3 Wild Cannondale Prototypes From the Vault - Video

May 4, 2018 at 14:46
by Mike Levy  





It's surprising what you can find if you keep your eyes peeled. During a recent visit to Cannondale's headquarters in Connecticut, I found myself in their test lab, a building that's usually off limits to media types like myself, for obvious reasons. Not that day, though. High above my head, hanging in the rafters were countless prototypes, test mules, and rolling proof of concepts that have, for the most part, never seen the light of day.

There's a good reason for that: Many of these creations weren't intended to be ridden extensively or ever be seen by the public, and calling some of them less-than-pretty would be a bit like calling the Lefty strut just a wee bit different. The Lefty is a lot different, and many of these mules are a lot ugly.


Old prototype Cannondale


The purpose of their short lives certainly wasn't to look good, but rather to suss out whether a concept might fly or flop, and they were shuffled off into a corner to collect dust once their job was done. If the idea showed merit, then engineers and industrial designers would have worked to package it in a much more appealing way, and the final product on the showroom floor might not resemble anything shown here, even though it could have traced its roots back to these odd-looking parents.

Much of Cannondale's history is filled with these madcap creations and even crazier ideas, but this is especially true when you look at the late '90s to early 2000s. It was all a bit wild, wild west back then, and while the three frames shown in the video didn't birth anything on the production line, calling them failures wouldn't be doing them justice.

After all, the very fact that none of us ended up riding around on a full-suspension bike with its rear-end controlled by square stanchions (rather than pivot bearings) shows that the test mules served their purpose.
Old prototype Cannondale

All three are extremely rough prototypes that are more proof (or not) of concept than anything a company would usually show, and they employ an interesting mix of existing and fabricated bits and bobs that let engineers build the frames cost-effectively and relatively quickly. These ain't no shiny media samples that were ever intended to be photographed and, for the most part, it looks as if the ideas behind them didn't pan out. But you don't know unless you try, right? And trying is something that Cannondale doesn't shy away from.


The Pivot-Less Full-Suspension Cross-Country Bike / 1998 - 1999

Old prototype Cannondale
Where we're going, we don't need pivots. This cross-country prototype employed square stanchions from one of Cannondale's forks to control its 50 to 60mm of travel. Check out the single-piston Coda brake caliper, too.


You're forgiven if the above image looks confusing to you - it took me a few seconds to figure out what the hell is happening, too. Using a hardtail's modified front and rear triangles, along with a few square stanchions and needle bearing packs from their Moto fork, Cannondale's engineers created this strange duck.

The rear-end moved near-vertically on the stanchions that also held everything aligned because they were square, of course, and it probably delivered 50 or 60mm of cross-country squish, at most.


Old prototype Cannondale
Old prototype Cannondale
Like a lot of the other mules, this one was mostly built by using existing tubing and components.


The idea back in '98 or '99, says Steve Extance, Chief Engineer for Suspension, was to lose the pivot bearings and create a firm-pedaling, relatively simple full-suspension cross-country bike. I also suspect that some of the thinking at the time was that if a cross-country full-suspension kinda looked like a hardtail, it might be better embraced by the spandex and heart rate monitor crowd.

Something obviously didn't pan out - Cannondale never brought anything similar to the market - but it goes to show you that the idea to use things other than sealed pivot bearings to control the rear wheel isn't a new one.


The Single-Sided Swingarm / 2001 - 2002

Old prototype Cannondale
It was functional, but the single-sided rear-end ended up not being rigid enough.


If a one-sided fork can work, why not a one-sided rear-end? Not so much, it turned out. ''This was a very crude mock-up to get test some ideas and to get some ideas,'' Extance stressed, ''To see if it was feasible at all.'' If the concept had panned out, the final product might not have resembled the Franken-bike pictured above in any way, but this thing would have been its genesis. And no, this isn't from Independent Fabrications, although I wouldn't be surprised if the sticker placement was intended to throw off looky-loos. What it is, is an old-style Jekyll front triangle from back when they had less travel and a trick threaded shock mount that let riders tune the geometry. But that's where things cease to be normal, even by Cannondale's standards.

Instead of the Jekyll's normal swingarm and tiny Fox air shock, there's a single chainstay on the left side that's bolted to a complete fork leg from one of their Moto 150 DH forks. Again, the square stanchion tube and needle roller bearings provided rigidity, but it wasn't enough to explore the idea any further. ''This thing had its drawbacks. It functioned, but, obviously, one chainstay wasn't quite enough to deal with chain loads," Extance explained.

But why a single-sided rear-end? Don't forget that Cannondale had the Lefty, which would have made for quite the interesting looking combination. Plus, a one-side rear-end would have just been cool as hell. I also would have liked to have seen how they ended up packaging the cassette and rear derailleur, along with the disc brake, on the only place they could be mounted.

