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Can I turn my Cannondale MTB into a road/cross bike? Busted headshok?

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Can I turn my Cannondale MTB into a road/cross bike? Busted headshok?

Old 06-28-10, 09:52 AM
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Can I turn my Cannondale MTB into a road/cross bike? Busted headshok?

Sorry for the long read, I hope it is informative and concise.

I have an aluminum hard tail Cannondale f4, pretty much those specs, Stock
https://www.cannondale.com/usa/usaeng...ame-technology


The 2 issues at hand:
1) Iím looking/shopping for a bike (see: cyclocross) that I could better utilize on the road but still ride off-road.
2) I have a hardtail MTB with a busted headshok.

Considering how I canít ride 2 bikes at once, Iím looking to combine these 2 issues and convert my MTB to a road bike, keeping as much from the MTB as possible and starting with the tires. Luckily the headshok has a lock-out function that allows me to fix my front shock in place but I eventually want to replace the entire front half of the bike with a fixed fork and drop bars. Iím a novice when it comes to bike parts and would like a once over from you all to see if I have any major flaws in my design. Here is the order in which I think I should tackle this problem:

1) Iíd like to upgrade the tires to semi-slick first, between 1 and 2 inch width. This will allow me to keep riding while I shop for fork/stem/handlebars. Should I get a whole new, perhaps less weighty wheel set? My current rims may be a bit tweaked and yet Iíd also like to keep my hydraulic disk brakes. Can I get new disks for those wheels and are they easily interchangeable with the brake pads on the bike?

2) Iíd replace the forks, stem, and handlebars next. Can I basically keep everything on the bottom of the bike the same (minus a fixed fork Iíd buy to replace the busted headshok) but get brake levers on drop bars with hoods and shifters, etc? I would like to keep my current gear ratio.

Iíd just like any of you to raise any points you may feel that Iíve missed. If there will be any huge differences with frame geometry compared to an actual road/cross bike. I wouldnít be using this for cross races so the weight of the bike and the inability to carry it are not big problems.

Also, can I change my disk brakes to new wheel sets, to new forks, to new brake levers on new drop bars in that order? Iím very happy with my disk brakes but am not sure of how adaptable they are as I slowly evolve my bike.

Iím a novice and am likely to get some professional help but I wouldnít mind developing some tinkering skills. Am I biting off more than I can chew and perhaps I should just buy another bike? Is this going to save me any money?

This is what gave me the idea that this is even possible.
https://velospace.org/node/21619

Thanks for any and all comments and help!
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Old 06-28-10, 10:30 AM
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Haha I had this same exact idea in mind when I first started tinkering around. The problem was braking. They make road bar hydraulic brakes but probably not with a built in shifter like Shimano's STI. What I eventually did was buy Cantilever brakes and Shimano STI shift/brake levers. Some people think they are called "V brakes" because they make a V shape but they are not, they are cantilever.
Notice how that bike you you are modeling does not have hydro brakes? It is mechanical disk brakes, and either special ones to take road bike lever cable pull, or those campy shifters are special to different cable pulls (Campy people...? is this adjustable like some mtb levers?). Cable pull is always something you have to keep in mind. The ratio between how much of the brake lever is pulled and how much the brake squeezes is calibrated for the system they are designed for, some have an adjuster.
Hope that helps or at least you realize it will be a big project that might take years and a few hundred bucks. I did a search for road hydros and its hard to find anything available. This site you might find useful https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...26tbs%3Disch:1
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Old 06-28-10, 10:41 AM
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Hmm, the cannondale in the link has mechanical brakes but mine has hydraulics.
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Old 06-28-10, 10:58 AM
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If you just want a quicker bike for the road then some semi or full road slicks will sure perk up the F4 and do it for cheap. But as soon as you commit to a change of handlebars or even a new rigid fork and the headset conversion kit you're into some serious money aimed at making the bike into something that the frame geometry was not designed to be. To my mind it's far better to fix the headshock to restore the bike to original and just flog it. The geometry needed in the main triangle to accomadate the shock travel and resulting fork length is going to block you from ever achieving the same geometry as a cyclocross frame. The need to use a 29'er like suspension corrected length fork would see to this.

