Its just a Gear Rantorama at the moment isn’t it? Mainly due to being back in the gHub and totally unable to get outdoors as I work through the mandatory down time post Lasik eye surgery. This review has been a long time coming, with it taking a recent reunion in NZ to prompt me to get it out in the public domain. So, lets get on with the next in the series of “reviewing shit that I happen to own“.
Yip, the Cannondale CAAD10 is a bike that until recently had remained totally hidden in the DN world, mainly as it was the ‘Doomsday bike’, locked away in the event of full scale Nuclear war breaking out… Yes, I have been watching way too many movies, but at least I have moved on from being 11 and thinking the Predator was actually real (had all sorts of issues going on family bush walks). But the recent NZ Summer Lovin tour also rekindled the love that I have for this machine, so much so I felt compelled to awkwardly impose it on you dear readers.
Whilst its true that I have gone off Cannondale of late due to, er, Branding issues (AKA – Its been infected by cunts here), and a seeming lack of innovation (the Evo hasn’t been redesigned in 4 years), this bike remains a solid all time favourite. However, this was absolutely not always the case and I recall the first time that the concept of getting the CAAD frame was floated to me, as in true Dorel fashion, the Evo supply was rooted. I recall my response being something like:
“But its Aluminium, fuck that”
That’s right, foul… Why the fuck would anyone want to go back to riding an Alu bike? I had been on carbon bikes for years and it absolutely smelled like a huge backwards step. In fact, the last time I had been on one was back in the day of my Casati Clipper, which got a pass because it was hand crafted by Luigi who lived in a small well appointed cottage on the shores of Lake Como, where he rode each day to have his espresso at Bellagio before returning home to expertly chisel out a single tube like the master craftsman he was (Footnote: This bike was way too fucking small for me):
But, I digress violently, this is about the CAAD10, cue scene setting photo of the particular model in question:
As you may tell from this pic, the thing is a total workhorse, the Campy Record may be a give away there (whaddaaacunt), its certainly had a busy life and whilst it had a little sabbatical back in NZ, when it was unboxed and pressed back into service recently it was like time had stood still.
So the real story of this bike is a simple question: In this day and age, why would anyone want to ride an Aluminium road bike?
Assuming you’re not a homeless person, its a very good question. Carbon has come along and pretty much dominated everything and these days when you’re out riding, you’ll be hard pressed to find a non-carbon bike. Sure, there will be a few weirdos here and there on Titanium or Steel, claiming to be either artisans or trying to respect heritage (yawn), but Carbon has pretty much won the material war in cycling.
And this is the real trick of the CAAD10 – It doesn’t realise its Aluminium
Yup, in fact, to spend the whole review wanking on about its material would sort of miss the point to be honest. Its worth noting that I went from the top end Pinarello Prince to riding this bike, so a huge jump on paper, especially if you smear some snobbery on it. What was it like? The best way to sum it up:
Hard to comprehend
I wanted to go out and instantly be able to complain about how shit it was, how harsh the ride was and how it was a total waste of time getting this thing. 12,670km’s later and I still can’t make such complaints, which was quite perplexing. On reflection it shouldn’t have been though, as Cannondale made the call to continue developing Aluminium road bikes long after everyone fucked off to score variable quality Chinese Carbon Fibre.
As such, what you’re getting in the CAAD10 is a lot of refinement and experience, yup, its basically a MILF, and a sexy one when you bolt on some deep dish carbon wheels (I’ll ignore the fact these 404’s ended up being total rubbish):
The real test for this bike though was its most recent outing in NZ, which was one of the few times that I had ridden it out of the smooth surfaces of the Global Hub, the NZ chip seal more qualified to give this thing a working over and testing its ability to handle something other than a billiard table set-up.
And how did it handle this test? Better than I expected it to. One needs to bear in mind that it was my first time back on a bike in 8 weeks, with a gimp arm and first time on the CAAD in 14 months? Maybe longer… So if I was ever going to be critical of its ability to soak up evil chip, now was the time. Whilst I only got 6 rides in during the NZ trip, it was an absolute joy to be rocking the CAAD and no, not because I was like L Lohan coming out of rehab looking for a hit, I genuinely enjoyed riding this bike again – Even more than I expected.
Given its almost identical Geo to the fancy pants Evo (more on the comparison below), it shouldn’t be a surprise really, especially when you consider that this bike was also blessed by the hand of DENK, that savant of bikes who, aside from the Jekyll, manages to hit a lot of home runs when it comes to making bikes do things that they probably shouldn’t. The CAAD has a very polished and reliable feel to it, it sort of sends you the message that its able to bang out unlimited training miles, without a hint of drama, which is a welcome trait.
