Look back over the past ten or so years and the road bike industry, for all intents and purposes, has been all about pushing carbon technology.
The benefits for stiffness, compliance, ride comfort and low weight are well know but aluminium has quietly been making a comeback - and Cannondale continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with alloy.
In fact, Cannondale have pioneered aluminium from the very beginning and the latest frame in the American firm’s esteemed CAAD series, the CAAD12, proves aluminium has plenty of life left.
Its predecessor, the CAAD10, was widely heralded as one of the best-riding aluminium bikes on the market, boasting a race geometry to match its genuine race-ready speed and responsiveness, and the CAAD12 has proven itself a successful evolution of that blueprint.
The geometry mirrors that of the excellent SuperSix Evo carbon race machine, but of course this time comes via Cannondale’s C1 6069 aluminium alloy. A quick glance around the market sees 6061-standard aluminium commonly used in frames and finishing kit, but Cannondale have made the effort to upgrade their choice for additional strength, which allows weight shavings to take place.
As a result, the frame now weighs up to 200g less than the CAAD10 - down to a claimed 1,089g. That, frankly, is remarkably light for an alloy frame, and lighter than many carbon frames - particularly at this price.
The CAAD12’s design was arrived at using a process called Tube Flow Modelling – ostensibly allowing designers to set general parameters using the best of their knowledge, then allowing a computer program to simulate different solutions and arriving at the optimum one.
The end product lends the bike genuine responsiveness through its svelte build, while there are localised improvements in the stiffness-to-weight ratio at the shaped headtube and beefy BB30A bottom bracket, with the redesigned rear triangle as stiff as ever.
It’s in the compliance where the rear end really impresses, however – Cannondale have incorporated SpeedSave micro suspension technology within the slimmed down seatstays, bringing comfort levels right into line with the SuperSix Evo. That’s no mean feat considering the generally accepted thinking that carbon is naturally better in this area, while the bike also benefits from the same narrow 25.4mm carbon seatpost that can be found on the Synapse, to further boost comfort.
Overall, throwing in the ability of the carbon fork as well, and you’re looking at a claimed 50 per cent improvement in vertical compliance. For long days in the saddle that’s an ideal scenario.
The featured RCUK100 model comes equipped with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain – still for our money pretty much the best budget racer’s groupset despite being due a refresh a 2017 – and it’s nice to see rim brakes still available on this top-level aluminium bike.
Canondale CAAD12 Ultegra
- Price: £1,999.99
We’ve nothing against discs (after all, the CAAD12 is available in rotor format too), but we do think variety is very much the spice of life. You also get the distinctive, lightweight and stiff HollowGram Si SpideRing chainset too in place of the standard Ultegra one.
Cannondale have opted to put a set of Mavic Aksium wheels on - a decent training wheelset for what they are - but the bike itself is absolutely ready for an upgrade to take it to the next level.
And take it to the next level you should, because there’s a whole lot of excitement tucked under the hood of this latest aluminium effort from Cannondale.