Early Review: The Cannondale CAAD13 105 Disc
Google "CAAD13" and the first thing you'll see is this—"Ultimate Alloy Race Bike." Sure, that's some handy SEO trickery at work, but it also reveals Cannondale's thesis and brief for the CAAD13—the most-talked about aluminum bike since perhaps ever.
Model: Cannondale CAAD13 105 Disc
Price: $2750 CAD/$2100 USD
If the CAAD13 is anything like the CAAD12, it's one of the ultimate "blank slate" bikes for racing and training. In the age of $8,000 Ultegra builds, the sub $3000 price-point is beyond a bargain. The outgoing $3000 Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra build is one of the truly great bargain buys in cycling. With Shimano's excellent hydro R7000 105 on display, can the CAAD13 follow its older sibling's class-act?
Plunk the CAAD13 beside a CAAD12 or CAAD10, and expect to see fundamentally different bikes. The fat downtubes, big bold Cannondale branding, and hyper-svelte-burns-out-of-the-shower fork of yore are no more. Instead, the seatstays have been aggressively dropped, the top tube's visited image enhancement camp, and the branding reduced so much you'd swear that pesky towel rack was at work once again.
The biggest difference is a no-brainer. Cannondale's moved away from the CAAD12's traditional lines in favour of dropped, dropped seatstays. Given the endless hellscape of Tarmacs, Propels, Teammachines and god knows what else, the move wasn't a surprising one. Wind tunnel tests and compliance-o-meters everywhere plug dropped seatstays as the modern equivalent of anodized bolts and Gripshifters. That is, game-changing. I can't claim to know the science behind it, or to have read the white papers to know if it actually works—but damn if I can't forge a diatribe about 'em!
That said, the look's growing on me with the CAAD13. The welds are classic exposed and charmingly unrefined CAAD, and I like the neat addition of fender mounts underneath.
One thing's for sure—this thing's welds make damn clear this is a bike forged from metal harvested from deep in the earth in underground aluminum caves. Say what you will about this here mega-weld, but in the age of swooping synthetic carbon lines and Dogma's with wavy-gravy forks that reek of super market cologne from 1000km away, I kinda like the worker and parasite levels of utilitarian simplicity on display here.
The truncated lines and D-Shaped seatpost designs are pulled pretty much directly from the new Supersix Evo. The seatpost is nicely finished, but feels a bit weighty. But, I absolutely love this very elegant seatpost collar/wedge bolt. It makes it dead easy to adjust with an allen key or torque wrench.
Clearance-o-rama, even with the stock Vittoria Rubino Pro 28mm tires onboard. 30mm is claimed, but I'm gonna do my absolute damndest to squeak 32s in here.
The top tube is quite lovely, and a marked departure from the ultra-wide, bash-your-knees top tube of CAADs old (which were also lovely).
Truncated airfoil frink tubes (that's what they're called, right?) combined with those dropped seatstays apparently reduce drag by 30%—that's good! But Cannondale's not saying what that saves over a 20km or 40km time trial—that's bad. But frame weight hasn't been increased—that's good! The frame contains potassium benzoate...that's bad.
Can you go now? No, you can't. Overall, I like the frame tube shapes, but still gotta sigh a wistful sigh for the mega rounded, chunky, flattened, mega-classic metal shapes of CAADs of old.
Also note where that Supercaz Oil Slick bottle cage sits—the lower bottle cage position apparently further reduces drag, but only allows for one cage in "aero mode." I like the thinking—makes good sense for crit racing and ill-advised KOM attempts.
Also, I didn't love the Mantis paint scheme online, but it looks great in-person. Plus, that brown Farsik saddle roll looks pretty groovy here, yeah?
Compliance, stiffness, and aero are the supposed benefits of this strange, frightening new design. Coming from my CAAD12 to the 13, it's difficult to tell right away where the differences lie. I need more time on the CAAD13, but so far, so good.
Slamming and slapping a 120mm stem on my fresh CAAD13 has dramatically improved the ride. It's beginning to feel like "mine," and I can sense hints of the CAAD12's character in it's cold, hard, metal DNA—that's good.
Ride quality is great, but unsure if I can equate that to the fancy new frame of the cushy (albeit somewhat slow-rolling) Vittoria Rubino Pro Tires.
In terms of geometry, the CAAD13 is a slightly different animal. On my 54cm, the headtube length has been boosted from 13.9cm to 15.4cm. That's a big chunk, and you can see it just a bit in the CAAD13's profile. It's not the end of the world, but whoever runs @slam_that_stem on Instagram is surely pouring a few out.
The wheelbase, too, has been lengthened—from 98cm to 100.8cm. That's identical to the current, unchanged Synapse—an endurance bike that I actually quite like. Note that the new SuperSix features the precise same wheelbase but, interestingly, the SystemSix features a shorter wheelbase.
That longer wheelbase combined with the many fender mounts raises a few eyebrows (but not necessarily bad ones). What's Cannondale going for, here? Are they moving away from the old school CAAD ethos of affordable race bike with a simple wheel upgrade? Are they nudging it towards a less aggro market of club riders and commuters? Or is versatility the name of the game, here—a winter training bike that can shift to crit-Gamblor with a quick change of wheels? I have zero issue with practicality and versatility in a race bike, full disclosure. Some hard training and racing will reveal all...
I can't tell for sure, but the CAAD13 feels just a touch less knife-edge-quick with its turn-in. That said, I found the same with the SystemSix (which I adored), so fingers' crossed that they've managed to capture some of that stellar bike's DNA in this crisp aluminum machine.
The wheels are nothing to write home about but get the job done—par for the course for a build like this, so no complaints. The crank is fine, but I do wish Cannondale had opted for the next-up-the-ladder Hollowgram crank over the more modest Si variant. Still, this is a nice crank that apparently tips the scales below Ultegra (although, it makes power meter upgrades to 4iiii or—god forbid—Stages a bit tricky).
On the whole, so far so good. A wheel and bar upgrade are certainly in-order, but that's normal for any CAAD below the $5,000 mark, really.
I said it once and I'll say it again—CAADs have always been (for me) the ultimate blank slate bike. The CAAD13 definitely has a couple of pounds on the CAAD12, and in some ways that feels like it restricts its potential. It's always been easy to get a CAAD to sub 16lbs with the right wheels and whatever else, but that would be a challenge, here. But, so goes with the disc-trend more generally. Suddenly, bikes weigh a pound more than they used to—for better or worse. That said, an aero-bike on a budget is a verrrryyyyy interesting prospect indeed...
Time will tell, and hours in the saddle will tell how I feel about this curious, quietly-exciting new offering from Cannondale.