It may end up being an interesting to ride hybrid but it would never end up being the same as a purpose designed cyclocross bike. And depending on how serious you get about the road part you'd likely be fighting that issue for the life of the bike. For example the requirement with the F4 to keep it as a disc brake bike is one such issue. So it would be easy, but costly, to convert the F4 but in the end you'd be converting it to something that is neither cyclocross nor mountain. It would be more a hybrid that is caught between roles and ends up with no clear identity of its mission.

If you enjoy trail riding and like to hop over stuff and generally noodle your way through tighter trails then I think your F4 would be a nicer bike for that sort of thing. If you're generally blasting at higher speeds through smoother trails then a cyclocross bike would work well. Only you can answer that based on what the trials are like in your area. But keep in mind that cyclocross bikes are intended to be shouldered and carried over the bigger obstacles in a race where a mountain bike is intended to be ridden over the same obstacles. So in a lot of ways a rigid framed, head down and forward cyclocross bike does not fully replace your F4 on the trails. But I can see where it would be nice to have both so that you can choose which would fit the needs for the ride of the day the best.
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Old 06-28-10, 11:31 AM
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BCRider thank you that was exactly the kind of information I'm looking for.

The last ride I've done was all-road climb to the top of Mount Diablo in the East Bay Area, CA. I was the only person I saw on a mountain bike. I'm going to buy some new-slick tires, and try to find the skinniest possible for my current rims.

I can see why fixing my headshok is a good idea, keeping it a MTB and I can buy a whole new bike if I want something more roady than what I'll get into with the slicks on my Cannondale. Drop bars would be nice but perhaps that is too much of an investment in something that can be achieved with a totally new bike. But now my question is this.

Whats a good slick tire, as skinny as possible, that would fit on my Cannondale's rims? Can I buy any 26" tire or do my rims create some limitations?

Edit: Also, has anyone heard of the Cannondale headshok problem and what is the best way to go about fixing this?

Last edited by lolitsJeff; 06-28-10 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 06-28-10, 01:25 PM
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Sorry, not a clue on fixing the headshock. Hopefully one of the Cannondale gurus will be along shortly.

There's some excellent road focused tires that will work. Continental makes a 26 x 1. I've not ridden that one but I love all my other Conti tires so I'd expect this option to work no less well. A tire that I have used and loved is the Panaracer Pasela TG folder in 26 x 1.25. On a narrow "racey" rim they mount up with a rather egg like tall profile that produces a very narrow contact patch that is more typical of what you would find on a 23 to 25 mm road tire. The kevlar bead makes for a lighter carcase and the kevlar TG belt does a fantastic job of resisting flats. I commuted on a pair of these tires with a mountain bike for about 4 years and they were fantastic. It seemed like I hardly had to pedal at all with them.... And they last. I sold the bike and then sold the tires to a buddy that is still riding them about 4 years ago.

For a slightly less "road" look there's Ritchey Tom Slicks. They are 1.5 wide and again roll really well. Maybe not quite as well as the Panaracers but lacking a side by side comparison I can only say that it's REALLY close. And being a touch fatter they will stand up better to a bit of curb hopping. Just don't slam them into the curbs though. When inflated to near max pressure to get the low rolling resistance they just don't give any "padding" to the rim at all for stuff like that.

Either of these slick tire options is going to make your bike roll a lot better and may even be all you need for most rides. And both are light years ahead of even a semi slick "compromise" tire option. To roll fast and easy you want two things. As little tread as possible, slicks are best, and as thin and supple a sidewall as you can find. The sidewall is as important at the smoothness of the tread. Rubber is a TERRIBLE spring. It sucks away energy and converts it to heat instead of giving it back. That's why the better rolling tires are going to be smooth, light and have thin sidewalls. The less rubber the better. Even going with thinwall innertubes would help. Ideally you have air for suspension and cords for contact patch control and as little rubber as you can get away with to bond it all together, to hold air and to act as a friction producer to link up to the road surface. Anything more is literally a black hole that sucks away your energy.

It sounds to me like a road bike would be more what you are in need of. But only if you were to keep your F4 as a trail option. But if you're going to be riding in rain or other sloppy conditions and not so much racing then your thoughts about a cyclocross bike are a nice way to go. I like the fact that they are much easier to mount fenders onto for riding in sloppy conditions. Something that is difficult with a pure road bike. But if your road rides will be in the dry with only some short sections on dirt paths to link roads together then a pure road bike sounds more like what you should get. And if you do get caught in the rain occasionally it's not the end of the world after all.
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Old 06-28-10, 01:37 PM
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Slick tires, say 26 X 1.5 or 26 X 1.25 will make the bike wickedly fast, but the decrease in diameter means you will go less far with every turn of the cranks, and you may find yourself wanting bigger gears in the future. I disagree that your bike will be in any way unsuitable for road riding except for the gears. As for the headshock, you can get an adaptor to fit a standard fork and headset to that frame and mount a rigid fork... rigid forks are best for road riding. If you find the ride a bit harsh at the bars, swap to a slightly fatter tire and run slightly less air pressure.

