Cannondale is such a behemoth it’s hard to believe the company’s humble roots. They began in 1971 by making a bicycle trailer, the Bugger, and touring bags by the Cannon train station in Connecticut, where the town’s green had a cannon standing with the name Dale on it.
They got their start in bikes in 1983, mass-producing touring and road racing frames out of aluminum, which was almost unheard of at the time. In 1984, Cannondale debuted their first mountain bike, the SM-500, an early “mullet” design with a 26” front wheel and 24” rear.
Cannondale stuck with their own ideas, and eventually, aluminum frames became mainstream, thanks largely to their work. In the ‘90s, they invested in racing, both for access to racers and exposure to the public. The Volvo-Cannondale MTB team began in 1994 and won the Downhill World Championships that year with Missy Giove. They started sponsoring the Saeco cycling team out of Italy in 1997 to prove they could build road bikes. They quickly won the Giro d’Italia with Ivan Gotti aboard a CAAD 4 and got even more exposure when teammate Mario Cipollini took multiple stages at the Tour de France the next several years.
Cannondale’s trailer and bags, which were revolutionary when they debuted, are long-discontinued however, their spirit of disruption lives on.
Innovation has always been Cannondale’s bag. They’ve advanced many unique designs over the years, like their Headshok, cantilevered chainstays, the Lefty fork, the BB30 bottom bracket, integrated headsets, hybrid carbon-aluminum frames, and much more. Some have permeated the industry, some have remained particular to Cannondale, some have been dropped. It’s business as usual; Cannondale is always trying something new.
They are a bit different than other big players in that they have relatively few frame models in a category, choosing instead to differentiate them with component builds. This means that the difference between models is not grades of aluminum or carbon-fiber, but component trim. That’s why they are often just numbered, like Cannondale Habit Carbon 1, 2, 3, then Habit 4 and five are built out of aluminum. The benefit to you is that a Cannondale Synapse 105 bike has the same frame and fork as the Dura-Ace equipped model.
Cannondale road bikes have been around so long, that their advances no longer seem revolutionary, but evolutionary. Evermore refined. Their aluminum frames are mostly the Computer-Aided Advanced Design (CAAD) series, and over the years, every refinement gets a new number. They’re up to CAAD 13 now. Their carbon race bikes are the SuperSix, which is light and aero, and their SystemSix, which is aero and light. The Synapse is their endurance platform.
Cannondale has been building MTB’s since 1984 and it shows. They’ve got at least one thing for just about everyone who wants to dip a knob into the dirt. Their Catalyst and Dave are high-tech entry-level off-roaders, high on reliability and convenience. They then move through the world, with xc hardtails and full-suspension designs, trail bikes like the Scalpel SE, trail with benefits like the Habit, gravity bikes like the Jekyll, and even dirt jump bikes like the Dave.
Cannondale’s gravel experience started with their decision to get into cyclocross with the Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld team. Headlined by national champion Tim Johnson, Cannondale has worked with the team to create a string of excellent ‘cross platforms over the years, starting with the XTJ and Super X, CAADX, and now the genre-straddling SuperSix Evo CX, which is based on the same frame as the gravel-oriented SuperSix EVO SE.
Johnson, as his ‘cross career was fading, started riding Cannondale’s Slate gravel bike, a defiantly different take on gravel. Arguably, it was one of the first gravel bikes, boasting 650b wheels, and a Lefty fork with 30mm of travel. It was too far out for many, a hybrid they had a hard time grokking.
Cannondale moved on to the Topstone, which, in its carbon form, boasts a simple, functional, light rear suspension design. And now the SuperSix EVO SE, which blurs the distinction between road, ‘cross, and gravel.
Cannondale loudly sings the body electric. They make them in road, touring, urban, fitness, and electric mountain bikes. They made them to be like regular bikes, just with the benefits of an electric power boost, one that can travel up to 28mph. Cannondale worked to have a range that is up to 100 miles on a single charge.