Cannondale Caffeine 29er Hardtail

4.69/5 (16 Reviews)


Product Description

  • Frame: Caffeine 29
  • Fork: Lefty Speed Bonded DLR2, 80 mm
  • Rims: WTB Dual Duty FR, 32 hole
  • Spokes: DT Swiss Champion
  • Tires: WTB EXIWOLF, 29 x 2.3"
  • Pedals: Wellgo Clipless
  • Crank: FSA Alpha Drive, 22/32/44
  • Chain: SRAM 9-speed
  • Bottom Bracket: TruVatiV ISIS GigaPipe SL
  • Handlebars: FSA XC-281AOS, 25 mm rise
  • Stem: Cannondale XC3 HeadShok, 31.8 mm
  • Seat Post: Cannondale Alloy


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Reviews 1 - 15 (16 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:3
Submitted by highropes a Weekend Warrior from Washington, Mo USA

Date Reviewed: June 28, 2010

Strengths:    Heavy duty frame
Tires roll over everything


Weaknesses:    Leaky brakes
Leaky fork


Bottom Line:   
I was quite impressed with this bike when I purchased it and immediately took it to the local trails and the 29's rolled over just about anything I crossed. It didn't take long however for a leak to develop on the Dart 3 fork quickly followed by a leak on the front hydraulic brake. The LBS upgraded the brakes to Shimano which work great and I managed to fix the leaky fork but has anyone else experienced this? I could not get an answer why it did not come with the Lefty fork.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Berryman

Duration Product Used:   1 Year

Price Paid:    $1200.00

Purchased At:   LBS

Similar Products Used:   Rockhopper

Bike Setup:   Dart 3 Fork
Avid Juicy 3 brakes

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Richard a Weekend Warrior from West Hills, CA, USA

Date Reviewed: May 22, 2010

Strengths:    fabulous product, I have the C'Dale F29 Series 2 model and I can't imagine buying another mountain bak

Weaknesses:    none per se

Bottom Line:   
wonderful bike to own and use

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Temescal Cyn. beach trail

Duration Product Used:   2 Years

Price Paid:    $1200.00

Purchased At:   Cycle World, Reseda,

Similar Products Used:   none

Bike Setup:   stock F29 "series 2" from 2008

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by tbatt a Weekend Warrior from Norfolk, VA US

Date Reviewed: January 26, 2010

Strengths:    Frame, lefty fork. Over all feel and just a lot of fun to ride.

Weaknesses:    C'dale produces innovative products and then throws in some cheaper parts to balance out the price. Which is all fine, just be prepared to make some upgrades in the future. Brakes are weak, seat sucks (for me anyway). I found the Wellgo peddles almost dangerous and the tires need to be switched out immediately.

Bottom Line:   
All in all I love this bike. Despite the big wheels I can throw it around like a BMX bike, it climbs like a mountain goat and rolls over everything. The Lefty fork is great with no issues. Im definitely hooked on the 29r hard tail. Although I highly recommend this rig, if you do decide to by one, do not leave the shop with the stock peddles, seat and especially the tires. Then start saving for new brakes and maybe some lighter rims. But thats Cannondale.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2 Years

Price Paid:    $1700.00

Purchased At:   Conties VA Brach

Similar Products Used:   A lot a C'dale and Specialized MTB and road bikes.

Bike Setup:   Basically stock right now but getting ready to upgrade rims, brakes.

