Cannondale’s CAAD frames are the stuff of legend and over the last couple of decades the brand’s earned accolades for its cleverly designed alloy bikes. The racy CAAD12 was our Bike of the Year last year, and the CAAD Optimo is its slightly more affordable sibling. This Optimo build offers Shimano Tiagra shifting and cable-operated Promax disc brakes.
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Beneath a glossy paint job, the Optimo is familiar CAAD fare. Downtube aside, the frame is slender and dainty in appearance, and the more you look, the more you see the complexity of the tube profiles.
The top tube starts out as a big, stiff, almost square tube, but flattens right down on its way to the seat-tube for vertical compliance. The stays are similarly elaborate, with cross-sections that vary continuously along their length. Like most Cannondales, the bottom bracket uses BB30 bearings that press directly into the frame.
The Optimo's designers clearly kept an eye on practicality, with bosses front and rear for mudguards, and a removable plastic bridge between the seatstays to act as a mount in lieu of a brake bridge, which isn’t needed on the disc version. The brake outers are partly concealed within the frame and fork, but most of the cabling is on show for fuss-free fettling.
Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra seems to have become the go-to groupset in this price range and it’s good stuff, offering smooth, low-effort shifting and easy reach adjustment at the levers. Cannondale doesn’t give you the matching cranks here, and the FSA Omega substitute is, to my eyes, a little bit aesthetically challenged. It’s not a great choice if you’ve got a wonky pedalling style, as the finish wears off if you do more than glance at it.
The rest of the Optimo’s build is all in-house kit and it’s pretty acceptable for the most part, if rather nondescript. The RD3.0 rims roll on chunky cup-and-cone hubs, and they’re fitted with decent Schwalbe tyres. The only part I’d really criticise is the saddle, which is too squishy to be properly supportive.
The Optimo’s ride quality is middle of the road. It’s stiff enough without feeling ultra-lively, and it’s comfortable enough, albeit with a slightly solid feel. Weighing just shy of 10kg, the bike was never going to be a climbing demon, but it’s a likeable all-rounder on which to put in some miles, with racy enough geometry that it’s possible to get a fairly aggressive position.
I'd love to try the Optimo frame with a more generous spec — it’s a good enough frameset to be worth upgrading, and knocking a kilo or two off might transform it into something spicier.
The Promax disc calipers are adequate rather than great, their single-piston design now looking rather old school. I'm of the opinion that if you can’t swing actual hydraulics or a good quality dual piston brake like the TRP Spyre, you might be better off not bothering. It’s not that brake power is lacking with the Promaxes, but they’re primitive things that require fairly frequent adjustment to maintain performance and they add weight to a bike that isn’t especially light to begin with. They also don't offer the light lever feel and pleasant modulation of hydraulics — I'd recommend trying before you buy.
The Optimo rides well but isn’t particularly light thanks to a fairly average spec for the money. It’s a very competent bike that ticks the boxes for versatility and all-round likeability, but it isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, especially compared to the true greats that have carried the CAAD moniker.