2001 Cannondale Multisport
By Tom Demerly.
The 2000 Cannondale Multisport 800 At Domino's Pizzaman
Six years ago if you told me we'd be
selling Cannondale bicycles I would have said "no
way". In the mid-nineties I felt the company's design
and manufacturing techniques suffered from several shortcomings.
My opinion was based on an unusually high incidence of
broken frames and the harshest ride of any bike I had
ever ridden. This came from a cantilevered dropout design
Cannondale used for a short time that, in my opinion,
was a bad idea.
Apparently, I was not the only one who didn't
like the Cannondale 3.0 cantilevered rear dropout frame
design (and the subsequent 2.8 design). The cantilevered
dropout was cancelled and Cannondale began work with the
Italian professional cycling team Cannondale/Saeco. Partially
as a result of their involvement with Cannondale/Saeco,
Cannondale built a frame called the CAAD 4. CAAD is an
acronym for Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design, the number
4 designates the version of the frame.
To add insult to injury, the early
Cannondale attempts at building a triathlon bike were equally
disastrous. The top tubes were too high on each size, the
head tubes were too tall, the size run was difficult to understand
and the seat angle was not nearly steep enough. And, of course,
there were those cantilevered dropouts.
But that was five years ago.
Since then Cannondale has completely
redesigned not only their multisport bikes but also their
entire line of road bikes. And the design changes continue
to this day with innovative and unusual improvements as a
result of their associations with Cannondale/Saeco.
The current version of Cannondale's
multisport bikes incorporates their CAAD 4 frame design in
designs reserved for four models: The Multisport 600, Multisport
1000, R600 Aero, and R1000 Aero.
These four bikes represent Cannondale's
most sophisticated evolution of aluminum frames. This includes
the new CAAD 4 rear triangle. This new rear triangle uses
curved seat stays that bow inward to improve ride comfort,
braking performance, shifting and climbing. The new CAAD
4 rear triangle is one of few design changes that offer exclusively
benefits, no drawbacks. In addition to this, the new CAAD
4 Aero frames use proprietary aero shaped aluminum tubing.
This tubing gives the bikes a tight, responsive ride that
is comfortable (unlike the old Cannondales) but stiff enough
on climbs. Both the down tube and the seat tube on the CAAD
4 Aero frames are bladed and airfoil shaped.
A word about
aero tubing: We have learned that aero tubing bikes are
not any more aerodynamic than round tube bikes. Dan Empfield,
the founder of Quintana Roo and one of the original triathlon
bike developers, made compelling arguments for round tube
triathlon bikes. To this day, his brilliant Kilo Private
Reserve (1999 version) was one of the best riding triathlon
bikes ever built, easily on par with the Litespeed Saber
and the Kestrel KM40 Airfoil. The old Kilo Private Reserve
was not without it's problems though. A carbon fiber
fairing built between the down tube and top tube at the
head tube was prone to failure. Front derailleur shifting
performance was almost always poor.
The component specs on the Cannondale
multisport bikes are race ready.
Wind tunnel tests at the Texas
A&M University low-speed wind tunnel conducted by Aerodynamicist
Chester Kyle, John Cobb (who set up Lance Armstrong on his
time trial bike and designed his unusual aero helmet) and
wheel builder Steve Hed proved the only effective use of bladed
shaped tubing was in the fork of a bicycle (before the boundary
layer of air passing over the bike/rider combination becomes
turbulent) and in the rear of the bike where the swirling
vortex caused by the bike/rider combination needs to “reassemble”
smoothly. These tests inspired designs such as the rare Quintana
Roo Redstone with its unusual rear fairing.
The raw truth of the matter is
that consumers want aero, bladed tubing bike frames for one
reason: They like the way they look. Bladed downtube bikes
just plain look faster. It is nearly impossible to convince
a consumer that those big bladed tubes don't do something.
On well designed bladed down tube and seat tube bikes (such
as the Cannondale CAAD 4 Aero) the airfoil shape of the tubing
does improve stiffness of the frame in certain axis. On most
though, it just makes it ride rougher and weigh more. Cannondale
does point out that its aero tubes were developed with the
help of the Pininfarinna Wind Tunnel in Italy and that they
offered some aerodynamic benefit.