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Alberto a Cross Country Rider from San Jose, CA. USA

Date Reviewed: June 8, 2009

Strengths:    Cannondale Frame

Weaknesses:    Travel on the lefty

Bottom Line:   
I bought this bike for a commuter bike. I Ride about 25mi, round trip to work. I was previously commuting on a 1997 F2000 with road slicks. The F2000 was great for many years- but the 29er seemed like a perfect mix of bulk + road-size wheels to upgrade my commuting. Changed the large chain ring from a 44 to a 48tooth for more on-road speed. Luckily, my bike-shop mechanic was able to get the front derailleur to function with this bigger chain ring. I test rode the bike around the bike shop a couple of times, and quite honestly, wasn't super impressed. Picked up the bike last week. Rode next day to work with the standard mtn bike tires- Out on the open road was were this bike started to shine...I was immediately amazed by the difference in the speed with the larger tires. Evidently, size DOES matter! I was cruising up a gear or two from where I normally ride, and out-of-the-saddle sprints where all in the highest gear. I weigh 225 - 235 and this bike feels super-solid. Last weekend I put Road tires on it- beefy 700x35's. Man, does this bike look sick with the Road tires. The beefy head tube and lefty with a skinny road tire definitely looks unique. Now it feels like a road bike on steroids, and is even faster (that wasn’t' a surprise). Part of my ride is on dirt/loose gravel I have no complaint’s the bike handles fine and the lefty makes things really smooth
I am SUPER happy with this bike as my new commuter!
I will say this- I took it on my normal off-road ride twice last weekend. This is a 4 mile climb that takes about 40minutes up and about 8minutes down. I continued to be impressed by the 29er and its climbing abilities. I was, however, disappointed on the downhill. The lefty didn’t seem to have enough travel for the type of riding I was doing. The ride was noticeably rougher than my normal mountain bike. I have been riding a (dual suspension) Jekyll for 9 years and could be simply spoiled by the travel of the lefty on that bike, plus the rear suspension….

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   St Joes hill

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $1700.00

Purchased At:   Wheel Away

Similar Products Used:   Been riding Cannondale Mt and road bikes since 1986

Bike Setup:   Mid-level 29er(2009), Lefty, Juicy Brakes

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by darrinw2001 a Weekend Warrior from Valrico, Florida

Date Reviewed: May 17, 2009

Strengths:    Light, nice fit and feel, love the lefty fork...

Weaknesses:    none so far....

Bottom Line:   
My 1st 29er, and I am still getting used to the big wheels, but this bike is great. The lefty fork is sweet, this frame fits me perfect and I dont need the Ergon grips anymore that I used on my 26" bikes. I always had hand numbness before no matter what, even some with the ergons (just not as much) but the way this bike fits, my weight is more centered and it just feels better. The bigger tires roll over everything, but they do take a little more to get rolling. For the price I paid for this bike with less than 100 miles and only 20 of so off-road, I could not pass it up, and so far I am glad I got it!

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Golf Cart

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Price Paid:    $600.00

Purchased At:   private party

Similar Products Used:   none

Bike Setup:   Sram x-7 shifters, Avid juicy 3's, Kenda Nevagals,

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by funrunner99 a Cross Country Rider from Folsom, CA, USA

Date Reviewed: February 5, 2009

Strengths:    Very light, stiff frame, great handling, awesome fork. Climbs well, great traction, especially when standing! Nice geometry, overall really nice package.

Weaknesses:    Bottom bracket is a little on the low side. Fork is awesome but may be a little higher on the maintenance than some others.

Bottom Line:   
This is the best handling most comfortable mountain bike I have ever been on. I haven't ridden a ton of MTB's, used to be a roadie racer but now mostly MTB riding with a little racing. I had a 2005 Heckler for a couple of years with 5+ travel front and rear, never could get used to the suspension, front or rear. The lefty fork on this bike is by far the smoothest, stiffest fork I have ever ridden. Almost don't even know it's doing it's thing. The lockout lever is right up by the bars, very easy to use with your thumb so I find I use it way more than my last bike. It also locks absolutely solid when engaged which is really cool. The only downside is they do require a little more maintenance but I think the tradeoff is worth it. I didn't have one of the recall forks but I needed to change the spring to a heavier one so I had my LBS send the fork to Cannondale to have it rebuilt, service was really quick.

