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Unknown Cannondale

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Unknown Cannondale

Old 12-08-23, 11:35 PM
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Unknown Cannondale

Hi Guys... a very, very long time ago, I think sometime in the early 1980s, I was living in Vienna, Austria and was already a totally addicted mountain biker. I was sitting reading a mountain bike magazine and almost fell off my chair with excitement when I saw a full page add for a new Cannondale Mountain bike. It stated that 2 bikes were being sent to London and it showed a large photo of one of them... a bright yellow bike with a 24" rear wheel and 26" front. It had shortened chain-stays for more power and was fitted out with Sun Tour components and Fred Cunningham roller brakes. I could hardly contain myself as I, and nobody else, had ever seen such a beauty! I phoned the bike shop in London, which was right next to Waterloo Station, and reserved one of the bikes, the other one being bright pink. I then flew to London to pick it up. Everywhere I rode it people stopped and stared or stopped me and asked about it, it was amazing. I still have it but I changed a few of the components so that my wife could;d ride it. A couple of weeks ago I wrote to Cannondale in the US to see if they had any details about it as I have never seen another one like it. They wrote back and said that they have never heard of it! I sent them the frame number and photos but they haven't got a clue. What I remember about the add in the magazine is that it stated that these frames were hand welded and each joint lovingly rubbed down by hand in the tiny, disused railway station where they were turning out only one or two bikes each week. The serial number is stamped underneath the righthand side chain stay, which is unusual too. US Cannondale has suggested that these 2 bikes could have been prototypes as they have no records, etc. and bright yellow or bright pink are not. Cannondale colours. Anyway, I'm not allowed to post photos until I have made 10 posts but what do you think, any ideas? Cheers, Hansi
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Old 12-09-23, 01:32 AM
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The 24/26 wheel combination was the SM-series MTB, which continued until ~1987, including the RollerCam brakes.
Supposedly the smaller wheel enabled a shorter wheelbase , for better traction and maneuverability on the steep, technical trails of the eastern U.S, where they were based.

Yellow and (less frequently) Pink have featured off and on in the catalog (lots of yellow in the 90s) and I recall a berry-pink Road bike (a early ST-, maybe?) Keep in mind, that pre-1990, Cannondale was pretty much a boutique maker, and they also sold a lot of bikes as near-custom bare framesets, so it’s not uncommon to find one that doesn’t match up with the catalog.

SN# under the chainstay was the normal location for pre-1992. VintageCannondale.com has a pretty good database and SN# decoder to get you started
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Old 12-09-23, 01:35 AM
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Below is where you can find old Cannondale catalogs. Cannondale didn't manufacture bikes until 1983. But 1984 was the first time they were included in the main catalog.

In 1984 they offered an ST300 and ST500 Touring bikes and the SM300 and SM500 All-Terrain bikes. The ATB's were equipped with a 24" rear wheel and 26" front wheel.

Here is a link to their catalogs...

https://vintagecannondale.com/catalog/

John
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Old 12-09-23, 01:41 AM
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Serial number on the chain stay places the bike at 1986-1992.

Serial number info


In 1987 both pink and yellow were available. The pink as a SM800 was available with the wheel combination you mentioned. The SM500 for that year was available in yellow. But not that wheel combination.

1987 catalog


For 1986 there was a SM700 available in yellow with that wheel combination.

1986 catalog

But I find no reference for those brakes. None of my information is first hand. And from what I’ve learned about Cannondale is catalogs don’t always match production. Another caveat and likely a big one is bikes for export may be completely different than what was available in the US in any given year.
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Old 12-09-23, 03:22 AM
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Thanks so much for this information Ironfish, it's quite amazing that nobody at Cannondale in the US could tell me this! Anyway, it's good to know that this model did actually exist and I have always also wondered who bought the other one, the yellow one!

Cheers, Hansi
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Old 12-09-23, 03:25 AM
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Thanks very much John, I have always loved this bike and it's great to finally know the details! Thanks also for the link to their catalogs...

