Does it always have to be carbon? The answer is a straight no and with their new CAAD12 the people at Cannondale prove that aluminium can not only be extremely good looking but also offer top performance at an affordable price. Where else can you get a disc racer with full Shimano Dura-Ace spec for € 3999? And on top of that with a weight of just 7,5 kg? How does the Cannondale CAAD12 Disc prove on the road?

Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Dura-Ace review – Aluminium can be so sexy!
Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Dura-Ace | 7.5 kg | € 3,999

In our carbon vs aluminium shootout in issue #008 we have already established that a carbon bike isn’t necessarily better than its aluminium antagonist with the same spec – except when it comes to the price. For years Cannondale’s CAAD aluminium frames have been a very popular choice amongst riders and are known for their outstanding performance, razor-sharp handling, low weight and above all the lower price compared to more expensive carbon versions. If you ask your mates we’re pretty sure most of them will have at least one of these frames lying around in their basement. How good is the new 2018 disc version?

Spec

The Cannondale CAAD12 Disc Dura-Ace embraces all the latest technologies and features a high-end spec. The total weight of 7.5 kg for a 56 frame size is impressive. The frame is built with SmartForm C1 Premium Alloy, it’s fully Di2-ready and comes with internal cable routing and flat-mount disc brakes.

The internal cable routing on the frame and fork make for a clean look.

The new Speed-Save BallisTec Carbon fork is the same one we know from the entry level SuperSix EVO Carbon model. The continuous carbon fibre-structure is said to make it significantly stiffer than its predecessor. Only the SuperSix Evo HiMod gets the lighter version of the fork. The Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 Hydro delivers top shifting performance but the clumsy hoods take some getting used to. The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 on the other hand looks a lot better.

The CAAD12 features a flat-mount system on both frame and fork and relies on a through-axle to secure the fork.
HollowGram Si crank with 52/36 or 50/34 chainsets and 11-28 cassette.

Cannondale relies on their in-house HollowGram Si cranks with either 52/36 or 50/34 chainsets. Our test bike came with a 52/36 setup which is a great compromise. In combination with the 11-28 cassette you should be prepared for any situation. For beginners or really steep terrain however we recommend the 50/34 setup. The tubeless-ready HollowGram Si Carbon Clincher wheels are paired with 25 mm Schwalbe ONE tires as standard.

The tubeless-ready HollowGram Si Carbon Clincher wheels come with with 25 mm Schwalbe ONE tires as standard.

Geometry

Size 44 cm 48 cm 50 cm 52 cm 54 cm 56 cm 58 cm 60 cm 63 cm
Seat tube 465 mm 487 mm 512 mm 538 mm 570 mm 585 mm 600 mm 615 mm 625 mm
Top tube 500 mm 510 mm 522 mm 534 mm 547 mm 561 mm 575 mm 591 mm 607 mm
Head angle 70,5 ° 71,5 ° 72,0 ° 72,6 ° 72,9 ° 73,1 ° 73,2 ° 73,3 ° 73,4 °
Seat angle 75,0 ° 74,7 ° 74,4 ° 74,1 ° 73,8 ° 73,5 ° 73,2 ° 72,9 ° 72,6 °
Wheelbase 964 mm 963 mm 967 mm 972 mm 980 mm 989 mm 1000 mm 1013 mm 1027 mm
Chainstays 405 mm 405 mm 405 mm 405 mm 405 mm 405 mm 405 mm 407 mm 409 mm
Head tube 107 mm 107 mm 115 mm 125 mm 139 mm 155 mm 175 mm 195 mm 219 mm
Stack 514 mm 5516 mm 526 mm 536 mm 551 mm 567 mm 584 mm 603 mm 626 mm
Reach 362 mm 369 mm 375 mm 381 mm 387 mm 393 mm 399 mm 405 mm 411 mm
BB-Drop 74 mm 74 mm 74 mm 72 mm 72 mm 72 mm 69 mm 69 mm 69 mm

Models

Groupset Brakes Price
Shimano 105 Rim brakes € 1,599
Shimano 105 Disc Disc brakes € 1,799
Shimano ULTEGRA Rim brakes € 1,999
Shimano ULTEGRA Disc Disc brakes € 2,399
Shimano Dura-Ace Disc Disc brakes € 3,999
SRAM eTap Rim brakes € 4,999

Test

As usual we’re going to spare you the whole stiffness-data palaver and jump straight onto this deep-purple aluminium-rocket to see what the CAAD12 is actually capable of; We can already see ourselves nodding our heads to the sound of “…I’m a speed king you got to hear me sing…I’m a speed king see me fly”.

“…I’m a speed king you got to hear me sing…I’m a speed king see me fly”
Deep Purple “Speed King”

Riding behaviour

After riding just a few metres we were immediately struck by the lightness and explosive acceleration of the CAAD12. The classic geometry with a horizontal top tube and a short head tube mostly takes inspiration from Cannondale’s flagship the SuperSix Evo. You will recognise the racing genes of the CAAD12 in its lively and agile handling. The completely redesigned bottom bracket area allows for more stiffness and improves start-up efficiency.

The completely redesigned bottom bracket area provides extra stiffness and improves acceleration efficiency.

The new carbon fork — which is meant to be significantly stiffer than the previous version — totally impressed us with its super precise handling. It follows each steering input with clinical precision and serpentine descents become proper fun to ride.

The bike’s precise handling inspires confidence and makes winded descents proper fun!

In our 2017 Cannondale SuperSix Evo HiMod Disc test we complained about the annoying fork-stutter when braking hard but this seems to be no problem for the CAAD12 fork which is slightly heavier than the HiMod version. Thanks to the stiff frame and the powerful but easy to modulate Dura-Ace disc brakes the braking performance of the CAAD12 is nothing short from superb and inspires tons of confidence. Only the mechanical shift/brake levers which tend to move inwards when hitting the brakes are a little annoying.

The stiff frameset and the great modulation of the powerful Dura-Ace disc brakes allow for superb braking performance.

Aluminium is both stiff and light but not incredibly comfortable. That’s where the carbon components come in handy adding some welcome compliance. The Save Carbon seatpost especially adds a noticeable amount of comfort on rough terrain without causing dreaded bobbing motions. Even though the design might look a bit unusual we totally love it.

The Save-Carbon seatpost adds a massive plus of comfort. It performs superbly even though the design is a little odd.

The stiff aluminium-cockpit underlines the precise handling but doesn’t contribute much to the riding comfort. An upgrade to carbon handlebars would increase the compliance and would fit the overall concept well.

Conclusions: the CAAD12 is not at all heavy metal but rather rock’n’roll!

Conclusions

The Cannondale CAAD12 Disc is a worthy successor to an absolute legend and impresses with its agility, lively handling and extremely efficient acceleration. With a full Dura-Ace spec and a total weight of 7,5 kg this aluminium racer is anything but heavy-metal — we call it rock’n’roll. With its superb braking performance and secure handling the CAAD12 inspires tons of confidence without missing the liveliness of an authentic racer. Only the mechanical shifters dampen our enthusiasm a little – not only aesthetically but also ergonomically. Instead we’d clearly prefer an electronic alternative. All in all the CAAD12 offers outstanding performance for its € 3,999 price tag – just right for all passionate hobby racers amongst us.


For more info head to: cannondale.com

Words: Manuel Buck Photos: Valentin Rühl