When it comes to making aluminium bikes, Cannondale are masters of the art – having skipped steel entirely, it’s how they made their name. Although the designs have developed massively over the years, the CAAD9’s oversized tubes and smooth joints are in the US brand’s DNA.
Built to the same geometry as their carbon Six and Super Six bikes, the CAAD9 is designed to be fast and efficient, and the Shimano Ultegra version, which we got to put through its paces, is the highest equipped model in the aluminium line-up.
Ride & handling: Stiff frame surges forward when you up the power but it's too firm for some
Kick the pedals around and you immediately know every ounce of effort you put in on the Cannondale will be converted directly into speed. It’s a rock-solid chassis – increase your heart rate and you get a big return.
There’s barely a hint of flex through the centre tubes on hard sprints, and the bottom bracket provides a rigid platform for laying down power. This means acceleration is swift and lively, and you can launch yourself at hills knowing that the CAAD9 is up for the challenge.
Through twists and turns, and down steep, fast descents, this bike shows its Cannondale lineage with pinpoint accuracy and surefooted coolness. Combined with the well-regulated power of Shimano’s Ultegra brakes as insurance, this’ll have you attacking everything on sight.
The one drawback is that you do tend to feel iffy road surfaces aboard the CAAD9 and unavoidable potholes send a shudder through the seat of your pants. That said, the carbon fork and slim seatpost provide some cushioning, so it’s not as if you’re getting a severe, unyielding ride that rattles your fillings loose.
Plus, the Fizik saddle is a definite comfort-enhancer – we don’t know many people who aren’t fans after giving it a go. But this is definitely a bike that’s best suited to riders who put a premium on speed and efficiency above all else.
Chassis: Cannondale's trademark fat tubes, with race-ready angles
The CAAD9 frame won’t stand for any messing. Cannondale’s trademark stout aluminium tubes don’t look as radical as they once did, but in stiffness terms they can still take on the best of them.
The big-diameter top tube tapers only marginally as it extends horizontally towards the seat tube junction, while the torsion-resisting down tube widens along its length to hold the bottom bracket shell tightly.
Cannondale use their own oversized BB30 standard down here – with the bearings pressed into the frame – to shave off weight and add efficiency to the power transmission, while sturdy chainstays continue the meaty theme out back.
In contrast, the slender seatstays provide rear-end shock absorption. The full-carbon fork takes care of steering duties without affecting the Cannondale’s low-weight credentials, and its matt black finish matches the frame’s stealthy looks.
As for the geometry, you don’t get anything too wacky here – it’s a racy setup with a front end that’s low enough to give you a flat-backed and aero position.
Equipment: Ultegra groupset is light and slick, but compact chainset limits your top speed
The Cannondale is built around Shimano’s redesigned Ultegra groupset, which offers slick, reliable shifting and powerful braking in all conditions. In terms of quality, it’s not a million miles behind the range-topping Dura-Ace kit, and it’s a lot cheaper.
With hollow monocoque carbon crankarms, FSA’s SL-K Light chainset is light and stiff and the compact size saves you blowing a gasket on steep climbs. It’s an excellent bit of gear, but if you’ve got powerful quads you might yearn for higher gears when you want to wind up the speed on race day.
The Racing 7 wheels might be the entry-level option in Fulcrum’s range, but they’re solid workhorses that won’t let you down. A reasonable weight, they spin smoothly on their sealed bearing hubs, and you have to get heavy handed with them before they start to flex.
FSA’s oversized aluminium bar and stem keep things firm up front when you get out of the saddle, while Fizik’s Pavé saddle has just enough padding and flex in the hull for ride-all-day comfort.