- Frame ride quality
Price as reviewed:
Cannondale’s CAAD13 is faster, more comfortable and more capable than almost any other aluminium framed bike ever created. It’s managed to improve on the already exceptional CAAD12, itself a recipient of an Editor’s Choice award so quite rightly belongs in this year’s honours list.
Traditionalists might be mourning the loss of the much lauded CAAD12 in all its classic, round-tubed glory but Cannondale has gone back to the drawing board to create its successor, the CAAD13. Now very much a thoroughly modern design that owes almost its entire existence to the newly developed Supersix EVO, the CAAD13 is once again a force to be reckoned with. This particular Cannondale CAAD13 Disc Force eTap AXS model sits at the very top of Cannondale’s aluminium-framed CAAD range.
The team responsible for the shaping and development of the SuperSix EVO have also had a big hand in the design of the CAAD13 with almost every tube being radically altered from the previous version. The SmartForm C1 aluminium alloy frame uses the same 6069 alloy as the previous CAAD12 but utilises truncated airfoil shaping to reduce drag. Proven in testing to reduce drag by up to 30 per cent over pure round tubing this airfoil shaping can most obviously be seen in the CAAD13’s down tube and seat tube areas. Here the D shaping has led Cannondale to employ a shaped carbon seatpost for the first time in its aluminium history.
A plethora of changes has brung about an altogether more comfortable ride to the CAAD13 frame. The most radical of which is the adoption of a dropped seatstay rear triangle. This is bound to divide opinion, especially among fans of the traditional shaping of the old CAAD machines, but it has been done for very valid reasons. Dropped stays are more comfortable thanks to their ability to flex more than a traditional stay arrangement. Not only does Cannondale state that this arrangement produces a more compliant ride experience it also proves to be more aerodynamic, offering a smaller target for the wind around the rear wheel.
On top of the obvious differences, tyre clearances have been increased to allow a 30mm tyre to fit comfortably within the fork and stays of the disc version. Rim brake models are restricted to 28mm rubber, however, due to brake positioning.
This particular CAAD13 on test doesn’t just sit at the top of pile by an increment, there’s a virtual chasm between the spec sheet on this bike compared to next model below it. This model has been kitted out to be an absolute race winning weapon and this is obvious almost all the parts adorning the frame.
SRAM’s Force eTap AXS wireless groupset is steadily finding its way onto a lot of mid to high end bike builds and with good reason. It delivers excellent gearshifts from an extremely neat and clean design aesthetic. It’s not quite as instantaneous as SRAM Red or especially Shimano’s Di2 drivetrain but is precise and consistent. The wide spread of gears the setup affords also adds to the appeal of the CAAD13.
The HollowGram KNØT 45 wheelset is pretty much the perfect style of wheel for the CAAD13. Not too deep but with enough aerodynamic prowess to provide a great turn of speed and worthy partner to the frame. The wide profile allows the 28mm Vittoria Rubino tyres to run a well-supported cross section, helping in part to give the CAAD13 a sublime level of vibration dampening.
Another section of Cannondale tech brought over from the SuperSix EVO is the KNØT27 carbon seatpost. Designed to bring more compliance than any previous versions it adds more comfort to the ride.
This particular model is also the only one in the range to benefit from Cannondale’s aero HollowGram SAVE handlebar and stem. Neat integration adds to the seamless look of the bike and the faux one-piece style of the bar and stem provides the ability to adjust bar position to suit individual riders.
“Is this carbon?”, almost without fail, these would be the first words anyone uttered after taking the CAAD13 for its first spin. The CAAD13 doesn’t skip over the road, it purrs with an almost intangible level of comfort and smoothness. It’s a little more solid in it’s ride characteristic than the equivalent SuperSix EVO carbon framed bike but this is where the aluminium construction benefits it. It mutes road noise and the additional weight of the bike discourages it from being knocked off line. Handling is ridiculously good and even on my first ride I was confident traveling full speed downhill on unfamiliar roads. In fact it encourages the hooligan in you to try and catch it out. I really could ride it blindfolded and still have confidence.
Of course the level of componentry helps a lot and the KNØT 45 wheels and Vittoria Rubino tyres are a superb match to the ride of the frame. The wheels are more forgiving than many deeper section carbon wheels and with the larger volume tyre they do help iron out some of the inherent stiffness that can still be found when really hitting rough roads hard. One aspect that needs to be adjusted from a personal perspective is the height of the front end. Cannondale provide 30mm of spacers under the stem plus a tall conical headset cap, creating a front end that feels a little at odds with the racy nature of the rest of the bike. This is obviously an easy thing to rectify but for a lot of us it would require the steerer to be cut to avoid an ugly stack of spacers above the stem.
With a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset setting you back over two thousand pounds and the KNØT wheels costing approximately fifteen hundred pounds this particular CAAD13 works out to be pretty good value for money as a whole package. What is interesting and probably the way that most of us would go, is the fact that the entire range of CAAD13 bikes has the same frameset. So the entry level 105 equipped version has a very similar ride feel (barring wheels), just for three thousand pounds less. You could then upgrade the wheels over time to get a superb crit racing machine.
The CAAD13 is a worthy successor to the already superb CAAD12 and has managed to out perform its predecessor in every aspect. If you are in the market for an aluminium race bike that can take the knocks as well as it performs then look no further. In fact it is so good it begs the question, do you really need carbon?
Frame: SmartForm C1 Premium aluminium alloy
Fork: BallisTec carbon
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS 12 speed
Wheels: HollowGram 45 KNØT
Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x28c
Handlebar: HollowGram SAVE carbon
Stem: HollowGram SAVE alloy
Seatpost: HollowGram 27 SL KNØT carbon
Saddle: Prologo Nago RS STN
Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62cm