My trip to Cannondale's headquarters earlier this year was to learn about their new Ocho single-sided, single-crown cross-country fork, and while there I also stumbled upon some interesting pieces of (kinda) rolling history tucked away in a dusty corner of their test lab. Unlike today where a concept is sussed out and fine-tuned on a computer long before anyone fires up a welding machine, things got way, way crazier if you go back in time to when someone just built their idea to see if it made any sense at all. Yes, I realize we have it way better now, but those days of "I dunno but we should build it and find out,'' do look far more interesting.
Back then, Cannondale was creating wild machines that make most of today's bikes look like beige Toyota Corollas going 10kph under the speed limit. Every brand needs a bunch of low-risk, well-selling Corollas in their range, of course, but Cannondale also has a few Lancia Stratos Zeros and Ford RS200s in their past that were probably never going to see the light of a bike shop showroom. Did these bikes make sense? Nope. Do I care? Hell nope. And at the top of the anti-Corolla list is this wild thing, the V4000.
Cannondale's long history of doing things their way, for better or worse, makes most other brands seem conservative and traditional by comparison. The American company has designed and tested all sorts of oddball creations over the years, three of which we already looked at
, but they outdid themselves when they teamed up with a man named Alex Pong to build a bike like no other.
It's known by a handful of different names — the Pong bike, the Cannondale/Pong bike, or the Magic Motorcycle — but its real name is the V4000, a suitably futuristic sounding title for a machine that obviously travelled back in time to the mid-1990s.
The V4000's frame, wheels, and a handful of components were all created in a CNC machine.
The entire bike came from Pong's mind, and it's easier to list out the bits on the V4000 that he didn't conceive rather than the ones he did. Only the tires, the derailleur, shifter, chain, the seat and seat post, a set of grips, and maybe the handlebar aren't of the American's doing.
The rest was all Pong, and pretty much all birthed from hunks of aluminum that were shaped by a CNC machine — remember, widespread use of carbon fiber was still a little way off at this point.
The frame is modular, with it consisting of four pieces bolted together with steel hardware, and a short, single-sided swingarm.
''Not for resale,'' just in case you were thinking of making an offer. I asked, and they said that they wouldn't consider a kidney in trade, either.
Predictably, the V4000 never made it to production, but it was said that it would have sold for around $7,000 USD in 1994, which is just under $12,000 in today's money. Pricey, sure, but there's a different number that might have been an even bigger issue: This prototype weighs around 70 pounds. And no, it doesn't even include a motor and battery.
The porkiness comes from its frame being solid rather than milled out as was the eventual plan, but I doubt that it would have ever come in at the stated 20-pound target weight anyway, especially due to the modular concept that saw all the pieces bolted together to create what looks a lot like a rolling robot.
The most traditional part of the V4000 is probably its drivetrain, and even that isn't quite normal.
It's also doubtful that the V4000 was ever destined for production, as I suspect that its true role was partly to gauge consumer interest but mostly to get those camera's clicking. And click they did. Back in the mid-90s, the V4000 was on the outside and inside of every mountain bike magazine, and it was so wild that it even crossed over to non-endemic media; that kind of publicity can be priceless.
I was just a zitty, unkempt fourteen-year-old scamp at the time, but I can still remember seeing the V4000 on the cover of what was probably a Mountain Bike Action magazine and thinking that it looked more like a spaceship than a mountain bike, a fact that still holds true nearly a quarter century later. I'm still an unkempt scamp, too, so maybe some stuff doesn't change.
Single-sided, single pivot, but can you spot the shock? Me neither.
Pong's suspension design might look like nothing that came before or after it, but it's actually a high single-pivot and chain idler system at its heart, similar, at least in principle, to many other designs on the market today. Pong just took those same ideas and multiplied them by about ten, with the defining element being the ultra-short swingarm, if you can call it that, that pivots off the end of a long CNC'd extension that's bolted to the front of the frame. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to how much of it you want to call a swingarm and chainstay, but the stubby swingarm and huge pivot would have helped with rigidity, especially important given that it was a single-sided design.
Actually, I have no idea if it "worked" or not as I don't think there was ever a rideable version of the bike, but we won't let that get in the way of some daydreaming.
