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RCUK100 - Cannondale Slate gravel bike with Lefty Oliver suspension

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Cannondale Slate 105

New Lefty Oliver suspension on do-all adventure bike

If you like bikes to fit into nice, neat categories the last few years probably have you tearing your hair out.

Once upon a time there were mountain bikes, road bikes and in between a little category called cyclo-cross bikes (well, way back there were pretty much only road bikes, but that’s not relevant here). If you wanted to ride on the road, you’d buy a road bike, if you fancied thrashing through the woods you’d pick an MTB and if you wanted to take your road bike off road, you were either very optimistic or a total idiot, depending on your point of view.

But now, the spectrum is considerably fuller and the gaps between different bike genres have faded away. One of the most obvious examples of that is the Cannondale Slate.

Throughout their history Cannondale have repeatedly shown themselves to be unafraid of doing something a little different

Throughout their history Cannondale have repeatedly shown themselves to be a company who aren’t afraid of doing something a little different, and the Slate takes different to a whole new level.

The frame – smartformed 6069 aluminium alloy on the model shown – looks like it’s been taken from an endurance road bike and features the same SAVE technology in the rear stays as the Synapse, Cannondale’s endurance/Classics bike.

Geometry also leans towards the road with a longer top tube stretching out the riding position. But that’s where the road-specific features end.

RCUK100 - Cannondale Slate 105 Lefty Oliver suspension

The fork provides 30mm of travel, enough to smooth out off-road riding but not enough that you’ll be wanting to tackle downhill courses any time soon

One of the first things you’ll probably have noticed about the bike is Cannondale have gone for a Lefty Oliver suspension fork at the front. And given there’s not even a cobble in sight don’t go thinking this is the 1992 Paris-Roubaix all over again.

The fork provides 30mm of travel, enough to smooth out off-road riding quite nicely but not enough that you’ll be wanting to tackle downhill courses any time soon. It therefore sits nicely into the new ‘gravel bikes’ genre, competing with the likes of Specialized’s Diverge.

Now as the eagle-eyed among you will also have noticed, the addition of the Lefty fork means a quick release won’t get the job done when it comes to fastening the front wheel in place. So the Slate used thru axles instead. Oh, and it has disc brakes too, an integral feature on most gravel bikes. We can practically hear the super traditional roadies out there crying already.

RCUK100 - Cannondale Slate 105 Lefty gravel bike
RCUK100 - Cannondale Slate 105 Lefty gravel bike
RCUK100 - Cannondale Slate 105 Lefty gravel bike

On top of the fork, Cannondale have taken another bold step with the Slate, equipping it with 650b wheels. 650b, for those who don’t know, is one of the increasing number of wheel sizes used on mountain bikes. 650b wheels are 27.5” when measured from tyre edge to edge, or 23” measuring just the rim, whereas standard 700c road wheels are 29”, just like the wheels on a 29er mountain bike.

To muddy waters for mountain bikers further, there’s a third common wheel size, 26”, but those don’t matter at all here, thank goodness. Anyway, these 650b wheels on the Slate are slightly smaller than conventional road wheels, but come shod with massive 42c tyres.

Interestingly, these large tyres on the smaller rims mean the Slate actually has pretty much the same diameter wheels (with tyres taken into account) as a standard road bike, if that’s not confusing matters too much.

As if this mix of on and off-road tech isn’t mind blowing enough, the Slate – well, this model at least – comes with a 52/36 chainset and 11-28 cassette. The reason we say that is because although the 105 and Ultegra models feature standard drivetrains, there is a version which comes with SRAM’s Force 1 groupset, combining a single 44t chainring with an 10-42t cassette all wrapped up in a very eye-catching matt black and metallic purple colour scheme.

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