When we think of alloy road bikes, there is one series of bike that comes to mind first – the Cannondale CAAD. There are none more iconic, and where most brands forgot alloy and focused on carbon, Cannondale continued to refine its CAADs. Despite its price-point focus, the CAAD8 rides with a familiar attitude that we continue to love about the American brand’s road bikes.
We tested the 2016 Cannondale CAAD8 Sora 7 against five other budget road bikes.
Read on to find out why this bike finished with a silver medal and is our first pick if you’re seeking a race bike.
The 2016 Cannondale CAAD8 Sora 7
Once a racer, always a racer
If you've ridden on before, jumping onto the CAAD invokes a familiar feeling. Out of the six bikes tested, this is the one that rides the closest to that of a premium racer. That said, a bike that feels similar to a high-end racer is not necessarily the best thing to choose for your first road bike.
The Cannondale reacts with spirit when you put your foot (pedals) down. Little energy is wasted as your efforts turn to speed rather quickly.
Tip the bike into a corner, and the CAAD holds its line with confidence, eager to be pushed harder and faster into the next. Its handling is fast, but it’s not a nervous-feeling ride.
However, hit a bumpy stretch of road and you’ll know it. The CAAD won’t shake or bounce you about, but its ride quality isn't the most comfortable either.
This, to be fair, is where the racer in the CAAD shows itself. Some of our test team (who race) loved the road feedback given back and the stiff platform when sprinting. Others felt that the trade-off in ride comfort for this beginner price point was unwarranted.
It may be fast, but the CAAD8 fits more like an endurance bike
While the ride quality is on the stiffer side, the positioning of the bike remains comfortable. In our 54cm sample, the CAAD8 is approximately 15mm taller in the head tube than its more expensive siblings. Despite its racer approach, the riding position is rather conservative.
The frame is everything here, and some components suffer as a result
Classic CAAD styling
This frame reminds us greatly of CAADs past. Synonymous with Cannondale, the large round tubes bring a flurry of nostalgia, as do the smooth welds. Both the down tube and seat tube taper toward the bottom bracket, using much of the real-estate given for a large weld area. This is a quality frame, and certainly deserving of component upgrades overtime.
Where more premium CAADs have moved to press-fit bottom brackets, tapered steerer tubes and internal cable routing; the CAAD8 has not. Instead, it offers a threaded bottom bracket, straight 1 1/8in head tube and external cable routing. Hidden on the backside of the chainstay, there are threads for a rear fender (apologies to UK readers, I mean mudguard of course) too.
Up front, the carbon-bladed fork offers the svelte curves you expect from a Cannondale item; a heavier alloy steering tube hides within the frame, however.
The CAAD offers the narrowest gearing range among the bikes we lined up against it. However, it's right in line with more premium steeds
Looking to the drivetrain, this CAAD8 offers the narrowest gear range of the six bikes we tested. Here, the compact 50/34t crank is on par, but the 12-27t cassette can feel quite limited on the steepest and slowest of climbs. This said, such gearing is perhaps a sign of the bike’s intended audience and it’s still lower than what’s common in race bikes.
Otherwise, the shifting performance of the Shimano Sora nine-speed drivetrain is surprisingly precise. The FSA front crank is less stiff than a Shimano Sora model, and so front shifting isn’t as fast and some chain rub on the front derailleur can be heard in the hardest of sprints.
Frankly, the brakes are borderline terrible
If going fast is the CAAD8’s strong suit, slowing down certainly is not. The basic Tektro brake calipers are the same as seen on other bikes tested and aren’t very good. At the very least, consider a higher quality brake pad with more bite or, better yet, replace the brake calipers entirely. In case of an emergency stop, you’ll be thankful you took this advice.
The wheels aren’t anything fancy, sitting on the side of durable over lightweight. With this, the rims are of average width but give nothing to complain of. Like all bikes of this price, an upgrade in wheels is sure to see the biggest increase in ride performance.
Casing the wheels are Schwalbe Lugano tyres in a 25mm width. These are a fine choice for general riding, offering reasonable puncture resistance and grip in a variety of conditions. That said, there are lighter and faster options if speed is your focus.
Finally, the contact points are all generic but work just fine. The saddle and seatpost are basic in construction, with the stem and handlebar offering a little more quality.
Despite the component issues, this one proves that the frame really is the heart and soul of a good bicycle.
The CAAD8 is a brilliant choice for the rider seeking a little more sport and spirit in their ride. Yes, there are more comfortable and better value bikes available, yet few of those offer as much fun on the descents as this does.
Much like we said of the Focus Cayo Al Sora, this is a bike that with a few component changes could be just as suitable for use as a criterium racer. That said, newer riders not wanting to race would still find joy in this one.
Click through the gallery up top for a closer look at this bike. If you haven't already, be sure to read the full 2016 budget road bikes grouptest here if you're in the US or Australia, or here if in the UK.