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Cannondale Fat CAAD – First Ride

IMG_1112On monday, my gnome-cousin up in Wausau, Travis, sent me a shot of one of Cannondale’s new Fat CAAD fat-bikes with a note that said “30lbs. 12oz medium” I was like, can I come and ride it? Keep in mind, that I live just shy of a four hour drive away and I’m up to my eyeballs with test bikes, editing, GFBD, the radio show and creating storyboards for Fat-bike TV episode four thru seven – among a zillion other things, but this bike and the Olaf fork has had me very intrigued, from before it was even a reality. But now there was an actual production sample at Builer’s Cycle and Fitness, a Cannondale Dealer in Wausau, where my bud, Travis is employed as a pro bike mechanic. Travis checked with the customer, that had ordered the bike, and he gave us the go-ahead for me to get a ride or two. So the next day, I dropped everything and drove up to Wausau!

By the time I got to Wausau, it was late afternoon and the light was fading, so I hit the closest spot that I could find to get in a little check out cruise and take some photos. I hit up Marathon Park, not too far from the shop and spun around the grounds, just to get a feel for how the bike would fit me and to see how it rode.

cannondale fat caad 1 side

One of the first things that I noticed was how light the front end felt, compared to bikes that I’ve ridden with a bluto. The Olaf felt smooth, but the park was hardly up to the task for a true test. The medium FC fit me quite well and the frame geometry was very much to my liking. The 69 degree head tube and 73 degree seat tube are right out of the classic fat-bike design playbook, that I prefer, over the more slacked out fat-bikes, built to better suit a more aggressive style of riding.

cannondale fat caad 1 gate

The weather was really working in our favor, with a brief overnight Alberta clipper in the forecast that was supposed to drop maybe an inch of fresh snow, Travis and I had talked about where the best place was to find open and legal singletrack to ride the FC and we chose a spot called Big Eau Pleine County Park. Big Eau Pleine (BEP) is one of my happy places that I like to day-dream about (especially about winter camping) up along the Wisconsin River.

cannondale fat caad 1 rock

I was the second person to arrive at the trail head, which was nice, because I had never ridden the newly constructed singletrack trails at the park and the rider that beat me to first tracks provided a built in trail map. I soon found myself delightfully lost and wandering from singletrack to double-track, back to singletrack, on to snow packed park roadways and then down to the beach.

cannondale fat caad 1 shelter q

I found the spot where, I’ve camped before and headed along the beach for a mile, or so,  before finding my way back towards the trailhead via some of the new singletrack trail, where I got to lay some fresh tracks with the Cannondale.

cannondale fat caad 1 shelter 1

The bike rode very well. Travis had set up the shock for my weight and it sort of just disappeared, when I started riding, which is a pretty good start for any bike component. The bike feels light and the components all worked extremely well, The Sram 1×11 XO drive train was marvelous and I really noticed how much I really liked the 11 speed trigger shifters. The guide brakes also worked quite well. The big Jumbo Jim’s felt a little out of their element in the wet snow over slick roots, but I kind of expected that and it wasn’t earth shattering. Because it was only 4 or 5 years ago, that we rode in much dicier conditions on endomorphs. I really liked the way the Fat CAAD rode, but my time with the bike was too brief to attain a full and meaningful evaluation and produce the kind of review that we normally publish.

P1170669

One or two rides is not enough to truly evaluate a fat-bike for review. I barely scratched the surface of what we could learn from a longer evaluation, but I have to say that I’m still very intrigued and even more enthusiastic about the Fat CAAD and the Olaf Lefty fork, now that I’ve had the chance to ride them.

The down tube is massive!

The down tube is massive!

One of the things that we’ve been waiting for…. is a suspension fat-bike fork that’s better than a Rock Shox Bluto. We need more time with the Olaf to make any such claim, but the fact remains that the market is hungry for better fork options. I think if Cannondale would have introduced this bike two years ago, there would be a lot less fat-bike racers, rocking the greasy plastic. Time will tell if the Olaf will beat Bluto in a head to head comparison.

cannondale lefty olaf lockout

super slick lockout button, right where you need it!

