Carbon dominates so much these days that it’s easy to forget that in the late ’90s Cannondale were pioneering frame-building technology, pushing UCI weight limits at the Tour de France and notching up multiple stage wins on aluminium.
Even now their wonderful CAAD10 frame proves that alloy isn’t dead. But how much of its impressive DNA has trickled down to the CAAD8?
The oversized tubing screams Cannondale while its profiling proves that the CAAD10 was on the designer’s mind when he was inking in his plans for the CAAD8. As you’d expect from the alloy masters, the welds are immaculate: the HeadsUp Race Geometry should strike a good balance between performance and comfort, the carbon fork should help iron out road buzz and the BB30 bottom bracket and asymmetric stays should aid efficient power transfer.
The wheels are fairly uninspiring but about what we’d expect at this price point. They wouldn’t work for racing, but should suffice for training, along with the robust Schwalbe tyres. In the not too distant past you’d expect a 105 groupset on a bike at this price, and although you can still find examples of this, Shimano Tiagra is now standard fare. But we’d challenge you to tell the difference in shifting performance. Meanwhile, the inclusion of the FSA Omega crankset represents a small spec bump.
Gearing is compact up front, and a generous 12-28t spread at the rear should see even complete novices up all but the steepest climbs. The brakes are OEM jobs but, with cartridge pads, are probably preferable to Tiagras. The build is finished off with Cannondale’s own bars, stem, seatpost and saddle, so although the 9.12kg build won’t worry the UCI weight limit, the CAAD8 looks as though it’ll perform.
The Cannondale sizes up fairly large and considering we, at 190cm, normally ride a 58 or occasionally a 60cm, its 56cm frame is spot on. The overall position feels instantly racy, especially on the drops, but it’s far from aggressive. Like other CAADs we’ve ridden, you don’t want to ride it steadily, and it encourages you to up the effort, throw it hard into the bends and enjoy its responsiveness and sharp handling.
Acceleration is good; sprinting hard out of the saddle there’s no discernible flex, and the bike behaves predictably, giving a stable and efficient platform even when throwing it from side to side. It rolls well on the flat, and, for alloy, road chatter is minimal.
On the drops or low on the hoods, you feel powerful and aerodynamic – it’d certainly perform on race day with a set of clip-on aerobars. You do feel its weight when the road kicks up, but a combination of the efficiency of the frame and the range of slick-shifting gears on offer means that climbing is far from a chore.
Any sluggishness is certainly due to the wheelset, but the frame more than justifies an upgrade. And you soon forget about any uphill woes once you start descending as it strikes the perfect balance between confidence-inspiring stability and nimble-footed handling, with brakes that perform well, plus a pleasing surge of speed as you power out of corners.
Slightly sluggish wheels uphill but overall fast, fun and responsive.
Shimano Tiagra, FSA and own brand kit are about par at this price.
Not bad but there are better deals.
No armchair but it won’t let you down on long days.
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