group test: Cannondale CAAD 8 105 review

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1st June 2010 Words: Simon Smythe Photos: Roo Fowler

Back in the days when carbon-fibre bikes used to come unglued or suffer sudden catastrophic failure at inopportune moments, Cannondale was busy concentrating on making strikingly innovative aluminium frames.

As one of the pioneers of oversized aluminium tubes and ultra-lightweight bicycles, it was almost a shame when the carbon-fibre bandwagon finally caught up and overtook the American firm. Cannondale resisted at first but in the end it was obliged to jump on and develop its own composite frames, which are currently ridden by the Liquigas pro team.

Thankfully, Cannondale didn’t abandon its aluminium frames altogether — the knowledge, experience and technology live on in the CAAD 8 and CAAD 9 frames. Both frames come under the ‘Elite Road’ heading on Cannondale’s website, with the note that a slightly more upright riding position gives riders comfortable and more predictable handling. The CAAD 8 is the cheaper of the two and slightly heavier than the CAAD 9 by something like 250g, though of course this figure varies depending on what size of bike you’re weighing, plus all sorts of other variables.

Frame change

The bike isn’t as recognisably Cannondale as previous versions — in fact the CAAD 8 is a brand new frame, even though it has the same name as an earlier model. The down tube is not round in profile and oversized any more, which is sort of a shame if you liked the old Cannondales, but that’s progress. However, the seatstays are the classic hourglass shape we so admired on the earlier CAAD frames. The chainstays are apparently asymmetrical, with the driveside oversized for extra resistance to twisting (but this isn’t visible to the human eye, so no need to worry about a lopsided bike).

The groupset is not complete 105 — a few pennies have been saved by speccing an FSA Mega Exo crankset (which nevertheless uses the same external-bearing bottom bracket system as 105) and Tektro brake calipers. Wheels are factory-built Shimano R500, which are OK at this price point, but not exactly the lightest or the fastest. The finishing kit is Cannondale’s own-branded equipment and all decent stuff.

Although we were initially worried about the CAAD 8 not being very Cannondale-like, as soon as we rode it, we didn’t worry any more. As one of our testers put it, it’s like driving a Ford — though we hasten to add he meant this in a good way. The ride characteristics we used to praise are still there — the hourglass stays give the smoothest, quietest ride on test and leave you wondering why people ever persevered with carbon. This is a good point to mention; that the frame comes with a lifetime guarantee.

When it comes to the hills the CAAD 8 offers a lively ride and is well balanced going down them, and even though not as shockingly light as top-end aluminium Cannondales used to be, it’s not at all bad. It may not look quite as exciting when compared to the shouty BMC and the flashy GT, but it’s what’s inside that counts.

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