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Old Cannondale Stiffness Question

Old 04-19-22, 04:35 PM
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Old Cannondale Stiffness Question

Anyone here have both an old school Cannondale/Klein and a modern aluminum bike? I ask because my experience on modern bikes is very limited, so I wanted a fair comparison. Back in the day when Cannondale dropped, I thought their frames were excellent. I never personally experienced "harshness" on them, and loved the stiffness as compared to my mid tier steel bikes.
Question is, how do the new school aluminums compare in stiffness (power transfer) to the old school Cannondales?
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Old 04-19-22, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by buddiiee
Anyone here have both an old school Cannondale/Klein and a modern aluminum bike? I ask because my experience on modern bikes is very limited, so I wanted a fair comparison. Back in the day when Cannondale dropped, I thought their frames were excellent. I never personally experienced "harshness" on them, and loved the stiffness as compared to my mid tier steel bikes.
Question is, how do the new school aluminums compare in stiffness (power transfer) to the old school Cannondales?
Yep. They are both excellent, but there is something special about the way the old Cannondale rides (1987 Crest Cannondale...SR500 maybe?). Mine has a steel fork. I have another Team Comp (SR400) from the same year, but it is small...maybe 50 cm, so haven't ridden that one. Trying to find a home for it.
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Old 04-19-22, 05:05 PM
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I was a steel is real purist until on a lark for last year's Clunker Challenge I acquired a battered '86 ST400 with a replacement steel fork and a hodge-podge/dog's breakfast parts mix. I repacked everything and put on some 32 mm Paselas. It is simply magical on those tires, no hint of harshness, and wow is it awesome on mixed road rides!

I cannot compare it to modern bikes, though, as I shun them ... well, that and I'm frequently kinda broke, too, but that's a whole 'nother thang.
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Old 04-19-22, 07:23 PM
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Cannondale STs are legit all-condition and pure-road bikes, especially with modern components.

I've owned STs, SCs, and SRs in 63 and 66cm sizes, and have a pair of modern aluminum bikes/frames as well presently. I never experienced the harshness of Cannondales either, only if the saddle was too high or the cockpit situation not correctly setup (thus uncomfortable). A lot of those SRs seemed to take honest 28mm tires, which helps any bike.

Anyways, '08 Trek 1.5 (road/race type bike, but "entry level") and a 2014 Trek FX 7.3 (aluminum frame and fork). The FX is a hybrid that I've converted to a drop bar bike as the geometry is essentially an '80s touring bike in a lot of ways. Very efficient at speed. Frame is built for all sorts of riders and weight carrying, and that includes the fork. South of a 38-40mm tire, the fork is a bit much over really bad pavement (like chewed up streets that present a sort of low-rent Paris-Roubaix cobbled section, like the street I live on), but is otherwise dynamite on the flats and climbs, especially out of the saddle. Good aluminum has "verve" as I say, and the FX has it for sure.

The 1.5 has a carbon fork (aluminum steerer) and soaks up bumps incredibly well. It "only" clears 28mm tires, but a good set of wheels makes it a happy bike. "Normal" nice Open Pros, straight gauge spokes, and Ultegra hubs with decent tires (GP 4 Seasons, for instance) make it an effortless out-of-the-saddle climber. With Dura-Ace C24 or Shimano RS81 C24 wheels, you get a noticeable increase in spring/response. Still, it takes a good frame to start with. Both 1.5 and FX are dead nuts stable at any speed and are just really nice to steer. I also had a Trek Emonda ALR (bought as a frameset) and that would lunge when you put the pedal down.

So to answer your question, the two new school aluminum bikes I have transfer power really well and have great verve or spring, something that I wish the SR/SCs had more of. Aluminum is a very communicative material, very eager at least in the context of bikes. I'd like another round with an old SR just to compare as I've gained more knowledge since the last time I rode one. Big fan of modern Trek aluminum over here as the bikes just flat out work well with me.
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Old 04-19-22, 08:10 PM
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Riddle makes some excellent amd well thought out points.
Only thing I would add is that the later Cannondale aluminum forks had a much harsher ride quality IMO than the earlier Tange steel forks.
Also ST frames rule!
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Old 04-19-22, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by rccardr
Riddle makes some excellent amd well thought out points.
Only thing I would add is that the later Cannondale aluminum forks had a much harsher ride quality IMO than the earlier Tange steel forks.
Also ST frames rule!
That’s what I have found as well. The steel fork dampens the jarring hand killing front end stiffness, while I never found the rear to be harsh.

