CANNONDALE’S CAAD10 has a strong heritage, developing incrementally since the inception of the CAAD3 road frame in 1997. The bikes have an iconic image and cult following … an almost mythic aura of coolness. But how does a race bike with an aluminium frame stack up against the masses of carbon bikes on the market?
I must disclose the fact that I have harboured an unrequited desire for a CAAD8 and 10 for years, though I have never ridden one until now. I was quite taken with the anodised black finish and the simple style of these bikes. Cannondale may have been the first to adopt that stealth look; the matt black with subliminal black graphics, a look they have now formalised in the Black Inc classification that sits atop several Cannondale models.
The CAAD10 3 Ultegra on test here has the alternate colour scheme; a fresh white green and black painted finish. I still prefer the anodised black, but many I spoke to were fans of the green. The Ultegra 3 is smack bang middle of the CAAD10 range with three options below, including a track version, and three above it including two disc brake versions and the Black Inc.
Aesthetically this is the classic diamond frame, the tubing is relatively straight but with some hydroforming and mechanical shaping as well as taper butting; all the tubes have had some work done. The seatstays bear the “thinline” tag from Cannondale, evidence that the frame has been created with some degree of attention to comfort. They’re broad and shallow, as is the current trend in carbon fibre frame design, to enhance vertical flex, and minimise any side to side deflection.
Similarly the chainstays have been nicely shaped from a tall section at the bottom bracket, widening in the centre, and then narrowing back at the dropouts. Across the board the section transitions and welding are smooth and uniform. Overall the classic frame dimensions are another tick for the retro set, but importantly the appealing form of the CAAD10 is met with a good deal of function.
Out on the road the CAAD10 shucks any image of an old school bike that’s past its prime and not able to keep up in a competitive context. Its geometry is racy, virtually identical to the current Supersix Evo, the stack (57.9cm) and reach (39.9) headtube length and angle are all the same; the wheelbase is just 0.3mm longer in this 58cm size. And unsurprisingly, snappy performance follows. Climbing is responsive; the frame stiffness is evident and all the power you can muster is paid back in full with a pleasing uphill performance. Sprinting efforts likewise are fun and effective due to the stiffness of the frame. Descending is a great lark on the CAAD10; straight line speed is no problem though there’s no pretence of improved aerodynamics going on. The bike is stable and inspires confidence, downhill cornering is sharp, direct and predictable.
The low stack height of the CAAD10 sure looks fast and will give a more aerodynamic seated position. It may suit you down to the ground if you’re looking for fast and dynamic handling. The flipside of course is that it’ll bring your weight forward so if your core strength is not up to par, you may tend to be leaning more heavily on the bars, bearing that weight on your arms and shoulders, and if you’re not flexible enough it may cause some concerns for your lower back too. Or you can run more spacers on the steerer tube.
This 58cm bike weighs in at a very reasonable 7.8kg. And Cannondale claim a frame weight of just 1150g for a 56cm; perhaps middle of the road in carbon terms, but very respectable for an alloy frame. Carbon frames may just have the edge in weight stakes over the CAAD10 but they would struggle to be any stiffer in any plane. Cannondale are at pains to point out the stiffness of this unit and fair enough. The issue they face though is to moderate that stiffness to bring a modicum of comfort, and they look to take the sting out of both the front end and seat through carbon components.
The carbon fibre Speed Save fork is stiff enough for good directional control and with its offset dropouts provides extra compliance to take the edge off bigger bumps and the buzz out of rough roads. The slender house-brand seatpost is 27.2mm diameter, likewise installed to offset the stiffness of an alloy frame and reduce rider fatigue.
I rode some longer routes of around 80-100km on rougher country roads with some broken pavement and coarse blue metal surfaces, and did find the ride a little harsh by the end. But the bike really comes into its own on shorter punchier rides of up to a couple of hours. It is a race bike with race geometry and a frame engineered to perform. It revels in crit style action, diving into corners and blasting out. It is more suited to shorter faster rides, power courses, where the punchy acceleration potential of the frame can be realised. Rough country roads and longer stints in the saddle highlight the stiffness and direct feedback the frame is built to provide.
The component spec on the CAAD10 3 is good quality and efficient, the Ultegra groupset performed predictably well. The cable routing is smooth and uninhibiting, allowing clean and smooth gear shifts. FSA rings and SL-K cranks paired well with the Shimano gear, and the brakes are well up to the task.
The stock wheel option is a solid and reliable setup, Mavic Aksium S wheels at 1,735g for the pair, and Aksion 23mm folding bead tyres at 240g each are solid performers. The point here being the frame is well worth future improvements in the wheel department.
I enjoyed the fast and furious nature of the CAAD10, and can see this bike suiting not only fans of old school, classic design, or aluminium frames, but also serious racers looking for a high performance bike that will deliver results.
Frame design and build quality is very high; the alloy welds and paint are nicely finished. The component spec matches the frame well but leaves some room for future upgrades in the wheel and tyre space.
With its race proven geometry, stiff frame and quality components the CAAD10 is capable of bringing out your best performances. It handles well and delivers power efficiently; requisite attributes for a high performer.
Cannondale’s CAAD10 has a load of kudos and ‘goodwill’ attached. It’s got a strong design pedigree and the performance potential to go with it. High quality and a price of $2,999 spells quite good value for your money.
Racers looking for a genuine performance platform will appreciate the possibilities this bike opens for them. Its pedigree is matched by its performance and if anything, confirms the legend of the CAAD.
FRAME: CAAD10, SmartFormed 6069 Alloy
FORK: SPEED SAVE Full Carbon, 1-¼” to 1-¼” tapered steerer
CRANK: FSA SL-K Light Carbon BB30, 53/39 or 52/36
BOTTOM BRACKET: FSA BB30
SHIFTERS: Shimano Ultegra 6800
COG SET: Shimano Ultegra 6800, 11-25, 11-speed
CHAIN: Shimano Ultegra 6800, 11-speed
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano Ultegra 6800, braze-on
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano Ultegra 6800
RIMS: Mavic Aksium S WTS
TYRES: Mavic Aksion, 700x23c, folding
BRAKES: Shimano Ultegra 6800
HANDLEBAR: Cannondale C3 Compact
STEM: Cannondale C3, 31.8, 6 deg.
HEADSET: CAAD10, 1-¼” lower bearing, 25mm top cap
BRAKE LEVERS: Shimano Ultegra 6800
SADDLE: Fi’zi:k Arione CX, MG rail
SEAT POST: Cannondale C2, UD Carbon, 27.2x300mm
WEIGHT: 7.9kg, 58cm
DISTRIBUTOR: Monza Imports www.cannondale.com