Pros:Fine performer, as hybrids go. Rock-steady handling even when heavily loaded.
Cons:Won't win races or beauty contests. Relatively low-end components.
The Bottom Line: If you want a workhorse daily commuter bike, and you travel over a lot of less-than-perfect pavement, consider the Cannondale H400.
I've been riding my Cannondale H400, purchased in June, 2000, for over a year now. My average commute is about 11 miles in each direction. In short, this is the best bicycle I've ever owned.
Recommend this product?
The H400 was recommended to me by my local bike shop based on the riding I do and the load I needed to carry at the time. When I bought it, I was carrying 30-40 pounds of gear, including a portable computer, in my rear panniers. I was replacing an old road bike, and wanted something that would carry that load without the tail-wagging and wheelies that my old bike constantly threatened under that load.
I test-rode the less-expensive H300, but the H400 impressed me with its smoother-gliding Coda hubs and more precise feeling Shimano Rapid-Fire shifters. (Other than that, the two bikes are essentially similar.) The first thing an experienced cyclist will notice when testing either of these bikes is the too-softly-sprung, gel-filled saddle, which feels like riding atop a big sponge. Combined with the wide 700x38c tires and shock-absorbing seatpost, this saddle makes the ride much too mushy. Ask your dealer to exchange it for a more sensible saddle; many will do so at no extra charge.
The most amazing thing about the Cannondale H400 is that when equipped with a heavy-duty back rack, it handles every bit as well with a 30-40 pound load as it does when it's just you and the bike! Obviously, one can go faster without the load, but even when fully loaded, the H400 rides stably, allowing the rider to navigate over iffy pavement with confidence and stop quickly and straight. Some of these riding characteristics can be attributed to Cannondale's famous aluminum frames, but it's also noteworthy that the H400's wheelbase is relatively long, similar to that of a touring bike, which helps provide the extra stability.
The Shimano Deore derailleurs combined with the Rapid-Fire shifters deliver crisp, precise shifts every time, although higher-end derailleurs would probably work more smoothly and quietly. Both shifters have bright red gear indicators, so it's easy to tell at a glance on which gears the chain is riding, even in low-light situations. The V-brakes are powerful and easy to modulate under normal conditions, and the oversized shoes on the ZAC 19 aluminum rims yield good braking performance when wet.
I have a few quibbles about the components, though. They are rather low-end, considering the price range of this bike, and are difficult to adjust to their optimum settings. Fortunately, once properly adjusted, they do hold their settings well. As mentioned before, shifts could stand to be quieter and feel smoother. Finally, the Rapid-Fire shifters have lost much of their "clicky" feel, although they still shift precisely. If I were to make this purchase again, I would ask the bike shop to upgrade the brakes and derailleurs, and possibly the shifters.
While I believe the H400 is quick, light (about 26 pounds) and nimble for a hybrid, be aware that hybrids as a class are not fast bikes. They don't go as fast as road bikes on the road, or as fast as mountain bikes off the road, and they aren't good choices for long-distance touring. On my H400, I can cruise at about 18 miles per hour over good pavement, with no wind; I would expect to go faster on a road or touring bike. But the upright position and extra cushioning that the H400 offers allows me to maintain higher speeds on poor pavement than I could with my old road bike. So, while I would not expect to win any races on this bike, it has proven an excellent commuter bike here in Chicago.
Fashion-conscious buyers should also be aware that the H400 offers the handsome good looks of your parents' mid-1970's luxury station wagon. It's available only in two solid colors, both fairly conservative, no two-tone paint, fancy decals or special effects. Again, this is in keeping with the bike's character as a commuter: its understated coloring and styling should prove less attractive to thieves while your bike is locked outdoors on downtown bike racks.