While the older cross-country prototype above this used square stanchions to eliminate the need for pivot bearings, this Jekyll-ish creation still needed one at the axle and another at the top of the fork leg. It's the latter that was apparently most important, with Cannondale using a sealed headset - not just the bearings, but the entire headset - to build the pivot. It's actually a pretty clever way of going about creating a large suspension pivot that wouldn't leave all the torsional rigidity duties to the single fork leg and lone chainstay. A diced-up set of fork crowns were drafted in as pivot hardware of sorts, and the whole thing was mounted to a bracket that was bolted to the back of the seat tube.
Old prototype Cannondale
''Hold on a minute while I tighten my rear headset...''



The Three Shock DH Bike / 1999 - 2000

Old prototype Cannondale
If one shock is good, three must be three times as good, right? This prototype spawned a team-only downhill bike designed around the same concept.


Er, single pivot... linkage bike? While I'm not sure how to best sum up this prototype's design, the last frame of our tour back in time turned out to be much more promising than either of the above. It was probably too complicated and expensive to manufacture and ever be available to us peasants and peons, but a more advanced (and simpler) iteration of the design was eventually raced by Cannondale's pros on the National and World Cup downhill circuit.

It might be best to think of the layout as two separate systems, with the single-pivot swingarm driving a normal shock, all of which is pretty run of the mill. But the other system was anything but. On each side of the swingarm, two short parallelogram linkages created a secondary suspension element, each with their own pint-sized shock. All of this rode on the swingarm, and it gave the rear axle the ability to travel in an envelope of space rather than a strictly defined path.


Old prototype Cannondale
This design let the axle move in an envelope of space rather than having to follow a one set path.


So the main shock might be sitting deep in its travel while the twin smaller shocks could be fully extended or vice versa, and the whole thing was about carrying speed on the race track.

''So these were tuned to be pretty firm off the top so you didn't have crazy pedal feedback,'' explained Extance of how they went about setting up the small twin shocks. ''But this bike, in a straight line over small bumps, would not drop any speed. It was pretty amazing.'' Neato, eh? What eventually came from all this three shock business was a team-only downhill bike that used only (only!) two shocks via a linkage that was long enough to activate a tiny custom shock mounted in front of the rear wheel. If you ask me, the team bikes were some of the oddest looking things around, whereas the older three-shock prototype looks a bit more normal.


Old prototype Cannondale
Old prototype Cannondale
It sure looks complicated, but there's only one more pivot than your run of the mill dual-link bike sports.


For a company that many of today's rider most associate with road bikes, Cannondale was also one of the first to the market with an off-the-shelf, production-spec downhill bike. The Super V DH 4000 had 100mm out back, but its 120mm-travel inverted fork, integrated chain guide, and Sachs disc brakes were pretty wild back in 1996. Hell, Shimano debuted their V-brake the same year.

And the Lefty, for all the hate it still gets, offers its own unique performance for riders who're into it, and it's certainly the most obvious example of Cannondale being Cannondale. There was the motorbike, too, that while being an obvious failure, was about as ballsy as it gets: An American-made dirt bike, and Cannondale decided to not only make their own motor but to also sprinkle in some of their, er, Cannondale-ness. This thing has a reversed cylinder layout, an electric starter, and fuel injection, none of which were on the market back then. I should probably mention that it also really sucked, but damn was it interesting. And here's some perspective: Cannondale's first product was a funky bike trailer back in 1972, a full decade before they built a bicycle. To start there and end up looking to take a run at the motorcycle and ATV market is quite the journey, even if they did get booted back to their own non-motorized lane after just a few rough years.


Old prototype Cannondale
Spot anything interesting? Cannondale was invested in this layout enough to make a number of prototypes, many with different length linkages and even an adjustable version.


It's probably fair to say that out of all the bike brands that have been around for as long as Cannondale, which is over forty years now, none of them have been as inventive, or exploratory at least, as the American company that first called a pickle factory home. Oh sure, you might not be a fan of the single-sided Lefty strut, the aluminum-spined, carbon fiber Raven, or the geometry-adjusting pull-shocks that some of their bikes have employed, but you can't deny that Cannondale's out-of-the-box thinking, and especially their long-standing willingness to explore new ideas, has resulted in some absurdly cool products over the years.


