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The New 2002 Cannondale MS700si.
By Tom Demerly.

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Some time ago a customer accused me of "pushing" Cannondale bikes. I assume he meant we prefer to sell them as opposed to other brands. He was absolutely right. We do "push" some models of Cannondale bikes. There is an excellent reason.

In 2000 and 2001 we sold more Cannondale Multisport bikes than any other multisport bike. We sell Quintana Roo, Kestrel, Litespeed, Softride, Cervelo, Felt and several other brands of triathlon bikes. We sell bikes based on fit and the customer's needs. If a customer came to us looking for a performance oriented triathlon bike and a Cannondale fit them, it was almost always our first recommendation. If we didn't recommend it, there was a reason.

We do this for a number of reasons. First of all, we only recommend a bike if it fits correctly. Secondly, we place a high degree of emphasis on the importance of Ownership Experience.

Ownership experience is what happens during the time you own the bike: How well it rides, shifts and brakes. How easy it is to maintain, clean and adjust, how expensive it is to replace worn or broken parts, how well the bike travels to and from races, how easy it is to get (and install) replacement parts. All these things act together to form your ownership experience.

I've had good ownership experiences and bad.

Good Ownership Experience:

A bolt on front derailleur mount makes adjustments easy and improves durability.

One bike I owned was simply and sturdily built. It had simple, external cable routing with split cable stops and a clamp-on front derailleur. The frame was light enough to get the job done but the company that made the bike made it for someone who would really use it. If the bike fell over in a transition area it would not dent.




It was easy to clean and maintain, no water entered the frame when you washed the bike. In 20 minutes you could have the bike washed, degreased, re-lubed and ready to ride like new. It was easy and convenient to remove and replace the wheels. That bike was a joy to own. No hassles, no bad surprises when something needed to be adjusted or replaced. I still have that bike; it is over 5 years old. I just took the components off the frame for use on another (new) bike I'm trying. I'm going to keep my old frame though. 5 years in "triathlon bike years" (not unlike "dog years") is like 50 real years. In the realm of lightweight, high performance triathlon bikes- that's a long and illustrious career.

Split, top tube external cable routing makes
replacing cables easy. There are no holes in
the frame for water to enter.

Bad Ownership Experience:
Another bike I owned had a number of interesting technical features unique to the manufacturer who built it. It looked cool too. It seemed like doing anything on the bike was a hassle. Installing a new rear derailleur cable took over an hour if things went smoothly, it took less than ten minutes on my other (good) bike and worked better when it was done. Washing the bike was a pain since it had an unusual frame configuration and strange cable routing. Water always found its way inside the frame and getting it out was a hassle. Installing the rear wheel on the bike was difficult and frustrating due to the design of the dropouts. Those dropouts, even with the quick release skewer tightened down firmly, couldn't seem to hold the wheel reliably. If you sneezed on the bike, the damn thing had a dent or lost a chip of paint. The final indignation was when one of the water bottle mounts stripped and I couldn't replace the water bottle cage without getting the frame painted. Read that again- I said I couldn't replace a $7 water bottle cage without stripping down the frame, bead-blasting the old paint off, replacing the threaded water bottle bosses installed in the frame, repainting it and then hoping for the best. Minimum $250. That's the automotive equivalent of having to remove your engine to add windshield washer fluid. I rode the bike less than a season, pulled all the components off it and sold the frame used to a guy who "thought it was unique and looked cool". I warned him about the hassles, he was undaunted. I haven't heard anything from the guy since, but then again, I also haven't seen him at a race either… I have a feeling the bike is spending its final years as a decorative wall hanging. That bike was over $2000 new. After a year I sold it for $400. In that year I spent another $600 on it. That's a bad ownership experience. I never did like that bike. But it did look cool.

Cannondale Multisport bikes have consistently delivered an excellent ownership experience for the past three model years. So, that is why we sometimes "push" Cannondales. In fairness, I don't think we push anything except the need to buy the right bike that fits precisely and is suited for what you're doing. We also presume that your problems are our problems, so we want to sell bikes we won't have problems with.

There is no triathlon bike that has provided a historically and consistently better ownership experience than the Cannondale Multisport bikes for the last three model years. We have not had a single broken frame. We have not had a single defective bike from the manufacturer.

