The best place for any cyclist to call home is the San Francisco Bay Area. The countless trails in The North Bay, The CX scene in the winter, endless roads in the East Bay. It’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole that is Bay Area Bike Culture. The problem many of us have is ‘Where do I ride today..?’ (albeit a good problem to have) Cannondale has been prototyping the Slate for some time before its release last year and it all started with a ‘What If ..’ idea. It is designed literally as a fun, fast bike with big tires and suspension, pretty simple. Its sounds like a strange bike indeed but upon closer inspection.. It is one of the best times I’ve spent on a bike.
Cannondale make the best aluminum frames on the market, hands down. The CAAD (Cannondale Advance Aluminum Design) as been developed over the last 15 years and they still find space to make lighter, stiffer and more responsive frame. The slate was no exception. You can feel the power in larger gears and punch for short fast climbs, it responds to your every pedal. On or off road…
Small wheels, bigger tires.
Realizing the clear advantages to having wide tires on and off road prompted Cannondale to go with 650b wheels and 42mm tires (very similar diameter to 700x23) for all road riding but the ability to get more contact when you need. Although I was riding wider tires I didn’t feel the drag of the increased contact. I test road the Soma Cazadero Tire (see below), they feature a raised center for fast rolling on asphalt but designed to take corners on dirt. They deliver on both asphalt and gravel best of both worlds.
I’ve never gotten so much attention on my bike as I did riding the Slate. Most often being asked ‘what wrong with that fork?’ Cannondales’ Oliver Lefty fork was designed to increase travel and drop weight without increasing the length of the fork itself. Instead of making the head tube longer the shock was placed next to the wheel. The top is attached like a dual crown downhill fork, which is much stiffer than a single crown. The wheel hub has a HUGE 25mm bearing on the non drive side that mates with the lefty’s one piece axle/ lower leg. All this really means is it is just as stiff as having two legs and you can change the tire without taking off the wheel!
[gallery ids="7652,7651,7650,7649,7470,7452,7450,7449,7454,7424,7412,6973"] I had the chance to take this beast out bike camping over a three-day weekend from Carmel to Fort Hunter Ligget and on the abandoned Indians Road. The bike was loaded up with front and rear bags and still performed like a champ. Even with added weight on the handlebars, the fork was able to still lockout and hold its rigidity. The best part of the trip was being able to bomb down the single-track sections of Indians Road with the lefty suspension. This changed the entire experience of the trail, knowing I could go faster, corner harder and still control the bike was incredible! Check out the On A Mission Ride With Erik Mathey for our past trip.
The Slate is two bikes in one. It’s perfect for anyone who loves road riding and wants to slip into gravel or off road riding. You know who you are. It’s perfect for anyone who loves mountain biking and dirt roads but doesn’t quite need to go full lycra.