’s also got dropped seatstays, design features which are becoming increasingly common in the genre. Cannondale says the dropped stays and flat-backed seat post increase compliance by 18 per cent.
Even with the departure from the slim tubing and traditional frame, the bike retains the razor-sharp handling for which the frame is known. Cannondale claims the new SuperSix also requires about 30w less to maintain 30mph (48.3kph) and, in typical bike industry form, says it’s faster than all of its competitors, too.
The frame is available in both disc- and rim-brake guises, as well as a women’s specific build which, like the SystemSix, is the same frame with just a few component swaps. With clearance for 30mm rubber, the higher-spec models also come with an unactivated Power2Max power meter – which costs around $500 to activate.
For a long time, the CAAD has been considered the gold standard in aluminium race bikes and, while the latest iteration may look different, it only takes a spin around your block to realise it still deserves the moniker.
The geometry mirrors the ultra-racy SuperSix Evo, and it’s no surprise the CAAD13 retains the crisp ride quality we know and love. The tubing is heavily hydroformed to create truncated aerofoils to help the frame glide through the wind, and the D-shaped seat-post and dropped seatstays improve vertical compliance.
Available in both rim and disc builds, all the models feature a carbon fork and the brand’s own Knot handlebar, stem and seatpost. Cannondale is still selling the CAAD12 which features the double-diamond frame, and a budget-friendly CAAD Optimo which can be had for a relative bargain.
If your neck, wrists and lower back don’t quite get along with long and low race geometry, Cannondale’s Synapse features a more upright position, with comfort taking a priority in the design.
To achieve additional compliance, Cannondale utilises its Save Micro-Suspension as well as the Power Pyramid seat tube design which is said to offer vertical compliance while maintaining lateral stiffness – in our experience, this claim measures up. Cannondale also uses a proprietary 25.4mm seatpost to add additional pliancy, though it is surprising not to see dropped seatstays – maybe next year.
Each size gets its own specific lay-up, steering and headtube diameter to ensure all bikes ride the same throughout the range, and is available exclusively with disc brakes. Cannondale has also finally added fender and rack mounts to the frame.
If you’ve followed the hype around the new Cannondale Topstone, you’d have no doubt come across some scepticism about its Kingpin suspension. Employing a mechanical pivot at the seat-tube/chainstay junction, this clever piece of engineering, together with the Save seatpost, claims to add 30mm of forgiveness to the ride quality. Only the carbon version gets the Kingpin treatment.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Cannondale has upped the ante. Developing a gravel-specific suspension fork using their Lefty platform, they are one of a few brands offering a full-suspension gravel bike. The Lefty Oliver has 30mm of travel from the single-sided fork to provide a smoother ride over rough terrain.
The Topstone breaks away from the ultra-long wheelbase, low bottom bracket and slack head geometry found on most gravel bikes, with 415mm chainstays, a comparatively short trail figure and tall BB. All of this adds to agile ride quality, with reactive steering.
Keeping in mind this is a gravel bike there are mounts galore for racks, bottles and a top-tube bag to keep sugary snacks within reach.
Originally introduced in 2016, Cannondale hasn’t changed a whole lot about the SuperX. While there have been a few tweaks along the way – such as the addition of thru-axles and disc brakes, the DNA of the bike has remained mostly unchanged.
With short chainstays and a 71-degree front end, the handling is super sharp, and the bike is manageable on both rowdy descents and techy climbs. The compact rear allows you to rip it through hairpin corners with ease.
The bike will clear a 40mm tyre, though cyclo-cross racers are limited by the UCI to 33mm rubber. The bike is compatible with a removable front derailleur mount and is made from the brand’s Ballistec carbon fibre lay-up.
The CAADX shares the same geometry as the SuperX but trades a carbon frame for the brand’s SmartForm C2 alloy. It also benefits from built-in SAVE micro-suspension designed to take the sting out of square edges.
The bike gets flat-mount disc brakes and sees a carbon fork complete with a thru-axle, the rear end still uses a quick release.
The bike has rack and fender mounts throughout, and even comes with a removable seat stay bridge should you be using it as a commuter and need full-coverage fenders. For 2020, the CAADX is only available in Shimano 105 and Tiagra builds.
Cannondale’s SuperSlice was the first to integrate disc brakes onto a UCI-legal TT rig. Yes, we can already hear the disc-brake critics tapping away in the comment section, but not only do discs vastly outperform TT-style rim brakes when it comes to power and modulation, according to Cannondale, removing the brake caliper minimises drag at low yaw angles where riders are spending the bulk of their time.
The frame is designed to make both roadies and triathletes happy with a sliding seat clamp to allow for heaps of seat angle adjustability. The frame also plays nice with top-tube storage and the handlebars are compatible with the FSA/Vision Metron hydration system.
Speaking of handlebars, Cannondale offers 93mm of pad adjustment three stem lengths while the base bar can be flipped for an additional 30mm of grip adjustment.
Cannondale tech explained
Save Micro Suspension
SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) micro suspension is Cannondale’s way of saying it has tuned specific areas of the fork and seatpost to deflect and absorb shock using a special carbon lay-up technique and tube shapes.
Ballistec is Cannondale’s proprietary method of carbon construction which it says allows it to manufacture lightweight and robust frames. It starts with a base structure made from the same ultra-strong fibres used for military ballistic armouring and high-strength, high-impact resin – similar to what is used in carbon baseball bats.
Ballistec Hi-Mod uses a meld of ‘high- and ultra-high modulus fibres’ to create a stiffer structure with less material, while regular Ballistec comprises multiple layers of medium modulus fibres which provides similar stiffness and deflection, but adds weight.
CAAD stands for Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design and, as you can probably guess, is what’s used for its CAAD frames. Instead of starting with a tube shape and cutting it to the ride dimensions, Cannondale’s engineers identify what each tube must do and then use CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software to benchmark different tube shapes and configurations until they find the right profile.
SmartForm is Cannondale’s hydroforming process that customises wall thickness and tube shape. It also includes the brand’s double-weld techniques and post-weld heat treatment.
BB30 and BB30A
Cannondale pioneered the BB30 bottom bracket standard, using an oversized shell, 30mm aluminium spindle and wave-taper crank interface instead of a steel BB spindle which created a lighter and stronger structure. Releasing it as a free design standard, it caught on throughout the bike industry and is now available in a range of spindle widths and configurations.
One example is BB30A which is an asymmetric version of the standard concept, used on the Synapse, which adds 5mm to the non-drive side of the BB shell for a spider and stiffer base. To accommodate the wider BB shell, BB30A sees a longer spindle, and the non-drive-side crank arm is adapted to maintain the same Q-factor and provide enough ankle clearance.