Strengths: Light for the money, super agile, smooth among hardtails without sacrificing feeling of efficiency. And the Lefty, a God among forks.
Weaknesses: The 2013 Lefty is exceptional compared to other forks, but loses a hair to the 2012. The addition of a bushing at the bottom does add static friction and the new stroke feels more linear throughout the range, which makes the fork feel like it is riding at the top of its travel. This is most noticeable when you hit washboard at speed (30+ mph). The 2012 Lefty soaked it up and remained active the entire time, the 2013 gets overwhelmed and starts to buck a little. This is mitigated when the fork breaks in more, but on the whole the 2013 never feels as bottomless at the 2012 did. Bummer. Also, it would be nice to move the entire F29 line over to rear thru-axles as they really are stiffer with the appropriate hub.
I had a 2012 Flash 29er Carbon 3 and swapped the stock parts out. See below. For well less than the cost of the next model up, I had the bike at just over 20 pounds. I raced it in the Cape Epic (8 days in South Africa), local marathon MTB races, and at Marathon Nationals. On fast, flowing singletrack, it absolutely rips. The lefty tracks so straight and is so active even under hard cornering that it's just amazing. I am on a Cannondale team and just got the 2013 model, sold the 2012. The only downside is the "improved" Lefty is not quite as supple as the 2012, which is a bummer. The tradeoff is that it requires fewer bearing resets and doesn't get knock at the top of the rebound. Personally I would rather take the fork in a little more frequently and have it ride plush. Now the 2013 isn't BAD, it's still a really great fork.
I rode the 2013 Lefty again in South Africa (on the front of a scalpel) it for 8 days this March and it really started to break in by the end of the week, but that was after almost 600 miles, which is a lot of volume to break in a fork. I'll ride the F29 again this year for nontechnical XC and for select marathon races. There's just nothing like that bike. I actually prefer it over the Scalpel for pure fun of riding and to be really connected to the trail.
Similar Products Used: Gary Fisher Superfly 100 (broke 3 frames), Specialized Epic Carbon (for a few weeks), Stumpjumper S-Works 29er (for a few rides).
Bike Setup: I used Hollogram cranks with XX rings, XTR brakes, Easton EC70 bars, foam grips, SAVE post, Specialized Toupe Saddle, Stan's Crest or Race Gold wheels (this year Mavic's new 29er offerings) depending on the course, and ran mostly Maxxis Ikons, sometimes with an Ardent Front, occasionally Aspen Rear/Ikon Front. XTR pedals.
Date Reviewed: March 8, 2013
Strengths: 2013 version.
Everything, love it !!!
Yeah, you would do some upgrades, but what $3,000 bike doesn't.
Weaknesses: Although I love it, I've fell to the ground more than ever, and always to my right side. Maybe I just need more time on it.
The Lefty is impressive... really!!! You won't even notice, in almost every situation, that its a Lefty unless you look down and freak out thinking there's something missing.
I think that the right side is the weaker side, but you just need to overcome it. I dare to say this because i'm a competitive racer not a beginner and on certain impacts the handlebar swooshes to the right faster that you would expect.
Strengths: FRAME (weight, stiffness, geometry, compliance), racing ralph tires, the overall feel
Weaknesses: crankset, grips, brakes
This review is for the 2011 Flash 3 (Carbon)
I finally broke down and bought a new bike- I had been riding a 10 yo aluminum HT with rim brakes that had seen a lot of abuse. I am so happy now! This is such a sweet bike.
First, the good- I am much more confident (everyone says this, and until I rode this bike, I didn't know what they were really talking about), comfortable, technically adept, and fast. With a super easy lockout on the fork, the 10 mile ride to the trailhead from my house goes pretty fast. Then, on the trail, I fly, and the bike sticks well to the trail. Even with stock wheels, it's so light.