Brakes of course are another story... if you want drop handlebars you will need levers designed for drop bars, and these will not be compatible with your hydro' brakes. 'Road' cable actuated disk brakes are available and will work well with standard road levers.

If you use STI levers ('brifters') you will likely need to figure out how to swap front derailleurs for a road model as well, as road and mtb front ders are generally not interchangable. If you go the budget/old school route and get bar end shifters then your shifitng can be 100% perfect.

But the first thing to do is install some road tires. This change is so easy and cheap (like ~$20 - $40 for two cheap but decent road tires) you should do this right now... try the bike as-is but with road tires and see how you like it, then compare that to the performace you expect from a CX or touring bike... visit an LBS to try a few out. Then decide if the complexity and compromises associated with a mtb -->CX conversion are worth it to you.
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Old 06-28-10, 02:01 PM
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Thanks BCR and lardasse. You have both been very helpful. I'm going to get some slicks when I get off work in a couple hours and hopefully can try them out tonight

Still wondering if anyone has tinkered with a cannondale headshok before.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:01 PM
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I have worked on headshocks... years ago... all I remember is the step-by-stem manual we had at the shop.

Also that there were several differnt kinds of headshocks, and one type had very little in comon with the others.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by LarDasse74
...... try the bike as-is but with road tires and see how you like it, then compare that to the performace you expect from a CX or touring bike... visit an LBS to try a few out. Then decide if the complexity and compromises associated with a mtb -->CX conversion are worth it to you.
"Complesity and compromises", those are the key words. My own feelings are that if he had a well stocked corner full of parts sitting idle from a lot of previous project bikes like many of us here at BF do then tinkering with kludging the bits tegether would make fine sense. Even if a few bits had to be bought to make it all come together. And if things didn't work out quite as well as planned or at some point in the future he moved on to other tastes then the parts would devolve and move onto yet other future projects with little cost or loss involved. Such is the manner of all sorts of Frankenbike projects and it's all good and to be encouraged.

But he's starting from scratch and would need to buy EVERYTHING needed to do the conversion. Even shopping for less expensive used options in many cases this is going to add up. And in any event he's still stuck with the disc brake conundrum. Given these costs and shopping efforts involved I'd still say that the best option both from a results standpoint AND from a purely financial standpoint would be to keep the C'dale as it is (but fixed of course) and either use it as it was intended or flog it to aid in raising money for a far better and purpose designed road rocket.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:56 PM
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I don't know if I would try to do this myself (actually I know I would try, I just have no idea if I would succeed ), but I thought it would be of interest.
https://sheldonbrown.com/cannondale-headshok/index.html

How much wheel clearance does that frame have? Would 38x700c fit?
If the "current rims may be a bit tweaked" maybe a new wheelset (or the existing hubs laced to new rims) would be a good idea.
If you know someone with a hybrid or cross bike, or your LBS is friendly, you could try putting in 700c wheels to judge the size, and if you're really lucky maybe you can try a 700c disc brake wheelset and ride the bike at least a little before investing any money.
You won't be able to fit 29" tires in that frame, but most bike shops should be able to get 29"/700c disc brake wheels, and you may be able to use standard cross tires with that frame.

Replacing the fork should allow some change to the head tube and seat tube angle, so the geometry could be adapted somewhat if you want to go that route (provided someone knows what A to C length and rake would give the desired effect; I'd be tempted to play around with parts I have on hand, but cautious of spending money on it without much more experienced help, or ideally a money back satisfaction guarantee).

Mech disc brakes would seem like the most reasonable solution for a full conversion, but I would try new tires and (if possible) wheels with the current setup, and then look at some alt-handle bars before considering dropbars and brifters.
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Old 06-28-10, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by BCRider
... My own feelings are that if he had a well stocked corner full of parts ... then tinkering with kludging the bits together would make fine sense. ...

