Cannondale CAAD 8
By Gil Correa
I recently went on a ride up Glendora Mountain Road, a ride all the local cyclists know all too well. About a third of the way up the mountain, my record breaking pace was interrupted by a chalk message scratched on the pavement. The message read “friends don't let friends ride Cannondales”. I hope the author of that message has a few minutes to read about what he is missing.
I have been riding and racing on a Cannondale CAAD 8 for the last two years. My ride before the CAAD 8 was the same as what Lance rode in his first few Tour victories. To say the least, I was a bit skeptical and apprehensive about giving up my beloved carbon; however, I was pleasantly surprised and amazed with my new aluminum bike. Now I'm not really into the technical specs of a frame. I couldn't tell you the measures of all the angles, the lengths of the tubes, blah, blah, blah, so you won't get any of that here. If I want to know how light a bike is I pick it up. If it feels lighter than my old bike, cool. If I want to know if the geometry is right, I get on the bike and ride it. If my toe rubs the front wheel when I turn too sharply, then the frame is most likely built with aggressive racing geometry. The CAAD 8 meets all of these criteria for me. What I'm here to talk about is how it rides.
The SoCalCycling.com Team & Club ride these sweet Custom Caad 8's.
Think Cannondale, think aluminum. Think aluminum, think stiff. Aluminum frames are well known for their responsive stiffness but in many cases too stiff for comfort. Not so with the CAAD 8. Cannondale has created a frame that has the tight feel you would expect from aluminum but with a surprisingly comfortable ride that won't leave you feeling like you've been working a jackhammer after a 4 hour ride. This bike feels stiff but rides smooth while maintaining maximum power transfer from pedals to wheels due to the absence of flex in the frame. The CAAD 8's stiffness is uncompromised by using an oversized down tube and tapered seat tube, both of which are further complemented by beefed up welds. However, as stiff as it is, the bike doesn't feel like it lurches out from under you during acceleration. Instead the acceleration is quick, powerful, and straight.
The overall suppleness is no doubt achieved through the use of unconventionally shaped tubing and sleek shock absorbing bends in the rear triangle. The all carbon premium + fork is a perfect complement to the all aluminum frame. I will say that other than the coolness factor of being all carbon, I have not noticed a significant difference in performance by having carbon dropouts with the premium plus fork compared with aluminum dropouts of the premium fork. The slight rake in the fork allows for excellent bike handling control and smooth cornering without feeling jittery like many straight carbon forks. Also notable here is the absence of either over steer or under steer while cornering. The bike will go exactly where you want it to go though I have noticed that the rear end can skip while powering out of a turn. At high speeds, 40 plus mph, the CAAD 8 soaks up road shock like a sponge without feeling soft or having a lag in response time. Dodging lizards while descending GMR is no longer a massacre.
Overall the CAAD 8 has an outstanding ride that is aggressive yet precise, performance driven while maintaining comfort. Many years ago I read of a quick test you can do to check the general quality and alignment of your frame. While cruising at a moderate to slow pace, take both hands off the bars (this is only safe when crossing the finish line in first place) and pedal. Where does the bike go? If it has a tendency to go anywhere but straight ahead there may be some frame alignment issues. This test is not scientifically proven but when performed with my CAAD 8 I not only felt like I still had complete control of the bike but it also heightened my sense of confidence about the quality of the equipment I was riding on. I don't miss riding my carbon frame; my Cannondale has met and surpassed any and all of my expectations of how a race bike should perform. Perhaps when I'm feeling a bit nostalgic I'll wipe the dust off my old bike and maybe take it for a ride. Until then, as Mario Cipollini said after a stage win in the 1999 Tour de France, “Cannondale makes the best bikes!”