With the 29" wheels I don't miss the rear suspension except on the roughest trails, and then not enough to go back. Might try one of those suspension seat tubes someday, but not in any hurry. This bike is amazingly light and stiff, only 23.5 lbs with the Stan's NoTubes and so far takes everything my 215 lbs. has thrown at it. The only week link so far is I had the rear WTB dual duty rim develop a crack, replaced it with the Stans rim. I bought the bike from a sponsored rider who raced it one season so the rim may have already been on the way out but I am sure my size didn't help! LOL

I am also totally sold on the 29'er thing. The big wheels really fly on the flats and downhills, great traction. Climbing is the best of any bike I have ever been on, great when seated and even better if you get out of the seat, the rear tire just stays planted and keeps digging. I am sure Cannondale's geometry helps but the big tires really work. Really the only gripe I would have with this bike is that I do bang a pedal every now and then due to the bottom bracket height a little more than I recall on other bikes. It bothered me at first but now that I have been on it a while I adjust for it most of the time so it's not a big deal.

This is the third Cannondale bike I have had over the last 20+ years, one road bike and two MTB's. Some may look down their noses at Cannondales but my experience has been awesome with all of them. Quality is excellent, welds and frames are beautiful and for the price I don't know if you can beat them. I don't have any warranty experience because I have never needed it but if my fork rebuild experience says anything I don't think you need to worry. Hate to sound like a rep or something but just calling it like I see it. And again, can't say enough about the 29'er thing, I know I will never go back.

As far as the ratings, I know I bought my bike used but for this frame and fork setup I think even at retail it would still be a great deal, guess you will have to decide that!! Or you just wait for one to pup up on MTBR or EBay!!LOL Have a great day, see ya at the races!!

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Flume Trail

Duration Product Used:   1 Year

Price Paid:    $1250.00

Purchased At:   EBay

Similar Products Used:   Last bike was a full suspension Santa Cruz Heckler, my last hardtail was a old Schwinn MOS that I had 15 years ago. Also rode a Cannondale hardtail with a solid fork back in the late 80's.

Bike Setup:   Raw colored 2008 medium frame with 80mm Lefty fork. Stock front hub with WTB Dual duty rim, rear WTB race lite hub with Stans rim, run both tubeless. Shimano XTR cranks with ceramic bearings, XT front deraileur & Crank brother Eggbeater pedals. SRAM X-9 rear deraileur, ceramic bearing pulley wheels, 991 chain & 990 ultralite cassette with SRAM X-9 & X-0 twist shifters. Avid Juicy three brakes, front 185mm, rear 160mm. Selle Italia SLR Ti saddle on a carbon post & Race face flat bars with ODI lock on grips, Cateye Micro wireless computer. Some TI nut & bolts thrown in for fun. Bike weighs 23.5 lbs.

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by David Hegg a Cross Country Rider from Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Date Reviewed: May 9, 2008

Strengths:    Geometry, Lefty, fairly decent stock component group

Weaknesses:    rear wheel, particularly the rear hub....Why would Cdale put an Alivo hub on a $1600MSRP bike??

Bottom Line:   
I really fell in love with this bike when I took it for a test ride. It felt smooth, responsive, easy to pedal, etc..that was just on the streets. On the trail it excels at climbing, it descends fantastic, it's smooth over rocky, rutty trails. Just a great all around bike.

I would have happily paid more to have the heart of the rear wheel built around an LX or XT level hub. Alivo line hub???WTH Cannondale? My 7 year old son's mountain bike has an acera level hub laced into a 24 inch wheel and you are putting this into a 29r?

Others have complained about the BB5 discs. I am a Clyde and really haven't had any trouble with mine. Downhill stopping power is strong enough to throw me over the bars if you grab too hard. I am not saying an upgrade to hydros or bb7 isn't a good upgrade, but if you can't stop with bb5s, they were not properly set up or they are faulty. Mine are very strong, just a bit grabbier than I would like.

For the pricepoint, this is in incredible bike overall. I was actually happy with the X7 shifters/derailleurs, I just had an extra set of XTR dual control shifters that I prefer to use. I wound up moving the X7s to one of my sons bike and they work great.

