Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Dura-Ace review£3,500.00

Can metal really compete with carbon fibre?

BikeRadar score5/5

The CAAD12 alloy frame has a string of awards to its name and is a superb showcase for just how far you can take metal tube technology. The hourglass head-tube backs onto a super-thin wall down-tube that morphs and reshapes regularly before reaching the BB30 bottom bracket (BB) shell as a flattened oval.

The asymmetric Delta seat tube flattens and expands sideways as it drops onto the top of the bottom bracket shell, locking in anti-twist stiffness when you pedal hard.

Together with the SAVE flat centred, brace-free seatstays and a top tube that tapers dramatically from head tube to seat tube, it’s clear to see where stiffness or comfort-boosting flex are concentrated. The SAVE chainstays use a flattened centre section for a leaf spring ride-softening effect before ending in cowled quick-release dropouts.

The patented flat-mount brake fixture is formed into a separate gusset plate then welded onto the inside edge of the stay. All cables and hoses are fully internal with a tidy dropout exit point for the rear gear line. It weighs under 1,100g and with smoothed mainframe welds it could be mistaken for composite cosmetically too.

Metallic flake paint finish gives the Cannondale an exotic, expensive look
Metallic flake paint finish gives the Cannondale an exotic, expensive look

The SAVE fork is fully carbon with a 12mm thru-axle for precision and security, and a front-of-crown brake pipe entry point keeps things clean and neatly aligned. Cannondale also adds one of the nicest moulded carbon headset caps we’ve seen and, with the metallic flake paint finish, it looks more like an exotic carbon frame rather than an off-the-peg model.

The spec you’re getting is superbike level too with an almost full set of Shimano Dura-Ace gearing, the cassette is Ultegra, cranked round by Cannondale’s own hollow-armed SpideRing chainset.

Cannondale branded kit forms the cockpit and skinny shaft, cutaway top seatpost, while Fizik provides the premium Antares saddle. The wheels use Cannondale Hollowgram carbon rims, using licensed Stan’s No Tubes technology to come set up tubeless as standard, using liquid sealant and a rim-mounted valve rather than a separate inner tube.

The Cannondale is a bike that lights up every part of every ride
The Cannondale is a bike that lights up every part of every ride

Even at full 90psi front/100psi rear pressures, with relatively narrow 19mm internal rims, the wheels have a richly connected and damped feel compared to conventional, lower grade tyres and deeper, alloy rims on other bikes. While it doesn’t damp vibration like carbon can, the frame itself is forgiving of rougher surfaces considering how alive and precise it feels.

The result is a bike that just disappears underneath you on climbs or whenever you hit the gas coming out of corners, and begs you to go on the attack to rub that in at every opportunity.

Handling is sharp and precise but that surefooted wheel and tyre connection meant it was never nervous however late I left braking or hard I leaned through tightening turns. I can’t think of a bike at this price that I’ve enjoyed as much.

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

Related Articles

Back to top