Having said this, Cannondale's
interpretation of an aero tubing bike is a triumph. They
have incorporated the aesthetic value of the aero down tube
with the functional benefits of the new CAAD 4 technology
and built it using the most sophisticated aluminum frame manufacturing
techniques anywhere in the bicycle industry.
I have ridden the multisport 800
(2000 version) and, to a lesser degree, the Mutlisport 600
(equivalent 2001 version) for almost a year and these are
Dollar for dollar, if the geometry
of these bikes fits you, they are the best buy in a performance
oriented multisport/triathlon bike from any manufacturer.
This means the Cannondale Multisport
bikes (MS600, MS1000, R600 Aero and R1000 Aero) are bikes
you could do your first triathlon on, but also bikes that
you could win the Hawaii Ironman on.
In fact, stock CAAD 4 Aero frames
were used by athletes in the 2000 Olympic Triathlon in Sydney.
There were more CAAD 4 Aero frames on the pier in Kona last
year than any other triathlon bike. This is the same bike
you can buy for well under $2000- for the complete bike!
Most of the benefits of this bike will be realized by entry
level athletes, but these advancements are not lost on top
professionals either. Many of the mechanical attributes of
these bikes and the ride performance exceed those of bikes
over double the price.
There were more Cannondale Multisport
bikes in the transition area at Kona than any other triathlon
When evaluating this bike it is appropriate
to ask yourself two questions:
1. How much better would a bike
that costs $4000 be?
The answer to this question
is, considering a $4000 bike is twice as much money, it
really doesn’t perform twice as good.
2. How much better
is this Cannondale than any bike at the $1000 price point?
The answer to this question is
“much better”- Specifically, it is better shifting, more durable,
lighter. Has a nicer ride (stiffer side to side but more comfortable)
and better component spec throughout.
Riding the bike is a great experience.
It is fast. Really fast. If you aren't in great shape the
first thing that will occur to you is the ride comfort. This
bike has a firm, racy ride (rather like that of an expensive
BMW versus a nasty riding, tightly sprung race-specific car
that rides too rough and is too loud). It is no problem doing
100 mile rides on this frame and getting off in perfect comfort
(or at least as comfortable as you can be after riding a hundred
miles). Even on the less than perfect roads around Dearborn
the ride of the Multisport 600 was excellent. The brilliant
CAAD 4 rear triangle took all the edge off bad pavement and
allowed me to stay focused on getting power to the drivetrain
and staying in a comfortable, efficient aerodynamic position.
For a high performance race bike,
this bike is comfortable.
When you get out on the hills the
frame really shines. Especially on the Multisport 600 and
Multisport 1000 with 650c wheels, the bike leaps out from
under you. Power goes to the crank instantly. The lowered
top tube and light, stiff 650c wheels mean the bike climbs
like a rocket as soon as you get out of the saddle. With
this lowered top tube you can "rock" the bike back
and forth more than a standard road frame and get better leverage
from your upper body on each pedal stroke while climbing out
of the saddle. Also, the smaller diameter 650c (26"
road) wheels are laterally stiffer than any 700c wheels, meaning
you spend less time and energy flexing wheels side to side.
Have you ever looked down at your
front 700c wheel when you are climbing hard out of the saddle?
If you use Spinergy Rev-X, Rolf or Shimano 700c road wheels
the results will shock you. The wheels flex so much side
to side you can easily make them rub the front brake pads
on every pedal stroke- even if you aren't a powerful rider.
How much is this wheel flex slowing you down? This is not
an issue on a 650c wheel Cannondale.
Even though the bike jumps under
pedal load, accelerates fast and has a responsive ride, the
comfort was one of the things that sold me on this bike.
Another big part of the ride comfort (in addition to the CAAD
4 rear triangle) was the Cannondale Slice Carbon Fiber fork.
In truth, this is the Quintana Roo Carbonaero fork. These
forks were made for Quintana Roo and Cannondale by Kinesis.
