Cannondale Touring Bikes are Back… Almost!

Cannondale Touring 1

Cannondale Touring 1, courtesy of the Cannondale Corporation

I’ve owned Cannondale bikes for many years and am the proud owner of two Cannondale road bikes and a Cannondale T2000 touring bike that I bought back in 1997. Some cyclists comment that aluminum frames produce a rough ride and are “too stiff.” On the contrary, I really like aluminum frames and they have been my choice for local rides and many multi-week tours locally and in North America, Europe and New Zealand.

Okay, so I’m an obvious fan of Cannondale bikes and the stiffness is one reason that I picked the T2000 for my main touring rig way back then and it has proved itself time and time again over thousands of miles, carrying a full touring load over a myriad of road conditions without a blip. After nineteen years, one can imagine that I have had to change a few parts and that is certainly the case. In fact, I believe that all that is left of the original build is the frame, fork and cranks! But they are still rock solid showing no signs of deterioration or weld failures.
I’ve recommended Cannondale touring bikes to many cyclists enquiring “what to buy?” for a decent tour bike, so I was disappointed a few years ago when Cannondale stopped building and selling their touring selections. And you can imagine that I was pleased to discover that the Cannondale touring bikes were back at the end of 2015 and that they have a couple of configurations for sale – I found myself eager to check out the specs on these updated touring rigs, the Touring 1 and the Touring Ultimate.

The following is humbly my own opinion…

I logged onto Cannondale’s website and as soon as saw the photos of the bikes, first impressions count you know, I was a little disappointed. The steerers are cut off low just like Cannondale’s regular fare of road machines.  I suppose they expect all touring cyclists to be bent over in race or triathlon mode while they travel the roads on their multi day/week excursions and try to view the scenery – not the best position for touring, so why not let the rider decide the height of the steerer and stem when they buy the bike instead of dictating the low position? Leave it high and the steerer can be cut later.

So onto the components… Mechanical disc on the Touring 1 and hydraulic disc on the Ultimate. I generally feel that moving to disc brakes from rim brakes a good move, but I have to question how easy would it be to repair a leaky hydraulic brake system in remote areas – we do like to tour in those areas, remember! Carrying a spare brake cable and a couple of pads is what many of us do anyway, so mechanical would be my preference; personally I would shy away from the hydraulic brakes for extended touring – simple is good!

I see that both bikes are equipped with integrated brake/shifters – “brifters” – another faux pas in my opinion. Bar-end shifters are much more reliable than brifters which can malfunction easily. Bar-end shifters have little to fail mechanically; it is an easy process to change cables plus to have the ability to switch to friction mode if the indexing goes askew – which it can!
But this begs the question of availability of ten or eleven speed bar-end shifters, I found that yes they are, but why ten or eleven speed anyway? Why not stick with tried tested and true, eight or nine speed cassettes/chains? Ten or eleven speed may be OK, but I have a feeling that those narrow chains are probably weaker, faster wearing and perhaps difficult to come by in remote locations?
I use to love those integrated brake/shifter on my touring bike until I had a brifter pack it in when I was touring in Northern Ontario, Canada – unrepairable and not a fun experience – they were removed from the bike when I returned home and replaced with the existing bar-end shifters, albeit not in mounted in the handlebar end but located on Paul’s Thumbies mounts.

The actual gearing – illogical comes to mind! I simply cannot image what the engineers were thinking there for a bike that is designed to carry a decent load. A low gear of 27.5 gear inches and a high of 124 gear inches – really? Unless you have legs of steel, schlepping a full touring load over a mountain pass with only a 27.5 low will be a real challenge – make sure you take your walking shoes! – and a 124 high is unnecessary on a touring bike. My T2000 is geared with a 17 gear inch low and  a 112 high, which is plenty fast enough on the odd occasion when I get to cruise at full speed. Mostly with a touring load I’m somewhere in between that low and high gear. Fully loaded, the low of 17 has allowed me to tackle all but the steepest hills that I’ve encountered on my travels. When loaded and faced with a long climb on a steep grade, anyone even approaching middle age and beyond, would definitely benefit from lower gears than what Cannondale has spec’d at 27.5 gear inches – has anyone at Cannondale actually loaded one of these new touring bikes with 50 or 60 Lbs and tried a few long climbs? Has anyone at Cannondale cycle-toured with anything close to a full load?

Should I mention the saddles – laughable aren’t they? If one can sit on either of them for eight hours a day after day of touring, good luck to you! Both the Fabric Scoop Elite and WTB Silverado Comp are touted as a performance saddles, nothing from the looks or shape leads me to even think “comfort!” Give me my Brooks saddle anyday! Saddles are personal choices and one style certainly does not fit all, so why spec the bike with one that doesn’t even look like a touring saddle? Let the rider buy their own choice of seat – pedals are not included allowing the rider to install they own preference, why not allow the same for saddles?

