First ride: Cannondale RZ One Forty Carbon 1£6,999.99

Master mountain climber

BikeRadar score3/5

Cannondale’s Rize all-rounder becomes the ‘RZ’ for 2010, with the ‘One Forty’ sitting in the all-mountain category alongside the mighty Moto. Its low weight plus long and low ride character mean it’s definitely a bike that’s best for racing up and down mountains the most efficient way, rather than struggling to the summit and showboating down. There are more controlled, versatile and cheaper alternatives out there, though.

Ride & feeling: Ultra-efficient long-haul cross-country/marathon bike

Whatever you might expect from a 140mm-travel bike, heading towards the stratosphere is the obvious intent of the Cannondale as soon as you climb aboard. While there have been slight changes in geometry, the RZ follows the same long and low layout template of the original Rize bikes. The narrow bar is matched to a long stem too, giving extra breathing room and a very stable feel to the already long wheelbase bike.

UK bikes will come with a tauter-feeling RockShox Monarch shock rather than the Fox Float shock on our test model, so suspension movement under power will be reduced. Rhythmic ‘bob’ from the naturally active suspension does mean you’ll want to reach for the Floodgate compression-damping switch on longer climbs. Lack of stiffening under power makes for supple, surface-following traction with the shock in the open position.

The inline seatpost and extra adjustability of the long carbon rails on the Fizik saddle shift weight forward slightly to compensate for the slack seat angle. Add the near 24lb weight, and acceleration and altitude gain performance is easily a match for other premier league trail bikes. This applies on fire road or frantic scramble trails too, so summit hunters will love the RZ.

High-speed stability is another definite strong point, thanks to the low centre of gravity, long stem and super-long wheelbase. Straightlining loose dust descents or drifting through gravel corners in the Nevada desert felt noticeably less nervewracking than on most 120/140mm bikes. While the back end twangs about under heavy load, the Lefty fork is surprisingly stiff for accurate front-end traction feedback.

Unsurprisingly, this haul arse-focused handling counts against the RZ when you head into more technical terrain. The cross-country style cockpit and slack head angle make it stubborn to turn on singletrack, and the long wheelbase means you’ll need to take a wider line than most of its all-rounder adversaries too. While it’s not as low as it used to be, the bottom bracket height will be under 13in once you’re on the bike. This means you’ll be kicking rocks and off-camber slopes on a regular basis until you learn to freewheel.

While it’s a big part of the superlight weight of the RZ, the Lefty fork isn’t as supple or controlled as some other conventional forks – it’s certainly a lot better than it used to be, but there’s still a trace of spike, choke and rebound confusion once you really start rattling it through long rocky/steppy sections. The back end sucks up abuse well, with only occasional sideways step-out in corners or on knife-edge ridges to moan about.

If you’re after a fl ighty cross-country or marathon bike, the rz 140 is worth a look: if you’re after a fl ighty cross-country or marathon bike, the rz 140 is worth a look

Frame & equipment: Carbon/alloy chassis with single-legged fork and slick drivetrain

Cannondale have been combining carbon fibre and alloy in their road bike frames for ages and the RZ Carbon frame takes that knowledge and experience off the tarmac in an innovative way. The front end is all carbon, including the 1.5in head tube for Cannondale’s unique one-legged Lefty fork (which will take a conventional 1.125in or tapered 1.125-1.5in fork with the right reduced headset).

The big carbon main tubes are also co-moulded onto forward-facing stubs on the seat tube. This single-piece section is cold forged rather than being made of conventional welded pieces, and includes the main pivot and bottom bracket at the bottom end as well as the swing link for the rear of the shock at the top. Production bikes will have a green anodised swing link and fork crowns colour-matched to the paintjob, rather than the black and white bits on our sample.

Slim carbon fibre seatstays mount directly onto the linkage, tapering back to the alloy dropouts. Vertical flex in the seatstays means there’s no need for a rear pivot, helping to keep weight down on an obviously gramme-conscious chassis. The big, deep rectangular-section alloy chainstays are arranged asymmetrically, which gives chain/front shifter clearance on the kinked driveside stay and a lighter, straightline connection on the offside. The main pivot itself sits just above the bottom bracket, roughly level with the middle chainring – as it has been on Cannondales for nearly 20 years.

In terms of practical touches, there’s room inside the mainframe for a bottle cage and reasonable rubber space out back; don’t go too big though or you risk rubbing on the seat tube at full travel. The single leg of the Lefty fork means there’s no chance of any sort of mud clogging, though, and innertube replacement is super-easy if you puncture. However, you do have to remove the brakes to remove the wheel, which is a pain if you’re trying to fit it in a car regularly.

In terms of other equipment on the bike we tested compared with what you’ll find on UK bikes, there are some big differences. Euro/UK versions get super-exotic DT Swiss XCR 1.2 carbon rimmed wheels, Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres, Cannondale’s Hollowgram SL BB30 chainset with ceramic bearings, Elixir CR Mag brakes and an FSA K Force carbon chainset. Overall weight should be even lower than the already impressive weight of our sample as a result, but it does push the price into the true superbike stratosphere.

The rz’s low weight plus its  long and low ride character  make it one for the mountains: the rz’s low weight plus its  long and low ride character  make it one for the mountains

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