The Optimo name represents Cannondale’s range of four entry-level road bikes, which all share the same frame and fork.
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.
Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 frameset
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
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)||74.5||74.3||74||73.7||73.3||72.9|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.8||71.9||72.6||72.6||72.6||72.6|
|Seat tube (mm)||400||440||467||495||520||550|
|Top tube (mm)||510||520||530||546||562||578|
|Head tube (mm)||96||108||121||144||165||189|
|Fork offset (mm)||48||48||48||48||48||48|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||74||74||74||72||72||69|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||268||268||268||270||270||273|
Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 build
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
|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|