The Cannondale Fat CAAD is coming into stock at dealers now. That’s how we were able to get our little taste of a bike that we would love to get the chance to ride and evaluate further. MSRP on the FC1 is $3,730. C-Dale also offers the FC2 with a rigid fork for $2,130.

cannondale lefty olaf fork

Olaf and Jim hang’n out together.

I did notice one thing somewhat curious in the cable routing on the FC. The down tube routing sort of creates a weird run to the rear brake. It did nothing to hinder the performance of the brake, but it looked odd to me.

cannondale fat caad 1 cable routing

odd cable routing to the rear brake.

We have to give a huge shout out to the folks at Builer’s Cycle in Wausau and mi amigo Travis Butke for helping us get the chance to take their only Fat CAAD out for a pretty great way to spend any day! Riding fat-bikes on snowy singletrack is one of our favorite things to do around here! If you’re in Wausau stop in and check them out.

For more information about the Cannondale Fat CADD, (like geometry charts, component lists and dealer locations) visit – www.cannondale.com

 

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9 Responses to Cannondale Fat CAAD – First Ride

  1. Gambit December 4, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Bike aside – what do you think of the Jumbo Jim’s on those conditions?

  2. Silverlining December 5, 2015 at 7:47 am #

    Great write up for a first look. Do you think there are size/width limitations up front due to the lefty? As in, would a 4.6/4.8 clear the lefty? Also, perhaps the odd rear brake routing was chosen for ease of frame bag mounting in the front triangle? Cheers!

    • Gomez December 5, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

      no – yes – that makes absolutely no sense what so ever.

  3. thub December 6, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    CADD CHUB

  4. Bikesy December 8, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    Nice write up, have you ridden with a lefty up front before? Did you get a sense of “this shouldn’t be possible” when riding it and looking down at the single leg? Every time I’ve ridden a left from day one I’ve always found it disconcerting and niggling away at the back of my head – if the leverage on this goes then I’ve had it. Subconsciously I have a better ride on traditional forks.
    Cheers
    Tony
    Bikesy.

    • Gomez December 8, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      I have ridden a lefty before, but not for any lengthy amount of time. I hopped on this bike and never gave it another thought. I’m not superstitious or easily distracted when i’m riding a bike on slippery singletrack. I never find myself ever glancing at any fork on any bike that I ride – YMMV
      Several of my amigos are in your camp and said that they could never ride a Lefty because of the reasons that you stated in your comment. Now that I’ve ridden one, I want to ride one, more than I did ever before. Like it says in my article, I was encouraged by how both the bike and the fork performed, but the test was just too short to produce much of a database to provide a real review.

    • luke December 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

      While I do understand your discomfort over leftys’ it is a better fork design than conventional. The lefty will be turning 15 years old as a design this year and i don’t think i have heard of one failing ever in that way. Besides, your car runs on 4 leftys’ (don’t believe me- all cars a monolever suspension when a wheel bolts onto a axle stub and all the suspension is on one side. Considering what any and every car can do, I think cannondale can make the fork survive. We just got one of these in the shop and I have to say the bluto is a noodle compared to this fork.

  5. DeeEight December 11, 2015 at 7:58 am #

    Lots of Fat bikes and 29ers now have under the down tube line routing on the rear brake, and this would be fine if they put the brake on the chainstay inside the dropout, but they often don’t. They put it on the seat stay which requires those stupid and stress inducing extra bends which also increase the weight (more housing) slightly. I always setup my bikes that have that routing down the top tube / seat stay. There are versions of zip ties with housing guides that suit this well.

  6. Mark trewin March 16, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    I have had the lefty since the first came out and would not ride another. After you learn how to exploit it you cannot go back its like riding on jelly. You can hit a technical trail and pin point your entry and exit, hit a fast corner with the bike on its side and the lefty stays working. Present bike Jekyll carbon