177 Comments

  • + 205
 We've seen some good articles on PB this week, but this tops them all IMO. Sweet. Thanks Mike. And many thanks to Cannondale for letting us look into your beside table drawer.
  • - 97
flag headshot (May 9, 2018 at 1:55) (Below Threshold)
 I'm surprised they did. Some of that stuff is so bizarre I'd have been too embarrassed to show anyone.
  • + 107
 put some wheels on these frames, we want LINKAGE VIDEOS Fab
  • + 50
 @headshot: at least Cannondale had the ball bearings to attempt to push the envelope back then ... and yes, a good many of those projects were binned, but hell they tried.
  • - 45
flag headshot (May 9, 2018 at 3:02) (Below Threshold)
 @HairyLegs: Are you saying nobody else in the industry was pushing back then? Mmmm.
  • + 8
 Cannondale are missed DH scene, the days of crazy innovation seem to be gone! It would be amazing to hear more about what looks like a DH frame in the photo directly under the video, as just from looking at it I feel it would work quite well somehow and could of been refined into a frame that was ahead of its time.
  • - 25
flag headshot (May 9, 2018 at 4:46) (Below Threshold)
 @HairyLegs: I think that my point is really that well, perhaps some of those abominations were better left untried. As for being missed on the DH circuit. No, no no. Cannondale would simply do another mono-pivot variation on a Jeckyl having realized a long time ago that the crazy stuff doesn't really work. That said, I'd love a Jeckyl. It looks good and the shock tech is cool.
  • - 33
flag fecalmaster (May 9, 2018 at 4:57) (Below Threshold)
 Crackheadale has been shit since 1985 in all markets.
  • + 3
 I still own my Super V with original Lefty that only used a four bold mounting for the disk!
  • - 2
 @richierocket: I'm sorry about your bike and your 4 bold's
  • + 4
 @fecalmaster: I still rock a 2005 Prophet. Love it. Shreds just fine with the old school geo and some mods. You can convert to 27.5, long shock to 160mm and if you find a super rare 4X/MX frame you can run a 570mm max a2c fork. Old School sure but not bad at all.
  • + 1
 Glad to see you back Mike!
  • + 3
 i feel like this is preparing us for some sort of crazy cannondale product launch. or an e-bike...
  • + 2
 depressing since the buyout innovation has died at Cannondale.
  • + 2
 @Gregorysmithj1: I think its still somewhat in existence there, maybe not as blue-sky but more informed by trends and market conditions. One example is the 'Slate' road/gravel/?? bike that predated the current gravel and 650b road trend by a few years. In general I agree with you though, buyouts can put dampers on raw innovation for a number of reasons.
  • + 3
 @HairyLegs: "Smoothest Balls In The Industry". Maybe I'm dating myself but I had that CDale T-shirt back in the day when they came out with their BB30 ceramics.
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: LoL, yeah I meant to say "bolts" obviously.
  • + 1
 @richierocket: Thank you, now I can finally sleep.
  • + 1
 @heavyp: That one caught my eye too, Id like to know more about it, It looks like some kind of odd inside out mix of a DW and a VPP, not sure what to make of it
  • + 32
 This is exactly why I love Cannondale: They are probably the most innovative bike brand on the market. From pushing the boundries of what's possible with aluminum, to the Lefty, Headshock, the assimetric chain stays for stronger/stiffer wheels, etc, etc. This brand truly improves bikes, and with that also in general because it's just a matter of time before other brands will follow.

I enjoyed seeing these ideas they had.

I wouldn't be suprised if one day we'll see a modern and proper version of the pivotless fully and the Lefty-rear-triangle appear on their bikes, when technology improved enough to make it possible.
  • + 10
 They WERE one of the most innovative bike companies (one of the first to run disc brakes on xc/trail bikes, progressive geometry, stiff headtubes, lefty etc..).

However once Dorel came in and they make everything overseas now they have lost all innovation and customer service. I had F700, 2 prophets, 1 rush, 1 rize and multiple lefty's with zero problems. Then had a jekyll, great bike seatstays broke twice due to poor frame alignment Cannondale warrantied the first one (happened 30 days after bike was purchased), refused to warranty the second one (said it was crash relate although there was no crash and the bike has absolutely no evidence of any kind of crash).

So, I am officially done with the Dorel/Cannondale and I cannot recommend their bikes to anyone anymore.
  • + 3
 @ppp9911: The Rush was horrid. Felt like I was carrying a 50 lb brick with me riding that thing. Horrible bike
  • + 4
 @ppp9911: You must have been lucky. I had an F2000 and it was a pile of junk. The Coda brakes started leaking at the caliper with no fix. Non-standard brake mounts meant that Shimano brakes had to be modified to work with the existing rotors, because it also had the stupid 4 bolt wheels so you could not change the rotors. Don't even get me started on the Fatty fork. The thing ate bearings and the lockout stopped working soon after purchase, and you needed expensive proprietary tools to repair it, which the dealer would not even sell. Switching out the stem was also very expensive and there were limited options. It was a good looking bike, but full of dumb proprietary junk that failed right away. Not buying Cannondale "innovation" ever again.
  • + 2
 @ppp9911: Dorel came in in 2008. Since that they Cannondale did:

