First Ride: Cannondale Rize 3 Carbon £2799

Superb all-rounder is Cannondale's best bike yet

BikeRadar score 4/5

Cannondale’s new Rize is a superbly capable go-anywhere, do-anything 130mm travel bike. If you want just one all-round rig to tackle every sort of riding, this could be it. It’ll handle everything from tooling around the woods to cross-country epics, from 24-hour races to bombing downhill.

“The Rize sort of designed itself,” claimed a Cannondale designer at the bike’s launch in the Canary Islands earlier this year.

Cannondale knew it needed a multi-purpose bike with a bit over five inches of travel to fit between the Rush and the Prophet in its range. Rize bridges the Rush’s marathon, all-day cross-country slant and the Prophet’s all-mountain hooligan tendencies.

 “We already know the best way to achieve certain set requirements for the Rize, so when you add several of these ideas together then certain areas kind of design themselves.”

Well, that’s the theory anyway, so does it stack up?

Ride & handling: may the trail Rize with you

My first ride on the Rize was on a 10-mile rocky downhill that dropped 5000 feet with only 500ft of climbing –a real test. If anything was going to  polarise my thoughts either for or against this bike, then a ride like this was going to be it. Worse, I was riding the bike with a freshly slipped (and burst) disc in my lower back. Riding was painless but walking was total agony. I had to be able to pedal this bike through every inch of the trail.

The Rize felt stable, balanced and allowed me to maintain a naturally ‘head up’ stance as I threaded through blind turns at 25 miles per hour. I couldn’t unclip (too painful), so it was feet up, two-wheel drifting. Luckily, I was straight into the groove – the Rize and I ‘clicked’ in five minutes.

And so it continued to unfold, through slower, loose rock garden sections where the floor moved with you, over high-speed, hardpacked dirt trails, where the bike’s supple suspension was able to stick the wheels to the ground and eke Velcro-like grip out of the excellent Nobby Nic tyres, the Rize was having it all on toast.

My sole misgiving was  the medium-sized frame looks, well, big. I kept on wondering if at some point I was going to get caught out with a top tube where a scrotum ought to be, but it never happened. In fact, the bike melts away underneath you once the wheels are turning. 

The Rize is nimble, and rides lighter and tighter than its weight. I was able to pick it up on the move, mid-turn, and plop it down on a fresh line to make a pass or straighten out another blind turn. Not every trail bike lets you do these things, at least not with the ease with which the Rize let me – even with my dicky back.

While there was only 500 feet of climbing on the 10-mile trail it was, in keeping with the tradition of product launches, all done at warp factor nine. With international bike journos strutting like bicycling peacocks, being anything other than first up the climbs was not an option. Thankfully the Rize had an another and rather unexpected ace up its sleeve: this bike can climb. All right, perhaps not fast in the World Cup-winning Scalpel sense of the word, but it’s no slug. 

Hit the foot of the climb keeping the momentum high, and you’ll skim up at a speed that’ll thrill. If you do run out of revs and the bike slows and takes its own weight on the climb, the story isn’t quite as rosy, although it still chugs up at a reasonable clip.

Since my dry, rocky Spanish honeymoon I’ve had our long-term Rize in the wet, wild woods, and it’s been the same story of sure-footed confidence.

Frame: straight & true

The top, head and down tubes are made as one single piece, which helps Cannondale increase stiffness, while also improving alignment – and our Rize has tracked straight and true, regardless of the terrain that it’s been ridden on.

The frame is actually BB30 ready (the new threadless bottom bracket standard that’s waiting to gain consumer momentum over the next year as BB30 is touted as being stiffer and stronger), although for now Cannondale is speccing the Rize 3 with a conventional BB via push-in threaded inserts.

The Rize has enough tyre clearance to get a squirrel between the 2.25in tyres and the frame (don’t ask how we know), which is great for wet British winters – not to mention the wet summers.

The rear end uses a chunky alloy swing arm that’s mounted to the frame on a pivot that’s smack in line with the middle chain ring – just right for minimal drivetrain influence on the rear suspension. A carbon seatstay pivots on big bushings and lead directly to the rear shock slung underneath the top tube – like on its Rush model.

However, Cannondale has thrown a swing link into the mix with one end anchored on the top inside edge of the seat tube and the other, obviously, on the rear shock. This helps reduce side loading on the shock.

Frame finish is first class and it takes a skilled eye to tell the carbon and alloy frames apart.

Equipment: high-performance trail bike spec

Being Cannondale, the frames (whether you choose alloy or carbon) remain the same throughout the range; only the spec level of the parts changes the price.

The Rize 3 doesn’t have the new 140mm Lefty fork, though. Instead, the front end is dominated by the Fox 32 Talas RLC fork with 100, 120 and 140mm travel settings. To be honest, the adjustable travel function is wasted on the Rize as it rides so well at 140mm – even on steep climbs – that you’d be wasting your time shortening it.

Either way, the Fox fork sets the tone for the bike with a no-nonsense ‘calm down, I’m in control’ attitude that soothes nerves and actually invites trail hooliganism. One key item on any bike with this sort of off-road ability is good brakes, and the Avid Juicy Sevens are utterly dependable – and a 185mm rotor up front gives a clue as to the high speeds you’ll be braking from.

The rest of the kit is SRAM X.9, FSA finishing kit (in a white painted finish), Truvativ GXP crank, Fizik Gobi XM saddle, Mavic CrossTrail Disc UST wheels and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25in tyres. All the boxes for a high-performance trail bike are ticked there.

Verdict: perfect one-bike all-rounder

Cannondale’s Rize is a go-anywhere, do-anything 130mm travel mountain bike. The Rize could be your only bike for every sort of riding – from tooling around the woods to cross-country epics, from 24-hour races to bombing downhill. If you pick and mix your riding then you ought to have the new Cannondale Rize on the shopping list.

Cannondale has nailed the essentials for this sort of bike with its new Rize.

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