An Expert Guide to Cannondale's Road Bikes

Published on 05/13/2023 · 10 min readCycling Expert Adam L. gives you everything you need to know about Cannondale's road bike options, and details how to find the best bike for you.
Adam L., Cycling Expert
By Cycling Expert Adam L.

Photo courtesy of Cannondale

Tl;dr: Cannondale is an American bike brand that’s been making forward-thinking road bikes for over fifty years. Whether you’re brand new or a veteran cyclist, there’s at least one Cannondale model that fits your needs. Unique features like Cannondale SmartSense and SystemIntegration set the brand apart from competitors and make their bikes some of my favorites to recommend as a Curated Expert.

As a lifelong cyclist, I’ve put thousands of miles on my road, gravel, and mountain bikes around the United States and the world. But I have a special place in my heart—and garage—for Cannondale bikes. My first real road bike was a hand-me-down Cannondale aluminum CAAD from the 1990s. Since then, I’ve upgraded a bit (now I’m riding a Cannondale Synapse Carbon with rim brakes), but I’ll always remember the feeling of freedom that my navy blue cycle provided me.

Over the past three years at Curated, I have connected hundreds of riders with the perfect bike for their needs—which often includes a Cannondale. I also serve as a resource for my friends and family’s bike questions. And so far, I’ve convinced a few of them to get their own Cannondale. The brand has a full suite of road bikes for every rider, and I hope this article helps you find the perfect Cannondale bike—or two—for your specific situation.

Who Is Cannondale?

Putting the SuperSix Evo family through its paces on a winding mountain road. Photo courtesy of Cannondale

Cannondale was founded in Connecticut in 1971. The brand is synonymous with its innovative and sometimes quirky products for road and offroad riding. They were one of the first to use aluminum, and then carbon fiber, for framesets when other brands were still using clunky steel.

Lately, Cannondale has been a leader in aerodynamic and integrated-electronic designs. Their consistent outside-the-box thinking pushes the bike industry forward and has produced an excellent current lineup of road bikes. Cannondale’s bikes’ abilities are proven at the highest level by the company’s professional racing teams—most notably Team EF-EasyPost which has multiple stage wins at the Tour de France.

What to Consider When Buying a Cannondale Road Bike

What’s My Riding Style?

Cannondale, like most brands, divides their road bikes into three broad categories based on intended use. Of course, these aren’t absolutes; but you’ll want to choose a bike in the category that most suits your riding style.

  • Aerodynamic: These bikes are designed to cut through the wind as efficiently as possible. They are stiff for maximum power transfer and heavier than all-around road bikes. They won’t be as comfortable for longer rides, but they are extremely fast under power.
  • All-around: All-around road bikes are versatile and designed to do everything well. Cannondale’s latest models balance a light weight, aerodynamics, and compliance for bikes that are both fun and fast to ride.
  • Endurance: This category is oriented toward enjoying the ride and not racing. You’ll find these bikes are comfortable and offer a slightly more relaxed geometry than all-around road bikes.

It’s unlikely that any one rider fits in a single category. Think of the riding you do most (or your goals for the new bike) and you should be able to choose a single category that represents most of your miles.

What’s My Local Terrain?

Different bikes perform best in different types of terrain. You’ll want to take into account what the roads and geography are like where you ride most often—as well as any other frequent riding destinations. A few categories you might want to consider are:

  • Flat: Pancake, flat terrain like you might find in Florida or some Midwestern states. Weight will not be as important as aerodynamics.
  • Rolling: Smaller hills in addition to flatter terrain. This is a versatile terrain that can suit most any type of road bike.
  • Mountainous: Think long climbs, high passes, and fast descents. A lightweight and comfortable bike could be a great choice for riding in this terrain.
  • Surface type: Are your roads smooth tarmac, rough chip seal, or something in between? Rougher roads will be more comfortable on a bike with more compliance and tire clearance.

What Features Do I Know I Want or Need?

If you’re a current owner, or just have been doing your research, there might be certain features you’re already certain you want your new bike to have. Some common features in Cannondale road bikes include:

  • Aluminum or carbon frame: Aluminum frames are more durable, heavier, and cheaper. While carbon frames are lighter, reduce road buzz, and are more expensive.
  • Mechanical or electronic drivetrain: Electronic drivetrains use battery power for perfect shifting every time. They’re more reliable (as long as you charge the batteries) but more expensive than mechanical groupsets.
  • Aluminum or carbon wheelset: Aluminum wheels are standard on lower-level bikes. Carbon wheels are a significant upgrade that are more aerodynamic and lighter.

How Much Should a Cannondale Road Bike Cost?

The CAAD13 is the latest version of Cannondale’s long-running aluminum all-around race bike

Cannondale road bikes are available at a price point for every rider. Here’s an overview of how much you can expect to pay:

  • Entry-level: $900-$2500. These bikes are great for beginning or price-conscious riders. They have quality components that balance performance and value. Most will have aluminum frames and wheelsets.
  • Mid-level: $2500-$5000. These bikes are high-performance and many have carbon fiber framesets. Most groupsets in this price range are mechanical with a few electronic options at the upper end. These are a good choice for intermediate to serious riders who want a high-performing bike at a good price point.
  • Top-end: $5000+. In this range, you’re getting top-end components. You can expect a carbon fiber frameset, electronic groupset, and carbon wheels as well.

What Are the Different Types of Cannondale Road Bikes?

The SystemSix and SuperSix in EF-Easypost colors. Can you spot the differences between the aerodynamic and all-around bikes?

Aerodynamic

These bikes are designed for maximum speed and efficiency when cutting through the wind. They’ve got computer-designed tube shapes and other features that minimize aerodynamic drag.