- AI (assymetric integration): where frame, rear wheel and cranks are designed as 1 complete set to work together, instead of all seperate parts. This generally improves the rear end of the bike, such as stiffer and stronger rear wheel, shorter chain stay, stiffer bb.
- Giant did a frame stiffness test in 2012 and the Cannondale Supersix frame had the stiffest bottom bracket.
- The Save technology is maybe something more companies have their version on, but I haven't seen anyone go as far as Cannondale. The chain stays on my Slate don't just look impressive, but I actually feel a noticable difference compared to my previous cyclocross bike, that had the exact same tyres, only in 700c instead of 650b (so in theory the bike with 700c wheels should be more forgiving, but my Slate with 650b really is much more forgiving). Then there's also the road forks and seat posts they use it in properly (I later upgraded the normal alu seatpost to the Save seatpost, and I would guess that gives me another 10mm bump absorption).
- Again about the Slate, out of all the gravel bikes I tried it was by far my favourite. So much that after giving it a test ride I immediatly put my cyclocross bike for sale to buy the Slate. It's the only one I've ridden that feels like a mtb with drop bars instead of a road bike with bigger tyres. And if you have the money for the more expensive version (which I didn't haha) then you get a specifially tuned Lefty with 30mm of suspension, tuned to pretty much withstand low speed compression and to be very active on high speed compression.
Just as much as how the Slate blew my expectations, the Habit did too. I climbed faster on a hardpack XC climb on the Habit Carbon 2 than I did on my previous 105 equipped alloy cyclocross bike from a different A-brand.
- Through axle pivots to increase stiffness on the fully frames.
- The SiSL2 cranks are one of the best and the lightest, as well as the nice Spiderings that haven't been done on road bikes before (as far as I know).

Maybe the inventions are less crazy as back in the days, but they have kept pushing technology on bikes, also after Dorel bought them in 2008. To be honest I still couldn't name another bike brand that's as high tech and improved as much (before / after / both) Dorel. None of the bigger ones for sure. But one thing is for sure, Cannondale is one of the leading bike brands and if you buy one, you know you'll have a great performing bike. It's indeed discussable if they are the best, but it's true that they are one of the top players.

And personally I rather buy a bike from a brand that pushes innovation and technology, because with that you financially support bikes getting better and better in the future, than to buy brands that are only copying what innovative brands have done.
  • + 0
 Cannondale just released a new big innovation: www.pinkbike.com/news/cannondale-ocho-first-look-development.html

As you can see they really didn't stop innovating Smile
  • + 32
 Cannondale. The Lancia of bicycles.
  • + 5
 So good.
  • + 1
 Perfect.
  • + 1
 This wins the comment section today!
  • + 1
 This gives new meaning to Cannondale's Beta testing back in the day
  • + 23
 Back in the days when MTB industry had some balls...
  • + 9
 Is it a matter of balls back then, or a matter of experimenting and seeing what works, because they were a long way from having it figured out? Could it be now that it's not that the MTB industry has no balls, but that things have evolved to a point where such experimentation is no longer necessary? Could it also be that we are not seeing the far-out experiments the industry is doing right now because they don't want to release their research to the public, and that in 20 years, we'll be looking at some weird things from 2018 or so?
  • + 3
 @TheR: I'm sure you are correct. Probably the same when this tech was being developed. Seems like nothing going on but there is always gonna be R and D and projects and tech being shelved or scrapped
  • + 6
 @h-beck83: Seems to me that back in the day it was guys who could weld up a hard tail trying to figure out kinematics without an engineering degree...
  • + 2
 @Poulsbojohnny: Right. I also think due to computer modelling restrictions back in the day, there was a much larger element of "trail vs paper" differences, and so despite being able to adapt known working designs and early kinematics, it was still cheaper and beneficial to toy with things in the real world. Additionally, there was just less competition back then, especially from overseas manufacturing. Full-suspension bikes were largely being welded and developing in America or Europe, and all those companies were on the same playing field. Profits were good, so it wasn't outrageous to have an engineer and a few bored welders tinkering with stuff. These days, companies large or small don't like to gamble like that, as too much can go wrong from a liability and financial standpoint.
  • + 18
 Where are the suspension squish videos?!!
  • + 11
 The Lefty has and always will be the coolest fork going, while some iterations of it has been better than others, its still my favourite fork. There are plenty of cool stuff in this article though. Good work!
  • + 3
 The lefty is cool but everything about servicing it isn't. It's currently a 3 month wait just to get parts from cannondale. Shops won't touch it. You're looking at least $300 for a yearly overhaul. Throw in a Dyad shock while you're at it and you'll spend more time with the bike in the shop than on the trails. The downside of proprietary.
  • + 1
 @Powderface: It is my experience that headshok units of various kinds are not all that sensitive to service intervals. I know that Cannondale recommends one thing, but real world use is another.
I have been a bike mechanic for over a decade and I have been trained on headshok service, so I have done more than a few. Granted we had a lot of parts in stock for them, like needle bearings and various other parts, so in general we could do what came in the shop. Some odd stuff were sent out to Cannondale in Hollad, where they were at the time. Maybe they are still there, but im not a mechanic anymore, so I dont keep up.
  • + 11
 Too bad Cannondale stopped DH bikes and is now making bikes pretty tamed down compared to those wild designs. Triple shock was so cool compared to the new Jekkyl.
  • + 10
 This looks like a scene from Alien 4 where Ripley walks into the lab with unsuccessful hybrids of humans and aliens. Kiil meeeee
  • + 1
 that was so gross
  • + 4
 There are only three Alien movies. The first three made - same as Star Wars. Three, I tell you!
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: I have been told that in the past... scientists aren’t sure whether such state of mind is a cause or effect of not getting laid but they have no doubts that it is one of the most successful methods of male contraception.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: speaking from experience?
  • + 11
 This was when the innovation card used to actually mean something. Not "look, we made this hub wider!"
  • + 3
 Well now people just trash radical things it immediately, see: Canyon hover bar.
  • + 7
 The Fulcrum will always be one of my favourite dh bikes. So ahead of its time.
  • + 1
 Same. I loved watching them race, on what limited DH coverage we got back then. Such a cool bike.
  • + 1
 @James2785: Haha yeah. I remember trying to watch clips of 640 x 480 video online. Dial up of course.
  • + 3
 Thank you @mikelevy for not only bringing us such an interesting article and video, but for also allowing the engineer an opportunity to get his reasoning across. Really fascinating.

