Cannondale pioneered large diameter aluminium tubes. The bikes were light and stiff, and very fast, though the ride could be quite harsh. Fast-forward from 1983 to 2012 and Cannondale’s CAAD bikes are now in their 10th incarnation, with Giro d’Italia victories contributing to design developments.
Highs: A well-finished and sharp-handling frame for the wannabe racer
Lows: We miss the super-smooth welds of US-made ’Dales, and the tyres, although grippy, are sluggish
Buy if: You’re looking for a good value, high-quality racing bike
Today’s main frame tubes are just as large in diameter, but tube profiles have changed, the bottom bracket has increased in size for extra stiffness and to incorporate the Cannondale design BB30 oversized bottom bracket standard – along with the shaped and bulbous chainstays – while the ‘Thinline’ seatstays have slimmed down and lost the hourglass profile of some earlier versions.
The result? The 2012 CAAD10 is still stiff, light and very fast but, while not super-plush, this racing bike has just enough comfort for day-long rides. It handles nimbly and accelerates sharply seated or out of the saddle. There’s a sense of poise and purpose, an underlying efficiency… a coiled snake ready to launch an attack.
Rolling along merrily minding your own business and somebody sneaks past you? Pah! A few turns of the pedal and the ruthlessly efficient frame will have you on their back wheel and past them like a neutrino overtaking light (er, probably). So, why aluminium and not carbon fibre? Well, at this price you get more for your money with metal.
The CAAD10 has a sophisticated, highly developed frame weighing just 1,274g (an all-carbon fork adding 420g), but this is still cheaper to produce than a carbon frame. Aluminium also provides a more immediate ride, one less insulated from the road. It might mean a slight trade-off in comfort but for many it’s a price worth paying.
As for kit, Shimano’s 105 groupset and RS10 wheels are first-rate performers. The budget Schwalbe Lugano tyres aren’t quite as good, though a fair compromise at this price; the cross-hatch tread grips well, but we’d keep these for training or replace them with Schwalbe’s excellent Ultremo tyres for an injection of race-day speed.
But at the heart of the CAAD10 is a frame that’s a keeper, one to upgrade with higher-spec kit as parts wear out. Deeper pockets? The CAAD10 is also available in stealth black decked with Shimano Ultegra or Dura-Ace.