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Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 review

Cultured performance that won’t break the bank

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £1,300.00 RRP | USD $1,305.00 | EUR €1,499.00
Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1

Our review

Cannondale’s Optimo 1 proves there’s still plenty of life in the rim-brake road bike
Pros: Low weight; smooth ride quality; balanced handling
Cons: Not a complete 105 groupset
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The Optimo name represents Cannondale’s range of four entry-level road bikes, which all share the same frame and fork.

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The Optimo 4 is the most affordable, while the Optimo 1, tested here, offers the highest build specification.

The range also bears the CAAD (Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design) prefix, made most famous by the CAAD 13 and its predecessors. This bodes well should reputation translate into real performance.

In short: it does. The Optimo 1, if nothing else, proves there’s still plenty of life left in a rim brake road bike. It’s a deserved winner of our 2023 Budget Road Bike of the Year category.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 frameset

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
All bikes in the Optimo range are built with Cannondale’s C2 aluminium alloy frame.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

The Optimo’s frame is built with Cannondale’s C2 aluminium alloy, using its SmartForm hydroforming process to create specific, butted tube profiles.

The tubes are joined with double-pass welds, which are said to be stronger than standard welding techniques.

The seatstays are dropped to incite flex in the upper seat tube and seatpost. The chainstays include a horizontally flattened ‘SAVE’ segment – according to Cannondale, a form of ‘microsuspension’ designed to reduce vibrations.

The fork is made from carbon fibre (a common feature in an otherwise alloy performance road bike frameset) with a tapered steerer.

Cannondale has sought to boost practicality, with the useful inclusion of mounts for mudguards and a rear pannier rack.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 geometry

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The seat tube angle of 73.3 degrees is designed for sharp handling.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

Taking its cues from the undeniably racy CAAD 13, the Optimo is designed for sharp handling and road-focused performance.

The 56cm example tested has a 562mm top tube and 165mm head tube, allowing for a reasonably long and low position.

The head angle is 72.6 degrees and the seat angle 73.3 degrees, which combine to keep steering sharp and the rider pitched over the bottom bracket.

Along with the compact 415mm chainstays contributing to a 1,006mm wheelbase, the Optimo promises balanced handling at both ends.

Seat angle (degrees)74.574.37473.773.372.9
Head angle (degrees)70.871.972.672.672.672.6
Chainstay (mm)415415415415415415
Seat tube (mm)400440467495520550
Top tube (mm)510520530546562578
Head tube (mm)96108121144165189
Fork offset (mm)484848484848
Trail (mm)686157575757
Bottom bracket drop (mm)747474727269
Bottom bracket height (mm)268268268270270273
Wheelbase (mm)9799789809941,0061,019
Standover (mm)677709731758782808
Stack (mm)505520535555575595
Reach (mm)370374377384390395

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 build

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The Optimo 1 has Shimano 105 R7000 derailleurs.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

The Optimo 1 is built with Shimano 105 R7000 11-speed shifters, derailleurs and a 10-30 tooth cassette, for a nominally 105-level build.

An FSA Gossamer 50/34-tooth compact crankset, Tektro R471 dual-pivot brake calipers and a KMC chain complete the groupset component list.

The bottom bracket is an FSA Mega Exo threaded model, and the alloy finishing kit and saddle are Cannondale’s own.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
An upgrade on Cannondale’s Stage CX saddle would further elevate the Optimo 1.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

The wheels feature Formula hubs with RS 2.0 rims, laced together with 24 spokes up-front and 28 at the rear.

The wheels are shod with 700 x 25c Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres.

The result is a 56cm bike that weighs 9.06kg.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 ride impressions

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The Cannondale proved itself more than capable on steeper climbs.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

It would be easy to focus on the fact that the Optimo 1 is a member of the ever-dwindling group of currently available road bikes with rim brakes. However, once the usual pros and cons of braking systems have been covered, this Cannondale is a great daily rider.

Although I still own a couple of rim-brake bikes, almost all of my riding is on road bikes with disc brakes.

After being reminded that these rim brakes still work perfectly well, I didn’t think about them much at all, which is usually a good sign.

The dual-pivot Tektro calipers don’t have the initial bite of Shimano’s 105 units, and need a little more lever pressure to achieve the same result (assuming comparable rims and brake pads). However, they stop you with more than adequate assurance.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The 25c Vittoria tyres fill the space nicely – you might not have room for mudguards.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

Naturally, they are the main factor limiting the bike’s maximum tyre size, particularly if you plan to add mudguards too. Visually, the 25c Vittoria tyres fill the space – mudguards would be a tight squeeze.

Cannondale’s 56cm road bikes have always fitted my 178cm (5ft 10in) frame perfectly, and so it was that with only the headset’s upper conical spacer, I found an ideal riding position.

The shorter-than-usual 100mm stem was welcome (56cm bikes commonly come with 110mm stems), because the slightly compacted reach to the hoods created a more relaxed position for my arms and neck.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The Cannondale Three bar and stem are aided in their task by the full-carbon CAAD Optimo fork.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

The dropped seatstays (and plenty of exposed seatpost) incite flex and keep the Optimo’s ride smooth.