That said, I think the Dales got the harshness tag because we were in the skinny tire era. I found 19s and 21s to be awful. 23 was okay.

i never thought of increasing to 28s. Might have to try it.
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Old 04-19-22, 11:14 PM
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Experimenting with tire pressures can yield a wealth of knowledge. So can switching from butyl to lightweight butyl to latex tubes (latex seems to dampen vibration differently in my experience). Some bikes are better in-saddle bikes than in and out-of-saddle bikes. Some bikes are happy with many different wheelsets (and tires), others take a journey--if one is willing to go on it--to find its ideal wheelset and tires. Those high-TPI cotton "open tubulars" can be a difference-maker for a bike. I enjoy the continual discovery, but man, aside from general guidelines and truths, the ideal bicycle setup is really not a one size fits all. Sure, we all know that to whatever degree, but I keep getting it drilled into me.
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Old 04-20-22, 01:29 AM
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I'm going to go against the grain here and say that I feel like I at least know where the idea of the C'dale harshness comes from. I've got a 1989 ST400. I haven't ridden it much, and I've changed the tires before pretty much every ride. I started with 700x28 Conti 4000S. Next I switched to some 700x32 Vittoria Corsa Gs (which I was disappointed to find were no wider than the Contis on the Mavic Open Sport rims I was using). Finally, I went all in with 700x35 Rene Herse Bon Jon Pass tires, which did measure out at nearly 35mm even on the skinny rims. Of course nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to have a harsh ride with those Bon Jon Pass. The ride with the other two wasn't bad. I've ridden steel bikes that were harsher with similar size tires. But I definitely felt it, especially when riding on chip seal.

My main point of comparison in modern bikes is a series of Kona Jake cyclocross bikes I've own. This may sound strange, but I've had five different Kona Jakes, starting with a 2008. The 2008 Jake had a steel fork like the ST400, so it's probably the best point of comparison. As I remember it, it was a pretty smooth riding bike. I used it as a commuter and road bike and put a lot of miles on it with 700x25 tires. It never felt harsh. My 2013 Jake came with an aluminum fork, which is supposed to be the worst in terms of harshness, but I never felt it. The rest have had carbon forks. That's supposed to be much better, but honestly they felt similar to the steel fork too. I think it comes down to design. If the designer knows what they're doing the material can be made to have the properties they want (within certain limits).

The thing that probably sets my Konas (and most other modern aluminum bikes) apart from the Cannondale is that the tubes are specially shaped to distribute the load. They have "bi-axial" down tubes which in this case means they're taller than they are wide where the down tube meets the head tube and wider than they are tall where the down tube meets the bottom bracket. It sounds like marketing hooey, but I think it works.

I'm not saying the Cannondale designers didn't know what they were doing, but those were early days for aluminum bike designs and they didn't have all the tricks available to them that modern designers do.
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Old 04-20-22, 01:43 AM
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Supplementing my above pontification with pictures....

The seat tube is the only round tube on this 2015 Jake the Snake.



Whereas the Cannondale is very round.

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Old 04-20-22, 04:15 AM
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So what was the difference between all the cannondale prefixes? Is there a chart out there maybe?
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Old 04-20-22, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by buddiiee
So what was the difference between all the cannondale prefixes? Is there a chart out there maybe?
SR Sport/racing I guess.
R racing
ST Sport touring
M MTB

There are a few other variations lite but that is the gist of it. The catalogs give a more complete overview. They have every year so it easy to identify most Cannondale.

The SR 400 is the frame I messaged you about. “Team Comp.”

