Regardless of whether you have, or have not had a Cannondale bicycle, here’s my view, personal connection with the company, and an introduction to the Cannondales in my life. But first……
I know it’s a story many-times-told, but having the name of the company coming from their first business home, which was in the Cannondale railway station in Pennsylvania, USA, and which also inspired the company logo, is Kool! Joe Montgomery was the CEO who managed to create and lead an organisation that had products, which through their innovation, provided differentiation, style, quality and performance. This is what every business aspires to. Cannondale looked at the bicycle differently and created some iconic design classics as you’ll read about below. Historical fact!
The company appeared to be an innovation powerhouse, partly due to the product range and partly due to great marketing. Bicycle technology, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s was developing at light speed and Cannondale was a key leader and contributor in this period. I wanted to work for Cannondale as it seemed like the iconic, strongly branded and family team organisation that drives energy, ideas, quality product manufacturing (never, ever forget the people who made these bikes in the ‘made in the USA’ factory….) and fun. That was my perception anyway. I never did work for Cannondale, or went out of my way to try, but I did play my part in their growth and success, as a customer.
Sadly, the Cannondale Company I knew and loved went bankrupt in 2003. There’s a saying that illustrates this, which is; ‘organisations are self-limiting, the same way trees don’t grow into the sky, because their roots are the limiting factor’. Cannondale sank all of its resources into an motorcycle innovation avenue that failed, and it took out the whole company. The Cannondale MX400 was an innovative 4 stroke motocrosser (I wanted/still want one), and getting into battle with the big motorcycle manufacturers ended in disaster. However, as you’ll be well aware, Cannondale lives on, and with continuous quality and innovation, which was the really strong thread that always ran through the business. Current fact!
Cannondale had a long term racing team relationship with Volvo as a main sponsor, but I never bought a Volvo, just the Cannondale. Anyway, scene-setter-intro’ over, so let me introduce you to my four (vintage) Cannondales.
My first and ultimate bike. The sexy Cannondale R1000
I’ve written about this bike in some previous stories on this site (‘Spoke Tailor’ & ‘I’ll never be good enough to pay the mortgage with my time trialling etc’), so I won’t bang on about it here, apart from saying that it’s still an absolute pleasure to ride, and as I’ve yet undeclared publicly, I clocked my fastest speed ever on a bicycle whilst riding it down a big hill. 68mph. True Fact!
Meet my first full suspension bike. The Cannondale Super V500. Made by someone in the USA during February 1998.
The best value time to buy a new bicycle is at the end of the season when the new models are being introduced. Discounts are high in ‘last years bikes’, so if you are happy to ‘not have the latest thing’, you can get a lot of bike for your money. Sometimes, a dealer gets a batch that might even be 2 seasons old, and they go mega-cheap. My SV was one of those ‘last seasons news’ and it was being heavily discounted by a big U.K. cycle shop. I had seen the advert in a magazine, and one day whilst day-dreaming at work (I know I’m not the only one that does this….), I thought I’d drive home the long way around (about three times the distance) to check it out. This is obviously the first level of commitment. I arrived at the dealership and went to look at the rows of shiny Cannondales. My Cannondale size is medium and the colour choices for this size was ‘grey-silver’. Easy choice then. I sat on it. The salesmen gave me his best selling pitch, which was 10 minutes before the shop was due to close for the day, and he could smell a sale. I asked if there was any further discount on the bike. Second level of commitment. The salesmen said he would throw in a pump and a free first service. I handed over my credit card, picked up the bike and pump, loaded it into the car and continued my commute home.Since that day in summer 1999, it’s been a great buy, has taken me to a lot of Great places and it’s never let me down. It was also an accomplis to my broken arm (see also: Broken Bones story).
The bike is now nearly twenty years old and the only thing that has been changed are the addition of Magura brakes, and the width of the handlebars. When I got the bike new, it had, what seemed like very, very wide 690mm handlebars fitted, and having spent the previous 3 years on a hardtail Kona, with very narrow, low bars & high seat (head-down-arse-up position), I cut a bit off each end of the bars to make the transition feel more natural. More recently, I’ve found out, along with the fashion like everyone else, that wide bars offer a lot of control, particularly with suspension bikes with bigger tyres, so as I couldn’t glue back on the bits I’d cut off, I’ve replaced the old bars with some new 690mm handlebars. As the saying goes, “you’ve got to go there to come back”.I’ve noticed that ‘vintage’ Cannondale SVs are gaining in price, so I’ll be sticking with my ‘investment’.
My first pure bred downhill bike. The Cannondale DH4000. Born in 1996.
Just like the R1000, when I first set eyes on the DH4000 in a brochure, I coveted it, wanted it etc etc. It took me 22 years to get one, but it was well worth the wait. This one has been used, and maintained, really well. The only thing that has been changed are the disc brakes and forks. Whilst the original Cannondale Moto forks were a work of engineering-art, they didn’t offer that much travel in comparison to the current Boxxers that are fitted. The head angle on the original Moto forks was quite steep and the Boxxers have slackened things a bit at the front. All credit to the engineers who designed this bike, because the strength of the frame easily takes modern day suspension perfectly, and doesn’t compromise the overall design and stance of the bike either.