Given Trek's current use of the IsoSpeed Decoupler, that Cannondale Hardtail might just have been 20 years ahead of its time.
  • + 6
 "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Thomas A. Edison
  • + 4
 Being a Connecticut based company the striking thing with Cannondale is the lack of their bikes I see on the trails. Plenty are on the road but few and far between in the woods.
  • + 0
 I ride Jekyll bikes since 6 years ago. When 26 was the wheel you see a lot,maybe cos it was one of the first true enduro bike in the market. I got the last one in 27,5 and only saw a couple of them in Endurama enduro race. Is hard to find another trail or enduro Cannondale bike on the trail. I never saw a Trigger live,even in my trusted Cannondale dealer,they don´t have any Trigger or Jekyll to look at in the shop. I´m very happy whit the bike,it rides really well. In the road/XC Cannondale is still strong I think.
  • - 2
 Having lived within a mile of their hq there is absolutely no riding other than a few dog parks that allow bikes on their short hiking trails. With such wealth in the area the few people who also rode would just get top spec yetis for Christmas and then ride maybe once a week.
  • + 1
 I see a good number on the trails here in PA.
  • + 7
 @vtracer: There are decent trails 5 minutes from the Cannondale office in Wilton, CT. I work in the same town and ride a Cannondale Trigger so there is at least one of us out here!

Trail Video
youtu.be/Pyrx2t8v0B4
  • + 2
 @vtracer: I don't know the last time you were in Fairfield county. But there is more trail than you can shake a stick at these days and some very proficient, avid riders.
  • + 1
 @ZappBrannigan: There were a lot of them in my neck of the woods in the 26 days. Probably because there aren't a lot of shops around and you either bought Cannondale or Trek. If there was a precursor to dentists bikes, Cannondale was it up here. These days you rarely see them.
  • + 7
 It was then made in the good old USA.
  • + 7
 Does any one remember the Cannondale MX bike?
  • + 2
 Yea, ahead of there time with efi. But didn't have the budget to iron out the kinks.
  • + 4
 Ah, yes... the $80 million endeavor that originally bankrupted the company. But in true Cannondale fashion, they were ahead of their time with fuel injection, electric start, backwards facing cylinder etc. (which Yamaha did over a decade later) plus, Ohlins suspension and magura hydraulic controls. Sadly, none of it worked all that well. I'm glad they were able to bounce back and do what they're best at while still maintaining their unique Cannondale flare. Don't own any Cannondale bikes at the moment, but I certainly will again at some point.
  • + 4
 @Chadimac22: I hadnt heard about this so googled it and the first result was 'worst bikes ever'.... motocrossactionmag.com/the-worst-bikes-i-ever-raced-by-jody-weisel
  • + 1
 @pbuser2299: haha. oh yea... they were really bad. Had a buddy that raced one for a season, back in the day. Switched back to KTM because he was tired of losing.
  • + 1
 Don't forget the ATVs they made as well! Like their motos, too forward thinking and advanced to be reliable. Also ridiculously expensive compared to competition. Got a bad reputation and that was that.
  • + 1
 Ahead of its time...
Very cool looking, I must say. Too bad it's the reason that Cannondale became bankrupt, and is now nowhere near the innovator it once was.

i1.wp.com/chainslapmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Cannondale-1486-7.jpg?w=800

And they also made a quad too!!

cdn2.atvtrader.com/v1/media/5ad24cc167d1500e947c2d12.jpg
  • + 2
 My guess is that they let you around the development lab because they stopped trying to develop things about 6 years ago. They tried a little bit after the bankruptcy, but under Dorel the RD is a hollow shell of its former self.
  • + 9
 Most bike companies are proud of their old frame designs and have them hanging around. There is no market demand for anything above incremental innovation currently, so R&D will not see a great return on investment. When the consumer complains about proprietary designs and not being able to fit the latest shock from Fox to their frame, why spend money to innovate? Their non-tapered headtubes would get 9 forum complaints to the 1 that wold point out the Lefty needed it. Same with the Lefty itself - 9 people who wouldn't trust it (despite it working for decade), and one saying it's great. At some point, you just say, "ok let's build what every else is building and sell some bikes."
  • + 2
 @Rubberelli: I don't have national numbers at my disposal, but I do know that in my shop we have gone from selling some very nice C-dale mountain bikes with Lefty, as well as a few Lefty supermax's on Ibis frames, to almost zero c-dale mountain bikes above $2600. Our mid-range sales have gone almost entirely to Scott, as they are doing some innovative things with rear suspension design. Not necessarily cutting edge on the high end, but their trickle down is excellent.

