Video: The Cannondale / Pong Concept Bike

May 8, 2018 at 12:33
by Mike Levy  



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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
The frame is modular, with it consisting of four pieces bolted together with steel hardware, and a short, single-sided swingarm.

Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
''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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.
Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
At least the chain running over the aluminum idler would scare the bears away.

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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
Remember when everyone wanted their front-end to be as low as possible? Here you go.

Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
Cannondale Alex Pong V4000 from 1994
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.


92 Comments

  • + 57
 Awesome stuff Mike. Please keep digging up more gold like this.
  • + 7
 3min? I could look at and listen about the thing for an hour. And yes, it must have been heavy as Mike sounded a little winded after the man-handling.
  • - 3
 I wonder if the deranged engineer that came up with this monstrosity still works there.
  • + 1
 @fecalmaster: This was created at Pongs Machine Shop on Whidby Island . I went there to get some parts for my Magic MC cranks BITD and saw pieces. They also were developing a CNC'd very low rpm and oversquare motorcycle engine. I remember thinking they were a little wacky after I saw that one. Engine development goes way beyond making cranks and bicycle parts.
I wonder sometimes where they ended up as it was basically Alex and his dad.
  • - 1
 @chasejj: I guess it runs in the family
  • + 1
 @chasejj: One of them - I think Alex - was at a Seattle engineering/product development group as recently as last year.
  • + 1
 Track bikes have the worst geometry. Cannondale: Hold my beer....
  • + 4
 @richierocket: To be fair, I am extremely weak.
  • + 5
 Thanks, more to come! I love this old-ish tech dork stuff Smile
  • + 3
 @fecalmaster: I also saw a proto of a single sided fork setup for moto. They took both legs of the std USD Kayaba (I think) forks and machined new triples and bottom yokes to combine them into single sided structure . I questioned why?
Then this year Yamaha comes out with a 3 wheeler that has a similar design. HMmmmmm? I think they just wanted the single sided setup and weren't projecting it to a 3 wheeler at the time, 30 years ago.
I envied the Pongs ability to aggressively pursue their ideas, wacky or not. It was an exciting time in bikes back then.
  • + 2
 Ya have seen alot of concept single side fork and swingarm Moto designs. They look cool from and artistic standpoint but I only throw my leg over double sided Moto/MTB. I can shave grams off myself so don't have to blow my wallet out the ballpark.
  • + 28
 Unridable? Challenge accepted. Hold my beer......
  • + 3
 If it was rideable, I would have tried to ride it back up to Canada. I want it so, so bad.
  • + 1
 I think it's mandatory to have at least a 6 pack before riding that bike.
  • + 17
 And the lifetime achievement award for "letting your designers and engineers actually have fun" goes to: Cannondale!!! Woooo
  • + 15
 "What shall we do differently on this bike?"

"... Everything."
  • + 2
 I've dranken your Swiss Beers before. Better make it TWO beers just to be safe! Razz
  • + 2
 Accurate.
  • + 14
 one gallon of blue locktite included
  • + 7
 Ha! "Sorry, I can't ride for the next month because I need to tighten all of my bike's bolts"
  • + 9
 Say what you want about Cannondale, but they have never been afraid to try some kooky out of the box stuff.
  • + 9
 I wanna take that into the local bike shops and ask how much for a tune up
  • + 2
 As a bike shop employee this cracked me up lol
  • + 5
 on the pivots, rotational dampers could be used (Suzuki did it on the TL1000).

It would be more wild having the cassete ar the rear pivot, and using another chain to drive the rear wheel - RD would be higher and far from rocks, weight would be closer to BB, and tge unsprung weight would also be lower

Now go and feature that Pace RC100!!!
  • + 2
 Those rotational dampers sure are neat. I think they're used on all sorts of racing cars, too.
  • + 8
 It's nice to find someone who actually knows what an RS200 is.
  • + 4
 Levy is a boner fide car pervert.
  • + 3
 That’s a Ford even I’d own! :-)
  • + 5
 There was one for sale for $108k USD awhile back and I honestly considered selling my place to get it. I mean, an RS200 would be uncomfortable to live in, but I'd also be dead within a few weeks so it wouldn't be cramped for too long. At least I'd have a shit ton of fun during those few weeks.
  • + 4
 @cunning-linguist: I'd also accept a GT from any era, just in case anyone out there is wondering what to get me for my birthday.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: yeah, the originals are cool that’s for sure! Not such a fan of the angry birds pig rear end on the new one! Classics are just simply better!
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: Cosworth though.
  • + 1
 @Clarkeh: Exactly that.
  • + 3
 One of the awesome things about the rear of the bike is that form factor would have allowed the use of a rotary damper (instead of linear) integrated into frame/swing arm pivot, which is awesome.

Also, I am no patent lawyer, but I am willing to bet any new suspension design built around something like that wouldn't have to clear a million existing patents.
  • + 1
 A brilliant idea. Next they’ll be having direct drive to the rim, not the hub. Think of the weight savings not having a swing arm at all, plus all the weight would be at the B.B.

I’m a genius I know...
  • + 1
 Who is taking bets Win can wheelie that for a mile?!?!
  • + 5
 I will just leave this here.... Where Magic Motorcycle got started.. another crazy dream skooks.smugmug.com/Motorcycles/Magic-Motorcycle/Cagiva-125/i-NnM8jmD
  • + 1
 Wow that thing is crazy. Parallel 4 with 6 valves per cylinder?
  • + 1
 Good lord!!! The poor customer!