Got a great price for an 07 model at the end of last season.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Yankee

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Price Paid:    $1000.00

Purchased At:   Ada Bike

Similar Products Used:   Cobia, Xcaliber, Rockhopper, Stumpjumper, Kona
All 29" versions


Bike Setup:   XTR shifters, brake levers, and derailleurs, stock everything else.

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Kristopher Robbins a Cross Country Rider from Denver, CO

Date Reviewed: March 13, 2008

Strengths:    I just bought this bike as an 07 closeout and they really hooked me up good at Treads Bike shop.(Much thanks to Bill) The thing that really sold me on this bike is how well the frame and fork are setup, which is what is essential to a cannondale bike. The frame looks super strong but is amazingly light. I am not the kind of guy who dumps a lot of money into a bike but you cant beat all that Cannondale put into this package. I am an intermediate XC racer who plans to be stepping it up this summer with the Leadville 50. This bike seems like the way to do it in terms of rolling good and keeping it light. I also like the general feel of the bike in terms of comfort. My old Hardrock left me hurting after a few hours of riding. The Caffeine keeps me coming back for more which is exactly what I need when it comes to making the checkpoints at Leadville. I have also noticed my confidence level improving with the Caffeine. I have soared past my buddies and technical areas I used to have problems with are a figment of the past, even at Red Rocks. I think the Lefty Fork is really neat and it reminds me of my BMW motorcycle. You may think that it has potential to break and or be a bad design but it's really nice. I will admit that I am still freaked out when I look down and don't see my other fork. Plus, it's made right here in the good old USA back in PA where I grew up.

Weaknesses:    The shift wire for the crank is badly exposed and is the same for the 08 models. (Not good for me. AKA Mr. Clumsy Feet) Also, the stock brakes are not good for a 29er. Upgrade to bigger disks at a minimum and hydraulic ones if possible. Remember you have a lot more forward force you have to stop. If you weigh more than 200 lbs, definitely go with different brakes.

Bottom Line:   
Life is too short not to ride something you don't like. The Caffeine is everything I've wanted in a hardtail and so much more. It climbs great, descends fast, and is aggressive but comfortable. You only have opportunities to ride historic races like the Leadville 50 very few times in your life. Choose a bike like the Caffeine that will take you there at full speed and not hold your potential back. You get so much from Cannondale with this package including a good front shock, handmade American frame, 29 inch wheels, minimal weight, and a good reputation. I cant say enough good things about it and I hated Cannondale growing up. (talk about irony) Oh, and the customer support is good too if you have the lefty fork recall. (No biggy) I never considered myself a Cannondale guy but they really hit a home run and appealed to a new customer with this bike. (That's why they made a few new models this year) I say keep up the good work and let the numbers speak for themselves.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Walker Ranch

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Price Paid:    $1400.00

Purchased At:   Treads

Similar Products Used:   Motobecane 29er, Specialized rockhopper 29er, GF Supercaliber 29er, and a Kona 29er.

Bike Setup:   Candy clipless and new Avid Juicy 7's. Screw the cable brakes.

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Neil a Cross Country Rider from NYC

Date Reviewed: January 24, 2008

Strengths:    Stable handling, Lefty performance.

Weaknesses:    Weight

Bottom Line:   
In the market for a 29er, I really wanted to stick with steel, but did not want to go unsuspended or go back to a typical suspension fork. So it was the Lefty really swayed me back to Cannondale (I owned a '91 hardtail, which was replaced with a steel Kona a few years later).

I test rode an F29 in Manhattan, and the store is downtown, near lots of cobblestone/pothole ridden streets. I locked out the suspension for most of the ride and immediately noticed two things:
1. the bike's comfortable geometry
2. the benefits of the larger wheels

I liked the somewhat upright geometry - it's comfortable and the frame just felt nicely balanced. The bigger wheels smoothed out the ride and really rolls over obstacles more easily than a 26".