There is nothing wrong with the current C-dale lineup, but there is little reason for a consumer to buy one instead of a Trek or Specialized. C-dale has stated it wants to exists in the space between a mass market and a boutique brand, but their product no longer reflects this and hasn't for a few years. Consumer perception lags years behind reality.

I shouldn't be so sour grapes, but as someone who has had a warm fuzzy for C-dale for years, I am disappointed to have to go in another direction.

Counterpoint is that AI offset was a really good idea (not developed at C-dale) that was adopted at the exact wrong time. I would be happy if they licensed a few patents to give their bikes talking points at this stage.
  • + 2
 @Harry-O: I don't see any more or less Cdales around myself either. However, few people realize they are just using standard shocks. Cdale has not hailed from the mountaintop that their bikes are now pretty standard. Since they do still like front and back suspension remotes, theyl maintain a novelty factor that people perceive as being proprietary stuff.
  • + 2
 @Harry-O: I have to agree. The pricing of modern mid and top model Scalpels is eye watering. Especially when you know the brand is now owned by Dorel and made in the Far East. I'm just not as imbued as I was years ago. I was a big Cannondale fan, rode many different Cannondales throughout sponsorship or friends around Y2K (Raven II, Caad4 HT, Caad5 HT, first gen Scalpel, first gen Jekyll), and truthfully Cannondale just doesn't invoke the same emotion as it once did for me.
  • + 2
 I still ride an old Bedford C-Dale. It’s an old Raven that I have jacked out to the max including a custom built shock. I run a 140mm lefty max out front with PBR internals. I just raced it in the ESC at Glen Park a couple weeks back. My first enduro race and I did not finish last. It’s a tough old bike
  • + 2
 Raven or Raven ii?
  • + 1
 @raditude: First gen Raven. I call it the Rad Raven. Next thing I'm gonna do is put in a works angled headset and a 321 adaptor to slacken the HA. Just having fun seeing how far I can take an old bike. I could've ridden my wife's Bronson in the ESC but I took my ol' ride instead.
  • + 2
 Cannondale used to be so rad. Headshock was so much better than Rockshox, Manitou, and Marzocchi in the 90s (at least until the Z1 Bomber came out). SuperV was one of the first FS bikes you'd actually want to ride, and they were one of the first companies to start speccing disc brakes on normal priced bikes. Such a shame that their moto efforts brought them down, we could really use some more of those crazy ideas and innovation from when they were at the top.
  • + 2
 Love stuff like this, I'm amazed no-one has had another decent go at the single sided chainstay. Given how hydro-forming and carbon tech has developed there must be scope for an stiffer alternative. Great innovation from a legendary brand.
  • + 3
 My son's bike had a headtube shock. So plush, he loved it. Then wouldn't hold air, the sealing surface was machined into he frame! Out of warranty, dead bike, no parts or support, never again cdale.
  • + 2
 @bman33: That's exactly what I did, 2nd hand fork but all the weight and loss of plushness the bike sucked. I was surprised by the total lack of support. Taught me to be properly gun shy of proprietary stuff.
  • + 4
 Doing stupid things may not give you a useable project, but may lead you into a direction you have never thought of before. Those learnings are what brings about innovation.
  • + 1
 This article remind me how awesome Cannondale was when they manufacture the bikes in the USA. I had 2 Prophets, handmade, Alcoa aluminum. The quality of those frames was something amazing. It´s a shame we´ve missed all that.
  • + 5
 Go home Cannondale you're drunk.
  • + 1
 Cannondale were an innovator and they made some awesome and weird stuff, It's a shame such whacky innovation no longer happens, I miss the old stuff. Sure some of it didn't work, but you could guarantee you'd have something pretty original if you bought a Dale.
  • + 1
 My first "real" mtb was a Cannondale M500. It had the candy purple paint & an early Rockshox fork. 1987 or 88. Super fun, so dang light & burly. Really opened up a whole new world of riding for me. They were pushing the envelope back then & they still are.
  • + 1
 Still have my first ever MTB - a C'dale M700 from 1992. Replaced the Peperoni rigid fork with a SID back when XC was a thing. Now, 26 years later, it's all stickered up and has a carrier for my 4 year old on the back. Smile
Nice article!
  • + 3
 I'd like to know more about the Independent Fabrications decal on that blue bike with the lefty rear end. Did Independent build their prototypes?
  • + 1
 Nope, it's just a decal. IF didn't have anything to do with it.
  • + 1
 NIce to see those old prototypes get a feature. Cannondale clearly doesn't innovate nearly as much as they used but thats an industry wide problem. Bottom line talks. There's a lot of "innovation" around and by that I mean old ideas coming back in v2.1 form e.g suspension seat posts, gravel bikes,
Cannondale has pretty much worked out what works and what doesn't and they settled on a design path over a decade ago. Everyone else has taken that long to catch up.
Scott doesn't offer anything new in their suspension. Open, pedal and lck out modes have been around for a decade albeit with different names. All that happens is the industry sells us a new "innovative" toy and we hand over the cash singing someones praises. The real innovation started in the 90's and died with the credit crunch
  • + 1
 I had the Cannondale Jekyll with the pull shock and although it drew lots of hatred, I loved that bike. Really capable machine and it never gave me an ounce of trouble while I had it for over a year and a half. Quirky as hell but anyone who rode it loved it. Always loved this brand they are as mad as a box of frogs.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy.... In the article you say the Super V DH had 100mm of travel. It's actually a 6" travel bike so a 150mm travel bike. See page 4.... vintagecannondale.com/year/1997/1997.pdf
  • + 1
 Single sided ftmfw! Check out English cycles, and his project right series of custom frames. Admittedly not full squish and more roadie, but he's done a rigid xc rig that is a stunner. @mikelevy
  • + 2
 I've seen 'em - beautiful thing! I wouldn't get much use out of it, but damn do I want one.
  • + 0
 My first boutique quality bike was an early 80’s Cannondale (sm2000?). I think the chainstays were 19 or 20 inches and the B.B. was probably the same height as the stays were long . Suntour riser bar, stem, derailleurs , hubs, pedals, searpost and suntour power cam brakes(etched “Richard Cunningham designed”), stays rims and panaracer tires. Very easy coast, mountain trials almost. Wish I still had it. Sadly they designed too many wacky bikes over the years, along with breakages, that overshadowed some of their better designs/inventions. They were early adopters if changing angles and travel. Fulcrum was a double link bike. Big axle bb’s. Waaay to many flops and failures to count though. For years it was “why?” Or outright “wtf”. Surprised they’re still going
  • + 4
 Of course you mean ”Charlie Cunningham designed”! Two different people, totally different work, but a lot of good stuff from both of them. Still not to be confused! Big Grin

