Cannondale Slice Ultegra review

A fine performer

BikeRadar score4/5

Cannondale’s rapid but forgiving Slice has been one of our favourite rides for a long time. Another outstanding performance this time proves the old ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ adage still holds true for 2011. Opting for evolution over revolution, Cannondale have once again crafted a real slice of genius.

Ride & handling: Powertrain stiffness, steering accuracy and a comfortable cruiser

While some of our testers were already familiar with the Slice from previous tests, even riders fresh to the Cannondale soon realised why we rate it so highly. The handling stability is particularly helpful in setting up a reassuringly confident character straight away. While it’s not the quickest witted dodging through potholes and other Tarmac trauma, you’ll have no doubt about hitting sweeping corners and short descents in a deep tuck rather than dithering about on and off the base bars. A full-size steerer plus stout legged forks give decent steering accuracy and proper brake callipers make it an assured descender, despite the thin Vision brake levers.

The BB30 bottom bracket, chunky chainstays and usefully stiff base bars all contribute towards a very direct and inspiringly torquey power delivery. Throw in the fact that this is the lightest complete bike here by a big margin, and when it comes to hammering up climbs and out of corners it’s got a noticeable edge over the others. Its easy injection of pace helps morale on flatter courses or more combative training rides too, wringing maximum wattage out of our legs every ride and helping to cement its popularity in our test pack.

Where the Slice really shines in competition terms is long-haul event situations, and it’s easy to see why athletes like Chrissie Wellington have been producing devastating results aboard a Cannondale. Despite the powertrain stiffness and steering accuracy, it’s a surprisingly comfortable cruiser. This is thanks to the combination of vibration-reducing SAVE stays and skinny top tube plus saddle and springy armrests underlining the sorted ride position. You’ll still get a jolt from big holes or particularly bad road surfaces, but it’ll spin smoothly in most situations without interrupting your rhythm. The reassuringly stable handling, damped ride quality and big chainring ratios all set it up well for using deep-section wheels and unleashing its brooding potential for ballistic speeds further down the line too.

Frame: Lightweight and aerodynamic, yet powerful and practical

While the carbon frame material is downgraded from the top-dog Hi Mod Slice, it’s baked in exactly the same shape. The front end uses a standard 1.125-inch fork, but it’s kept as slim as possible to reduce the front section. The short head tube gives the potential for a super-low tuck and the skinny top tube tapers back to the deep wheel-hugging ‘Speed Shadow’ seat tube. The deep down tube also gets a wheelhugger cut-out, as well as a notch behind the full-carbon aero fork for minimum turbulence, before swelling to an oversized BB30 bottom-bracket shell.

The multi-section ‘SAVE’ rear stays are sculpted to both reduce vibration and follow the rear wheel profile to reduce drag. The carbon aero seatpost can be set up to give a forward offset or conventional seat tube angle. The cables are internally routed and there are five frame sizes to choose from. While they’re not as ultimately aerodynamic, the conventional Ultegra callipers are a welcome relief from hidden or integrated brakes in terms of control.

Equipment: Average rather than outstanding, but factor in upgrades

As you might expect, the meat and two veg of the Slice spec is Shimano’s flawless Ultegra group, operated via Dura-Ace tip shifters. The power delivery gets beefed up with an FSA SL-K chainset with big time-trial specific chainrings and an oversized BB30 bottom bracket axle. While they don’t look as aero, the oval FSA base bars are a lot stiffer when you’re piling on the coal. The long carbon-fibre extensions save a bit of weight, while the composite armrests add welcome flex under your elbows on longer bike legs.

Mavic’s Cosmic Elite wheels have a vague aero edge in terms of rim depth and aero spokes, and they’re light enough to feel lively. A proper set of deep-section wheels are on the upgrade menu to really fulfil its potential. The high stiffness, low-weight chassis adds to its upgrade appeal too.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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