When I later got the bike on the trail, the bike's feel really kicked in. The best way to describe it is stability. I could ride with lots of confidence on sketchy down-hills and it climbed better than my old Kona, which was very surprising. The bike rides a lot lighter than it actually weighs. And yes, the Lefty feels better to me, than any suspension fork that I've ever used.

On a side note, I purchased the bike in August, but I needed to replace the frame (I just received the new frame yesterday - it's Jan!). I noticed on my first ride that the right seatstay had a small dent. I didn't mind it aesthetically, but the rear wheel wasn't sitting straight. So, the old frame was swapped out, and now I have a properly aligned frame. Cannondale's customer service was great - I'm not sure if the delay was on the shop end or Cannondale's, but I have it now, and that's all I care about.

I think the F29 is a great introduction for someone interested in the 29er world. I really dug the benefits of the bigger wheels, with the stability and feel of the Lefty fork. Throw in the thoughtfully designed geometry of the frame, and you get a fun bike for long rides on a variety of trails. Worth a test ride.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Hither Hills

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Price Paid:    $1400.00

Purchased At:   Toga

Bike Setup:   Stock (2007 F29)

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Jeff a Weekend Warrior from Overland Park, Ks.

Date Reviewed: December 4, 2007

Strengths:    Fun, fun, with a little more fun thrown in.

Weaknesses:    None on Cannondales part.

Bottom Line:   
This should speak for itself.

http://s186.photobucket.com/albums/x89/selinnah/?action=view¤t=F29.flv


The bike is a ton of fun, that's why we ride isn't it?
Holds a line well, and not the flat stuff. It will
disappear under you in the technical stuff.
The Lefty is easy to maintain, performed the
fork service myself. The bike came with proper
instructions and technical manuals.

Thanks Bedford!

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Landahl, Burp,

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Price Paid:    $1600.00

Purchased At:   LBS

Similar Products Used:   There is nothing similar to the Lefty.

Bike Setup:   Stocks sans Time Atacs

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Clint Hosman a Racer from Mesa Az USA

Date Reviewed: October 25, 2007

Strengths:    The Frame is impeccable.

Weaknesses:    Stock it did not meet what I wanted but I was willing to deal with that to get the frame.

Bottom Line:   
A 29er is not for everyone or every situation. I am 6’1 with a 34 inch inseam and have always felt cramped on 26 inch bikes. I ride rocky lose terrain with sandy corners. I like riding for distance and time and in these two respects this bike excels. Out here in the desert where you have to carry momentum through lose corners and in and out of washes and nothing is better for that then a 29er. I have raced this rig at a couple NORBAs at ski resorts and it is tough to motivate those big wheels up steep ski slope hills but once the course flattens or you head down hill people better get out of this bikes way.

With that being said and assuming you know what you are looking for this bike kicks ass. I have seen a number of other 29ers have frame issues with bigger guys breaking the longer chain stays but this bike takes hits like nobodies business. A flat bar is a must on any 29er in my opinion to compensate for the slightly slower turning speed of the big wheels and once that was done the handling through corners can not be beat. On this bike through the tech sections you have a couple choices, just hit it straight on and use the increased angle of attack and traction to power through it. Or use the increased stability of the format to plan your route. The stiffness of the frame feels solid when you come plowing off a steep section at speed and hit an obstacle. It is a very confidence inspiring frame in that respect.

With the 2008 models having a number of parts specs everyone should be satisfied. It also has a wider tire clearance which was never a problem for me. If you are looking at jumping into the 29er world a Cannondale is a reliable bike made here in the states.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Hawes

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Purchased At:   Focus in Gilbert AZ

Similar Products Used:   Kona, Niner

Bike Setup:   XTR crank, Sram XO all around, Mugura Marta SL, Stan’s ZTR Laced to a king Hub in back (Put together by the best wrench in the valley, Glen at south mountain rocks.) Ritchey flat bar and SDG I-beam seat post and seat. Maxxis Cross Mark tires run tubeless.