My complaints: The crankset. I had chainsuck issues, but I also banged up the big ring on a rock or something on the first ride. I still want to complain about it because there was no way to get a bashguard on it. I now run an x9 crank (with slightly smaller rings) and I"m totally thrilled.
The crappy grips just seem like such a poor choice. I quickly switched to the Oury grips (<$15) and have been happy.
The brakes. They squeal and squabble and gobble like a herd of turkeys. I complained to my LBS when I bought the bike, and they warranteed with SRAM, which had great customer service. They sent a bunch of rotor and pad options immediately, and we played with a bunch. Everything was noisy! The modulation and stopping power on these (I think we landed on the stock combo in the end) is great, but the turkey gobble resonates through the whole frame. I'm learning to live with it. One day I'll get XT or XTR brakes instead.
The tubeless setup is great. I now have an x9 Type 2 derailleur, and the bike is quiet to ride (except for brakes). The lefty is pretty nice, but I don't have much of a baseline. It's not the most plush fork I've ever used, but handling has always been great on this bike.
I test rode a bunch of similar bikes- An Orbea, the Stumpjumper, maybe one or two more. The others all felt like boats- very unresponsive, stable, and big. Then, I got on the Aluminum (Flash 2?) and fell right in love.
I see this bike everywhere- it's super popular. I love it. I would not have bought it for full price, and wouldn't have gone carbon if I hadn't been offered a deal I couldn't refuse.
Geometry matters- You should buy this bike if, after testing a bunch, you like this one. My sense is that Cannondale is making these bikes more user friendly now- easier to maintain fork, got rid of those FSA cranks. With the amazing frame, it's hard to knock. As parts break or I get more serious, I will consider further upgrades.
Strengths: Brutally fast,Lefty fork feels solid and amazingly sharp,looks good ,the Carbon 3 model is the best bang for the buck model and leave you some extra cash for some mandatory upgrades,agile and whippy as a 26.
Weaknesses: as of typical mid range/big names bikes way too many different components mixed together,some issues with drivetrain/shifting,the new Lefty although amazing does not comply well with small bumps,oem wheels are sturdy but heavy.
A long awaited return to the HT world. The bike is amazing,I've spent some extra money for upgrades and now she's already lighter than the carbon 2 but still 700 Euro cheaper. The thing that striked me mostly is how the bike manages to feel like a 26 but still retain the typical 29er advantages. The acceleration is immediate and the handling is piece of cake. It gives you a lot of confidence and the only limit is the rider's capabilities. Don't be afraid to push this bike's limits,she will be very forgiving. One final note I'm about to turn 40 and the bike is a HT, wich means if you're around my age invest in a good flexy carbon seat post,it will make a huge difference in terms of comfort over the oem Cannondale seatpost.
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: December 24, 2012
Strengths: Just bought a 2013 F29er carbon 3, a few words to describe it Light, fast and cool looking. Call me crazy but I can't stop looking at it, it's that nice. Yeah I know it's just a bike. But It feels right when you get on it. it makes you want to pedal hard and once it's on top gear your gone. It does exactly what cannondale says it does it flexes when you need it to and it gives you awesome pedal transfer. The seat post is great it has lots of shock absorbing flex and it's aluminum. I can't imagine how the carbon SAVE post feels. The bike and lefty suspension feels awesome and it just gives me confidence to do climes as much as drops. For some reason it just kept on climbing when I would normally just give up. Control is perfect I blame that on the lefty fork, wide handlebar and geometry. I'm so confident on this bike I'm going to start racing this next year. Wouldn't consider it with my old bike which was a huge upgrade from my Fuji aluminum 29er. The f29er is an affordable race bike that's awesome right out the box. Oh and the opi stem I just think its a great idea from cannondale to clean up all those screws from the back of the stem and make it smooth. And the new shimano xt shadow PLUS rear derailer is perfect it has a clutch system that eliminates chain slap. Google this system out it really works and avoids that nasty damage that the chain does to the frame or chain stay. Thumbs up for the tires to grippy yet low resistance. Don't regret buying the bike. Hope it lasts a few years cause it's just awesome.