You may recognize this as the fork on all of Lance Armstrong’s
time trial bikes (with a different decal, of course). John
Cobb of Bicycle Sports in Shreveport, Louisiana said this
was the best fork for a triathlon bike from any manufacturer
and I agree. At lower speeds and on rough roads the large,
deep, narrow blades of the fork provide great ride comfort.
At higher speeds and especially on fast descents (Ironman
USA Lake Placid, Ironman Canada, etc.) the deep blades of
the fork help stabilize the front end of the bike. Wind tunnel
tests at Texas A&M University have revealed that this
fork does provide some aerodynamic benefit (unlike like bladed
down tubes on frames) especially when used with deep-section
aero race wheels.
I found the faster I went on the
Multisport 600 and Multisport 1000, the better the ride and
handling got. If you can go 18 mph consistently on your current
road bike you will find it easy to cruise over 20 mph on a
Mutlisport 600 and Multisport 1000.
Once you become a stronger rider
the benefits of the frame are profound. This bike jams.
You can pound it hard and corner fast with confidence. This
is not normal for a triathlon bike. Most triathlon bikes
have some compromise geometry that causes the steering to
be less than responsive. The Cannondale Multisport bikes
cornered with confidence and authority even on rough pavement.
Several factors contribute to this. One is the 650c wheels,
which lower the rider’s center of gravity and make cornering
better overall. Another is the combination of the CAAD 4
frame and the Slice Carbon Fiber fork.
When your legs get strong the stiffness
of the bottom bracket from side to side is apparent as you
push a big gear. I could consistently muscle one gear larger
up most small climbs and go over them up to 2 mph faster on
this bike than my previous aluminum tri bike.
Remember, this is without sacrificing
ride comfort. This bike is stiff and comfortable. This is
mostly because the frame components that interact with the
wheels are configured for ride comfort (CAAD 4 rear triangle
and seat stays and the Slice Carbon Fiber fork). The portion
of the frame that interacts with the bottom bracket uses the
stiff, bladed tubes and a bottom bracket that is surrounded
by substantial reinforcement.
In general, I loved these bikes.
It is either my second or third favorite triathlon bike of
all time, behind the Kestrel KM40 Airfoil and the Litespeed
Saber. It is important to point out that both these bikes
are over double the price of the Cannondale though, and the
difference between them is not great. Again, bang for the
buck, the Cannondale Multisport series bikes are the best
Another aspect of this bike worth
a look is the quality of the finish. First off, Cannondale
finishes all their welds, hand polishing the weld beads smooth.
This is not for cosmetics, but to remove any possible “stress
raisers” from which cracks can begin to spread (propagate).
Once the welds have been smoothed by hand the entire frame
is re-heat treated as a unit. This is one of the reasons
the bikes ride so well. It also causes the frame joints to
be the strongest part of the bike. The paint on the bike
and the decals are luxurious. A thick, glossy clear coat
covers the decals. Even under the bottom bracket the bike
is beautifully painted. Compared to every other triathlon
bike manufacturer these paint jobs are a cut above.
Something else Cannondale has accomplished
with their multisport bikes is a functional range of bikes
that work for most athletes regardless of their riding style.
Perhaps two of the most interesting
bikes are the R600 Aero and the R1000 Aero.
These are the bikes to buy if you
are having trouble deciding if you should buy a triathlon
bike or a road bike.
Many of our customers want to participate
in triathlons/duathlons but will also be doing group rides
where they will be drafting other riders. A triathlon bike
is not ideal in a group setting and a road bike is no good
as a triathlon bike. Clearly, some middle ground was needed.
The Cannondale R600 Aero and R1000
Aero use a steeper than standard 74.5 degree seat angle.
This is a good measure steeper than the 73 degrees of most
road bikes, but not as steep as the 78 degree seat angle used
on the triathlon geometry bikes. It is the perfect "in
between" geometry. Add to this the 700c wheels and you
have a perfect “half road/half triathlon” bike.
While these bikes are not as fast
as the Multisport 600 and Multisport 1000 with the 650c wheels
and the 78-degree seat angle, they have much more versatile
handling. The R600 Aero and the R1000 Aero are right at home
in a pace line or a big group of riders. You can do the club
ride on Wednesday then do the local triathlon on Sunday morning.