I found this bike advertised on a selling website in Switzerland, and it was located about 2 hours from where we live, and it was a good price. The owner was selling it and an Orange Freeride bike. The small town where the bike was located is called Langenthal, and was originally the home of a huge porcelain works, which has since closed down, although the whole site and buildings are still there. Our car GPS took us into this old factory complex and after a few minutes and a ‘we’re lost’ phone call, the seller rode around the corner of a building to meet my wife and I. He then took us to his workshop, which was situated in the middle of the site somewhere. Inside the building, our eyes were first distracted by beer barrels, then after a long corridor, we emerged into his space. There was half of the car body of a Lotus Elise hanging from the ceiling, an old American V8 car waiting restoration, several motorcycles, mountain bikes and a massive radio controlled car with a big engine in it. Tools were hanging up, on the benches and in a tool chest. There was a calendar on the wall with topless ladies in the pictures. It was a bit chaotic, but there was everything there to build a project, fix or maintain stuff.My eyes caught site of the Cannondale and it looked magnificent. I rode it around the site and did a deal to buy it. This DH has been converted to a single speed and it’s a tall gear as well. The seller gave me the cassette to convert it back if I wanted to (you can see it in the picture in the beer crate). The seller also had a friend with him when we arrived, and it turns out that they brew the beer that we had seen walking through the building, so naturally, some bottles were presented for tasting from a big, workshop fridge, which had been ‘stickered to death’. The beer tasted great and we ended up buying a crate of the beer, appropriately called ‘Langenthaler’, along with the Cannondale DH4000. This wasn’t the first ‘buy-a-bike-&-have-a-drink’ experience we’ve had in Switzerland either. Read the story on my sister site about the Yamaha TY125.What was funny-bizarre, was that whilst we were drinking and talking, a friend of the seller pushed a KTM enduro bike into the workshop. He said hello to us, and then asked his friend, the workshop owner/bike seller/beer brewer, where the ‘Englander’ was. As my wife and I both come from the U.K., we looked at each other a bit puzzled. A tool was immediately handed over to KTM man. The tool was a large adjustable spanner, and in Switzerland, it’s called the ‘Englander’ because a) it’s got ‘made in England’ cast into the handle and b) it can be used for many things from undoing bolts to hitting nails into wood like a hammer. So, this is how a British multi-use tool is referred to in Switzerland. The KTM had its rear wheel nut loosened by the ‘Englander’ so that the chain could be tensioned. We packed the bike and the beer into the car and drove home. A top day out! Oh yes, the seller also tried to sell me the Orange Freeride bike, and I’m sure the two bikes would have come at a good price, but hey, let’s not be greedy eh!
One last point, these bikes are also now fetching quite big prices, so I’m satisfied with another ‘Dale investment that I can ride and enjoy. I’ve also found a pair of Moto forks and front wheel (below) for it as well, so it may get put back to its original specification. Maybe…..
My first Cannondale project. The Super V Freeride. Born in the USA 1998. Rescued by me in 2018.
Every now and again, something on eBay catches my eye, and this was one them. It caught my eye and wallet so much, I bought it. Good price and top project. It looks a millions times better in this picture after a polish and some TLC than it did when I pulled it out of the box. The seller was accurate in his description i.e. no dents or cracks, forks and shock both need a service. This is the Freeride SV version with the Moto forks, which I knew nothing about until I started to search for ‘Cannondale fork servicing kit’. These forks are super complex inside and similar to the HeadShock mechanics. A quick plea for information on the Cannondale owners Facebook page got me several fast responses, and which pointed me towards top ‘Dale guru, Lloyd, at Qwerty Cycles (email below) in the U.K. So, following everyone’s advice, I dropped Lloyd an email with a load of questions and a picture of my eBay Freeride stash. Lloyd responded super fast with information sheets, parts links etc. One answer obviously drives more questions, especially when I’m not an expert and he is. I hope I didn’t bombard his inbox too much…..anyway, he’s sending me some parts from his shop and it won’t be the last he’ll be hearing from me, or my wallet for that matter.Anyway, it’ll take some time to get the forks done and to get the rest of the parts together, but the first question is restore correct, or restore to use? Hmmm…..I want to use it, so that means let’s not be purist about this. First question, discs or Magura rim brakes? Both will work fine for the type of riding I’ll be doing. My SV has Magura rim brakes and they’re ace, so why not put them on this one? The next question is gearing. Triple chainrings or single? I need to pedal up some steep stuff where I live, so I need low gearing, but I still could go single chainring. I have a new XT rear derailleur in the cupboard, so that is definitely going on. All of the other parts are easy-er. You can read about this build and its first ride out on this site.
I’ve noticed a couple of Cannondale framesets coming up for sale and they all sell quickly as prices haven’t taken off yet. It’s probably more profitable to strip a bike down to its frameset and move it on quick. It’s smaller, lighter and cheaper to ship and nobody wants worn out parts anyway. Not sure how many are left out there, but they’re not going to multiply, so they can only become more exclusive…….Don’t say I didn’t share my top-value-prediction with you. Watch this space for project updates. If you’ve got any ideas or suggestions that’s related to this resurrection, drop me a note using the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can sign up for more site updates as well. Hurrah I hear you say…..maybe.
BTW, you can get hold of Cannondale parts and advice by contacting ‘himself’ on: [email protected]
And another thing, anyone out there done anything really wild like make a chopper out of a Killer V frame or a board tracker out of a Jekyl, or anything else Cannondale-weird????
All photos by the Author