This incarnation of the Cayo debuted back in 2013 – it’s gone from being called the Cayo Evo, and Cayo 2, to now simply the Cayo. What hasn’t changed though is the no-nonsense frame geometry and clever construction techniques that make it such a rigid, yet smooth and direct handling machine – and led it onto the longlist for our sister title Cycling Plus‘s 2016 Bike of the Year awards.
Our large-sized test ride is the equivalent of a 57cm standard road bike, and combines a sloping top tube with a 170mm head tube. The effective top tube length is 565mm and the seat tube – as you’d expect – is 57cm.
It makes for a fairly aggressive ride position that’s far more sport than sportive (or maybe more Grand Tour than gran fondo, if you’re reading this in the US). It’s not so low and flat-backed as to become uncomfortable if you find it hard to adopt a sprinter’s pose for anything longer than the final few hundred metres, but if you’re used to spending plenty of time up on the tops cruising and taking in the scenery you’ll probably find your perfect ride partner elsewhere. The short wheelbase of just 992mm will, however, find favour with anyone who likes to enjoy and exploit fast handling and nimble reactions to steering inputs.
The meaty front end oozes intent
Up front the Cayo has a really distinctive angular design. The huge head tube junction with its diamond-flared top tube integration looks fantastically futuristic (even on a bike that’s now into its fourth season).
The benefit of this substance is rock-solid rigidity that shows no sign of twisting offline even under the most aggressive gorilla-like sprint efforts. When you’re flying down a twisty descent or navigating backroad lumps, bumps and holes the Cayo is with you every step of the way. You can thread through a maze of obstacles with absolute assurance that this bike simply goes just where you want it.
The slender seatstays tame road buzz pretty well
The diamond-shaped down tube with its pronounced midsection ridge doesn’t only add stiffness; it also houses a direct channel for the internal cable routing. The clean, straight cable runs allow the predominantly 105 drivetrain to go about its business of shifting smoothly every time.
At the back, the substantial boxy chainstays further add to the chassis’ impressively direct feel and super slender seatstays are there to add a decent level of noise reduction. It makes the overall feel of the Cayo a fine blend of racy stiffness and vibration reduction.
Focus pitches the Cayo as more of a racing machine, so has specced it with a pro-compact 52/36 ring combination on the cost cutting Shimano RS500 crankset. This may not have the lighter 105 arm design, but retains Shimano’s superb tooth patterning to its rings and clean smooth two-piece design.
Your upgrade shopping list starts here
On the climbs the Cayo feels at its best when you’re out of the saddle and attacking. That said, the decent-but-basic Fulcrum CEX7.0 wheels shod with 25c Lugano rubber don’t make for the lightest combination and can feel a little ponderous when compared with the light, stiff feel of the Cayo’s frameset.
Braking is handled by own-brand Concept CEX brakes by Tektro, and in their favour they do have decent cartridge pads, even if they feel a little hard. But the action and feel through the 105 levers feels solid and a little wooden, with little of the progressive feel you’d get from matching 105 units.
The Tektro brakes would be first on our list of upgrades
While we’re complaining, we weren’t the biggest fans of the Concept saddle. While the shape and width feel good, the semi-channel dip in its midsection just seems weirdly restricting when trying to shift your weight for and aft.
It was a similar experience with those Lugano tyres. The 25c width with its extra volume was welcome, and the treaded pattern, which you’d expect to give plenty of grip, was fine in both dry and full-on rainy conditions. On greasy damp roads though, we found they have a tendency to break mid-corner at the rear, giving an alarming squirmy feel just when you least want it.
We can never find much to fault with Shimano 105
That might sound like we’re down on the Cayo, but that’s certainly not the case.
We all know saddle choice is a highly personal thing. Yes we’d want to upgrade the brakes before long, and the pads probably sooner. Despite those cornering niggles, the tough Lugano tyres are fine training companions; we’d change those up for something lighter and faster for the coming season.
But we’d be happy to make those changes when the Cayo’s heart is so dynamically good. Don’t forget this is a Grand Tour-proven frameset, available with a decent workable spec for a very reasonable price. The Cayo is most definitely one of the star upgraders available right now, worthy of every improvement you could throw at it.
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Cannondale CAAD12 105
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|Name||Cayo 105 mix|
|Brakes||Concept CEX by Tektro|
|Cranks||Shimano RS500 (52/36, 11-28)|
|Front Tyre||Schwalbe Lugano 25c|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Rear Tyre||Schwalbe Lugano 25c|
|Wheelset||Fulcrum CEX 7.0|
|Frame size tested||L|