Only two issues have surfaced in the 2000 and 2001 model year, and one of them (below) has been resolved in 2002 on the new MS700si.

Issue 1.
First, both the 2001 Multisport 600 and the new 2002 Multisport 700si use Cinelli Corna aero bars. Pardon my vernacular, but the bars basically suck. On a scale from 1 to 10- 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, Cinelli Corna aerobars are a 4 at best. A few of our customers do like them, but for the most part we have upgraded these to Syntace SL or C2 Ultralite aerobars. Syntace aerobars are 9.5 on the 1 to 10 scale.

Although some customers like them, we don't like the
Cinelli Corna aerobars and recommend a
$70 upgrade to Syntace aerobars.

The Cinelli Corna aerobar has a myriad of weird, difficult to use and hard to reach adjustments. It is heavy, has lots of small hardware and is not particularly comfortable. You can't use a Jetstream aerobar mounted water bottle with Cinelli Cornas either. In particular, I found the elbow pads to be very uncomfortable, especially compared to Syntace. It only costs about $70 to upgrade to Syntace aerobars and it is money very well spent. The Syntace bars are made of better, stronger, lighter bead-blasted aluminum. They have much nicer elbow pads, less hardware (all pointed down so perspiration and sports drinks don't corrode them) and are not adjustable. Having aerobars that are not adjustable is much better than having adjustments. Adjustments add weight and places for things to strip and break. Syntace bars are sold in three different sizes with the ability to locate the elbow pads where ever you want along a 5-cm range left to right each side. You buy the bar that fits and that's it. When you buy "adjustable" aerobars you adjust them into position and leave it. For the rest of the time you are carrying all the nuts and bolts and pivots that facilitate the adjustment- they are dead weight. Will you ever adjust them again? Once you get it right probably not. Also, this stuff tends to vibrate loose over time, or corrode until it is seized. Take our word for it, we've used all the aerobars out there: Avoid adjustable ones.

Issue 2.

The new 2002 Shimano Octalink 105 crank is an enormous upgrade over 2001 and significantly improves shifting.

In the 2001 model year Cannondale used a Coda brand crank on the Cannondale Multisport 600. The crank featured black Coda brand chainrings. On some bikes the front derailleur shift quality was mediocre to poor. On some it was perfect.





The point is: It wasn't consistent. Buying cranks shouldn't be like buying fruit. They should all work the same- good or bad. On some bikes we upgraded the cranks and chainrings to Shimano 105. In the end Cannondale wrote us some credits for replacing and upgrading cranks that were questionable. Some people (who hadn't developed confirmed problems) paid to replace the cranks as a preemptive upgrade. That was a good choice.

On the 2002 Cannondale MS700si the cranks and chainrings have been upgraded to new 2002 Shimano 105 Octalink with Super Glide chainrings. The improvement is very substantial. Shifting performance is excellent. With proper adjustment (which is easy) we haven't seen a single mis-shift. This is a big upgrade for 2002.

The 2002 MS700si still uses the Cinelli Corna aerobar, but upgrading is easy. If we had to pick between changing the cranks or the aerobars, we'd pick the cranks. You can live with the aerobars, some people even like them, but poor front shifting is not acceptable. Now that is resolved on the new Multisport 700si.

We reviewed the 2001 Cannondale Multisport 600 already, and that review is worth looking at if you're reading this one. You can see it here. Much of what we said in that review still applies to the new Multisport 700si.

One of the refinements you find (starting at the front) on the new 2002 Multisport 700si is the new fork. The fork is an improvement over the previous Kinesis fork used by many bike manufacturers including Quintana Roo and others. Last year's fork was very good. This year's is even better. The new fork has a slight curve to it for improved ride comfort and an interesting aerodynamic "dimple" in each side to improve comfort further, make the bike steer better and improve aerodynamics and stability at high speeds, such as on a descent. This is a nice benefit on a mountainous triathlon course like Ironman Canada, Lake Placid or the new Utah course.