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Marty a Cross Country Rider from Dynnyrne

Date Reviewed: October 7, 2007

Strengths:    Frame: Attention to detail, feels bullet-proof, is very comfy, and the paint scheme is special

Weaknesses:    Component line-up, mainly the wheel/tyre choice and the horrible brakes

Bottom Line:   
I am a very picky consumer and it took me the better part of a year to decide on this bike. Many others were considered but the value for money (even in AUS market) was great, then the test ride was even better. It feels like the bike has decades of experience engineered into it, oh, it does!
BUT... I am desperately researching what brakes to upgrade to on this rig (keeping in mind the limited clearance for rotor sizes on the Lefty and even the rear chain-stay curves, I think 170mm will be the biggest. But 160mm should be fine with a decent set of hydraulics), as the BB5 mech's are horrible. I thought they would bed in eventually and get better, but they only marginally got better, then I had to replace the tiny pads that wore out. They dangerously would not pull me up at the end of some nice DH's, that my old basic shimano hydro's could do with one finger and no qualms. Oh, I am a light-weight rider as well.... so it isn't due to excess weight on the bike ;) I think once you've had fluid brakes you can't go back to cables: YUCK!
Next, is also lightening the load on the wheels. Yes, I know it is a drawback of the bigger wheel size, but my old Paragon 29eR was HEAPS lighter with its bontrager gear on it. I thought with one less fork stantion this caffeine would compare weight-wise, but it is WAAY heavy for a HT.... although, these wheels have taken some nasty hits and I have yet to re-true them, still running beautifully straight. So, not as anxious to replace those, maybe once they do break? And possibly after experimenting with no-tubes and other rubber as these exi-wolves aren't light either and they aren't very grippy....
Those 2 short-comings that I don't consider to be the bikes fault due to the relative price that allowed me to buy it brand new versus other makes, was a calculated compromise. If you know what I mean?! The frame more than makes up for the components which I planned on upgrading once they wore out/broke/got sick of anyway.
SO, bottom line of the "Bottom Line", best bike I've ever ridden for my style of riding. If you want to get 100% of your power down, if you want to be comfy all day (on a HardTail!), if you want a bike that will evolve and grow with you, if you like FullSuss feel but hate the "wiggle"..... I could go on and on, it is a really nice ride! Here's to the boys and gals in Pennsylvania!

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   6 months

Price Paid:    $2300.00

Similar Products Used:   GF Paragon, Niner EMD, Speccy XCpro, GT LTS-2, and other 26" clad bikes

Bike Setup:   STOCK

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Jeff a Weekend Warrior from Overland Park

Date Reviewed: August 9, 2007

Strengths:    Great handling, excellent craftmanship, good value!


Weaknesses:    I would have liked a little more clearance for the
rear tire. Avid mechanical brakes, have nothing to do with the bike-


Bottom Line:   
The bike is made well, handles better than I assumed it would. The craftsmanship is there. I really like the Lefty,
it's very solid/stiff with no perceptable lateral movement.
The fork is supple and responsive. I look forward to riding
the wheels off of it. The fun meter goes to 11. I enjoy
the bike. I would recommend it to a friend with no doubt.
The price is good, especially for keeping the folks in
Bedford PA in a job. This bike functions as intended, and
does what it's asked to do. I am not saying this just because I have one. It's the truth. A bike is only as good
as it's frame, this one however, has a fork made by the
same people. So basically I'm giving a review on the frame
and fork, the rest of the components have nothing to do with Cannondale.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Blue River Parkway

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Price Paid:    $1599.00

Purchased At:   Larryville

Similar Products Used:   Rigid 29er SS

Bike Setup:   Factory, sans Candy C's /Lefty

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by mtbpresident a Cross Country Rider from Ripon, WI

Date Reviewed: July 14, 2007

Strengths:    comfort, Cannondale quality, sweet ride

Weaknesses:    original parts were heavy, original brakes not up to the quality of the rest of the bike, original crankset was weak

Bottom Line:   
Great ride, climbs like a goat, descends under control, and built by one of the greatest bike companies in the world. Who can ask for more. I plan to race it tomorrow!

