Cannondale produce, in my mind, the finest mass produced aluminium frames in the world., plenty Plenty of friends of mine have raved about the ride quality of their CAAD road frames over the years. On top of this former pro Tim Bennett was really impressed with the handling of his SuperX carbon CX bike. Combine the geometry of the SuperX and the ride quality of a CAAD frame and you have an impressive package, the CAADX.
This, combined with a very attractive deal on a bike on the shop floor, all combined to convince me to part with the sheckles and bring home the 2013 CAADX Disc to be my race bike for 2013 and beyond. The CAADX is also the weapon of choice for BrewCX rider Claire Aubrey. Claire’s perspective on this bike has also been considered as part of this review.
Choosing an aluminium bike for racing has its advantages, the anodised finish withstands abuse in the mud and at the pressure washer, and I am less nervous about rough treatment from the baggage handlers. So much so, that I just travel with a canvas bike bag, saving weight in the process and making airport transfers easier.
Typically for a modern cross bike, it has ample tyre and mud clearance.
Through the winter of 2013, I put miles on the clock, using the handy integrated rack mounts to run fenders, a useful feature if you’re trying to have the ‘do it all’ bike. Disc brakes are fantastic when a car pulls out on you in the wet. It was nice to be able to train on my race bike as well, mimicking the position on the commute and getting me comfortable with the bike.
Claire says: “I love the fact that I can race my CAADX on the weekend and commute again on Monday. Full length mud guards and panniers make commuting all year possible.”
The bike fits me well, with minimal changes required to make it suitable. The Cannondale has a reasonably long headtube and a tall headset cover, so I didn’t need to run too many spacers to suit my inflexible body. Different covers are required if you like it slammed, a la Mr Sagan. Handling is responsive, but doesn’t sacrifice stability. The lower bottom bracket compared to traditional designs like Ridley’s makes the CAADX feel better in the corners and as a commuter, while sacrificing some clearance to jumping obstacles.
While my 57cm frame is perfect for 182cm me, there are no sacrifices for riders on the other end of the height spectrum. Claire says: “It’s great to have a bike on the small end of the spectrum that you don’t need to worry about toe overlap on. I also like the oval top tube also makes life easier when carrying the bike. In terms of handling I appreciate the ability to chop and change direction quickly. The bike goes where you want it too, and has no issues “committing to the rut””
There are however, some minor drawbacks. Out of the box this bike is heavy. Mine weighed in at 10.0kgs, with a multitude of components to blame. While this bike is ostensibly Ultegra equipped, the FSA BB30 crankset is not to the standard of the rest of the components, and suffers from the BB30 creak associated with all press fit bearings. The factory spec brakes were both heavy and difficult to set up. But the stand out disappointment were the factory supplied Cannondale CX2.0 wheels. While sturdy, they are too heavy for a bike intended to be raced in the stop start environment of cyclocross, but are suitable for training and commuting. They are the obvious cost saving measure to enable the high end groupset.
The fork is a straight 1 1/8th steerer, and feels like it could use some additional stiffness both laterally and londitudinally to cope with the increased braking forces under heavy braking in grippy surfaces. I never noticed this racing on the dirt, but it is obvious under heavy braking on the bitumen.
However, the basic package is a good place to start. With many sub 6.8kg road bikes using the CAAD10 on which this bike is based, there is no fat in the frame, and the nimble and predictable handling gives plenty of promise. An Ultegra groupset is all that is required in cross, and having a spare set of wheels to train on is useful..
Claire says: “Unfortunately my 105 CAADX was stolen. Since upgrading to the Ultegra version I have been really impressed with the increase in shifting performance. Even after multiple mechanics the 105 always needed tweaking. The Ultegra groupset consistently shifts nicely day in, day out”
With the impressive base package in mind, I made a plan to turn my bike into an out and out racer.
Replace wheels with carbon tubular race wheels (made easier by having disc brakes, so no need to be concerned about losing braking performance). With the performance benefits that tubulars bring this is an upgrade worth taking. Your wheels can be transferred from bike to bike.
Replace tyres with BrewCX favourites Clement MXP
Replace Saddle with Fizik Antares Cannondale team edition
Replace brakes with TRP’s dual piston Spyre
Claire says: “I have always raced my CAADX with light race wheels on. Throwing on the tubs for the national championships weekend was amazing. They really transformed how the bike accelerated. I now have my own set of Stan’s Ironcross wheels that Paul built for me. These too make a big difference, especially on the sharp climbs like at Sydney Park for the Rapha SuperCross.”
I also managed to pick up some second hand SRAM Force cranks to complete the build, dropping it down to a very respectable 8.6kg. This has transformed the CAADX from a capable bike to a cross racing beast, quick to accelerate, confidence inspiring braking and handling, and levels of comfort that are unexpected in an aluminium bike.
I have loved racing this bike, it’s been comfortable and also fast. Easy to travel with and a good commuter when it had to be. It also looks great and turns heads, with the black anodised finish and the lime green highlights matching the Fizik saddle and bar tape.
There are examples of this bike for sale on bike exchange for around $2000. That is a fantastic deal, and if you’re in the market for a great ‘do it all’ machine or an ultimate race bike, you’d struggle to find a better place to start. I love taking a bike and putting my stamp on it, and for the money, the CAADX let me do exactly that in a way I cannot imagine being able to do on many other bikes with the same capabilities. For example, I am not concerned about the heavy wheels as I am happy swap out the wheels on race day. I second set of wheels is great for training.
- Cheap, at around $2000 for the 2013 Ultegra version or the 2014 105 version.
- Great Handling geometry. Comfortable, but fast
- Looks great
- Great base to build exactly the bike you want.
- Heavy, especially the wheels.
- Fork needs more stiffening for disc brake power.
- Factory fit disc brakes are below quality expected on this level of bike.