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Cannondale CAAD13 Disc 2020 review

15 Oct 2019
Verdict:

Cannondale continues to lead the way by pushing the boundaries in alloy frame construction to make it a truly viable alternative to carbon

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£4,800
For 
Way cheaper than carbon but not so far behind in terms of aerodynamics, weight, performance and comfort, plus more resilient in a crash situation too
Against 
Alloy is usually typecast as the cheap alternative to carbon, so maybe won't sit well with the image consciuos crowd, and yes, OK, it is a bit heavier

Anyone who followed cycling in the 1990s will remember Cannondale’s oversized aluminium CAAD (Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design) bikes winning races well before carbon rolled into town. The all-conquering Saeco-Cannondale squad and its flamboyant leader, Mario Cipollini, helped make these bikes iconic.

That race heritage has remained in place ever since. Cannondale, unlike many brands, has not relegated aluminium bikes to the bottom of the heap as cheaper, entry-level alternatives to carbon.

Instead, it has continued to invest in and develop its alloy line-up, consistently updating the design and materials required to keep these bikes on pace with what’s expected of a race bike.

New for 2020 comes the 13th generation of CAAD, which promises to prove that aluminium needn’t play second fiddle to the black stuff when it comes to speed, weight and comfort.

‘Every new CAAD improves on the preceding version, but the 13 represents a pretty radical new direction,’ says David Devine, Cannondale’s global product director. ‘We focussed on elements that really improve the ride, namely drag reduction, comfort and wide-ranging capability, while not increasing the weight.’

The result is a completely new look for the CAAD13 and a big departure from the more traditional, predominantly round tube shapes. It’s hard not to spot the similarity with the latest SuperSix Evo, which Cannondale released a matter of weeks before launching this bike.

Buy the Cannondale Caad13 Disc from Tredz for £4,799.99

Modern race bikes are all beginning to converge on a similar look, namely truncated airfoil tube profiles, dropped seatstays and an aero cockpit. And just like its carbon brethren, the CAAD13 has all these traits.

The geometry and riding position also mimic the SuperSix Evo, to maintain the racy feel the CAAD is known for.

Not just looky-likey

The challenges of sculpting these aero tube shapes in aluminium are many. Cannondale’s engineers have delivered a modern masterpiece in terms of material manipulation with the CAAD13, using what it calls SmartForm.

The intricately formed aero tubeset, seatpost and cockpit combined achieve a 30% reduction in drag compared to the previous model, according to Cannondale.

The cockpit is directly descended from the full-aero line of Knot products Cannondale developed for its wind-cheating SystemSix race bike. A key difference, though, is this version also uses Cannondale’s Save technology – essentially an adjusted carbon layup – to improve comfort.

A neat feature of the bar/stem is that, despite having the looks and aero benefits of a one-piece design, it is in fact separate parts, allowing individual components to be swapped easily and offering 8° of bar rotation to fine-tune riding position.

It’s a similar mix of aero and practicality at the seatpost. The Knot 27 post is a truncated airfoil profile, like many of the frame tubes, but Cannondale suggests it is extremely compliant – even more so, it claims, than the super-skinny 25.4mm Save carbon post used previously. The result, according to Cannondale’s tests, makes the CAAD13 twice as vertically compliant as the 12.

I would agree that the bike feels comfier than its predecessor, but twice as much? I’m doubtful. I’d say maybe 50% at a push. But regardless, it shows that the best aluminium bikes (of which this is undeniably one) are a far cry from the harsh, filling-rattling beasts they’re often believed to be.

Tyred out

While we’re talking comfort, we know that tyre width and pressure are key determinants of road bike comfort, and Cannondale has utilised these by increasing tyre clearances to a suggested 30mm maximum.

However, my view is that this is on the conservative side. There appears to be plenty of room for a little bit wider – certainly up to 32mm – if you so desire, which means there’s potentially some additional versatility to be unlocked with a simple switch of rubber.

Or, to look at it another way, you could still run wide tyres with full mudguards, as the CAAD13 also has all the necessary mounting points.

Buy the Cannondale Caad13 Disc from Tredz for £4,799.99

The new Hollowgram Knot 45 wheelset – from Cannondale’s in-house brand – are the very same wheels fitted to the top-end SuperSix Evo models (bikes that cost twice as much), and they are superb.

I don’t need a wind-tunnel to tell me these wheels are right up there among the best I’ve tested in terms of how well they slice through the air, accelerating and carrying speed with reassuring ease and looking stylish too. It certainly feels like you’re getting a lot of wheel at this price.

Which brings me nicely on to the main benefits of choosing an aluminium frame. There is, of course, some additional peace of mind brought by the extra robustness of a metal frame over carbon, should you be fearful of crashing at some point, but mostly it means you can have top-drawer components such as the Sram Force eTap AXS wireless shifting and top-of-the-range carbon wheels without an eye-watering overall price. And the sacrifice to performance out on the road is not as noticeable as you might think.

If it were possible to ride the CAAD13 blindfolded (we don’t recommend it) I’d wager few people would notice immediately that they were riding an aluminium bike.

Yes, there’s a slight weight penalty. The claimed frame weight for a size 56cm is 1,150g and this bike tipped our scales at 8.41kg, which is a way off the SuperSix Evo weight, and it does become apparent on a long drag or very steep ascent when gravity tugs you back that bit harder.

But let’s keep some context here. It’s a huge way off in price, too. The CAAD13 is close to half the cost of the upper end of the carbon spectrum (from Cannondale or many other brands) but I’d say you’re getting maybe as much as 90% of the performance.

Cannondale’s latest CAAD upholds the brand’s mantra that aluminium bikes are a truly viable alternative to carbon fibre. It’s a highly versatile machine that happily fits the bill as anything from an everyday workhorse to a full-bore racer.

• Want more in-depth reviews of the latest bikes and must-have kit? Subscribe to Cyclist magazine today and try 3 issues for JUST £5 (saving 84% on RRP) and get a FREE Ass Saver as a welcome gift.

Rating - 4.5/5

Spec

Frame Cannondale CAAD13 Disc Force eTap AXS
Groupset Sram Force eTap AXS
Brakes Sram Force eTap AXS
Chainset Sram Force eTap AXS
Cassette Sram Force eTap AXS
Bars Hollowgram Save Carbon  
Stem Hollowgram Save alloy
Seatpost Hollowgram 27 SL Knot carbon
Saddle Prologo Nago RS
Wheels Hollowgram Knot 45 Carbon, Vittoria Rubino Pro 28mm tyres
Weight 8.41kg
Contact cannondale.com

Buy the Cannondale Caad13 Disc from Tredz for £4,799.99

• Want more in-depth reviews of the latest bikes and must-have kit? Subscribe to Cyclist magazine today and try 3 issues for JUST £5 (saving 84% on RRP) and get a FREE Ass Saver as a welcome gift.

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