Cannondale Rush 4 SL £1999

Fast climbing, staight-line speed merchant that loses out on techier trails

BikeRadar score 4/5

Stunning looks make the Rush a real eyecatcher - and this is the best 'Dale deal we've ever seen.

Chassis

With its monster 1.5in head tube extending smoothly back into a massive top tube, and the shock transferring forces directly in line, the Rush's carbon front section is phenomenally stiff and solid. The U section swingarm front is beefed up with the hollow 'Hotbox' bridge section above the 15mm axle; the chainset sits in a huge square section bottom bracket block.

Deep rectangular chainstays transfer power to the cowled dropouts and rear wheel, while the skinny seatstays are 'webbed' for more than half of their length. Meanwhile, the slim seat tube and seat post add welcome vertical flex for long-mileage comfort. While the rear bracing web looks tight on the tyre, it tends to slice through muck rather than get jammed solid.

Ride

The stiffness of the frame is immediately obvious, with an outstandingly precise steering feel and solid power kick. The natural tightening of the swingarm suspension under power boosts acceleration and ego, even before you factor in the stock semi-slick tyres. There's very little distracting bob before you flick on the Pro Pedal lever, either, and it left competitor bikes standing on the climbs.

Steady head angle, wide bars and very low bottom bracket make it a rock-solid speed bike, swinging sure-footedly into fast corners. However, even with knobbly tyres, it always felt the least comfortable bike here on tight, technical trails. The shortage of pedal clearance means you have to half-pedal and tiptoe through anything rocky or off-camber. It has big bar and short stem leverage, but the shade slacker head angle makes a big difference to how keen it is to dive into tight flick-flack sections. Whatever pressure we ran the suspension at, the stiffness made it more inclined to rattle out rather than rip round on rougher stuff.

Show it a straight section or a climb, though, and it just vanished into the distance - which is exactly what Cannondale designed it for.

Equipment

You don't get Cannondale's Lefty fork, but you do get the top-spec RLC version of Fox's superb F120 fork. The extra low-speed damping control you get to tune out climbing bob is totally 'on mission' for the Rush, too. Hutchinson Piranha tyres are obviously race/distance rubber rather than reliable year-round grippers, but that's a smart match.

XT rear mech and cranks are an impressive fit considering the carbon frame, and everyone loved the look of the custom white Avids. The fat Fizik saddle is big on comfort but it's heavy, and while we liked the FSA bar's width, it isn't light, either.

Summary

This has been designed as a dedicated marathon race bike, and that's exactly what it does. Phenomenal stiffness and direct power transfer make it an exceptional climber, and it's very stable at high speeds. There are compromises in close-combat performance, but if that's more your bag then take a look at the tougher, buffer Prophet family.

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