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Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 review

Race-ready road bike with a mudguard-ready frameset

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,200.00 RRP | USD $1,600.00 | EUR €1,499.00 | AUD $2,599.00
In many ways Cannondale’s CAAD Optimo is a throwback to bikes from a decade or so ago – an aluminium frame and a carbon fork accompanied by a predominantly Shimano 105 drivetrain.

Our review

A fine all-rounder that would make a great first fast road bike
Pros: Fast-handling frameset; decent comfort
Cons: Basic wheels and tyres; not a complete 105 groupset
Skip to view product specifications

In many ways, Cannondale’s CAAD Optimo is a throwback to bikes from a decade or so ago – an aluminium frame and a carbon fork accompanied by a predominantly Shimano 105 drivetrain.

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Disc brakes? Nowhere to be seen. But look a bit further and the newest incarnation of the Optimo road bike has followed at least a few more recent trends in road-bike design.

Gearing is lower than you’d have found a while back, the tyres a fraction wider and the seatstays have inevitably been dropped for extra rear-end comfort.

Just a couple of years ago, a 105-equipped road bike from Trek, Specialized or Cannondale was yours for a grand. Sadly, those days are now receding in the rear-view mirror, and the £1,200 price of the Cannondale is £50 less than you’d pay for similarly equipped road bikes with rim brakes from both Trek and Specialized.

When it comes to geometry, the Optimo is pretty similar to the Specialized Allez, with the Cannondale being marginally the racier of the two.

How we tested

We tested four bikes around the £1,000 mark that are all suitable for commuting, but each can be used for much more than the daily grind to work.

Their aspirations take in leisure riding, fast fitness and perhaps even racing ambitions, plus loading up for trips away. As such, while they are all around the same price, each offers a distinct set of characteristics and features. Be sure to check out all four reviews to see which one might be a good fit for you and the cycling you do.

Also on test

The 54cm frames have similar head- and seat-tube angles close to a classic 73 degrees, and similar-length top tubes – 546mm for the Cannondale, 552mm for the Specialized – but the Cannondale’s head tube is more than a centimetre shorter and its stack 15mm lower.

In spite of this racier edge, the Optimo does have fittings and clearance for mudguards – with a very neat chainstay bracket – though with the 25mm Vittoria tyres actually measuring 26mm, any mudguards will be a tight fit.

The riding position still isn’t that extreme – you’re not riding nose to the stem – but the Cannondale’s handling is pin-sharp and the acceleration decent, even with quite modest wheels and tyres.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 is equipped with Tektro R741 Quartz caliper rim brakes with Shimano 105 levers.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Those dropped seatstays really do help the riding experience, and I had no discomfort through the saddle, even when riding on unsurfaced grit tracks.

I also found the own-brand saddle comfortable and unobtrusive, which is exactly what you want. This bike’s certainly comfortable enough for commutes on tarmac where, once you hit your cruising speed, you’ll be able to keep it with minimal effort. The stiff frame proved a good climber too, either in or out of the saddle.

While Shimano’s excellent 105 components are at the heart of things, in keeping with a lot of bikes at this price, you don’t get quite the full groupset. This Optimo has an FSA chainset and Tektro caliper rim brakes.

The Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike is equipped with Tektro R741 Quartz calliper rim brakes with Shimano 105 levers
It’s rim brakes for this bike, plus dropped seatstays for comfort.
Dave Caudery / Immediate Media

Shifting across the chainrings was accurate and the R741 brakes are one of Tektro’s higher-end offerings, around 40g per brake lighter than 105, and the braking was very good: up there with the power and control of the 105 equivalents.

There was no flex from a skeleton design that resembles that of SRAM’s rim brakes, with a bracing triangle providing extra stiffness. The braking may not be as powerful as disc braking – especially hydraulic discs – but if you’ve had decades using rim brakes, these are absolutely fine.

As for the bottom bracket, well, Cannondale was one of the drivers behind the far from universally loved BB30 bottom bracket, which used to feature on its Optimo bikes. Not now.

The 2022 Optimo bikes come with an FSA Mega Exo threaded bottom bracket that will be easy for the home mechanic to replace, was free of squeaks and squeals during testing and is likely to stay that way.

Male cyclist in blue top riding the Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 road bike
The Cannondale’s handling is pin sharp, and the acceleration decent, even with quite modest tyres.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

I would have liked to have seen Cannondale go modern with a wide-ranging 11-34 or 11-32 cassette, but the 11-30 still offers a lower bottom gear than you’d have found a few years ago.

There are a lot of riders who don’t want disc brakes or the option of fitting 35mm tyres on their road bikes, and Cannondale’s Optimo is a fine choice if that includes you.

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None of us knows how much longer manufacturers will even make bikes with rim brakes, but in the meantime we’ll still be able to enjoy the likes of Cannondale’s dynamic, fast-handling Optimo.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 1 geometry

444851545658
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

Also consider

A little more

  • Cannondale Synapse 1
  • £1,500

This endurance road bike has a full-carbon fork with a thru-axle. The 10-speed Tiagra groupset includes hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. You also get a wide-ranging 11-34 cassette and 30mm tyres.

A little less

  • Cannondale CAAD Optimo 4
  • £800

The entry-level CAAD Optimo has the same frame and fork as our test bike and an eight-speed Claris groupset, while the rim calliper brakes are Promax RC-452s.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $2599.00EUR €1499.00GBP £1200.00USD $1600.00
Weight 9.3kg (54cm)
Brand Cannondale

Features

Available sizes 44, 48, 51, 54, 56, 58cm
Handlebar Cannondale 3, 6061 alloy
Tyres Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick 700x25c
Stem Cannondale 3, 6061 alloy
Shifter Shimano 105
Seatpost Cannondale 3, 6061 alloy, 27.2mm
Saddle Cannondale Stage CX
Rear derailleur Shimano 105
Headset CAAD Optimo 1 1/8-1 1/4in
Grips/Tape Cannondale Bar Tape
Bottom bracket FSA Mega Exo
Front derailleur Shimano 105
Frame SmartForm C2 aluminium
Fork CAAD Optimo full carbon, 1 1/8-1 1/4in steerer
Cranks FSA Gossamer alloy 50/34
Chain KMC X11 11-speed
Cassette Shimano 105 11-34
Brakes Tektro R741 Quartz calliper rim
Wheels RS2.0 rims: 24h front, 28h rear. Formula RB-56 front hub, Formula RB-5711 rear hub