Benefits:

  • The fastest bike in many racing situations.
  • Can make sticking with the group in a fast ride easier.

Be Aware:

  • Aerodynamic bikes are heavier than similarly equipped all-around bikes.
  • These bikes are less comfortable for longer rides.

All-Around

All-around road bikes are designed to balance speed, weight, and comfort. They’re perfect for a rolling race course or spirited group ride. They feature nimble handling that’s fun and fast to ride in most situations.

Benefits:

  • Equally suited to all types of terrain.
  • Tuned frame tubing makes the frame stiff where it needs to be and flexible elsewhere.

Be Aware:

  • The bike’s geometry puts the rider in a more stretched-out and less comfortable position than an endurance bike.
  • Not the all-out fastest bike due to slightly more aerodynamic drag.

Endurance

Endurance bikes are a great choice for riders who are more focused on riding than racing. They’re supremely comfortable for long rides and shorter excursions too, and have wide tire clearance for rougher roads or even light gravel.

Benefits:

  • Upright geometry puts less strain on the neck and back.
  • Still lightweight and can be built with high-performance components.

Be Aware:

  • Heavier than comparable all-around bikes.
  • Not as snappy when pedaling hard and won’t be as fast in a race situation.

Features to Look Out for in a Cannondale Road Bike

As mentioned, Cannondale is known for their unconventional designs, which range from innovative to quirky. While not every new Cannondale feature has survived the test of time, the brand continues to innovate and inspire change in the bike industry. Here are a few particular features on their current line of road bikes that are worth highlighting:

SystemIntegration

SystemIntegration (SI) is a long-standing Cannondale design philosophy that focuses on designing all elements of a bike as part of a coherent system. The latest result of this process is the aptly named SystemSix road bike. The “system” includes a coherent design of the frame, fork, handlebar, seatpost, and wheelset, and results in what Cannondale calls the fastest road bike available.

SmartSense

SmartSense is Cannondale’s integrated lights and rear-facing radar system available on select models. Cannondale is the first manufacturer to include lights and radar (based on Garmin Varia Radar) on performance road bikes. This system wirelessly connects to a smartphone or compatible head unit for notifications and control. You can even set the taillight to work as a brake light. While you might think these lights are only necessary for endurance rides that run past dusk, in terms of visibility and safety, I think any cyclist can benefit from using lights.

Choosing the Right Cannondale Road Bike for You

Now that we’re more familiar with the Cannondale lineup, let’s walk through a few examples of real-life bike customers. Below are three riders who we’ll get to know before assessing their needs and recommending the perfect Cannondale model for their situation.

Pablo: A Casual, Weekend Rider

Pablo has been riding road bikes for a few years and is ready to upgrade from his alloy, entry-level alloy bike. He doesn’t race but enjoys spirited group rides and weekend Gran Fondos. He lives in New England, and has access to flat, rolling, and hilly roads from his doorstep. He also plans to take a riding vacation in the Rocky Mountains next year. He doesn’t have a set budget, but he’s looking for a significant upgrade with better components.

Features Pablo should look for:

  • An all-around road bike suits Pablo’s typical terrain and his desire to ride fast in groups and Fondos
  • A carbon frame will be lighter and more responsive
  • A mid-level electronic drivetrain like Sram Force or Shimano Ultegra Di2 will provide excellent shifting performance at a reasonable price. Sram Rival or Shimano 105 Di2 would be a good money-saving choice as well.
  • A carbon wheelset will be more aerodynamic on Pablo’s faster rides.

Bike examples: SuperSix Evo Force AXS, CAAD 13 Force AXS, SuperSix Evo Shimano Ultegra Di2

SuperSix Evo Force AXS

Stacy: A True Beginner

Stacy is brand new to cycling. She is interested in fitness rides and exploring local paved bike paths. She doesn’t expect to be racing anytime soon. Since she’s just starting the sport, she doesn’t want to spend too much money on a new bike. She also might use her cycle to commute to work in the summer. She lives in Central Oregon, and most of her nearby riding is fairly flat.

Features Stacy should look for:

  • An endurance road bike will be comfortable and capable for Stacy’s rides. Since she’s not racing, she won’t be affected by the lower speed of an endurance bike.
  • An aluminum frame will provide good value and performance. It will also be more durable for commuting.
  • A mechanical drivetrain will provide adequate shifting performance.
  • Hydraulic disc brakes will be the best choice for consistent stopping power, especially if she is commuting in poor weather.

Bike examples: Cannondale Synapse Tiagra, Cannondale Synapse 105, Cannondale Synapse 2

Synapse Carbon 2 RLE

Brock: An Experienced Road Racer

Brock is a committed road racer who likes to ride fast. He’s planning on making the jumpto a higher road racing category, and he wants to upgrade his bike as well. He’s currently riding an older rim-brake frameset with carbon wheels. Most of the terrain he rides around his home in Nebraska is flat, but the race courses he competes on have some rolling hills. He’s not concerned about budget and wants the best-performing bike possible.

Features Brock should look for:

  • An aerodynamic road bike should satiate Brock’s taste for speed.
  • A carbon frameset provides the best performance possible.
  • A deep carbon wheelset will be the fastest possible option at high speeds.
  • A top-level electronic groupset like Sram Red AXS or Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 is the best of the best and features the lightest weight.

Bike examples: SystemSix Dura-Ace Di2, SystemSix Red AXS

SystemSix Dura-Ace Di2

Final Thoughts

Cannondale has been an innovative force in the bike industry for over 50 years, and they show no signs of slowing down. I hope this overview has helped you understand the features and differences of their road bike models. Whatever your riding style or budget, Cannondale has a road bike for you. To explore more Cycling articles as you pursue your journey in the sport, check out the Expert Journal here on Curated.

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