Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105 review

Cannondale’s entry-level racer with the newest R7000 version of Shimano 105

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £1,000
Side view Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105 white background

Our review

A fine, fast and aggressive road bike-cum-trainer for wannabe fast men and women
Pros: Slick and speedy with the newest incarnation of Shimano 105
Cons: Lacks the all-round abilities of some similarly priced bikes
This Cannondale Optimo looks like it means business. It shares a lot of its DNA with the CAAD12, and Cannondale even calls it “CAAD12’s over-achieving little brother”.
  • The Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.

As with the Giant and Specialized bikes, it comes with a largely Shimano 105 groupset, though in this case it’s the Ultegra-inspired R7000 version, albeit with brake and chainset deviations from the complete groupset.

While the Giant and Specialized bikes have all-round ambitions, the Cannondale has a more aggressive outlook with geometry leaning towards the racier end of the spectrum.

The Cannondale’s top-tube is longer than both, the wheelbase a tad tighter, the frame angles slightly steeper and the head-tube much shorter. As a result, the stack is lower than on the Giant and Specialized, so you’ll be more nose down. Although Cannondale does counter this with spacers, so you’ll be okay even if your lower back isn’t that flexible.

We do miss the lovely smooth look of the American-made Cannondales of a few years ago (this bike’s welds are more basic looking) and it’s a bit of a surprise to see external cable routing, though this does make it easier for the home mechanic to service. It didn’t affect the quality of the shifting, either.

The updated 105 shifters have smaller hoods with ribbed tops that are designed to be better to grip, and slightly redesigned paddles, which are easy to use even with thick winter gloves.

The derailleurs have also been redesigned to benefit from a claimed improvement in shifting both front and rear, and a slightly lighter action at the front. Both worked very well. Are they noticeably better than before? Not necessarily, but that’s only because the previous versions were so good. The result is that there is now even less of a gap between Ultegra and 105 shifting in a head-to-head test.

The 11-30 cassette is a good choice for the Optimo, giving you a little bit more leeway than 11-28 when you’re climbing. The Tektro brakes are okay, though — and you’ll get tired of hearing this — we’d have preferred the excellent Shimano 105 brakes, given the choice. The own-brand wheel and tyre pairing is also decent without being inspiring.

The weight, a mite over 9kg, is alright for the price and combines with the aggressive geometry to deliver a fun, fast and feisty ride. There’s the expected stiffness from the chunky down-tube and tapered steerer tube, and there’s no sense of your energy being wasted when you’re giving it your all.

It climbs well and the gearing gives you the option of staying in the saddle or dancing on the pedals. Control is very good downhill, you can throw it into bends confidently and it’s an equally convincing sprinter.

Control is very good downhill and it’s equally convincing as a sprinter
Control is very good downhill and it’s equally convincing as a sprinter
Robert Smith

It doesn’t quite have the comfort of some of the other bikes in our Bike of the Year test, its 25mm tyres providing less plushness than the other test machines’ wider rubber.

The frame, too, goes for firmness over comfort, though with Cannondale’s decades of making high-end aluminium bikes, it’s still easily comfortable enough for day-long rides, if not super soft.

The absence of rack and mudguard fittings reduces its versatility, though you could squeeze in some aftermarket blade-type mudguards for a super-sharp training bike.

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105 specifications

  • Sizes (*tested): 48, 51, 54, 56*, 58, 60cm
  • Weight: 9.05kg
  • Frame: Optimo Smartform C2 aluminium
  • Fork: Full carbon, tapered steerer
  • Chainset: FSA Gossamer Alloy 50/34
  • Bottom bracket: FSA MegaExo
  • Cassette: Shimano 105 11-30
  • Chain: KMC X11
  • Mech: Shimano 105
  • Shifters: Shimano 105
  • Wheelset: Maddux RS2.0 rims, Formula hubs
  • Tyres: Vittoira Zaffiro Pro Slick, 25mm
  • Wheel weight: 1.32kg (f), 1.9kg (r)
  • Stem: Cannondale C3 6061
  • Bar: Cannondale C3 6061
  • Headset: Tange Seiki
  • Saddle: Cannondale Stage Ergo
  • Seatpost: Cannondale C3 6061
  • Brakes: Tektro R741 dual caliper

Cannondale CAAD Optimo 105 geometry

  • Seat angle: 72.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 73 degrees
  • Chainstay: 40.5cm
  • Seat tube: 53cm
  • Top tube: 56cm
  • Head tube: 15.5cm
  • Fork offset: 4.75cm
  • Trail: 5.4cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 7.2cm
  • Wheelbase: 999mm
  • Stack: 56.6cm
  • Reach: 39.3cm

BikeRadar would like to thank Stolen Goat, Lazer, Northwave and Effetto Mariposa for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.