Cannondale Fat CAAD 1 ReviewMay 5, 2017
- Lefty fork performs great
- CAAD aluminum pedigree
- Excellent Value
- Less versatile than some
- Fork makes it tricky to transport/wrench
The FAT CAAD 1 will speak to three different groups: Cannondale CAAD road bike fans, lefty fork fans, and anyone that likes a good value. With a frame that shares a name with the iconic CAAD Cannondale road bike, higher end components, and a Lefty Olaf fork, there is a lot to like at a very reasonable price. The FAT CAAD 1 is great in the snow, good on the trail, and a value year round despite being heavy for what it is.
The FAT CAAD 1 is a new addition to the Cannondale line up, keying off the well known aluminum framed road bikes of the CAAD name. This is the “biggest” riding bike of our review mix, featuring some of the widest stock tires (4.8 inch Schwalbe Jumbo Jim), it is also the heaviest and one of the least expensive. For folks new to the Lefty series of forks they are stiff yet compliant. The Lefty has a loyal base of fans, for a variety of reasons that include the ability to change a tire without removing the wheel and the lack of mud and snow trapping hardware. There is a learning curve using a Lefty because of the off center weight distribution of the fork. And transporting the bike can be challenging because removing the front wheel requires uninstalling the brake caliper. The FAT CAAD 1’s rear triangle uses bowed aluminum construction and is noticeably shock-absorbing. The FAT CAAD is a remarkably well balanced bike front to back, with excellent traction (even with tires that are better suited to snow than dirt), however the Lefty Olaf does take some getting accustomed to left to right (high speed lefts require more lean/push than rights).
There is no masking the 32 pound weight rolling on 4.8 inch tires, giving the feel of the bigger more substantial ride. The FAT CAAD 1 climbs well as a result of the excellent balance of the machine front to back. Traction is easily maintained, and there is no flex evident on the climb. Cannondale Si cranks are stiff and offer a 30 tooth chain ring. The rear cassette is SRAM’s XG 11 speed (10-42), providing ample gearing and it felt as though there was a bit more than typical in terms of the downhill gearing. We were also getting some vibrations up through the wheels which we couldn’t identify.
The FAT CAAD 1 climbs surprisingly well for a heavier bike with large tires. The Lefty Olaf features a “Push Here To Climb” button on the crown which minimizes movement, and the longish wheelbase is extremely comfortable. The bike makes quick work of technical ascents though it was always wise to carry some extra momentum when possible given the heft. In the snow the FAT CAAD floated better than most we tested and that performance extended to snow climbing.
Not to harp on the Olaf fork, but first reflections of riding a Lefty require mentioning the awareness of steering differently left versus right. This is likely exacerbated by the substantial forces generated by the spinning Jumbo Jims. Outside of that, the Olaf is an exciting fork that takes big and small hits in stride, feels linear in travel and rebound, and smooths the roughest trails of rock or ice. Cannondale’s C2 riser bar featuring 6 degree rise and 9 degree backsweep is mounted with a Cannondale stem, and assist in taming the rotating Jumbo Jim on the downhill.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
SRAM X01 on the thumb and derailleur with an X1 11 speed SRAM chain provided for crisp and reliable shifting. The XO1 shifter is less intrusive into the grip zone than others we rode, and requires perfectly light pressure. SRAM Guide hydraulic brakes (180 front, 160 rear), provide ample power, while being quiet and consistent on long descents.
Sun Ringle Mulefut 80 SL 26 inch rims orbiting a Lefty 73 on the front and a Formula DHL 1971 rear hub- both strung with DT Swiss spokes. The wheels did the job showing only slight challenges staying true. The Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 4.8 inch tires provided better traction in snow than dirt, however they were excellent in both. These are light tires that may wear fast.
At $3,500 with higher end SRAM components and a Lefty Olaf fork, the FAT CAAD provides a lot of bike for the money.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.