As a pioneer of aluminium you'd expect Cannondale to produce a class-leading frameset – and that is exactly what it has done with the Cannondale CAAD12
Cannondale is the pioneer of aluminium and its latest CAAD bike the Cannondale CAAD12 uses all of its 30 years of expertise to product a robust racing bike. The reason it has been included in this years Editor’s Choice, other than its great value for money, is that this bike can be one of the best crit racing bikes, built with a great spec, for very little money. Plus being aluminium, if you tip it in too hard in the bends, it’ll stand up to many hard knocks.
The Cannondale CAAD12 is the showpiece of what the American brand can do with aluminium. The bike draws on all of Cannondale’s 30 years of understanding and expertise, and applies the super brainpower of modern computing. If you ever wondered what CAAD actually stands for, well, it’s ‘Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design’.
This Advanced Aluminium Design enables the Cannondale engineers to virtually run through thousands of designs to find the optimum and extract the best from the material. The Cannondale CAAD12 uses 6069 aluminium alloy, which is said to be more expensive than the 6061 used on lower end frames but enables the engineers to use less material for weight-saving purposes without losing strength and stiffness.
What helps make the Cannondale CAAD12 a performance machine is all hidden internally, although you can see some clues from the shape of the tubes.
SmartForm techniques are used to deliver precise butting of the tubes, which Cannondale say smoothes the tapered transitions to stop abrupt changes in wall thickness, thus reducing stress and optimising its weight.
What you see on the outside is a flared seat tube that leads into a large and wide BB30a bottom bracket to help stiffness. You’ll also see sculpted tube shapes, most notably at the rear to help compliance and ride quality.
The fork is full carbon and is the same fork used on the SuperSix Evo; it’s claimed to be 200g lighter than the previous version of the CAAD and is designed to help ride quality, save weight and maintain good handling ability.
For £1,899.99 you’ll get a bike weighing less than 7.60kg (size 52cm) and a frame weighing just over a 1kg, which gives you the most cost-effective way of getting a lightweight racing machine. Swap out those wheels for a start and you’ll save some serious weight… UCI weight limit? What UCI weight limit!
Aluminium frames traditionally struggle to soak up road vibration and that is evident in the ride of the Cannondale CAAD12. Jumping straight off the 3T Strada and the likes of the Condor Super Acciaio you can feel the difference straight away.
However, I wouldn’t say it was uncomfortable – just more of a hard ride compared to steel or carbon alternatives. On the slopes around Surrey, even up the smoothly tarmacked Box Hill and Richmond Park you’ll feel the vibration – but don’t let that put you off.
Some of this will be down to the tyres, which actually measure closer to 24mm rather than the stated 25mm. Thankfully this bike should take up to, and probably just over looking at the space, 28mm tyres. This will help comfort levels of this bike a huge amount. Maybe something Cannondale will supply in the future.
Geometry wise it’s pretty much exactly the same as the Cannondale SuperSix Evo, which I loved when racing a few years back. Handling manages to encapsulate everything you want from a bike: nimble attributes helping the bike feel fast and able, while remaining stable and predictable.
Annoyingly this bike comes with a pretty wide handlebar. The ergonomics are fine but seeing as the industry leaders are going more towards narrow – thus better aerodynamically – options, it was odd going back up to a 42cm (centre to centre) handlebar.
Performance wise you cannot fault the Cannondale CAAD12.
For the price I’d go as far to say there is nothing better out on the market in terms of pure performance. As this bike stands you’ll be able to race it, even with those Mavic Askium wheels in (of course swapping these out for something carbon will be advised when aiming for speed).
The amount of stiffness you get is unrivalled at this price point and if you are after a racing machine on a budget, get this. Even if you are toying with the idea of going carbon, get this. The amount of money you save is huge and you’ll be able to spend that on better components like Shimano Di2 – and this Cannondale CAAD12 is ready for that jump if need be.
At present, I’d go as far to say that you’ll struggle to find a better aluminium race bike.
Cannondale CAAD12 specification
Shimano Ultegra R8000 runs throughout and is very, very good. Light shift action with decent stopping power from the rim brakes. It’s also easy to adjust once cable stretch has set in.
You’ll get a Cannondale chainset here, which is no demotion and the cranks are known to be lightweight and stiff.
Askium wheels are standard around this price point but are a decent robust set of wheels. This bike would feel a little better with a more expensive set of hoops though, along with a wider internal rim with wider rubber too, to help soak up that road buzz.
Tyre wise you get Mavic’s Yksion WTS 25c. I’m not a particular fan of these, feeling the odd slip on cold damp days, I even got an out-of-saddle slip on a climb. These also measured up closer to 24mm than the stated 25cm.
£100 under £2,000 and you get a great machine. I can’t argue against any of its componentry, although you have plenty of possibility to upgrade.
You can also get this bike with Shimano Tiagra for as little as £1,099.99, which is again an absolute steal considering the possibilities of the frameset performance.
This model I feel brings it all together nicely, however. Out of the box you’ll enjoy it, although wider tyres and a racier wheelset should be on the cards shortly.
The Cannondale CAAD12 is an awesome bike. The Ultegra build comes in at a great price too. As aluminium is a cheaper material to work with than carbon, the overall cost saving is passed onto you meaning you'll get a high-performing frameset without the big wallet hit, although you'll feel the rumble of the road a lot more. All-in-all, great work Cannondale!