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New Cannondale “Slate” gravel bike will have 650b wheels and 30mm suspension fork

Latest video reveals a lot more detail about the new Cannondale gravel bike

Following the first news last week that Cannondale is set to launch a new gravel road bike, the company has just released a second video that provides a lot more detail about the new bike. We know now that it’ll be called the Slate and the Lefty suspension fork, as we predicted, will offer just 30mm of bump-absorbing travel. As for the wheels, well they’re going to be 650b size.

Update: A few more details have emerged since we published this article yesterday. It appears the new Slate will only be offered with an aluminium frame and there will be three models at launch. Cannondale will also use 12x142mm thru-axle dropouts. 

Cannondale is having a launch event in a couple of weeks time. We’re going (well, Tony is) so we’ll have a lot more information, and first ride impressions, on the new bike then, but it seems Cannondale has decided to let the cat out of the bag before the official launch.

The big reveal from this video is that the bike will roll on 650b mountain bike wheels, which in conjunction with a 42mm tyre provides the same outside wheel diameter as a 700c rim fitted with a 22mm tyre. The effective wheel size is the same but you benefit from a hugely increased tyre volume, providing a greater deal of comfort and increased resistance to punctures, an important consideration for a bike designed to spend a lot of time on rough trails and surfaces.

650b wheels have exploded in the mountain bike industry in the last couple of years, and virtually wiping out the old 26in wheel standard in the process. As for 650b wheels on road bikes, well this isn't the first time road bikes have had 650b wheels, the French were at it over a hundred years ago with their randonneur bikes.

Cannondale isn't the only company cottoning onto the benefits of the 650b wheelsize. At Bespoked earlier this year, Hallett Handbuilt Cycles showed this one-off 650b steel touring bike.

The Lefty suspension fork will provide 30mm of travel, and is the most distinctive feature of the new bike. Will the whole range be fitted with the Lefty or will it offer versions with a regular rigid fork? We’ll just have to wait and see. Adding a suspension fork to a gravel/cyclocross bike certainly opens up the severity of the terrain you’re able to ride over, and obviously increases comfort up front.

“Road bikes are definitely changing. I thought people would want something that is a lot more capable, something that’s not so confined to race or 200 mile rides or anything like that, so and kind of made people feel youthful too,” says Cannondale product manager David Devine in the video.

It’s clear from the video the new bike has an aluminium frame that has many tubing similarities with the CAAD10, but also tube shapes that are significantly different. It’s highly likely that Cannondale will offer a carbon fibre version at some stage, if not at launch the in future model years. The two bikes in the video are clearly prototype mules, so it could be Cannondale has a full range of aluminium and carbon fibre models ready for the launch.

We’re sure Cannondale has worked the tube profiles of the frame with its SAVE technology to provide some amount of compliance at the rear end, and will it use the 25.4mm seatpost from the Synapse as well? It’s highly likely.

The new bike has disc brakes, of course, but it doesn’t appear to have gone with a thru-axle rear end. The Lefty fork uses a unique thru-axle design and it’s reckoned to be one of the stiffest suspension forks in the mountain bike market. No easy place to mount a mudguard though, but dead easy to change an inner tube.

Top cyclocross racer Tim Johnson adds: “There’s a lot of people that don’t care about racing, and I think that’s something that is easily forgotten.”

More on the new bike soon.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

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