My final beef would be with the 32 spoke wheels – for loaded touring, 36 spoke wheels with a three cross spoke pattern are optimum, with some touring cyclists even preferring higher spoked wheels. The less chance of breaking a spoke while on tour the better and higher spoked well-built wheels are certainly an advantage.

I obviously haven’t ridden the bikes so without ranting on too much about my dislikes of the new selections, I can only assume that with Cannondale’s reputation, the frames are rock-solid, that the bikes ride well and carry a load without any shimmy or shake. I do like the addition of fenders, the Tubus rear rack and Schwalbe tires – all round good choices.
In all honesty I have to admit that I did tweak and tune my original purchase of my T2000 to get the bike to my preference of riding and abilities; one could do that with these two models, but why have to fiddle around when it is the builder that  should be researching what real touring cyclists are riding and what gearing they prefer.
Back in the late nineties, all that I had to choose between was a Trek 520, Cannondale Touring or expensive custom options when I was ready to purchase a touring bike. Nowadays there’s numerous options for touring bikes and a scad of information on the Internet relating to bicycle touring components etc. – I, like many others, had to educate myself by conversing with other touring cyclists and experimenting to try and gain some insight into what would work and what wouldn’t. Seems that Cannondale has not availed itself of all these resources.

Good luck with the new bikes Cannondale – but I don’t see any rush to buy these over the other great touring bike and component choices that are available today!

5 thoughts on “Cannondale Touring Bikes are Back… Almost!

  1. Chris Eidam

    Interesting observations.

    I have never toured, but anticipate doing it, so the research begins.

    I know all about the harsh ride – I have owned one of the earliest-ever R-1000’s, as I managed a shop when they were introduced (1984?). Frankly, for a sport-tourer rider, those stays are wayyyyyyyyyyy too stiff. Even when I was young, brash and hardcore, they were a bit much on centuries.

    I have a “customized” ’71 Raleigh International, but the frame is just too heavy and not stiff enough. Doable, but far from ideal.

    As for bar-ends, I had them on my first nice bike in 1980 and I regulary kneed them into a higher gear on steeps hills. Back then, handlebars were narrow, lined up to point at the center of your shoulder joint. With the wider bars today, maybe that would not be an issue. But it was also pretty unnerving to shift into the top gear at 40+ MPH by moving your hand(s) from the top to the drop. And that was unloaded! I recommend buying vintage Suntour butterfly shifters and a vintage Suntour indexed R derailleur. Will wear like iron, while allowing brakelever shifting that is bullet proof. I have it with a Superbe Pro R derailleur on the R-1000 and it is awesome on a good, true, stiff rear triangle. Not recommened for softer frames, as they are so tight that they do not allow for sloppy frames (that was/is the genius of Shimano – theirs work on anything….they just will not last).

    QUESTION: I ride a 58 cm road bike. What would I fit in a Cannondale touring frame with the “medium, large, x-large” sizing? I have a 33″ inseam and long torso. I have been shopping used, older Cannondale tourers on-line, so I will not get to try the sizes before I buy. Thanks.

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    1. AdamK's Cycling & Travel Post author

      Hi Chris:

      As far as the bar end shifters, I too did not particularly like them on the bar ends, hence my preference of using them, or any other thumb type shifter on the Paul’s Thumbie mounts. And I fully agree on your comments of the Suntour shifters – I have those on an old British Raleigh and they really are bomb proof… and very inexpensive.

      If you ride a 58cm road bike then you should probably go with the “large” Cannondale. I with my 32” inseam rode the medium and it was fine, but mine was a model that was pre-sloped top tube days. Perhaps check out the reach etc. in the geometry of the Cannondales and see how it compares to your road bike – assuming that it is comfortable for you. I prefer a more upright position when touring so I sized mine with less reach than my road bikes.

      Regards & tailwinds,

      AdamK.

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  2. Gary M.

    I AGREE ABOUT,THE BAR END SHIFTERS,AND THE POSSIBILITY OF BRAKE FADE,AND LEAKING,OF HYD. BRAKES,ALL THE SAME ,YOU PRETTY MUCH PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET,THIS DAY,AND TIME…I LOVE THE NEW CANNONDALE TOURING ULTIMATE,AND ALMOST WENT AHEAD,AND PURCHASED THE T1,BECAUSE CANNONDALE ,ACCIDENTLY SENT ME ONE,BUT THE ULTIMATE IS ON THE WAY! VERY JAZZED ABOUT IT!…I DO IN FACT,HOPE MY FUTURE TOURS,TURN OUT LIKE MY DREAM,S I,VE BEEN HAVING! PROBLEM FREE!

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  3. majchers

    I fully agree with you Adam in your opinion on these new Cannondales (with the exception maybe for the bar end shifters which I simply hate). For many reasons I would not say it better myself. I would ad one more con to your list: steep pricing.

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