Cannondale CAAD13 Force eTap AXS first ride review

The new king of aluminium?

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The 13th element on the periodic table is aluminium, so when Cannondale announced its CAAD13 it had to get it right, especially as the CAAD12 is a hell of a bike, winning our highest accolade of Bike of the Year back in 2016.

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The first thing to notice is that this new bike is very, very different looking. Gone are the (mostly) round tubes, the horizontal top tube and traditional looks in favour of a bike that at first glance looks like a ‘carbon’ copy of the new SuperSix EVO.

It’s only when you see some of the large, substantial welds that you realise that it’s not carbon. Its 8.79kg weight is impressively light for alloy and wouldn’t feel out of place if it was carbon, and I’ve certainly ridden and tested heavier carbon bikes than this in a similar spec.

There’s not much I’d look to change on this test model, with it being the top of the range Force eTap AXS version. The SAVE bar and stem impress me as much as they did on the EVO I recently tested, along with the KNOT 45 wheels also seen on the EVO.

The brilliant new Force AXS group also impresses. I’m spending a lot of time with SRAM’s new second-tier wireless drivetrain (my long-term Specialized S-Works Tarmac is built up with Force AXS) and it’s every bit as good as the sublime RED system, just a little heavier and with a little more chain noise — but still less than any conventional 11-speed setup.

Force AXS eTap mech
SRAM’s new 12-speed Force AXS eTap continues to impress on every bike we try it on
Warren Rossiter/Immediate media

The gear range is excellent too, combining a 48/35 with a 10-33 cassette for a setup that’s closest to a 52/36 with an 11-32, but with a taller and lighter gear at each end and with seven single tooth jumps leading to a more progressive feeling range.

Spin the pedals in anger and the CAAD13 is a wonderful, stunning companion; the pick-up is lightning quick and the handling is oh-so-assured.

On descents it’s a master of point-and-shoot dynamics, you simply push as hard as you dare on the pedals, stick the CAAD13 in the direction of a corner’s apex and it hits the mark every time, then crank on the pedals and head for the next turn.

It’s absolutely a bike that when I got to the bottom of a technical and fast descent, I felt I needed to turn around and climb back up for another go, so sure was I that it could go that bit quicker.

weld joints on road bike
Big welds signifiy that the CAAD13 is an aluminium machine.
Warren Rossiter/Immediate media

Now, the frame is aluminium so it’s never going to be as flyweight as the new EVO, even if it does look similar, because the frame is carrying a few hundred grams more.

Cannondale claims the CAAD13 is the same weight as the CAAD12 for the frame – the CAAD12 weighed in at 1,094g – while the EVO is a claimed 866g (both with all fixtures and fittings, and painted).

The weight weenies out there will decry that extra 228g on the CAAD13 compared to the EVO, but to put that into context, a full water bottle weighs 660g. And, if I’m truly honest, I just didn’t feel the difference in weight between the 13 and the Dura-Ace equipped EVO Hi-Mod I rode recently.

Yes, the EVO Hi-Mod had plenty of high-end extras, such as a carbon-railed saddle, Shimano flagship group and lightweight SiSL2 chainset, which reduce the weight further, but this bike rides light because it shares the same KNOT 45 rims and KNOT carbon bar and post, but is £700 cheaper — the EVO Hi-Mod Dura-Ace is actually well priced at £5,499.99 compared to its competition, while a Force eTap-equipped EVO is £4,799.99 with lesser wheels and components.

KNOT45 wheels on road bike
The Hollowgram KNOT45 wheels come staight from the Pro level SuperSix EVO.
Warren Rossiter/Immediate media

The setup of this CAAD13 is so good overall, in fact the only thing I’d look to change would be to take advantage of the KNOT wheels’ tubeless compatibility and switch out the decent Vittoria tyres for a tubeless tyre, such as Continental’s sublime new 5000TL.

CAAD13 first ride impressions

Out on the road the CAAD13 is quite simply stunning, it’s hard to believe that a metal bike like this can ride quite so well.

I’ve become accustomed to modern aluminium bikes being pretty special, be it big brand bikes from the likes of Trek with the Emonda ALR, Specialized with the Allez smartweld, the venerable CAAD12, or even smaller brands such as Tresca or Bowman, but this new CAAD13 is on another level.

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It has to be considered, quite possibly, the finest use of aluminium in a road bike. I should quantify that this is the flagship bike and the equipment on it is brilliant, but I’m now itching to try the CAAD13 in its more modest variants. It’s even got me excited to try the rim brake-equipped models too.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £4800.00USD $5750.00
Weight 8.79kg (58cm) – 58cm
Brand Cannondale

Features

Features Extras: Cannondale/Garmin connected wheel sensor
Brakes Sram Force hydraulic with 160mm rotors
Cassette ram Force eTAp AXS 10-33
Cranks ram Force eTAp AXS 48/45
Fork Ballistec carbon SAVE
Frame CAAD13 aluminium
Handlebar Hollowgram SAVE carbon
Rear derailleur Sram Force eTAp AXS
Saddle ProLogo NAGo RS
Shifter Sram Force eTAp AXS
Stem Hollowgram SAVE alloy
Tyres Vittoria Rubino Pro Bright black 28c
Wheels Wheels: Hollowgram KN0T 45