First Look: Cannondale CAAD 12 Aluminum Road Bike

By Zap

Aluminum is of course the frame material that put Cannondale on the map way back in 1983 and it has remained a central focus of the brand up through the days of a young Cadel Evans making his professional road debut, to the Tour de France stage winning days with “Super” Mario Cipollini in the late 90s. And although lacking the spotlight of Cadel and Mario, there is no doubting the significance of the thousands of local criterium and road race wins enjoyed by CAAD riders throughout America and beyond over the years.

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Ah, but all that was then, and we’ve gathered you here to talk about the now. For 2016 Cannondale has once again moved the needle in the aluminum frame market with the introduction of their all-new CAAD 12 frame series.

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Choosing an aluminum bike in this day of carbon extravagance brings with it the acknowledged trade-off of scoring an unfashionable (to some) frame material, but one built with higher-end parts package than you’d find on a comparably priced carbon bike.

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Smooth welds, an hour-glass headtube, internal cable routing and a carbon fork with SAVE “micro-suspension” are notable features for the new model.

Key to this discussion is the reality is that many modern day aluminum frames (like the CAAD 12) have nothing in common with the teeth rattling, straight gauge, 6000 series aluminum frames that defined the breed back-in-the-day. Thanks to their use of tapered butting and computer-aided tube flow modeling, Cannondale has been able to design the CAAD 12’s frame tubes with the same sort of refined input they apply to the carbon tubes found on the Evo. Curiously, the CAAD 12 has the internal cable routing that the hi-end carbon Evo lacks.

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For even more compliance, the CAAD 12 has borrowed the under-sized 25.4mm SAVE seatpost that was first used on the Synapse (and is also now used on the Evo).

The CAAD 12 also prospers from its own variant of Cannondale’s Speed SAVE “micro-suspension” now found in the fork, chainstays and seatpost that are said to provide a 50% bump in vertical deflection.

Of course key to all frame material discussions is weight. We were told that the new CAAD 12 hits the scales at 1098 grams (a 52 gram weight savings over the previous CAAD 10) with the disc model frame coming in at 1094 grams which is a whopping 206 grams lighter than its predecessor. While the Shimano Dura-Ace spec’d bike we rode weighed 17.8 pounds, the high-end Black Inc. version is said to weigh a very carbon-like 14.8 lbs.

Of the seven new CAAD 12 models on display, the two eye-catchers were the $1950 CAAD 12 Disc 105 and the 15.5-pound (claimed) Red 22-spec’d bike. It was nice to see the wide variety of paint finishes across the line, but a bike showing off more polished aluminum would be nice to see. As you would expect from an aluminum pioneer like Cannondale, the craftsmanship on all the aluminum bikes is first rate.

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To accommodate Shimano’s latest flat mount standard for disc brakes, Cannondale patented their own version which is very clean.

Although it might not have been best to have us ride the CAAD 12 following the super-compliant Super-Six Evo, thanks to the Speed SAVE designs, the new aluminum frame was still noticeably compliant.

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Thanks to disc brakes, the CAAD 12 frame has waved goodbye to the need for a seatstay bridge.

The CAAD 12 line is made up of seven models ranging in price from the $1680 entry-level 105 bike to the $12,790 Black Inc edition. Of those, three are available with disc brakes. For more info, check out!

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