Cannondale’s 2017 Beast of the East is a rollover model from last year. Having found out just how much outrageous fun this big-rubber monster is, we’re kicking ourselves for not trying it earlier.
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The ‘ox blood’ colour and gold livery may look vintage but this is a state-of-the-art alloy chassis. The ‘SAVE’ seatstays are wafer-thin vertically and the chainstays flatten out and curve up as they head towards the dropouts. Instead of a Boost rear end, Cannondale uses a unique ‘Ai’ asymmetric offset for the frame and wheel to give plenty of rubber room.
The mainframe is a showcase of the signature supersized, smoothed-weld alloy pipework that made Cannondale’s reputation. A stumpy tapered head tube keeps the front end low despite the 3.0in tyre. The steering geometry, top tube length and wheelbase are balanced between tight agility and confident aggression rather than radically slacked out and stretched. The BOTE uses the BB30 bottom bracket standard that Cannondale pioneered and is ported ready for an internally routed dropper post.
A dropper is the only obvious omission from an otherwise comprehensive kit list. The SRAM GX transmission is clean, quiet and positive, and Cannondale’s SpideRing Si single-ring crankset makes maximum use of the oversize BB bearings. The RockShox Reba fork is low in weight but syncs with ‘Torque Caps’ on the front hub to create a usefully stiff steering set-up.
Cannondale’s 760mm bar gives plenty of leverage without punching your knuckles into every tree and the 60mm stem keeps reactions fast enough to tweak traction or sneak through tight tyre gaps.
Gaps can however feel a little tight on the Cannondale because the 50mm rims mean the 3.0in WTB tyres blow up to a massive 73mm wide. The extra rim width adds extra weight though, but the Cannondale is still pretty light compared with similar bikes in this price range.
A lively and fun ride
The close-spaced tread and ‘Fast Rolling’ compound of the WTB tyres mean rolling resistance is actually pretty low once you’ve grunted them through their first few pedal revs. And once they’re up to speed, the combination of inertia and the way the big carcass envelops rocks and roots creates an almost unstoppable momentum.
On some bikes this might create a dull and unresponsive plough, but Cannondale has done a great job of keeping the Beast playful and dynamic. The steering is sharp enough to overcome the twist resistance of the larger tyre footprint and the SAVE stays make for a buoyant ride that amplifies the tyre character even more. This is particularly noticeable on trails laced with ladders of roots or a mess of boulders that would choke most hardtails to a stumbling standstill. The sharper steering also means fewer accidental boulder scuffs and easier dives into corners to exploit the impressive grip and predictable drift of the big rubber.
While the WTB tyres are more prone to flop and crumple at low pressures than Maxxis rubber, their size means you don’t have to run them quite as soft to get the fat float advantage that creates such easy rough-trail speed. The result is that, even after constant laps the Cannondale would lift our spirits the instant we jumped on board. If the trails were rough, twisty and tons of fun we’d often come away with segment KOMs too. Even the lack of a dropper post didn’t dampen our spirits. It’s a simple upgrade when you do make it too.