Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Ultegra review£2,000.00

Performance that goes up to 12

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Just when you thought alloy frames couldn’t get much better, Cannondale has excelled itself with the new CAAD12. In its rim-braked 105 spec it scooped this year's overall Bike of the Year award courtesy of our sister mag Cycling Plus, but this pricier Ultegra version was right up there too.

Clear first impressions

Sometimes a bike tells you most of what you need to know in the first miles aboard, and the CAAD12 is certainly one of those. This Cannondale is clear and concise from the first pedal strokes, letting you know exactly what it’s about, and what it has to offer.

The front brake hose runs in a channel down the fork leg:
The front brake hose runs in a channel down the fork leg:

Both the fork and stays incorporate Cannondale's SpeedSAVE carbon technology

We’ve always said that a good alloy frame is a superior choice to a poor carbon one, and never has that comparison been more pointed than here. The CAAD12 is lighter than the CAAD10, and in this disc version, neater-looking, which not only improves aesthetics, but comfort too.

The tubes look mostly round, but subtle shaping sets them apart. The down tube has a low central ridge on its underside, flaring to maximise its head tube junction, and swaps ovalised planes at the bottom bracket. The top tube tapers and flattens before the seat tube, and Cannondale’s SpeedSave chainstays and Thinline seatstays aim to combine drivetrain efficiency with rider comfort at the back.

Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes perform with assurance:
Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes perform with assurance:

Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes perform with assurance

How Shimano’s flat-mount disc caliper design has been incorporated in to the CAAD12 is impressive. A threaded casting is almost imperceptibly welded in to the most accurate chainstay cut out, giving great strength and tidy looks.

Designed-in comfort

It also allows for bridgeless seatstays that are free to flex independently, creating surprising ride comfort. The gear cables and rear brake hose are routed internally through the down tube, and the front hose is retained in a channel inside the fork leg by a removable cover, all helping to maintain the clean lines.

Even with a fairly taut set of Mavic’s Aksium Disc wheels fitted, the first potholes and drain covers didn’t exact the expected sharp kick through the fairly firm Fizik Arione saddle. A combination of the unfettered seat stays, 25.4mm diameter carbon seat post and 25mm wide Mavic rubber soaked up the shocks and instantly helped us to relax and concentrate on the ride.

Cannondale’s hollowgram si crank with one-piece 52/36 spidering is a classy addition:
Cannondale’s hollowgram si crank with one-piece 52/36 spidering is a classy addition:

Cannondale’s Hollowgram Si crank with one-piece 52/36 SpideRing is a classy addition

This is a good thing, as riding should be enjoyable, and every time we ventured out on the CAAD12 was rewarding, even on the seemingly endless wet, filthy roads that our UK test team been blessed with.

Cannondale’s Hollowgram Si crank with one-piece 52/36 SpideRing is a classy addition, shaving weight, and improving efficiency, while the Ultegra drivetrain is customarily slick. Shimano’s road hydraulics are accomplished stoppers, and we found the 140mm rotors ideal on our typical roads.

Instant reactions

With its traditional horizontal top tube, the CAAD12 cuts a distinguished air, and makes it easy to find a good position. There's plenty of room to stretch out, and excellent lateral rigidity; it’s a wonderful place to be, with instant responses to pedalling and steering inputs.

Cannondale’s own alloy cockpit is characteristically solid
Cannondale’s own alloy cockpit is characteristically solid

Cannondale’s own alloy cockpit is characteristically solid

The carbon fork does its bit for fine control and shock absorption, unwavering in hard turns or under heavy braking, but with good feedback, and Cannondale’s own alloy cockpit is characteristically solid.

Its overall mass puts some similarly-priced carbon offerings to shame, but the CAAD12 is about so much more than mere mass. It performs on all roads, conquering long climbs, powering over short hills, feeling planted on descents, stable in the corners and drives along relentlessly on the flat.

Better still, it will slow and stop reliably and consistently every time, regardless of conditions, and won’t wreck your rims. About the only thing you can’t currently do with a CAAD12 Disc is race, but for every other ride, it’s just excellent.

Bike of the year 2016: top 3 bikes £1,500-2,000 / $2,000-2,800

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK, Procycling Magazine
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 178cm / 5'10"
  • Weight: 75kg / 165lb
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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