Mx
  • + 1
 @Maxipedia: yes you’re correct. Thanks Mx, it’s been a while
  • + 1
 Love it, would be good to see some more mad thinking from the big brands today too - The horst link / 4 bar does work well but it would be nice to see some mad scientist stuff coming out.
  • + 4
 Not entirely true. Every now and then someone pops up with a suspension system that seems to have naild it, but people r3act with mixed feelings and wonder is there a missing link and are the 3 variables optimized enough to switch infinity to singularity point of suspension systems.
  • + 2
 @Racer951:
Naild R3act
Tantrum Missing Link
Jamis 3VO
Yeti Infinity Switch
  • + 1
 @jollyXroger: that was brilliant
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco: You know what, fair point.
  • + 4
 Pivotless design was aka known as handjob back then.
  • + 1
 @energetik: I had a 2005 Prophet 1000 in team colours..... eventually put a fox 36, coil over, KS dropper (the one with the piggy back) and 2x drive train....bike was awesome!!
  • + 4
 Geek bike porn overload!! Cannondale did some wild stuff back in the day.
  • + 3
 Doesn't look like a session
  • + 2
 Lefty rear suspension, for guys that need to compensate for something... Wink
  • + 1
 I'd be really curious to see how laterally stable that first one could've been... you'd think the whole rear end want to rotate around the seatpost/slider and fold in half.
  • + 3
 I’m only here for the crack’n’fail jokes.
  • + 3
 More videos like this!!!!!!! Awesome!
  • + 1
 Agreed! I would love it if they did the more videos for others companies like Trek and Santa Cruz. These scrapped prototypes are really interesting!
  • + 1
 Love seeing these old prototypes! Need some picks of those other ones in the rafters, look to be some proto super v and super v dh frames....
  • + 3
 Cannondale is great. I hope they can keep this spirit and individuality.
  • + 1
 *was
  • + 3
 Cannondale has always done stuff outside of the box.
  • + 1
 Single sided swingarm struggling with chain loads? I wonder how motorcycle industry would deal with that, a BMW for instance... oh, wait.
  • + 1
 when I was a kid I wanted super v so bad with some bright yellow magura hydraulic rim brakes!
  • + 1
 Good thing they had safety glasses on , the druks must of been good in Connecticut back then.
  • + 2
 They don't call them cannonfail for no reason
  • + 1
 Was there anything good said in the video? I kept trtingbti see what @mikelevy has on his left knuckles.
  • + 1
 Title of this article should be "3 Wild Cannondale Bikes CSG Dealers are relieved they don't need to service".
  • + 1
 I love my 2014 Jekyll. So much so, that I still don't care that its 26"... neither does the trail I ride!
  • + 1
 Aaron chase had a jump bike with a shock for a top tube - thought that was crazy !
  • + 1
 When did Cannondale exit out of the DH scene and why? (the "why" I'm assuming due to lack of profit margins)
  • + 1
 Wifeys F800 + Lefty has heads turning wherever she rides.