...But he's starting from scratch ...
Good point.
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Old 06-29-10, 03:00 AM
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Originally Posted by lolitsJeff
Sorry for the long read
Not as sorry as I was.

Next time just say.


Originally Posted by lolitsJeff
Hey, how can I turn my Cannondale into this?
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Old 06-29-10, 03:23 AM
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i would say go ahead and replace the fork but leave the flat bars on there, brifters are gonna suck up a ton of cash. Changing out the gearing would also be another relatively cheaper upgrade vs doing the bars as well. And i have the pasela TG tires, i agree with all the other sentiments about them and will add that they are a lot cheaper than the other kevlar tires. got mine for $22 each i believe
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Old 06-29-10, 06:41 AM
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I just looked through the OP again and noticed this question that may not have been clearly answered...

Originally Posted by lolitsJeff
Is this going to save me any money?
The answer is 'no.'
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Old 06-29-10, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by cs1
Not as sorry as I was.

Next time just say.
Okay...but did it occur to you I might actually like to learn a bit in the process?

I bought and installed a set of 1.5" Botrager tires yesterday. Wow! did that make a difference. Unfortunately while trying to spin out over some loose gravel I broke my chain, argh! Back to the shop after work for a new chain and probably some of those plastic toe clips I've used as a kid...I guess I'm trying to pass a few of you puny road bikers up the mountain
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Old 06-29-10, 09:55 AM
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I would think (someone correct me please if I'm off base on this) that a road triple or compact double would be the next logical upgrade if your planning to get on the road more. looking at the specs from the link you provided youve got 22/32/44 up front with 11-34 on the back. My Giant Rapid flat bar road bike is 8 speed 11x 28 in the back with 30/42/52 up front and I don't have issues getting up pretty good sized hills and I'm a 235lber. I also have a vintage nishik that I just put a 7 speed freewheel on with a big tooth of 34 with a 42/52 up front and the 42/34 combo feels like there isn't even a chain on! I can get up enormous hills on that thing without any issues
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Old 06-29-10, 10:19 AM
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The toe clips are fine for now and some folks seem to really like them. I tried 'em and found that it was a pain learning to "flip and stab". That and they dragged on the road as I would pull away and try to get in a circle or two to get moving while I tried a "flip and stab". In the end I just went with a set of mountain bike SPD pedals and never looked back. Now all my dedicated pavement bikes use mountain bike SPD pedals just for the sake of uniformity. My off road bikes all use pinned platform pedals.

Either way the idea is that a locked on foot allows you to achieve the exact same foot alignment each time in a simple and quick manner. And the double sided nature makes this easier by not requiring that I flip to a specific side. On top of that I can put power into the pedals in a smoother circular manner and even lift on the up stroke. The toe clips aid in that as well but not to the same extent that the clipless systems provide.

And I'll heartily second LarDasse's reply about it not saving you money at all. Not to mention that for all that the C'dale in that picture looks cool it still isn't a lightweight and finely set up road bike. Out of all the variations I've tinkered with over the years nothing I was able to do ever matched the light feel and rocket like get aways of the two serious road bikes I owned for different times. You can certainly make your C'dale more suitable for road duty but even if you did go the whole route I'd suggest that the bike would still not match the feel of even a good mid price model dedicated road bike. You've seen what just a tire swap has done for your present C'dale. Going to a purpose designed and well fitted road bike is easily twice that much improvement again. On the other hand even if you doctor up the C'dale completely it will get better but it will never match the feel and weight of a proper dedicated road bike. The various geometrie differences and added weight will all conspire to limit what you can do compared to going for a good dedicated road bike. And that's why I keep saying to do the simple and zero or low cost mods for this bike but just save the cost of anything major towards buying a new road bike and keep the C'dale as a trail bike.

After all, you wouldn't enter a lowered and race prep'ed sports sedan with slicks in an off road rally and expect it to be suitable anymore than you'd enter the the same model but jacked up rally car in a road circuit race and expect it to be suitable.
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Old 06-29-10, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by lolitsJeff
Okay...but did it occur to you I might actually like to learn a bit in the process?
Actually, it did. But people here don't have a long attention span. So, sometimes simple is better. Still, that's a nice bike your looking to imitate. IMO, go for it.
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Old 07-08-10, 01:25 AM
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The UCI has approved disc brakes for cyclocross races. There is conjecture that we may see hydraulic brifters in the very near future.
Fingers crossed.
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