Cannondale CAAD 13 Road Bike Test

Anew from the forge

CANNONDALE’S CAAD 13

Cannondale forged their name in the bike industry over 30 years ago, they were renowned for their American-made aluminum frames that proved popular across the globe. The CAAD model has been the entry-level road bike from the Connecticut-based brand for over a decade. 

Although no longer making frames in America, Cannondale continues to offer many competitively priced builds in a market of inflated prices. For new roadies, the CAAD line has highlighted many of the features a carbon race frame boasts, but at a more attainable price. 

Cannondale’s latest CAAD release follows in line with the complete modernization on the road side that the brand has seen over the last couple of years. Drawing from the aero and handling benefits of the SystemSix, the traditional alloy race rig has been updated to make it a worthy all-rounder. Instead of the traditional geometry and lines that Cannondale has used for years, the CAAD 13 takes on an updated design that is more capable, aero and ready to handle the modern road scene than previous iterations.

THE FRAME

A sense of aesthetic minimalism seems to have become a key influence with Cannondale’s design team with nearly all of the latest models, as they’ve opted for plain colorways without the typical Cannondale branding and logos. Although our neon yellow test bike looks like a highlighter in a group ride, the colorway is not available in the U.S.
A small classic Cannondale logo on the top tube continues the low-key branding effort, with the only other lettering being the removable “CAAD 13” sticker on the seat tube. 

“The added compliance makes the CAAD 13 better suited to ride mixed surfaces on Saturday and raced on Sunday than the earlier models in the CAAD series.” 

The most noticeable differences in frame design are the dropped seatstays and airfoil-shaped tubes that had many people assuming it was a SystemSix or SuperSix at first glance. But no, Cannondale decided to drop the stays and update the tube shaping after wind-tunnel testing showed aerodynamic gains with the updates. The lower stays also allow more tire clearance with room for up to 30mm of rubber on the disc brake model and 28mm of rubber on the rim brake design (the size restriction being the brake calipers).

On a size 54, the wheelbase is 100.8cm, nearly 3cm longer than the CAAD 12. The increased wheelbase, along with the slack 71.2-degree head tube angle, creates new ride characteristics, giving the CAAD 13 a confident, smoother feel on the road.  

THE PARTS

The CAAD line is traditionally an entry-level option. We rode the mid-tier model spec’d with a quasi-Shimano Ultegra build (the only Ultegra-branded parts are the shifters and derailleurs). To keep the price down, the chain and 11/30 cassette are lower-end Shimano components. Cannondale uses its own alloy crank with 52/36 FSA chainrings. 

Cannondale’s SAVE design technology is used to engineer compliance into the lowered rear triangle.

We have noticed better wear resistance from the Shimano 105 cassette, thanks to its steel construction, but it comes at the cost of a few more grams. For $600 less a full Shimano 105 build is available, with the major downgrade being the Fulcrum 900 wheels. Our Ultegra rig is stocked with Fulcrum 600s and a pair of 28mm Vittoria Rubino tires. Keep in mind also, a CAAD 13 spec’d with Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes runs $300 less than our Ultegra rim brake build. 

Interestingly, a Prologo Nago RS STN saddle is included on all build levels of the CAAD 13. The Italian brand’s saddle is relatively narrow at 13.4cm and features forgiving alloy rails. For the remaining parts, Cannondale relies on their own Hollowgram components with a D-shaped alloy seatpost.

THE RIDE 

Riding the CAAD 13 we immediately noticed many differences in the design, with the most noticeable difference being the updated ride quality. While the CAAD 10 and 12 were seemingly created with all-out performance in mind, the CAAD 13 has an increased level of comfort, meaning the ride is much smoother, more predictable and easier to control. This doesn’t mean the frame isn’t as stiff, but instead of having mainly the frame absorb vibrations, the job is shifted to the 28mm Vittoria rubber and lowered SAVE (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) seatstays. The new ride characteristics fall in line with the same updates applied to Cannondale’s other road frames.  

We spent a fair amount of time testing the CAAD 13. We raced it in a crit, rode it on our local fire roads and brought it out to our weekly group rides. In full, we put in over 1000 miles on it. We noticed the usual wear and tear, but a standout failure was the Fulcrum 600 front hub seizing up around 900 miles. Aside from that, there were few hindrances. 

Cornering and descending on the CAAD 13 are noticeably different than the CAAD 12. Instead of the ultra-responsive feel of the 12, the 13 handles much more predictably, giving it a more confident feel in tight and unknown corners. The 28mm tires provide increased grip over the 25mm tires on the 12, and the longer wheelbase helps the bike hold its line.

During out-of-the-saddle efforts while climbing or sprinting, the bike feels less responsive than the previous less-compliant CAADs. The semi-compact chainrings keep the gearing better suited for racers rather than beginners, and the 11-30 cassette makes the climbs friendlier.

THE VERDICT

Cannondale’s efforts to make modern-day road riding more accessible is accomplished with the CAAD 13. The added compliance makes the CAAD 13 better suited to ride mixed surfaces on Saturday and raced on Sunday than the earlier models in the CAAD series. For those looking for a modern road bike that doesn’t break the bank, Cannondale’s CAAD 13 deserves to be in the running. Although, we recommend saving $300 over the Ultegra spec by opting for the Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brake build and using the saved money to upgrade the wheels when the time comes.

PUNCH LINES

Cannondale’s workhorse CAAD redesigned

Smoother doesn’t mean slower

Designed for modern road riding

CANNONDALE CAAD 13 STATS

Price: $2400

Weight: 18.43 pounds

Sizes: 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 60, 62cm

www.cannondale.com

 

The Gear

Helmet: Giro Aether              

Jersey: Voler       

Bib: Gore              

Shoes:  Giro Empire    

Socks: Pedal Mafia

Glasses: Tifosi    

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