https://vintagecannondale.com/year/1987/1987.pdf
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Old 04-20-22, 06:37 AM
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Not sure how much I can help but I can offer up my observations. My 2003 Kona Jake the Snake with a steel fork never felt harsh even with Gatorskins (700x28) on it. My 1992 Schwinn 684 was a bit of a dull feeling ride but not hash at all. The mid 90's Klein Quantum II is an absolute joy running even with Mavic Kyserium SSC SL wheels running Conti 5000s 700 x 25's. I've mounted a set of used tubulars on it now but need to reglue the front before a test ride. Then I have a 2006 Cannondale CAAD8 Optimo and it's the only aluminum bike I've owned that I'd call harsh. It was basically running the same wheel setup as the Klein. I now have some light, low profile new Mavic tubular rims on it with Veloflex 700 x 25 tires. I've also put a Fizik Kurve saddle on it. It's pretty good now but still one of my harsher bikes. Oh and the 90's Vitus Argal I had was a fine enough ride except on descents at speed. Once the speeds hit the 30 mph range the flex of the fork or something in front made it scary.
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Old 04-20-22, 06:56 AM
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Somewhere on the forum is a thread about our recent Spring Break trip to Tucson. In it is a picture of framebuilder Andy Gilmour (who works with aluminum a LOT) explaining to me the difference between "aluminum tubing meant for bicycle frames and other' aluminum". It was very instructive.
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Old 04-20-22, 07:12 AM
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I've owned several different Cannondales over the years and here's my two cents:
'86 SR900 - it was so harsh I thought it was trying to kill me
late 80s ST400 - absolutely sublime
2006 Six13 - pure magic, I kick myself for selling this one
2010 CAAD10 - middle of the road in terms of harsh/compliant, stiff, performant. Acceptable but not particularly exciting in any way
2014 SuperSix - super light, stiff, decent in terms of compliance, it's definitely not steel. Absorbs small chatter ok, harsher on big bumps
2019 CAADX - really nice bike, compliant for alloy, decently light and felt almost lively
​​​​​​​2020 Topstone - gravel tires help smooth out the ride, absolute dog in terms of performance
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Old 04-20-22, 09:47 AM
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I feel like the story for the first 15 or 20 years of Cannondale is always lighter and stronger, with stiffness coming along for the ride. You can see the CAAD4 generation about Y2K they start adding the wavy seat stays and flattened chain stays that give it some suspension.

it’s really interesting to look at every generation of Cannondale frame. You can definitely see the evolution step-by-step as they make improvements.
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Old 04-20-22, 10:25 AM
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Though I bet 'improvements' can be subjective. For me, making it less harsh, but more flexible while out of the saddle wouldn't be an improvement. Did the frames get more 'compfortable' for longer trips as they progressed, or stiffer in your guys opinions?
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Old 04-20-22, 11:04 AM
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Adding 2 cents: I have a 1985 SR (Tange steel fork) and an 00's Kona Jake the Snake with a Whisky CF fork, and I like riding them both. the biggest difference (besides rider position due to the newer bike's taller front end) has gotta be that the really short chainstays on the Cdale mean I am always feeling what the rear wheel is doing, if that makes sense. I'm less isolated. But it's not harsh, for me. I'm heavy and it just feels stiff (in a good, solid way!), not chattery.
The other difference is that on the SR I can only go up to about a 26mm tire, so it's much more lively than the Kona on 35s I think.
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Old 04-20-22, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by buddiiee
Though I bet 'improvements' can be subjective. For me, making it less harsh, but more flexible while out of the saddle wouldn't be an improvement. Did the frames get more 'compfortable' for longer trips as they progressed, or stiffer in your guys opinions?
If an aluminum framed bike gets less stiff with time, then there’s a real problem with it. Aluminum has very low resistance to fatigue - the likelihood of failure with repeated flexing. That’s the primary reason that aluminum bikes are stiff and use oversize tubing, so they don’t flex!

Then there’s the oft-stated paradigm that “stiff frames improve power transfer”, combined with the light frame weight of a properly designed frame made from heat-treated aluminum. That stiffness also makes them excellent touring bike candidates, assuming the geometry and fork are suitable.

I owned a ‘92 Klein Perfomance for 11 years and 38,000 mostly delightful miles. It was incredibly fun and capable in every situation including fast group rides, many centuries+, and several multi-week self-supported credit card tours. The less delightful miles were any with rough pavement like rough concrete, chip-seal or poor paving. Its aluminum fork was certainly harsh, and a CF Time fork helped only a bit. Sure wish that we’d had, and would fit, the fatter supple tires now available (max it could fit was 700x26), or maybe a 650B conversion. (I’ve also learned to use lower pressures.) I found a steel fork for it, but my son, for whom it fits much better, rides it these days so can’t comment on how that improved the front-end feel.
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Old 04-20-22, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dfrost
If an aluminum framed bike gets less stiff with time, then there’s a real problem with it. Aluminum has very low resistance to fatigue - the likelihood of failure with repeated flexing. That’s the primary reason that aluminum bikes are stiff and use oversize tubing, so they don’t flex!

Then there’s the oft-stated paradigm that “stiff frames improve power transfer”, combined with the light frame weight of a properly designed frame made from heat-treated aluminum. That stiffness also makes them excellent touring bike candidates, assuming the geometry and fork are suitable.

