Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra review

Who needs carbon?

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £1,900.00 RRP | AUD $3,299.00 | USD $2,100.00

Our review

Proving good aluminium frames aren’t dead, the CAAD12 makes you feel very much alive on every ride
Buy if, You just want a brilliant bike that reinforces how much fun road cycling can be
Pros: Light, highly refined frameset, responsiveness, value
Cons: Although quick, Mavic’s Aksiums have conservative rim widths
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At this price point, carbon-fibre frames are essentially a detuned version of each brand’s range-topper, so you get hints of the performance and character, but know there could be so much more. The CAAD12 on the other hand is the most refined, highly tuned aluminium frame ever, from a company that’s made its name with cutting-edge aluminium-tubed wizardry.

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  • The Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. 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.

It’s like pitting your family Honda Civic against its British Touring Car version if you like, the two aren’t exactly in the same race…

The immediacy of forward motion aboard the CAAD12 feels as if your pedals are attached directly to the driven wheel, and it’s something you won’t tire of.

One of our BOTY 2018 contenders: the Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra

The 6069 aluminium frame is claimed to weigh less than 1,100g, which is lighter than some carbon frames at this price. And keeping things feathery, the carbon fork is the same as used on Cannondale’s Evo bikes, its one-piece construction boasting fibres that run continuously from steerer to dropout for strength.

It’s easy to spend time taking in the CAAD12 frame’s details, from the purposefully sculpted tubes that sound impressively thin when tapped, to the chunky welds and heavily cowled rear dropouts. All cables are routed internally, with the rear mech cable popping out at the rear of the cowled dropout.

Cannondale’s Hollowgram Si crank is a welcome addition
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The down tube almost unfeasibly morphs from vertically flared at the head tube to fully cover the wide BB30 bottom bracket shell, alongside the flattened pyramid shape of the seat tube, and the asymmetric chainstays.

These bridgeless stays are by turn wide and deep, allowing decent tyre clearance and great rigidity, while the seatstays are rounded at the dropouts but flattened for the rest of their length.

Mavic Aksium wheels may appear simple, but they’re quick
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Together, the stays form a major element of the frame’s SAVE vibration-reducing design. The fork plays its part too, as does Cannondale’s now-standard 25.4mm diameter seatpost, which even on a frame like the CAAD12 with usually less exposed seatpost, increases its ability to flex.

The Aksiums are entertainingly quick, and make exploring the CAAD12’s abilities within reach of most riders

On this bike the seatpost and headset top cap are the only carbon parts after the fork.

That initial acceleration feel seems ever-present. Want to step on it up a climb, accelerate out of a corner or outsprint your mates for the town sign? No problem. There’s always speed potential on tap, and it’s incredibly accessible.

The frameset’s rigidity and highly tuned nature transform even minor crank pressure into forward surges. Willing accomplices are Mavic’s Aksium wheelset, which although conservatively narrow at 20mm externally, are light and stiff, and the fractionally below 25mm Yksion tyres willingly dig into grip predictably.

Simple they may be, but the Aksiums are entertainingly quick, and make exploring the CAAD12’s abilities within reach of most riders. On the other hand (well both hands actually), Shimano’s new Ultegra levers exude comfortably grippy class, and with precisely rapid shifts and great feel, they elevate the cockpit feel.

Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra has a refined, highly tuned aluminium frame
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The matching derailleurs cement the bike’s immaculate gear changing, and Ultegra’s single bolt brakes are still excellent stoppers. Cannondale’s Hollowgram Si crank with one-piece SpideRing chainrings is at least the equal of many big name units in weight and performance, and is a welcome addition.

The frame geometry is unashamedly racy, my 56cm model’s 155mm head tube, 405mm chainstays, 989mm wheelbase and 73.1-degree head angle equate to a low front-end — lower if you source a shorter headset top cap, tight back-end, short wheelbase for agility, and steering that offers the ideal blend of accuracy and stability.

But aluminium’s a bit harsh right? The CAAD12’s taut frame delivers braille-like road feel that keeps you totally connected to the surface, but it glides over general roughness, and bigger hits are effectively dulled, with no jarring hits reaching your contact points.

In this spec, it’s not as smooth as something like a Domane, or a carbon bike with larger tyres, but I found I cared less about that, since with the CAAD12’s unbridled speed, I was dispatching rough sections faster.

The CAAD12 is more than capable of mixing it in competition, or just impressing on every ride with its speed, and that, along with its excellent value makes it hard to beat.

Also consider…

Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.

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Product Specifications


Name Name, 0, 10, Name, CAAD12 Ultegra
Brand Brand, 0, 20, Brand, Cannondale

Available Sizes Available Sizes, 2, 0, Available Sizes, 44cm 48cm 50cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm 63cm
Bottom Bracket Bottom Bracket, 2, 0, Bottom Bracket, FSA BB30
Brakes Brakes, 2, 0, Brakes, Shimano Ultegra
Cassette Cassette, 2, 0, Cassette, Shimano Ultegra 11-28
Chain Chain, 2, 0, Chain, Shimano HG701
Cranks Cranks, 2, 0, Cranks, Cannondale HollowGram Si, OPI 50/34 SpideRing
Fork Fork, 2, 0, Fork, CAAD12 , SAVE, BallisTec full carbon
Frame Material Frame Material, 2, 0, Frame Material, CAAD12, SmartForm C1 Premium Alloy, SAVE
Front Derailleur Front Derailleur, 2, 0, Front Derailleur, Shimano Ultegra
Front Tyre Front Tyre, 2, 0, Front Tyre, Mavic Yksion Elite Guard 25mm
Handlebar Handlebar, 2, 0, Handlebar, Cannondale C2 alloy
Head Angle Head Angle, 2, 0, Head Angle, 73.1
Headset Type Headset Type, 2, 0, Headset Type, Integrated sealed cartridge
Rear Derailleur Rear Derailleur, 2, 0, Rear Derailleur, Shimano Ultegra
Rear Tyre Rear Tyre, 2, 0, Rear Tyre, Mavic Yksion Elite Guard 25mm
Saddle Saddle, 2, 0, Saddle, Selle Royal Seta S1
Seat Angle Seat Angle, 2, 0, Seat Angle, 73.5
Seatpost Seatpost, 2, 0, Seatpost, Cannondale C2 UD carbon 25.4mm
Shifters Shifters, 2, 0, Shifters, Shimano Ultegra
Stem Stem, 2, 0, Stem, Cannondale C2 alloy
Trail Trail, 2, 0, Trail, 5.6
Weight (kg) Weight (kg), 2, 0, Weight (kg), 7.6
Wheelset Wheelset, 2, 0, Wheelset, Mavic Aksium WTS
Seat Tube (cm) Seat Tube (cm), 2, 0, Seat Tube (cm), 58.5
Top Tube (cm) Top Tube (cm), 2, 0, Top Tube (cm), 56.1
Wheelbase (cm) Wheelbase (cm), 2, 0, Wheelbase (cm), 98.9
Frame size tested Frame size tested, 2, 0, Frame size tested, 56cm
Head Tube (cm) Head Tube (cm), 2, 0, Head Tube (cm), 15.5
Stack (cm) Stack (cm), 2, 0, Stack (cm), 56.7
Reach (cm) Reach (cm), 2, 0, Reach (cm), 39.3
All measurements for frame size tested All measurements for frame size tested, 2, 0, All measurements for frame size tested, 56cm
Bottom-bracket drop (cm) Bottom-bracket drop (cm), 2, 0, Bottom-bracket drop (cm), 7.2