Its also a very predictable machine, probably due to its slightly extra heft and perhaps the material (science may be quick to correct me). Whilst its easy to classify the CAAD as a training hack, that would be short changing its abilities…Oh yeah, you can race them:
Yup, you can happily hit the race course on one, which I did on a number of occasions. Also to be noted, if you like Crit racing where theres a high chance of fucking yourself up, it may be a good option for you as it won’t snap at the first sign of hitting the deck like a few carbon bikes I’ve seen do in the last couple of years. To be fair to the CAAD, here’s a picture of its being REALLY raced, which goes to the point that if its good enough for the Welsh Assassin, its good enough for YOU:
And now for those that hate paragraphs and prefer the summary, say 75% of us, its pleasure time:
Shit we quite like about the CAAD10:
- CFO Approval – Fuck me if these things aren’t cheap! Just getting a frameset and you’ll be hard pressed to beat them for bang for buck, better to have one of these than a cheap carbon bike any day of the week
- PF30 that seems to work – Basically a miracle, but I’ve never had a peep out of the PF30 on the CAAD10, compared to the Evo that likes to cunt itself weekly given the chance. Most likely due to better tolerances with Alu, or the fact that the dude running the CAAD production line wasn’t drunk after the lunchtime mahjong game like the Evo BB guy
- Decent paint job – You can never trust a company that builds prams to paint a bike properly, let alone pick decent colours, so while the Evo paint jobs are iffy at best, the CAAD’s seem to have escaped this and actually look pretty good, a nice glossy finish helps… Although, having said that the 2015 line up appears to be a step backwards on this front, so find an old model thats still new stock.
- Just good to ride – As I have said above, it doesn’t run around with its balls on fire screaming “Look at me!“, its just a reliable and good bike to ride day in and day out… Trustworthy if you will… In a ‘girl next door, but one day I’ll be a MILF so be nice to me’ kind of way, which is to say it can also take a good hammering without drama.
Stuff that will piss you off:
- Its not fancy – So, debatable if this will piss you off or not, but lets face it, its not the latest and greatest carbon come shot marketing hype to splatter all over everyone’s face. If you’re into trends, this may bug you
- Funny build kits – Realising that my frame is a few years old, when I looked on the Cannondale site I realised that they’ve done the CAAD the disservice of putting some terrible build kits on it, plus thrown in some self branded parts like a good dose of cunt sauce. My advice would therefore be to see if you can get a Blank Inc CAAD frame if you’re in the market for one of these things and build it up yourself, because YES, you do actually know more than the product managers speccing these things.
And the inevitable question – How does it compare to an Evo?
This is probably the main question people ask when they want to talk about the CAAD or are in the market for a Cannondale road bike. Its natural to compare the two and whilst the Geometry is basically almost a perfect match, the rides between the two definitely do differ.
The best way to sum it up is that the CAAD does everything a “little bit less” than the Evo. It won’t spring forward in acceleration like the Evo, it needs more of a wind up. It also won’t smooth out the terrain to quite the same degree, but you won’t be moaning about the harshness either.
For top end racing the Evo still has the edge obviously, but if you ignore fashion then the CAAD actually meets most riders needs… At a much lower cost. Or if we were to describe them inappropriately, the Evo is like Keira Knightley – Thinner and a little twitchy, but more famous. Whereas the CAAD is more Camila Luddington, still hot, not quite as famous but slightly more accessible.
Who needs one of these?
I would say its the perfect bike for anyone who wants to dabble in some road riding without the massive commitment of a top end bike, but doesn’t want to look like a total “I’m new at this” cunt. Also on the list, Mountain Bikers who need to do some road training, whilst running the risk of turning into a Moadie.
Its also the perfect training bike, so if you are thrashing your race machine day in and day out, then the CAAD may be just the thing you need to add to the stable. However, that’s probably being unfair on it as a machine – This can and should absolutely be raced and don’t think that it won’t hold its own. It may not have the ultra lightweight and ball cutting acceleration of the Evo, but you could do a lot worse.
Its also so cost effective that adding it to the stable won’t cause a huge amount of drama, thus making it the perfect compliment to an Evo assuming you have one. Its also important to note that some VERY illustrious DN Affiliates are either current or past CAAD owners, including Das Wolf (obviously), Herr Doktor and The Welsh Assassin to name but a few… So, let it be noted you’d be buying into a discerning group. When I say discerning I exclude myself on the basis of my old red clown shoes… Sigh.