Another big upgrade is the new integrated headset. Cannondale uses the excellent Campagnolo Hiddenset on the 2002 Multisport 700si. The "si" in MS700si stands for "system integration". This is a new concept of improving component durability, function and decreasing weight by building key components into the frame. Cannondale has already done this on several "si" frames with headsets and even bottom brackets for use with a new crank.

100% maintenance free: You'll never have to adjust,
rebuild or replace the Campagnolo Hiddenset
integrated aheadset. It is stronger and light also.

There are some customers who view this integral headset with concern. Their common refrain is "What do you do four years from now when you have to replace the headset?" That is a valid concern. The answer to that question is "Nothing". You won't have to replace the headset. That's the whole point. People who are concerned about replacing the integrated headset down the road are viewing it in the same "belief window" as a traditional headset that is pressed into the frame, must be maintained and adjusted and eventually replaced. Those rules don't apply here. You'll never have to replace it, not even after a severe crash. People who wonder what to do with the headset years from now don't understand the system. They are applying the old rules to a new system. Like many self-appointed bike "know it alls" who worked in a bike shop years ago and are now an engineer they simply don't understand it. It's too simple for them.

A few refinements have been made to the component selection. The crank upgrade discussed above is the most substantial upgrade. Other minor upgrades include a much nicer seatpost. The new forged head seatpost is lighter and easier to adjust. It is also nicer looking. A new saddle feels about the same as last year's. Cannondale upgraded the tires on the early 2002 production run bikes with either Continental or Panaracer tires. The fine Michelin Axial Pro from last year is a great tire, but a bit mushy feeling by some accounts- even at 115 psi. The new rubber on these bikes will make them noticeably sportier feeling. A final, pleasant upgrade has been the addition of genuine Shimano brand chains on all the 2002 bikes. Last year Cannondale used the SRAM Corporation chain. We didn't like these chains. They were loud, didn't seem to shift as smoothly as Shimano and wore poorly. The new Shimano replacement is a nice upgrade.

Finally, Cannondale did something very interesting on the 2002 Multisport 700si. The bike is available in all sizes from 50 cm to 62 cm with either 650 c or 700c wheels.

This opens a huge question: What size wheel is right for you and, what is the difference anyway?

Triathlon bikes originally had 650c wheels due primarily to mechanical considerations. It had nothing to do with weight or aerodynamics. On early examples of 78-degree seat angle bikes a larger 700c wheel simply wouldn't fit in the rear triangle. People often ask me what is "faster", a 650c wheel or a 700c. The only truly correct answer is "Neither is faster". Both have minor differences in aerodynamics, weight , rolling resistance and lateral stiffness that almost exactly cancel each other out.

How do you choose between the two? Simple. If you are over 6'0" I would always recommend 700c wheels. At that height there are no real benefits to having 650c wheels. In the gray area between 5'8 and 6'0" you could go either way depending on the bike handling characteristics you want. Below 5'8" get the 650c wheels, you'll like them much better. Look at the chart below:

Cannondale Multisport 700si
650c wheels, 52 cm frame
Cannondale Multisport 700 si
700c wheels, 52 cm frame
Headtube 153 mm
Front Center 61 cm
62.5 cm
Chainstay 38 cm
41.0 cm
C. to T. 60.2 cm
60.2 cm
C. to C. 47.0 cm
47.5 cm
Wheelbase 99 cm
101 cm

It shows two 52cm. Cannondale Multisport 700si we measured here in our store. The left column has the measurements for the 650c wheel bike.

It may be appropriate to point out the term "650c" is not a measurement of any dimension on the wheel itself. If you measure a 650c wheel you find it is roughly 58 centimeters in diameter. 650c wheels are also sometimes erroneously referred to as "26 inch". You may also discover the 650c ("26 inch") wheel measures 22&15/16ths inches. As you can see, the wheel isn't "650" of anything, and I have no idea what the "c" stands for. I've been in the bike industry 23 years and I've heard three or four different interpretations of what these numbers mean. In general, they aren't a dimension of the wheel or measurement of any kind. More so, they are a somewhat arbitrary designation for the size of the wheel. Interestingly, the so-called "26 inch" wheels on a triathlon bike are not the same size as the "26 inch" wheels on a mountain bike- which also don't measure 26 inches.

