What is the Loneliest Number?|
Thursday, April 15, 1999
Is one really the loneliest number? Cannondale doesn't think so. The Bethel, Connecticut, bike manufacturer continues to ride the cutting edge as it prepares to release Lefty a new single sided HeadShok fork. Huh? Single what?
Imagine a peg-legged pirate and you'll be in the right ballpark. Where once there were two blades, there is now one. Cannondale's radical new design features a single telescoping blade that drastically reduces weight while delivering 100mm of travel. Lefty weighs less than 3.5 pounds, including a beefy axle, making it two pounds lighter than the HeadShok Moto FR.
Like other HeadShok forks Lefty has four corresponding flats on the oversized aluminum stanchion and slider that transmit steering loads and 88 needle bearings rolling between the flats that virtually eliminate stiction.
CODA, Cannondale's component division, designed a special hub for the new fork. It features sealed cartridge bearings and a tapered Cro-Moly axle. The axle has a burly 25mm outside diameter on its left (supported) side for strength, and a slimmer 15mm o.d. on the unsupported right side where the loads are significantly less. For easy wheel removal, the hub is outfitted with a self-extracting bolt that draws the wheel off the axles as the bolt is loosened. Plus, changing a tube has never been easier since you don't have to remove the wheel from the fork to gain access to the tube.
The disc brake-specific fork is air-sprung and oil damped, with internally adjusted compression and rebound damping plus a metal coil top-out spring. Eventually, Cannonade says they will have a two position-damping dial that can lock the fork out on the fly.
Cannondale has put the shock through its paces with extensive testing at the home factory in Bedford, Pennsylvania. Besides passing every test which Cannondale's double bladed forks are subjected to, Lefty passed two additional tests-vertical impact and vertical fatigue. These tests were developed specifically for the new fork. Lefty proved to be every bit as stiff as the more conventional HeadShoks and far more stiff than many of the forks offered by the competition.
How does it ride? The Dirt Test Team was only allowed a quick peek at the fork, but here's our first impressions. Looking down at the fork is totally weird! But if you just ride and keep your head up, Lefty is responsive. It did feel a little stiff on the small hits, but in all fairness, we were still riding their prototype. Further testing is required, however, we did watch Brian Lopes, Volvo Cannonade DH and DS team member ride the new shock. Lopes rode just as fast and jumped just as high as normal. Whether or not the average rider will be able to accept having a leg cut off begs remains to be seen and begs the question-is one the loneliest number? Judging by the grin on Lopes face, we don't think so.