Ready to Ride a Rocket?|
Saturday, July 22, 2000
For this year's 2000 team bike, Team Dirtworld.com was looking for a ride worthy of the new millennium. After some extensive research and consultation with our fellow racers, we concluded that Cannondale bikes epitomize advances in practical technology that set the tone for what's to come in the next century.
At first, some of our racers had reservations as to the effectiveness of such systems as Coda's disc brakes, Headshok suspension and 2x9 gearing. The truth is that most of us hadn't raced with such a set up and, as is too often the case with most human reactions to the unknown, skepticism was prevalent.
The skepticism faded rapidly as we put these aginle machines to the test. It quickly became apparent that all the technology advances Cannondale incorporated in its F4000 SL model were more than just marketing speak. Each had a specific practical application to further enhance the performance of its rider. After almost a full season of racing, the consensus is that two words best describe our new team ride: Fast & Responsive.
Fast: The full rig weighed in at a mere 21.5 lbs. The heart of which is a super stiff CAAD5 frame (3.4 lbs) and an "on the fly" lockout Headshok front suspension. This is a climber's dream bike. The CAAD5 frame is 100grams lighter than its predecessor the CAAD4. The weight saving is predominantly due to the CAAD5's disc brake-specific design. Without the need for cantilever brakes, the seat stays could be redesigned making them lighter and providing a more comfortable ride. The result is a stiff frame that increases pedaling efficiency in the most strenuous of pedaling conditions. If you combine this with the "on the fly" lockout feature, you can really jump out of the saddle for powerful accelerations or sustained out of the saddle climbing that will surely inflict pain on the competition. For strong out of the saddle climbers, you need this! Once you try it, you won't go back. Not only is the lock out feature effective, it's also extremely easy to switch on and off as the lever sits on top of the head tube for easy access.
When you're giving it all you have to tackle that steep climb, it's reassuring to know that your pedaling power is transferred to the bike's forward motion rather than being absorbed by a sluggish frame. "As you initiate a climb, you can feel the bike surge," one racer noted.
Responsive: The F4000 SL's other significant quality is its incredible responsiveness. The main reason for this is Cannondale's proprietary Fatty Ultra DL, disc-specific Headshok front suspension. The team has coined its precision steering "point and shoot." You simply point in the direction you want to go and away you're off. "You can thread your front wheel like a needle through a rock strewn singletrack" one racer commented. Since the Headshok does not use independently suspended fork legs, you end up with a more controlled ride. Most racers felt more confident with this design and have pushed their downhilling abilities beyond their previous threshold.
Another feature that added to the bike's responsiveness is the inclusion of Coda's disc brakes. The added reliability that comes from disc brakes is extremely important to our racers who predominantly race in the muddy conditions of the Pacific Northwest. No matter what conditions we raced in, the braking remained consistent as long as the pads held up. As one racer noted, "it's great to finally have brakes in wet conditions." Furthermore, Coda's single actuated pad design provides a lightweight and easy to maintain system. We did experience some issues with excessive pad wear. Here in the Pacific Northwest it's not uncommon for riders to replace their V-brake pads monthly. As such, we're not sure if its our local conditions or Coda's pad compound selction that has led to a few riders needing to swap Coda pads regularly. Word from Cannondale is that a pad with a tougher composition will be available shortly.
The bike's responsiveness is further enhanced by Coda's 2x9 gearing. With the introduction of the 9-speed rear cassette, Cannondale suggests the need for a granny gear is eliminated. We were very skeptical at first, but after a few rides, we're convinced. Plus with 2x9, the drivetrain is much easier to adjust and maintain crisp and responsive shifting. All the racers enjoyed a simpler system that provided swift shifting in all conditions. The only possible complaint about this gearing combination is in race conditions several of our riders found themselves wanting a bigger gear for the fast descents.
Of course, like most great bikes, the Cannondale F4000 SL came with some downsides, although we were hard pressed to find any significant ones. The most significant of those is the fact that the frame's added uphill stiffness can result in a rougher downhill experience (especially if you forget to remove your lock out ...but that's a rider issue!). This is the inevitable compromise that all racers must face: a stiffer climbing machine or a plush descender? Although the F4000 SL does not provide the softest downhill ride, most racers agreed that the compromise was well worth it on your way to a podium appearance. Some of our racers even argued that they enjoyed the F4000 SL's downhill abilities. "The bike is so light and responsive that I glided over the obstacles," argued one of them.
If you want a fast and responsive race oriented bike, take a very close look at Cannondale's F4000 SL or F5000 SL models. For complete bike specs, visit Cannondale's website at Cannondale.com.
Who is it for?
Would you like to own a Ferrari? The serious climbers and racers ready to step up to the podium
Who is it not for?
If you're not ready for high performance, look elsewhere in the Cannondale line