The RZ One Twenty does what it says on the top tube decal, offering up 120mm of travel front and rear for riders who want a reasonably light, easy-to-pedal but strong and versatile bike for all-round trail use. Slotting into the range between the race-bred Scalpel and burlier ‘OverMountain’ Jekyll, it’s a critical bike for the company.
Simple designs don’t need to be compromised in performance terms – a point which the RZ One Twenty 3 makes very clearly with its clean lines and sorted handling. Decent suspension performance (even with a sub-par shock bolted in the back) and good long-term upgrade prospects mean it should ﬁnd a place on your trail full-susser shortlist in spite of our reservations about some of the spec details.
Ride & handling: Great handling, decent suspension performance... unshakeable on-trail conﬁdence
The RZ One Twenty’s low-key looks are matched by a perfectly balanced ride position that puts the rider’s weight dead centre between the wheels. If Cannondale made mid-engined supercars, the One Twenty would be the grand tourer of the range, with handling that’s benign when you want to cruise but willingly plantable when things get hairy.
From slow, gnadgery climbs to barely-there lines down steep, rocky chutes, the Cannondale is a willing accomplice that’ll ﬂatter any rider’s skills. The combination of Maxle Lite-equipped fork and massive head tube with a chunky, open block pattern front tyre means it’s hard to knock off line, no matter how fast, loose or rocky the descent.
The addition of the linkage to the single pivot rear end rescues the X-Fusion air shock’s otherwise indifferent performance, delivering ground-hugging traction on the climbs and willing follow-through on descents.
It’s not all good news though. Typically for a RockShox Recon, our test bike’s fork slurped and squished its way noisily through every single rebound stroke – an annoyance we never quite got over. And we missed indicator windows on the SRAM X7 shifters to let us know what gear we were in. But we still didn’t want to stop riding.
Frame & equipment: Spec that looks a tad off the pace for the money
The RZ One Twenty’s clean, ﬂuid lines are largely down to the simple suspension design. Eschewing virtual pivots and complex linkages for a tried-and-tested system, Cannondale’s designers have given their trail full-susser a single pivot, asymmetric swingarm setup with a linkage-activated shock.
The minimalist linkage tweaks the rate of the X-Fusion air shock through the rear wheel’s travel, giving it good small bump response, a linear feel through the mid stroke and a progressively ﬁrmer feel towards the limit of travel.
The enormous head tube gives the front of the chassis tremendous torsional rigidity but, just as importantly from Cannondale’s perspective, also leaves open the option of a later upgrade to the company’s single-sided Lefty suspension fork. Jaw-dropping looks aside, the Lefty’s a good performer and would be a worthwhile, if expensive, upgrade for the RZ One Twenty 3’s RockShox Recon bump eater.
The seat tube has been tickled with the R&D’s department stick. It’s a one-piece forging incorporating the bottom bracket shell and main pivot housing, saving weight and eliminating several welds in the process. Clever stuff.
Cannondale used to justify premium pricing with the ‘made in the USA’ line but now, up against the rest of the also-made-in-the-Far-East competition, the RZ One Twenty 3’s spec is adequate rather than outstanding. The own-brand ﬁnishing kit is ﬁne, but a SRAM X7-based transmission looks off the pace next to some of the Shimano XT- and Deore-equipped rivals, although it works ﬁne. It’d be nice to see a bigger brand rear shock for the money, too.
White ﬁnishing kit is very 2011, but we hope it’s a passing fad. The RZ One Twenty 3’s white saddle and grips look great alongside the white frame, brake callipers and brake levers, but don’t stay looking good for long in fecund trail conditions. Cannondale aren’t alone in persisting with this impractical fashion statement.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.