Cannondale CAAD9 £999.99

Eminently upgradeable

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Cannondale have been making CAAD (Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design) bikes since 1983, and those 27 years of evolution have resulted in a sophisticated-looking, lightweight frame.

On the CAAD9 this is paired with a slightly more modest groupset and wheels, but its vice-free handling shone through, making it a firm favourite with our testers.

Ride & handling: Wowed all of our testers with its responsive, ‘planted’ handling

Out on the road, our initial impression was that the CAAD9 had no vices. This may sound like backhanded criticism, but it’s not, and it was a view echoed by everyone whenever they returned to riding the Cannondale.

Its handling is nimble and precise without ever being sketchy. ‘Planted’ was the word that kept coming up, describing the way the bike absorbed bumps well, with no twist under a big gear.

The frame is very light for aluminium, and not that long ago similar frames were being ridden by former world champion Mario ‘Lion King’ Cipollini. This will give you an idea of the calibre of this bike.

Its responsiveness to rapid changes of direction was something test rider Pete was able to try out in a rather unexpected manner. As we sped down a winding descent, a car pulled out from the left and then stopped after seeing Pete, who was slightly ahead of us, and blocked half of one side of the road.

With a car coming towards him on the other side of the road and no time to brake, Pete had to throw the bike right then left to avoid a potentially nasty head-on crash, at a speed of around 30mph. The Cannondale handled the rapid changes of direction perfectly.

Frame: Sophisticated, very highly developed frame that’s handmade and beautifully finished in the USA

For the moment, Cannondale’s aluminium bikes proudly proclaim their heritage on the seatstays, and it’s a shame that production is moving to the Far East this year because ‘handmade in the USA’ has been something for potential customers to look for, a watchword. That’s not to say the construction and welding quality will be reduced – Taiwan has a good reputation for producing high quality bikes.

Cannondale have eschewed bold statements in this year’s CAAD9 for a subtle, etched logo on a dark, matt frame. It’s not all just on the surface either; our frame was perfectly aligned, and the weld quality was excellent.

Equipment: Solid rather than inspiring components, including decent budget hoops

If you’ve got a grand to spend on a Cannondale there are several options open to you. We tested the CAAD9 with a compact chainset, but it’s also available with a triple Shimano Tiagra setup, or there’s the recently introduced CAAD8 with a 105 groupset.

Everyone who rode the CAAD9 came away with the same thought: that Cannondale has got the balance right, concentrating on the frame first, with the wheels and groupset secondary.

Tiagra doesn’t feel that different from 105, but if in a few years’ time you want to upgrade to 10-speed and flashier kit then this frame is eminently good enough. Our workshop manager George has spent a lot of time working as a bike shop mechanic, and found that people kept their CAAD frames a long time. And if they are all of this quality then we can understand why.

What goes for the groupset is also true of the wheels – they’re a pretty straightforward set of hoops that should be fine for training and general riding. Our experience of even modestly priced Shimano wheels suggests you should get a decent amount of mileage out of them before you need to consider looking for replacements.

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