I owned a ‘92 Klein Perfomance for 11 years and 38,000 mostly delightful miles. It was incredibly fun and capable in every situation including fast group rides, many centuries+, and several multi-week self-supported credit card tours. The less delightful miles were any with rough pavement like rough concrete, chip-seal or poor paving. Its aluminum fork was certainly harsh, and a CF Time fork helped only a bit. Sure wish that we’d had, and would fit, the fatter supple tires now available (max it could fit was 700x26), or maybe a 650B conversion. (I’ve also learned to use lower pressures.) I found a steel fork for it, but my son, for whom it fits much better, rides it these days so can’t comment on how that improved the front-end feel.
I didn't mean a single frame getting more compliant over the years, I meant did Cannondale make their road bike frames more compliant over the years to address any consumer's complaints that it may be a bit too stiff, or were they always like anyone trying to make their stuff stiffer and stiffer throughout the years for increased power transmission.
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Old 04-20-22, 02:49 PM
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My 1994 Cannondale R500 is the harshest riding bike in my whole collection, which includes a Columbus MAX framed bike. No other way to put it. It was my first real road bike. When I got my second real road bike, a Ritchey Road Logic, I was amazed how much more comfortable it was, running the same tires. In addition to the harsher ride, I distinctly remember how mid-turn bumps would make the Cannondale hop, but the Ritchey just absorbed the bumps.

BUT, part of its problem was running on 23mm tires at 120 psi. Now, after restoring it, it runs on 25mm tires at 90F/95R, and it's a lot better. Still the harshest ride in the bunch, but still works fine on most pavement.
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Old 04-20-22, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
Finally, I went all in with 700x35 Rene Herse Bon Jon Pass tires, which did measure out at nearly 35mm even on the skinny rims. Of course nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to have a harsh ride with those Bon Jon Pass. The ride with the other two wasn't bad. I've ridden steel bikes that were harsher with similar size tires. But I definitely felt it, especially when riding on chip seal.
I have both Bon Jon Pass tires in normal and Extralight varieties. Guess which bike yelled at me over the crummy street I live on, with the Extralights no less? The big Trek 620. Latex tubes, good wheels, proper pressure and everything. Standard casing Bon Jons, normal tubes, same pressures, and a Trek 720 = a nice/decent experience over those same surfaces. Soma 42s (or 38mm actual on MA2s) on the 720 have me wondering if the road is bad at all. On the 620, the ride is decent enough, and it freight trains over anything less.

Like I said above, aluminum is really happy to tell you right now what's going on. Steel seems to give you a summary with generalities. Those generalities can be, "yeah, it's fine" to "this is horrible", but it's never as eager as aluminum to 'talk'. I wonder if we'd all be fine with stiffer frames so long as the fork wasn't bonkers. The head tube angle likely helps. 720's at 72°, 620's at 73°. Obviously 3/4 of a pound less steel in the frameset helps the comfort equation a lot. ST's run 72° head tube angles, so they were onto something.
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Old 04-27-22, 11:05 AM
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Do the cantilever drop outs have a tendency to break? I heard they do.
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Old 04-28-22, 11:09 AM
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I can't really compare the early bikes, but I've got a CAAD-3, and I've rented a couple of 2017-2018 spec Synapses for events, so I can somewhat compare. The modern bike is definitely smoother, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'plush' I'd have to pull the tape measure and protractors out, but the modern bike feels 'longer' through the front triangle, even though they're both nominally 56cm's.
Either way, they're very responsive when you really get on it, and not at all nervous or twitchy when you're just cruising.

WRT the early SR's; there were really two bikes: The SR400 /500 were 73* racing / sporty road bikes, and the SR-600 (-900+) were the 74* "Criterium" full-gas racing bikes. Later bikes have the 'Criterium' badging, but early ones don't. At the time (late 80's) it wasn't really common to find 'crit' bikes from mass-market brands, so I suspect a lot of those SR-600s and -900s got sold as 'up-market' sales over a SR-400 or -500; and unsuspecting buyers ended up on a 'race' bike when they wanted a 'sport' bike, giving rise to the reputation of early 'Dales being 'harsh and twitchy'

Originally Posted by buddiiee
Do the cantilever drop outs have a tendency to break? I heard they do.
It's a bit of a weak link, but not a 'fatal flaw'
The 'cantilever' dropouts of the 2.8/3.0 series were an engineering work-around during the time of the KLEIN v Cannondale patent lawsuit. (despite what the marketing says)
When the suit was resolved (in favor of Cannondale, BTW) they went back to a conventional dropout when they released the CAAD series bikes.
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Old 04-29-22, 05:30 AM
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Old 04-30-22, 12:22 PM
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Cannondale T600

Can't compare with modern frames, but have a T600 touring bike and run 700x32/35 and have no harshness at all bike rides very smoothly.
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