'High performance aluminium is back' say the folks at Canondale and after riding the CAAD10, I'd be inclined to agree. Canondale are experts at the aluminium road bike, producing favourites among those looking for a capable race machine without the price tag of a top-level carbon option. The CAAD 10 is the latest incarnation, available in various finishing kits. We put the Ultegra version through its paces.
The pleasant matt black finish of our test bike could lead you to believe you've accidentally been sent a carbon bike. Black is timeless, avoiding any current colour fashions for a bike which will look good whatever the latest fashion. Smoothed welds add to the illusion and with the carbon FSA SLK cranks, the CAAD 10 is a great looking bike which would embarrass many more pricey carbon offerings.
Frame stiffness is certainly on par with many mid-level carbon bikes. From my first pedal strokes I was taken back by the efficiency of the power transfer. Oversized BB30 bottom brackets have previously been reserved for high performance carbon frames but Canondale have designed one into the CAAD10. By pressing the bearings directly into the frame, larger bearings and crank axles can be used which, along with the reduced leverage, creates an improved transfer of power. BB30 requires a high level of machining but, as the creators of the standard, it is no surprise that Cannondale have integrated it into the CAAD10.
Cannondale's tube design also plays a role in the strong performance of this aluminium frame, their classic large diameter creating much of the strength. The top tube is oval to quash lateral flex (it's slightly hourglass in profile too, helping to prevent any knee banging), providing a sharp and responsive feel.
The top tube leads out to widened seatstays. Apparently taking from the design of Cannondale's Flash hardtail mountain bike - a model that's intended to deliver plenty of comfort - the seatstays are narrow but widely spaced while the chainstays are assymetric with a more bulbous design. This all comes together to allow a little bit of vertical flex when you ride over bumps but minimal side to side movement. In other words, the back end provides the classic 'vertically compliant/laterally stiff' combo that most manufacturers are keen to shout about.
Topping off the frameset is indeed some carbon... and the fork is full carbon all the way from the steerer down to the dropouts. Cannondale have designed the fork to aid shock absorption without increasing the length of the wheelbase, so they've offset the dropout slightly to the rear of the fork leg. As for the handling, it's razor sharp without any noticeable flex when you're riding out of the saddle or carving through fast turns.
What's the ride like overall? As I mentioned, the CAAD10 is very stiff and responsive but doesn't leave you aching as the miles/kilometres tick away. Because of that, it is a perfect option for those who want a bike they can throw around a circuit race and also take on a five-hour ride on the weekend. It's a good climber and descending is a joy. The lively handling means you can change your line quickly while the stiffness of both the frame and the fok means you can fire it through downhill turns with speed and accuracy.
The Ultegra groupet, second in the Shimano hierarchy after Dura-Ace, is similar to the frame in that it provides high performance for a lot less money than top-of-the-line counterparts. Whilst hood shapes are a thing of preference, the Ultegra's offer a large, comfortable base for your hand and the shifting provided by the levers is crisp and smooth. Cannondale's own C3 cockpit parts may not be as flash as branded components but they do the job well enough. They're solid. Taken as a whole with all the other kit, you really can't expect much more at this price.
Mavic Askium wheels round things off. As Mavic's entry-level choice they might not blow you away with their level of performance but they include cartridge bearings and bladed spokes and they're made with Mavic's reliable build quality. These are certainly a very capable set of wheels for the money and, of course, you can always boost performance still further by swapping them out for something lighter at some point in the future. The Mavic Askion tyres proved prefectly competent over the test period too, and they come with good puncture resistance which is a definite bonus. Oh, and Prologo Scratch saddle was a wise selection. At the racier end of the spectrum, the stiff but comfortable construction complements the feel of the bike.
Some people might be turned off by the sight of an aluminium frame when searching for a bike these days, especially at the £2,000 price point where carbon is a distinct possibility... but that's because there's a widely held misconception that a carbon bike will always out-rank an aluminium one. The CAAD10 is a 2012 aluminium design that outperforms many of the carbon bikes against which it competes. Shimano Ultergra components and BB30 FSA SLK cranks are perfect choices for someone who wants their bike to do everything from weekend club runs to sportives and a little racing.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cannondale Caad10 Ultegra
Size tested: Charcoal - 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Large diameter aluminium construction with smoothed hydro welds. Narrow seatstays provide some relief over road bumps and they're widely space to stop side-to-side flex.
Fork: Full carbon, dropouts to steerer.
Components: FSA SLK BB30 Crankset (standard or compact), full Ultegra groupset, OEM Canondale finishing parts, Mavic Askium wheels, Mavic Askion tyre, Prologo Scratch saddle.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Aimed more at the racing side I'd say, given the geometry. A relatively short head tube might turn away some less flexible all-day riders and it sits in Canondale's 'Elite' road line.
High performance aluminium is what this biek goes for and it hits the mark, offering a ride that's better than a lot of carbon frames at the same price point.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Frame finish is excellent, smoothed welds hide the metal construction, tube shapes are pleasing to the eye. The all-carbon fork is similarly impressive for the price.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluminium frame. Full-carbon fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
More on the racing side with short head tube and a short wheelbase creating a reactive bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Reach was comfortable for me and similar to other 56cm bikes I've ridden. The height feels and looks more like a 57cm - in my experience, most Cannondales do. I had no problems creating a comfortable position though.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Great ride, stiff and responsive but comfortable, I didn't feel the parts of the road I didn't want to.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes it was neither too stiff or too flexible; a real Goldilocks situation.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, thanks mainly to the BB30 bottom bracket, I think.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not for me, no.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively, but not on the edge.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is certainly one of the bikes pluses, descending on it was a charm.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Prologo Scratch saddle is a great complement to the bike's handling. You could upgrade the standard Canondale cockpit parts over time but they do the job.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? Would you recommend any changes?
The dimensions of the tubes and the geometry have been tailored to give stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? Would you recommend any changes?
The complete Ultegra groupset, other than the BB30 FSA SLK cranks, is excellent. It is similar in performance to the more expensive Dura-Ace with only a marginal weight penalty.
BB30 BB and FSA SLK cranks feel excellent.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Ultegra with FSA SLK cranks is a high performance combo.
Wheels and tyres
Seem to have good puncture protection.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
I had no punctures despite it being hedge-trimming season. Sealed bearings and bladed spokes on Mavic entry level wheels create a competent, good-value wheelset. The performance of the tyres is average although there's no great hurry to upgrade them.
Standard Canondale kit
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Most people tend to get on well with Ultegra ergonomics, the large hoods creating a good platform for your hands.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
FSA BB30 cranks are a nice addition to an already well-speccedd bike.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
An excellent bike for the price. If you are looking at bikes in this price range, you'd be mad not to consider the CAAD10 seriously.
About the tester
I usually ride: Orbea Onix (Carbon) - Summer, Orbea Asphalt (Alu) - Winter My best bike is: Orbea Alma G10
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, club rides, mtb,