While the swingarm is single-sided, the drivetrain is captive between that and a bolt-on piece that the derailleur attaches to.
One thing to note is that while Pong's creation does have a single-sided swingarm, he included a bolt-on element that the derailleur attaches to, thereby making the drive-side of the rear wheel captive. Confused? Just look at the above photo to get the gist of it all.
What don't you see on the back of the V4000? A shock, of course. The plan, at least as I've read it in a few different places, was to employ some sort of wound spring that'd be located around the pivot and inside the frame. No idea on what they were planning to use for a damper — maybe some sort of friction system — but the proposed packaging would have made for one hell of a clean look.
An idler, which is, of course, also a CNC'd piece of aluminum, routes the chain up and over the main pivot, although I'm pretty sure no one ever pedaled this thing around. If they had, I bet the chain would have made one hell of a racket as it rattled over the aluminum idler; the V4000 was definitely more for looking at than actually riding.
With a single-sided swingarm, Pong had to mount the rotor (which he also made) behind the cassette... A bit questionable if you ask me: Chain lube + rotor can't be good. There are also no calipers to be seen on the front or back of the bike, further underlining the concept-ness of the V4000.
And you thought the Ocho was weird...
Up front, the single-sided fork follows the same principles as the back of the bike: Huge aluminum pieces, a huge bearing, and a whole load of bolts. It would have used a similar wound spring element as the rear-end, but nothing was ever fitted and the V4000 ends up bottomed out at the end of its travel under its own hefty weight.
It's also been said by some that the linkage fork's geometry was less than ideal; while linkage forks are known for helping to preserve a bike's handling, it looks like the one on the V4000 might have had the opposite effect in use.
Has there ever been a larger sealed bearing used on a mountain bike?
The whole bike is a stunner, but it's the five-spoke aluminum wheels that really deserve a closer look. Pong machined them himself, of course, and each ''spoke'' is a separate piece that's bolted to the hub at one end, which is quite the intricate piece of work itself, and the rim at the other.
At the hub end, the spokes interlock with the shell and their neighbor on each side, and a bolt runs through all of it. With five long bolts at the hub and five more joining the spokes to the deep aluminum rim, you can bet that these weren't feathery cross-country wheels. There's one more bolt worth talking about, too: The single Torx that pulls the hub onto the front and rear axles also operates the 'claws' that hold the hub in place. Backing the bolt out allows the claws to retract back from a lip that they grab onto, and tightening the bolt will do the opposite. It's beautiful in a platonic, metal-y sort of way.
The single Torx bolt at the center of the hub opens and closes small aluminum claws that attach the wheel to the axle.
If there were a competition to see who had the shortest headtube, this thing would be unbeatable. Disregarding whether it's a good idea or not, the V4000's front end looks to be about an inch and bit tall, and it's home to a massive bearing and a Pong-made stem that had to be about a mile long and angled up to the sky to compensate for the tiny stack height. It was also held in place with, you guessed it, a whole bunch of steel bolts, just like how Pong attached the "headtube" to the rest of the frame.
Remember when everyone wanted their front-end to be as low as possible? Here you go.
The ultra-low stack height called for a long, high stem that was held in place with a ton of bolts.
And speaking of short tubes, check out the V4000's bottom bracket shell. It's maybe an inch wide, and you won't find any threads in there, either, just a massive bearing yet again. The cranks are also from Pong, yet they're not the Magic Motorcycle arms that he was first known for, but something made specifically for this bike and sporting even more bolts.
The V4000 is pictured with two chainrings here, so the bike would have presumably have ended up with a front derailleur if it had ever become more than a shiny showpiece. But at more than twice the weight of many other rigs, and all these silly 50-tooth cogs still twenty-ish years off, you know that inside 'ring would have had to be extra tiny.
Long before PressFit was a thing, there was the V4000's bottom bracket shell that's home to a single, massive sealed bearing.
Regardless of whether the shiny, bolted together result of Cannondale letting Pong go wild with a few CNC machines was ever intended to be produced or was just for show, it's still making cameras click nearly twenty-five years later. Hell, with a few minor updates, it'd have the same effect if was first shown today, which probably isn't something you could say of any other bike... even if this one wasn't rideable.