Based in Wilton, Connecticut, Cannondale was founded over 40 years ago and set out initially manufacturing precast concrete housing. It was only in 1983, when the US company began creating aluminium road and mountain bike frames did things start getting interesting.
With a rich history working alongside some of cycling’s biggest road and mountain bike teams as well as leading riders, it was no surprise this ambitious company were soon knocking on the door of the cyclocross world.
A sport, in its early days, a hybrid between road and mountain biking, the exciting, technical and challenging world of cross provided the perfect platform for Cannondale to bring their extensive frame building knowledge to the table.
Fast forward 30 years and their latest range boasts some of the most capable machines on the grid. Two ranges are on offer for 2018, the CAADX's and SuperX's. The CAADX is Cannondale’s aluminium offering, while the SuperX uses their state of the art, award winning carbon fibre.
One of the most exciting bikes in their SuperX range is the Apex 1 and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one to test.
Out of the box
The first thing that caught my eye was the colour scheme, especially on the fork and chainstay. Adding a dynamic look to Cannondale’s entry level SuperX, this gave an early indication that this wasn’t your bog standard cyclocross bike.
Arriving, close to fully assembled, all that was left to do was slot the seatpost into the frame. Equipped with a Cannondale C3 Alloy Seatpost, the designers have kept things traditional, with a 27.2mm width. This means, should you wish to upgrade the post, there will be plenty of options to choose from.
The seatclamp is an intriguing feature on this bike. Positioned between the toptube and the seattube, the clamp slots into the seat collar and can be accessed by placing an Allen key under the toptube. Although this gives the SuperX a cleaner look and may reduce dirt and grit from getting into the clamp bolt, I did find the position of the clamp slightly inconvenient, as it was hard to locate the bolt. Frustrating initially, I cannot see this being an issue long term, as once the height of the seatpost has been set, there shouldn’t be a need to access it all that often.
Pedals on, bike set up, all that remained was to hit the trails!
On the trails
First ride out was around the local trails in Wisley Common. A mixture of fast, dry singletrack and muddy fields provided the perfect testing ground.
I had a 15 kilometre ride out on the road to the common, which gave me a chance to get to grips with the bike. With road bike like geometry and an aggressive position, the SuperX felt fast, even when running the Schwalbe X-One Tyres at 45psi. Agile and direct in the corners, the BB30 bottom bracket proved itself to be stiff when accelerating out of the saddle, while the inline post put me right over the bottom bracket, allowing for split second power transfer and the turn of a pedal. Swap out the knobblies and 40 tooth chainring for some road tyres and a slightly larger chainring and you've got yourself a more than capable winter or summer steed for road use.
Cannondale pride themselves on producing state of the art, market leading carbon frames and the BallisTec Carbon used on the SuperX followed this trend. With SPEED SAVE technology built in, it felt light when slung over my shoulder as I ran up a steep incline and comfortable and assured on fast, technical singletrack. Continuing the carbon theme, the BallisTec fork boasts a thru-axle design, improving stiffness on the front end.
Cannondale have equipped the SuperX Apex with SRAM's Apex 1x groupset. Moving away from front derailleurs and double chainring setups, 1x offers smoother shifting and reduces the chances of dropping your chain.
SRAM’s Apex groupset comes with the American company's hydraulic disc brake levers. Normally I’d find a lever with this shape to be cumbersome yet onto the rough trails I found this slightly bulkier lever was the ideal perch for my hands, preventing them slipping off the bars.
Racing cyclocross as a youth, I grew up with cantilever brakes, great in the dry, pretty much as useful as a chocolate teapot once things got muddy. It was a revelation then that 15 years on Cannondale have equipped their whole range with disc brakes. SRAM’s Apex Hydro Discs offered predictable and powerful stopping power. A refreshing change from my cantilever experience.
A non-SRAM component and an area Cannondale pride themselves on is their cranksets. A Cannondale Si BB30 setup comes with a 40 tooth X-Sync SpideRing Chainring. This clean design, from a practical point of view, makes the bike extremely easy to maintain and paired with a SRAM Apex 1 Long Cage Rear Derailleur and a SRAM PG 1130 11-32 tooth cassette ensures 11-speed smooth shifting and an abundance of gears to get you up and over even the steepest of inclines. I found this setup to be ideal for the often varied and fast-changing nature of trails and SRAM’s single DoubleTap lever was intuitive and slick.
Crashing over roots and rocky terrain having a comfortable base is key to an enjoyable ride. Cannondale realise the saddle is a key component and therefore have put their trust in the Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite Saddle. I was won over by the seemingly simple and clean design and the comfort it provided. It kept me planted on the bike and offered more than ample support, even after a few hours in the saddle.
Keeping you from careering into the undergrowth, Cannondale CX 2.0 wheels have been paired with Schwalbe X-One Tyres. Even ridden hard across some of Surrey and more lately Dorset’s roughest trails, the wheels have stood up to the rigours I have put them through, remaining true, with, even after 300 kilometres, little sign of tyre wear.
The Schwalbe X-One Tyres are designed for a wide range of conditions and felt as fast on dry trails as it did across muddy fields. The option to run these tubeless is also welcome, especially for those looking to run lower pressures on boggy courses or routes.
After three weeks of riding the Cannondale SuperX Apex 1 Cyclocross Bike covering everything from a 12 kilometre towpath commute to and from work to a rocky challenging 90 kilometre jaunt around the Purbeck Hills in Dorset I found the SuperX to perform admirably. Fast and direct, this was a true race ready machine, yet with the addition of bottle cage bosses, Fabric’s Scoop Saddle and SPEED SAVE technology made for an enjoyable experience over longer distances too. Not just super in name, the SuperX really is a super cyclocross bike.