Although she does have fairly big boobs too.....
  • + 0
 Sometimes you gotta get out of the computer and just make stuff to see what happens. For every prototype that is shit you get closer to a breakthrough.
  • + 1
 Any closer? ;-)
  • + 1
 @Racer951:
I was really surprised when I found out who you were!
  • + 1
 @sickbicycleco: It seems some people think I am Joe from Starling.

Certainly not, please don't associate the trash I talk with his good name and business.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: Ok that wasn’t what I meant but what a wild thought that would be
  • + 3
 Where`s the Raven?
  • + 2
 No Ravens hanging up in the test lab. I do remember injecting an epoxy mix into a few Raven BB shells way back in the day, though.
  • + 1
 Brilliant Article Mike, any chance you're heading over to see Yeti's behind the show offerings next?
  • + 3
 No plan for that, but maybe down the road.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: That would be awesome. I reckon they have a cupboard full of interesting stuff too!
  • + 2
 You can always throw in a picture of the Magic Motorcycle prototype bike
  • + 3
 There's a separate piece coming down the road on just the Magic Motorcycle bike Smile
  • + 1
 That single sided thing reminds me of the bike with the Fox40 on it Big Grin
  • + 1
 I reckon they were onto something with those axle shocks y'know
  • + 1
 Caveman days of mntb suspension
  • + 1
 the engineers at cannonade must have a lot of fun.
  • + 1
 Would still have one of those over an E-bike.
  • + 1
 They all look very, Cannondaleish. Lol
  • + 1
 Wow, Amazing article. Please keep showing us the history of bikes.
  • + 1
 Plenty more to come Smile
  • + 1
 Cannondale Gemini dh + Cedric Gracia = magic Smile
  • + 0
 Thats where all the crack went and all this time i thought it was bobby brown
  • + 2
 Cannondale is weird.
  • + 1
 Amazing article ! Mike puts the "Stank" in Stankchion tube !
  • - 1
 Well its great to see they had the balls to try something different back then. Unlike todays boring, uninspiring and repetitive designs
  • + 2
 I lived through those years. 75% or more of the designs back then were just crap experiments that didn't work. The bike industry has evolved a good bit to the point of a few solid suspensions designs have been sorted. Not to say there isn't room for innovation, but the industry is more mature that is was in the 90's-early 2000's
  • + 1
 @bman33: - I also remember those years. You should remember "crap experiments" or not, companies then built bikes that everyone drooled over, that consumers were actually willing to buy, and makers were investing in their own project designs instead of copying each other and chasing trends. When I wasn't at the trails, I was on MTBR with piss-ass 28kbps dialup internet drooling over everyones bikes in the gallery. Today one of the Big 3 could unveil a new bike and the only thing that excites me is how the build compares to a mail-order brand, because the performance and design gap has come so close. Despite the median price constantly increasing and top dollar prices, the bottom and top end of the market performance has completely dropped off.
  • + 1
 @Jamminator: how has performance dropped off? The average trail bike smokes what I raced with in expert/semi-pro DH in all of the 90-'s and 200-2001 no question. Brakes have way more modulation, suspension tech is light years ahead. I do agree, I drooled at lots of stuff back then but tidsys bikes are better in every way
  • + 1
 @bman33: We are not disputing modern performance. What is really annoying is all this copying of each other and the complete lack of innovation over the years. We are still using frame designs that are 10 years old. Nobody is willing to try something diffferent or radical. I usually change my bike every year. This one i have kept for 4 years as the design hasnt changed its just been tweeked so whats the point? I want a gearbox bike but unbelievably that design is still not really sortes yet in 2018!!! If you really think about it the bike industry has become stagnant and we have only seen mild evolution for many years. Dont get me started on industry "standards"!!!
  • + 1
 @bman33: I agree bikes have absolutely improved overall, but there is unquestionably greater diminishing returns on top level bikes today. I am suggesting the performance gap has narrowed between modern high-end bikes and modern mid/bottom-level bikes. The performance between top tier and lower tier models is closer today than it was back then. The performance between different brands is closer today than it was back then.
  • + 1
 @Jamminator: gotcha. I do agree. " Mid Range" bikes today are very good. SLX -XTR isn't as big a gap as it used to be. It's hard to buy a shit bike today. Pick your style of riding and almost everything is pretty solid.
  • + 2
 @Jamminator: I agree. I would spend £2500 max on a bike now because a bike that cost £5000 would only be very slightly different. In fact unless you were an elite rider i really dont believe you would ride it any faster.
  • + 1
 All look like better ideas than a lefty
  • + 1
 The guys are pretty creative. Really cool to see those frames !
  • + 1
 @mikelevy Did you do any riding while you were in Connecticut?
  • + 1
 Nope, not this time around.
  • + 0
 I didn't think they could offer anything worse than their current product line up. They could have
  • + 1
 Lost there way a long time ago then
  • + 1
 Bring back the Super V with modern geo.
  • + 1
 Yes Pinkbike, keep this content coming, Retrodangler is lovin it
  • + 1
 There's a separate piece coming down the road on just the Magic Motorcycle bike Smile
  • - 2
 Where da e-bike at cannondale
  • - 2
 thank god there´s drawers!! eh eh
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