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Cannondale Fat CAAD 1

- published May 2017

84

2017

RATINGS

Ride Quality
8
Power Transfer
7
Efficiency
8
Handling
7
Components
7
GEAR INSTITUTE RATING
84

SHOP

MSRP
LOW PRICE
$3500.00
N/A
Support Gear Institute. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site.

THE GOOD

  • Lefty fork performs great
  • CAAD aluminum pedigree
  • Excellent Value

THE BAD

  • Heavy
  • Less versatile than some
  • Fork makes it tricky to transport/wrench

THE VERDICT

The FAT CAAD 1 will speak to three different groups: Cannondale CAAD road bike fans, lefty fork fans, and anyone that likes a good value. With a frame that shares a name with the iconic CAAD Cannondale road bike, higher end components, and a Lefty Olaf fork, there is a lot to like at a very reasonable price. The FAT CAAD 1 is great in the snow, good on the trail, and a value year round despite being heavy for what it is.

FULL REVIEW

Ride Quality
The FAT CAAD 1 is a new addition to the Cannondale line up, keying off the well known aluminum framed road bikes of the CAAD name. This is the “biggest” riding bike of our review mix, featuring some of the widest stock tires (4.8 inch Schwalbe Jumbo Jim), it is also the heaviest and one of the least expensive. For folks new to the Lefty series of forks they are stiff yet compliant. The Lefty has a loyal base of fans, for a variety of reasons that include the ability to change a tire without removing the wheel and the lack of mud and snow trapping hardware. There is a learning curve using a Lefty because of the off center weight distribution of the fork. And transporting the bike can be challenging because removing the front wheel requires uninstalling the brake caliper. The FAT CAAD 1’s rear triangle uses bowed aluminum construction and is noticeably shock-absorbing. The FAT CAAD is a remarkably well balanced bike front to back, with excellent traction (even with tires that are better suited to snow than dirt), however the Lefty Olaf does take some getting accustomed to left to right (high speed lefts require more lean/push than rights). 

Stiffness-to-Weight/Power Transfer
There is no masking the 32 pound weight rolling on 4.8 inch tires, giving the feel of the bigger more substantial ride. The FAT CAAD 1 climbs well as a result of the excellent balance of the machine front to back. Traction is easily maintained, and there is no flex evident on the climb. Cannondale Si cranks are stiff and offer a 30 tooth chain ring. The rear cassette is SRAM’s XG 11 speed (10-42), providing ample gearing and it felt as though there was a bit more than typical in terms of the downhill gearing. We were also getting some vibrations up through the wheels which we couldn’t identify. 

Climbing/Efficiency
The FAT CAAD 1 climbs surprisingly well for a heavier bike with large tires. The Lefty Olaf features a “Push Here To Climb” button on the crown which minimizes movement, and the longish wheelbase is extremely comfortable. The bike makes quick work of technical ascents though it was always wise to carry some extra momentum when possible given the heft. In the snow the FAT CAAD floated better than most we tested and that performance extended to snow climbing.   

Descending/Handling
Not to harp on the Olaf fork, but first reflections of riding a Lefty require mentioning the awareness of steering differently left versus right. This is likely exacerbated by the substantial forces generated by the spinning Jumbo Jims. Outside of that, the Olaf is an exciting fork that takes big and small hits in stride, feels linear in travel and rebound, and smooths the roughest trails of rock or ice. Cannondale’s C2 riser bar featuring 6 degree rise and 9 degree backsweep is mounted with a Cannondale stem, and assist in taming the rotating Jumbo Jim on the downhill. 

Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
SRAM X01 on the thumb and derailleur with an X1 11 speed SRAM chain provided for crisp and reliable shifting. The XO1 shifter is less intrusive into the grip zone than others we rode, and requires perfectly light pressure. SRAM Guide hydraulic brakes (180 front, 160 rear), provide ample power, while being quiet and consistent on long descents. 

Wheelset
Sun Ringle Mulefut 80 SL 26 inch rims orbiting a Lefty 73 on the front and a Formula DHL 1971 rear hub- both strung with DT Swiss spokes. The wheels did the job showing only slight challenges staying true. The Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 4.8 inch tires provided better traction in snow than dirt, however they were excellent in both. These are light tires that may wear fast.  

Value
At $3,500 with higher end SRAM components and a Lefty Olaf fork, the FAT CAAD provides a lot of bike for the money. 

How We Tested It

The Fat bikes in this test were used over 20-40 miles of mud-and-snow-slopped, baby-head-strewn New England or Colorado trails. Bikes were often ridden one after the other on the same route or segment, especially on climbs or especially gnarly sections or sketchy descents, to compare performance.  Riding varied from longer segments to test ride feel and frame comfort, to explosive climbs and sprints for performance. 

For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check our our Best Trail Bikes of 2017 and our Best Cycling Backpacks of 2017, along with other related biking gear tests

The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.

About the Author

Seth Portner

Seth Portner

Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.


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MSRP
LOW PRICE
$3500.00
N/A
Support Gear Institute. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site.

RATINGS

Ride Quality
8
Power Transfer
7
Efficiency
8
Handling
7
Components
7
GEAR INSTITUTE RATING
84

Weight

32 lbs

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