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Porcupine Rim (Moab)

Duration Product Used:   3 months

Price Paid:    $1300.00

Purchased At:   eBay

Similar Products Used:   Gary Fisher Montare

Bike Setup:   Shimano LX cranks, Hayes HFX-9 disc brakes (6" rear, 7" front), Shimano XT front and rear derailleurs, Time A.T.A.C. pedals, Serfas Furano saddle. The rest of the setup is stock

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by chris a Weekend Warrior from Pittsburgh

Date Reviewed: May 11, 2007

Strengths:    Lefty! Frame is light and stiff and is a perfect fit for me.

Weaknesses:    Stock tires. Rear tire clearance. Stock rotors.

Bottom Line:   
The rear tire clearance is minimal, to say the least. I'm surprised that Cannondale let this go (1st C-dale for me, so I don't know if the 26” Caffeine or other hardtails are similar). It doesn't affect me that much because the hills of Western PA don't get as muddy in the spring as some other areas I've lived in and, as such, I don't anticipate too many instances where I'm going to get mud packed on the frame. If you ride in a lot of mud, you have to seriously consider this issue.

To be kind, stock tires are sketchy in all conditions I've ridden so far (mostly hard pack and loose over hard pack). I didn't fully realize this when test riding or I would have asked my LBS to switch them out.

Also, the stock rotors are too small for this bike - seems like a really weak effort to cut costs. I made a slight upgrade to the brakes, but should have switched out the rotors at the same time. While there is adequate stopping power as is, there's definite room for improvement. I'll get to this soon enough.

Other than those points, this bike has been awesome so far (albeit 'so far' is only one month). I test rode a bunch of bikes and this one just seemed to offer the best fit for me. Almost immediately, I felt comfortable on this bike, almost like it was built specifically for me. To note, I'm a little over 6' tall - it seems like taller people generally like 29'ers - but I must say that this seemed to fit me even better than the other three 29'ers I tried.

After test riding about 12 bikes, of different shapes/sizes, I narrowed my choice to the Kona Unit 2-9 and the Stumpjumper Comp (both of which are really sweet rides), but I just felt most comfortable on the Caffeine. As such, the ride is incredible.

As advertised, the 29" tires roll over everything. While this bike climbs very well, I can't say I've noticed a significant climbing difference, when seated, over a 26" bike. What is a noticeable improvement, and I think I read this somewhere else about this bike, is when you get out of the saddle. Basically, it seems that you have a lot more flexibility, in terms of body position, when you climb out of the saddle - the rear wheel always seems firmly planted - which makes the bike feel especially nimble going up and this aspect of the bike extremely fun.

Overall, this bike handles extremely well for me in tight, twisty singletrack. With a slightly different body lean/position (compared to a 26"), this bike feels like it dispatches corners with ease. I'm sure a lot of that can be attributed to the Lefty, which is quickly shaping up to be the best fork I've ever ridden. Laterally stiff like nothing else and getting smoother with every ride. I was apprehensive at first, and almost went with another bike because of the fork, but I'm totally happy with it already.

Value wise, it's a tough call. I'm going to go with a 4 because, at a similar price point, the GF technically has a better part spec. (except for the fork) and, while the C-dale has a better frame, the tire clearance thing is a competitive drawback.

Overall rating, I'm going for a 5 because the fit of this bike, for me, is basically perfect and the result is an awesome ride. While fit is specific to every rider, I'd highly recommend giving this bike a ride, if you've given just the slightest thought of going with a 29'er.

Expand full review >>

Favorite Trail:   Vulture's Knob

Duration Product Used:   Less than 1 month

Similar Products Used:   First 29'er Test rode other 29'ers: GF Paragon, Kona Unit, a Raleigh 29'er (forgot the model name). Also test rode nearly a dozen differnt 26", including the Specialized Stumpjumper Comp

Bike Setup:   Stock except Avid Juicy 5's and TruVativ FireX w/external BB.

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