Cheers, Hansi
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Old 12-09-23, 03:32 AM
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Thanks for all that information Brett, it's much appreciated. Yes, the "cunningham' brakes are brilliant and still work like new. They were great for a sort of quick release, allowing for wide knobbly tyres to pass through and allowing the wheel to be quickly removed. Cannondale were obviously trying out the market in the UK by sending those two bikes over to London, I was so lucky to snap one up almost the day after they arrived! Thanks for the links too, very interesting...

Cheers, Hansi
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Old 12-09-23, 06:58 AM
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Old 12-09-23, 09:16 AM
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It doesn’t surprise me that Cannondale US knows little about the older bikes. The company was not originally a bike manufacturer, became successful, and then it tangled in court with Gary Klein over the use of oversized aluminum tubes. Its downfall was sojourning into motocross. This lead to bankruptcy. However the bicycle division was bought out and continued although it has changed hands over the years.

There is a lot of info online. I bought my Criterium frame (only) new for $100. I was told by the shop at the time that due to the result of the Klein lawsuit, they couldn’t sell them as complete bikes and were just trying to get rid of them. Can’t verify if that was true, but $100 was a great deal even back then.

You can also find info on the court case online. My understanding was the use of oval seat stays was the only aspect of the design found in favor of Klein. Turns out the oversized aluminum tubes were based on a college project from the 70’s so Klein could not claim they were proprietary.

John
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Old 12-09-23, 10:31 AM
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Road Test/Bike Review (1988) CANNONDALE SM600 (mtb; 24" rear/26" front)
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Old 12-09-23, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by IdahoBrett
Serial number on the chain stay places the bike at 1986-1992.

Serial number info


In 1987 both pink and yellow were available. The pink as a SM800 was available with the wheel combination you mentioned. The SM500 for that year was available in yellow. But not that wheel combination.

1987 catalog


For 1986 there was a SM700 available in yellow with that wheel combination.

1986 catalog

But I find no reference for those brakes. None of my information is first hand. And from what I’ve learned about Cannondale is catalogs don’t always match production. Another caveat and likely a big one is bikes for export may be completely different than what was available in the US in any given year.
The bike is probably the ‘87 SM800. The catalog shows a weird decal detail that isn’t in the attached photo but they may have come off. The brakes are Suntour roller cam brakes. Here’s a Sheldon Brown article on adjusting them.

This bike is from the weird first years of mountain biking when all kinds of ideas were being floated to solve any number of problems with taking a glorified cruiser and throwing it on to a bunch of rocks. There were all kinds of crazy, fun, stupid, brilliant ideas floating around. Using a 24” wheel was almost brilliant. It solved a problem of the day with gearing on the low end. Cranks of the time came with either a 28 tooth granny or a 24 tooth granny depending on the BCD. With a 34 tooth cog on the freewheel and a 26” wheel, the low was either 22 gear inches or 19”, respectively. That’s pretty high for slow speed mountain biking on steep trails.

Cannondale using a 24” wheel dropped the gear inches to 19” and 17”, respectively. Not a bad idea but better gearing quickly came along which reduced the need for the smaller wheel and simplified the need for two different wheel/tire/tube sizes.
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Old 12-09-23, 12:34 PM
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Nice bike Hansi and a great story to go along with it!
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Old 12-10-23, 01:07 AM
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Thanks again John, very interesting read...!
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Old 12-12-23, 08:53 AM
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13 posts in and no one caught the incorrect reference to Fred Cunningham brakes? You guys are slipping! The correct reference would be to Charlie Cunningham, one of the greatest innovators in mountain bike history.
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Old 12-12-23, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Smokinapankake
13 posts in and no one caught the incorrect reference to Fred Cunningham brakes? You guys are slipping! The correct reference would be to Charlie Cunningham, one of the greatest innovators in mountain bike history.
I'm sure a bunch of us did, but the correction early on pointing out that the brakes were manufactured by Suntour quelled my urge to pile on.
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Old 12-12-23, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Smokinapankake
13 posts in and no one caught the incorrect reference to Fred Cunningham brakes? You guys are slipping! The correct reference would be to Charlie Cunningham, one of the greatest innovators in mountain bike history.
Ah ha... it's been a long time since I purchased this bike, I have always remembered the name as Fred Cunningham! Oh well, no harm done...
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