The seatpost is a 27.2mm-diameter alloy number, rather than the 25mm carbon options found on some of Cannondale’s pricier steeds. Topped with a well-cushioned saddle, I felt well isolated from most road buzz.

The additional smoothing effects of the SAVE tech-imbued rear triangle with sensible tyre pressures (under 80psi, in my case), keep the ride very composed.

The handlebar and stem are relatively simple, but they benefit from the all-carbon fork’s vibration damping, keeping things comfortable enough.

The Optimo 1 has a taut, lively feel. It’s easy, and satisfying, to pick up the pace when seated or standing, because neither feels taxing.

In my experience, some budget road bikes suffer from a sense of excess mass, or a dead feel that dulls their ride sensations, but not the Optimo 1.

It can’t match the CAAD 13 for its overall qualities, but the Optimo 1 is very capable when the speed, or the road, goes up.

It’s ideally geared for its intended use, with a 50/34 compact crankset and 11-30 cassette, which can handle everything from steep bergs to rapid descents.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The FSA Gossamer crankset is a solid performer.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

Some might prefer a wider-ranging cassette (topping out at 32 or 34 teeth) for an easier climbing gear, but this is a relatively inexpensive switch to make.

Although the FSA Gossamer crankset doesn’t match the 105 components, it’s light, stiff and manages chain shifts smoothly.

So often the stumbling block for more affordable bikes, the Optimo 1’s wheels perform with enough overall stiffness to match the frameset’s strong competence in most cases.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
Vittoria’s Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres impressed throughout testing.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

I could generate some wheel deflection under high power loads, which caused brief rubbing on the rear brake, but it wasn’t serious.

Vittoria’s Zaffiro Pro Slick tyres are a good choice, with tenacious grip in the wet or dry and a nicely rounded profile. Through testing, they seemed to exhibit decent durability. They also feel acceptably quick for entry-level road bike tyres.

Of course, faster wheels and tyres, a carbon seatpost, and one of the best road bike saddles could elevate the Optimo 1 to a different league in comfort and performance terms. However, if you’re just starting out in road cycling, it’s a good, solid platform to begin with.

As it is, the Optimo 1 is a great package that’s very easy to enjoy day to day. It never felt onerous to ride, and makes for a hugely rewarding road bike.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 bottom line

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
With a good-quality frame and solid spec list, the Optimo 1 is a serious contender.
Steve Sayers / Our Media

The Optimo 1 has to be judged mainly on its frameset quality, and in this respect, it is excellent.

With a positive reputation forged in aluminium, it’s good to still find a modern Cannondale offering contemporary performance levels with some old-school (rim brake) features.

Such a frame deserves good components, and in the 105-based build of the Optimo 1, it gets them. It would also bear upgrading to get the most out of it, which for beginners or those needing a cheap(er) bike, is good news.

The comfort-adding aspects are effective, and the bike’s ride and handling are positive and very satisfying.

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If you don’t need or want the larger tyres disc brakes can allow for on the road, the Optimo 1 is a great option.

Budget Road Bike of the Year 2023 | How we tested

Each of the bikes in our budget road category was tested over a series of weeks and plenty of miles by Robin Wilmott, one of our most experienced road, cyclocross and gravel bike testers.

Unlike our performance categories, these bikes were also assessed on how easy and enjoyable they are to live with.

They were tested for commuting, running errands and serving as an all-purpose workhorse to ensure not only are these budget bikes great value, but they’re also built to last.

Our Budget Road Bike of the Year contenders

Thanks to…

Thanks to our sponsors, LazerFACOM tools and Band Of Climbers for their support in making Bike of the Year happen.

Product Specifications


Price br_price, 5, 3, Price, EUR €1499.00GBP £1300.00USD $1305.00
Weight br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 9.06kg (56cm), Array, kg
Brand br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Cannondale


Features br_Features, 11, 0, Features, Extras: Cannondale bottle cage
Available sizes br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, 44, 48, 51, 54, 56, 58cm
Bottom bracket br_bottomBracket, 11, 0, Bottom bracket, FSA MegaExo
Brakes br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, Tektro R741 dual pivot calipers
Cassette br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, Shimano 105 R7000 11-30
Chain br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, KMC X11
Cranks br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, FSA Gossamer 50/34
Fork br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, CAAD Optimo Full Carbon, 1 1/8” – 1 ¼” steerer, QR
Frame br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, SmartForm C2 Alloy, SAVE, tapered head tube, QR
Front derailleur br_frontDerailleur, 11, 0, Front derailleur, Shimano 105 R7000
Grips/Tape br_gripsTape, 11, 0, Grips/Tape, Cannondale bar tape
Handlebar br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Cannondale Three, 6061 alloy, 42cm
Rear derailleur br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, Shimano 105 GS R7000 11sp
Saddle br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Cannondale Stage CX
Seatpost br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Cannondale Three, 6061 alloy, 27.2mm x 350mm
Shifter br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, Shimano 105 R7000 11sp
Stem br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Cannondale Three, 6061 alloy, 100mm
Tyres br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick 700 x 25
Wheels br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, RS20 rims on Formula hubs