Finally, a word about the component
selection on these bikes: It has become a common practice
for manufacturers to use “mixes” of components from different
component companies. In truth, this is usually done to cut
costs. In the case of Cannondale, if you really do your homework
on the component selection you will get some very pleasant
Going from the front of the bike
to the back: The Michelin Axial Pros are arguably the best
clincher racing tire available. In the world of 650c sizes,
they are even better.
Cannondale's Multisport frame geometry
is versatile and easily adaptable to almost every rider, beginner
or top professional.
The Mavic CXP 21 rim is suitable
for training on the worst roads but also not a bad race rim,
although certainly not an aerodynamic race wheel. In general,
Mavic brand rims are far superior to most other brands of
OEM rims in terms of roundness, trueness and overall durability.
Mavic invented the aluminum bicycle rim near the turn of the
century, and has more experience with aluminum, anodized bicycle
rims than any other manufacturer. Cannondale did well to
use Mavics on this bike.
The spokes are a black, straight
gauge stainless with brass nipples. Since the wheels on this
bike are workhorse wheels designed to be ridden and raced
all week and every weekend, this was a good choice. More
fragile double butted spokes with alloy nipples would have
been a maintenance hassle especially for entry level athletes,
and would have resulted in almost no performance gain at the
cost of some major hassles.
Speaking of workhorse, check out
the hubs: Genuine sealed cartridge bearings. This is an enormous
upgrade over the Shimano 105 hub that would have accompanied
this group. The hub body and quick release skewers are beefier
than the Shimano 105 hub also. The key here is that the sealed
cartridge bearing hubs from Cannondale are maintenance free.
No rebuilding, no adjusting, no water or dirt intrusion under
normal riding conditions (including rain). What kind of hubs
are you using? Other companies using sealed cartridge bearings
are Zipp, Mavic, Hed- all the high end race wheel manufacturers.
Probably the only drawback to a sealed cartridge hub is that
it cannot be rebuilt. In general, mechanics may prefer a
“cup and cone” style hub that can be rebuilt, although consumers
may be reluctant to accept the costs associated with hub rebuilds,
especially after being caught in the rain. Bikesport tech
Mike O’Donnell said “In general, the cup and cone style such
as Shimano 105 is more serviceable, but the Cannondale sealed
hub requires less maintenance”. Again, for triathletes, especially
entry-level athletes, the sealed bearing hub is the way to
Moving to the brakes, Cannondale
has scored another triumph. According to Wolverine Sports
Club coach Michael R. Rabe “The overall finish on the Cannondale
brakes is much better than on the Shimano 105 and perhaps
even better than Ultegra". The Cannondale brakes on
the R600 Aero and the Multisport 600 have a black powder coat
finish. Functionally, the brakes use a pad mounting system
that is much more advanced than the Shimano 105. The Cannondale
brake uses a metal “shoe” with a cartridge style brake pad
similar to the Shimano Ultegra and Shimano Dura-Ace. Again,
this is a level of technology above that of the standard Shimano
105 group and represents a substantial upgrade. Even the
cam-operated quick release is a plated metal lever, while
the Shimano 105 is a plastic affair.
The Cane Creek A-headset is a proven
lightweight, durable choice. This is the same headset that
was used on last year’s Multisport 800 and we didn’t see a
single problem on any of them. The handlebar stem is a front-opening
two bolt A-head style that has been excellent. For four times
the price you could buy a stem that is 10% lighter, but not
One area of interest has been the
handlebars. Especially on the Multisport 600 and the Multisport
1000. The Multisport 600 is speced with Cinelli drop handlebars,
Shimano 105 STi dual control brake lever/shifters and Cinelli
aero bars. The Ultegra equipped Multisport 1000 is built
with Syntace cowhorn style base bars, Shimano standard brake
levers and Shimano 9 speed Bar-end shifters mounted in the
tips of the Syntace aero bars.
