Pros: Handbuilt frame, light weight, excellent steering.
Cons: Poor stock tires.
Introduction and Overview
After test riding the hardtail bikes made by the TREK monopoly (i.e Gary Fisher Big Sur, Klein Altitude, Trek 8000), I was starting to get worried that I wasn't going to find a bike that excites me. I've been happily riding a Specialized Stumpjumper for many years so I was hoping to just upgrade to a new Stumpjumper, but finding one is increasingly difficult because it seems that Specialized doesn't treat their dealers very well. I finally took out a Cannondale F400 and was very impressed with the entire bike. It handled well at all speeds over a variety of cross-country type terrains. The dealer offered me the next model up (the F500) for only about $50 more so I ordered one immediately. The CADD 4 design of the F500 saves a little weight over the F400 and there are some component upgrades.
Frame: CAAD4 Mountain w/canti. Mounts
Fork: HeadShok Super Fatty Ultra DL w/Canti. mounts
Rims Mavic X139 Disc, 32 hole
Hubs: Shimano disc
Spokes: DT Champion
Tires: Hutchinson Mosquito
Pedals: Wellgo alloy cage w/clips & straps
Crank: Shimano 22/32/44, w/alloy outer ring
Chain: Shimano 9-speed
Bottom Bracket: Shimano 4-taper
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT
Shifters: Shimano Deore
Handlebars: Easton EA50 XC
Stem: Cannondale HeadShok Si
Headset: Cannondale HeadShok Si
Brakelevers: Cannondale Delta
Saddle: Selle Wing
0 - 200 miles:
I've noticed that the stability of this bike at very low speeds is exceptional. Barreling down a hill at high speed is supposed to be the forte of the Gary Fisher Genesis bikes, but if you know anything about how to ride (i.e. get your butt off the seat), you don't need a Gary Fisher. The HeadShock suspension kicks the heck out of anything else thanks to its exceptional steering characteristics when the going gets rough. The frame is disk brake ready, but since I will soon be riding in mostly dry conditions, I'll save the weight and the expense - the stock Shimano brakes with the new XT pads have performed superbly. I was skeptical of the Cannondale brand (CODA) brake levers at first, but no longer. They are at just as good as the AVIDs, in my opinion. I've heard some rips on the stock Mavic rims, but for someone who doesn't weigh a lot and does mostly cross-country riding, I've found them to be fine so far. The Selle Wing seat is comfortable for just about any type of ride and is ergonomically designed to keep the wrong parts from rubbing in the wrong places.
So why a hardtail? I'm mostly a cross-country rider. I've ridden rear-suspension bikes, but for the extra cost, weight, and maintenance, I simply couldn't justify it for my type of riding. The rear triangle of this bike is a little springy so the bumps aren't that bad anyway. Again, if you're doing hardcore downhill or freestyle, get full suspension. Otherwise, a hardtail like this will probably work just fine for you.
At this point, I only have 200 miles on the bike. This is mostly cross-country and some paved roads. The Hutchinson Mosquito tires are wearing extremely fast, which is fine because they don't perform all that well so I want to get rid of them anyway. Otherwise, no complaints.
Well, the tires are really wearing fast now. I can't wait to get rid of them. It's also time to adjust the brakes and derailures as the cables have stretched since the bike was built (this happens on all bikes). The Cannondale grips on the handlebar are showing some wear. Otherwise, everything is performing as it did the day I got the bike. The Headshock suspension is everything it is advertised to be - regardless of the type of trail I'm on, it just works great. It's great to be able to lock out the suspension when I hit some pavement. More updates to come...
Most of these miles have been on-road (with my Specialized Fat Boy slicks on) along with some good off-roading on some moderately difficult trails. Still no problems to report. The frame, drivetrain, and other components have taken everything I've thrown at them with relative ease. I've even been impressed with the durability of the Cannondale grips on the handlebar. One exception - the Hutchinson Mosquitos are in the trash. They've been replaced with Panaracer Fire XC Pro 2.1's, and I couldn't be happier. These are mounted on a different pair of rims with XT hubs; my slicks stay on the stock Mavics, which continue to be a great set of rims.