Notice the head tube measurement of the 650c bike. It is 153 millimeters. The head tube on the 700c bike is only 110 millimeters. The top of the head tube on both bikes is in roughly the same position however. This is because the 700c wheel is larger in diameter, necessitating a shorter head tube. This also means on the 54cm, 52cm and 50cm frame sizes the top tube and down tube merge before the joint with the head tube. Also, notice the front-center dimension is 1 centimeter longer on the 700c wheel bike. This is also to facilitate the larger wheel. Finally, the largest two differences: The chainstay on the 650c is 38 centimeters while the chainstay on the 700c is fully 3 centimeters longer at 41 centimeters. This is a huge difference. Also, the overall wheelbase on the 650c is 99 centimeters while the wheelbase on the 700c bike is 101 centimeters. If you do the geometry on both bikes you see the measurements don't line upexactly, but bear in mind I measured these two bikes using a tape measure and with the wheels on, so over a 100 centimeter measurement there is going to be some error.

So, what's the bottom line? If you ride a 54cm or below and don't already own a set of expensive 700c race wheels you still want to use- Buy the 650c wheel bike. It has shorter wheelbase, tighter turning radius, less front wheel flop and will be more nimble. You may find it climbs better- I do. If you ride the 50cm, 52cm, or 54 cm and you already own a $1000 set of 700c size race wheels at least you can get a great triathlon bike and still use your pricey wheels. However, you'd be better off on the 650c wheels due to handling and overall ride quality. If you are on the 56 and above, get the 700c wheel bike.

I felt the differences between the 52cm 650c and the 52cm 700c amounted to handling. The 700c 52cm. is very stable and comfortable, but the long front and rear end, and longer wheel base make it steer like a big car or SUV. The 650c 52cm bike is more nimble, turns tighter and felt faster on a climb. It also handled a lot more responsively and felt more in scale with my body. I would rather do a fast descent on the 650c wheel bike and tackle a long climb on the 650c. I prefer the 650c wheel bike in my frame size (52cm). Like most choices in the bike world, your body dimensions will dictate what equipment is appropriate for you.

Riding the Cannondale Multisport 700si is just plain great. Do I push Cannondale? Yes, and after your first few rides on a properly fitted Cannondale Multisport 700si you will too. They ride great. For a rider of my height and weight (5'8" and about 155-165 pounds) it is the perfect combination of stiffness and comfort. It took a lot of work for Cannondale to achieve this. No other manufacturer is using the same tubing sets that Cannondale is using. No other manufacturer is using the unique "CAAD 5" seatstays Cannondale is using. No other manufacturer is using the fork Cannondale is using. And no other triathlon bike manufacturer is building their frames the same way Cannondale is. The bikes are also designed to be mechanically trouble free. Triathletes are notorious for neglecting bike maintenance. No bike should be neglected, but the simple cable routing and the integrated headset on the Cannondale.

How good is the Cannondale? Put it this way: I just paid for a $2000 aluminum triathlon frame. The regular price on the frame, fork, headset and seatpost is $2000 (I pay less since I get an employee purchase discount from my store). The price of a Cannondale MS700si is $1599.99 complete (no pedals). Is the $2000 aluminum frame "better" than the Cannondale? Yes. Specifically, it is about 1/3 pound lighter, climbs a bit better, handles more responsively and is stiffer but more comfortable. The entire bike is worth about $3800. Is it three times as good as the Cannondale? A fair question since it is almost three times as expensive. The answer is: No. My $3800 aluminum triathlon bike is a little better than the Cannondale, but not that much better. It is the next place to go after the Cannondale, but it isn't that great of an improvement. That makes the Cannondale MS700si a great bike, and a very, very good value.

I love riding the MS700si. It just feels good. Almost all of that is because the bikes fits me very well in the 52cm size. But there are about 4 triathlon bikes out there that fit me similarly. I like the Cannondale best. I also like the fact that the bikes are easy to own for the average and beginner triathlete- there isn't much to go wrong. Everything is well thought out and well designed. It should be- this is the seventh year for Cannondale to improve their multisport design, and they were working on it even before then. It is a highly refined and completely proven design.

I do push these bikes. If the Cannondale Multisport bikes fit you correctly, they represent the best thing you can buy at this price. And I've tried them all.

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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