The Multisport 600 has a highly
versatile handlebar configuration for group rides or triathlons
with terrain ranging from flat to extremely hilly. Especially
in events like Ironman USA Lake Placid and Ironman Canada
or the Mark Mellon Memorial Triathlon in Northern Michigan,
the drop handlebars with STi levers is the combination of
choice. Since most of your shifting in a climbing environment
is done from the base bars (not the aero bars) having drop
handlebars is a bonus. The only draw back to this configuration
is weight; the STi lever/drop handlebar set-up is about ¾
pound heavier than using the Syntace cowhorns and bar-end
shifters found on the Multisport 1000. However, if you don’t
mind a little extra weight, this set-up is perfect for people
who want to do more than just triathlons.
A big part of the reason why consumers
like the cowhorn base bar and aero bar set-up is looks. This
type of handlebar configuration says “triathlon bike”. One
customer in our store recently was so confused by seeing a
triathlon bike with drop handlebars and aero bars that he
couldn’t accept it was a triathlon bike. He kept saying over
and over “…But triathlon bikes don’t have drop handlebars…”
Never mind that Thomas Hellriegel used drop handlebars to
win the first ever Ironman USA Lake Placid. If you are absolutely
married to the idea of having the cowhorn base bars the Multisport
600 can be built with cowhorns, bar-end shifters and standard
brake levers (we usually use the Dia-Compe 188 ultra lightweight
lever). Or you can buy the Ultegra equipped Multisport 1000.
On flat courses the Handlebar configuration on the Multisport
1000 may offer a slight advantage since you can shift gears
without moving your hands from the aero position. Once you
hit the hills that advantage is gone.
One final word on handlebars: The
Cinelli aero bars on the Multisport 600 were not our favorites
at first. On early bikes we were swapping the bars for Syntace
Streamliners. Two things happened to change that; 1. It became
cost prohibitive, 2. We learned how to adjust the Cinelli
aero bars to accommodate a more comfortable position. Now
I feel the Cinelli aero bars are a good choice, although a
bit complex to adjust- there are a lot of bolts that need
to be loosened and tightened to get the correct adjustment.
On the other hand, you can adjust these things almost infinitely.
As you move back on the bike another
interesting thing are the cranks. Cannondale uses their excellent
CODA lightweight crank and black chainrings. In addition
to the attractive finish this crank is substantially lighter
than the standard Shimano 105 crank, and thus a big upgrade.
The crank works with the Shimano splined cartridge bottom
bracket. Our biggest concern with this crank was that the
non-Shimano chainrings would not shift accurately with the
new narrower 9 speed chains. With these new 9-speed drivetrains
the tolerances for the chainrings being out of position (either
due to the incorrect width chainring, bottom bracket spindle,
shell width or all three) is extremely low. We have found
the shift quality at the front derailleur is excellent with
the new CODA cranks. This is no small order considering the
short, angular chain line on 650c wheel equipped bikes.
All bikes in this series are sold
without pedals, which is a good idea since there has never
been a customer consensus on what the best pedal system is.
The saddle is a decent standard
racing saddle that is good for most cyclists using padded
shorts and racing in either a bathing suit or triathlon shorts.
The seatpost is a fairly good (but not great) center mount
head style post with two adjustment bolts for saddle angle.
The post works well but is clunky looking. I prefer my favorite,
the Thomson center mount post.
Rear hub matches the front and
the Multisport 600 and Multisport 1000 as well as the other
Aero R series bikes use genuine Shimano cassette cogs.
If you do a detailed evaluation
of the bikes, nut to bolt compared to everything else on the
market in this price category (and even $1000 more!) I think
you can’t deny this represents the best value in a triathlon/multisport
bike line. The R600 Aero and R1000 Aero bikes also offer
versatility not found in any other bike from any other manufacturer.
Cannondale has come a long way
with the development of their four multisport bikes. Their
first efforts were weak, but the latest versions incorporate
so many changes they have almost nothing in common with the
original models. The new bikes represent impressive improvements
that position them at the front of their respective categories.
If you look carefully at these bikes you will find they are
"Best In Class" compared to the other triathlon/multisport
bikes out there.