Quote that comes to mind: "when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail." When pong discovered cnc aluminum he forgot about everything else.
  • + 3
 Holy shit balls, that thing is wild. So awesome - thanks for sharing!
  • + 2
 The year they showed this at Interbike I stood around drooling on that thing and listening to him answer all the same engineering questions over and over. I came back to their booth every day. All of the bearings (headset, BB, wheels and suspension) were the same easily sourced automotive part number. All of the fasteners were the same part number, a standard torx T25 I think it was. The individual spokes could be easily removed and replaced. They hadn't figured out the suspension or the brakes yet. He mentioned they were considering sourcing the hydraulic cabling from the medical industry.

I ended up getting Magic Motorcycle (CODA) cranks. I still have them, the bonding hasn't come undone.
  • + 1
 I snapped 2 of them. But they were the actual Magic MC not CODA branded yet. I sold the 3rd set I had before I destroyed them.
  • + 1
 Never part with those MM cranks.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: Looong gone. Funny how you don't always see the value of hanging onto stuff. Although I did hesitate about those. I had multiple chainrings that went with it from the ones I snapped.
  • + 1
 I remember a big article about the v4000 and pong in the seattle times so long ago. Seemed unbelievable at the time, like not believable, like some sort of scam. Fanciful stuff but really put me off Cannondale. Seriously awesome to see it moving on video. Thanks so much for sharing.
  • + 1
 Same. It was unreal to see it in person after so many years. Glad you liked it.
  • + 2
 Looks a lot like the bike they said they'd put into production 25 years-ish ago, and if they failed to pull it off, some guy at Cannondale was going to eat his hat; which not long after he (sorta) did for the cameras.
  • + 2
 That guy was Joe Montgomery himself! I still remember this picture in bike magazine, hilarious!
  • + 1
 I cut out a magazine photo of that bike and it hung on the wall on my dad's machine shop, www.jgmachineco.com as I worked as a machinist. I knew it was just fancy, but it was the fantasy that inspired me to get an engineering degree and design bikes myself.
  • + 1
 I can't thank you enough for showcasing this. The CDale Pong bike was one of a handful of truly inspired bike designs in the history of the sport, just barely existing in that sliver of time when it could have existed at all... it's a rare and wonderful thing that it still exists.

About 15 years ago, a Cannondale prototype from the mid-90s with an integrated hydraulic drivetrain surfaced on ebay, and went unsold. I don't know why I didn't buy it. ...I worked for CDales biggest competitor at the time, and got to work on our own fluid drive prototype around then, an integrated hydro drivetrain with vickers variable vain rotors for different drive output ratios, & shared with the suspension and braking lines as a capacitor to acheive some amount of regenerative/conservation in the lines. ...it was an absolute nightmare, and nowhere near efficient enough to be viable, but, was incredibly fun to tinker on after work. Those were the days.
  • + 1
 I remember back in 1994 thinking that this is what we would all be riding in 2004. Interbike was great for some whack show bikes in the 90’s! Cool to see this thing survived
  • + 5
 Looks like a Pole.
  • + 2
 Only 5ft too short and the head angle is 90-degrees too steep tbh
  • + 2
 Engineers- "boys lets see if we can get a riders butt atleast 1 foot higher than his head"
Build Team- yesssssssssssssssssssssss
  • + 4
 Excellent! Never seen so many good photos of this bike before. Thanks
  • + 3
 Are they tioga psycho tyres?? John Tomac versions. Wish they would remake them , my favourite tyre of all time
  • + 1
 I remember running those at 50 psi and being so stoked. Times sure have changed.
  • + 1
 Pong bike? Cannondale's got a video game bike, or a bike video game, or... Oh, this bike is from an alternate reality. Got it.
  • + 2
 The front is a tinny too high and too slack. Except that, this is a brilliant piece of futuristic stuff.
  • + 3
 Great article cannondale Designers are out of the box props
  • + 2
 It looks like Cannondale had a different opinion of smoking the devil’s lettuce back in the 90’s
  • + 1
 Yeah nah mate just get some fackin CNC'd Aluminium she'll be right
  • + 1
 I like the Craig Ferguson style awkward pause at the end. The bike is pretty dope too.
  • + 1
 My life is an awkward pause tbh
  • + 1
 We may be ready for this bike in 2020. But it's a tad too innovative for us fickle mountain bikers.
  • + 4
 Just imagine if it had ever actually been available. We like innovation and new things, but we also hate them with the fire of a thousand burning suns, so I'd like to see how we would react.
  • + 1
 @mikelevy: Hate with the fire of a thousand burning suns.
Quote of the day!
  • + 2
 I believe a hat was eaten when this bike did not go to production..Smile
  • + 1
 " Not for sale"
Thank God!
  • + 1
 Who is that tattooed on your arm
  • + 1
 The one you can see is George Mallory, and Senna and Hunter Thompson are above him.
  • + 1
 Love this article Mike! Keep these pipe dream articles coming!
  • + 1
 That is shit. Some awesome shit.
  • + 1
 This thing will be roving Mars one day Wink
  • + 2
 Looks like a session
  • + 1
 Definitely a contender for winning a race down Aline this year!
  • + 1
 Did they have a Cannondale motorcycle somewhere there too?
  • + 1
 Unfortunately not. I think one or two Cannondale employees still have one, but there isn't one at HQ.
  • + 1
 Press fit and not water bottle!! HELP!!!
  • + 1
 No bottle, no care haha
  • + 1
 Q-factor?
  • + 2
 5mm lol
  • + 1
 Awesome
  • + 1
 i love cannondale
  • - 1
 brake levers, but no calipers (or mounts) ?
  • + 1
 you can see all the rotors, connected to the cassette and on the front linkage on the front wheel'\
  • + 1
 @larsmeier: Would be interesting to see how they would have dealt with the brake mounts though.
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