Weaknesses: Besides not having enough time to ride the bike as much as I would like. I think that the shifters don't match the bikes general quality I can't seem to position them like I would like to without affecting the position of the brake levers. The handlebar is quite wide even though its good for control but the ends tend to hit the trees to much. And last the rear hub's engagement is not the best it feels alright because it's new but it definitely needs an upgrade to make the bike perfect.
Awesome race bike for the price paid almost 3 grand. I wish I had the money to buy the carbon lefty fork. Never owned a cannondale now can't see myself without it. I like the fact that its different especially due to the lefty suspension it just sets its self apart from the rest. I thought I was going to by a specialized but the style of the cannondale is just so cool I couldn't resist.
Date Reviewed: December 13, 2012
Strengths: I have the 2013 version of this bike. This is the fastest bicycle I have ever sat on and it came out of the shop (stock - with Stan's tubeless upgrade) weighing 22.7 pounds. The components are not top shelf, but they are very high quality and function. The 2x10 setup in the cassette and sprocket is great; it eliminates a lot of the redundancy that you get with 3 sprockets in the front. The lefty fork is unbelievably smooth and even though the lockout on the 3 is on the fork itself (instead of remote), it's very accessible, so there's no issues getting there. Oh... and another HUGE strength: FIND ME a better full carbon bicycle for 2800 dollars (what I paid). I just don't know of anything with a lifetime frame warranty, the quality of components, and overall solidness for that price...
Also, the frame geometry is absolutely fantastic. It is really designed for balance and speed. Because of a combination of lightness, geometry, components, and overall quality, the transfer from leg strength to the wheels feels VERY seemless and easy. My climbing and my sprinting have REALLY blossomed because of this bike.
Weaknesses: I don't know if it's fair to do this, but the main weakness I'm getting here is that the carbon frame behaves differently than the aluminum frames I've been used to. There's no flex and it resonates differently when I'm really pushing hard. (Not fair because that's a characteristic of carbon; not of the Cannondale bicycle.) Carbon snaps when it breaks; aluminum bends... It's really just an adjustment period I'm going through, but the adjustment period is lasting quite a while... MAYBE it's worth mentioning. (NOTE: i've experienced this same feeling on other carbon bikes like the Orbea alma and the trek superfly elite carbon 29er, so again: it's not Cannondale's fault.)
Let me give you a little back story on my purchase here: I was going to buy the 2012 version of this bike on layaway. I was borrowing my friend's 2012 (a shop owner who let me race on it) and I loved it, except for two things: I hated the saddle (fizik) and the rims (sunrigle infernos). I just didn't like them and planned on changing them out on my new bike. I was convinced by the shop owner to go for the 2013 since I was buying on layaway anyway and he'd give it to me for the same price. By pure coincidence, Cannondale must not have liked the saddle and the rims either, because they changed them both out for the 2013. (Prologo and WTB Frequency i19, respectively.) I'm not changing them out anymore. Sweet. If you're looking at a 2012 bicycle, consider my review - the saddle was uncomfortable (but everyone's butt's different, i know) and the rims were heavy and (i felt) kind of stiff.
The only other gripe i have (and i'm REALLY nit-picking here) is on the new rim. It's absolutely fantastic, but the rim width is a little narrower than I'd prefer... If i were putting together my dream bike piece by piece, i'd buy a rim with a width a little wider than 19mm (say, 21 or 22) in order to facilitate wider tires. Right now, i have 2.2's and that's fine, but i would have like the option of going 2.3
This bicycle is fantastic. I would buy it again and recommend it to all of my friends for cross country/ all mountain riding. If you look at the date of this review, my 2013 is still very new... I've had it since mid-October, but like I mentioned up there: I had been riding the 2012 for a few months before I bought one myself. (let that be a testament to what i think of the bike)
I've been on about 6 rides with the new bike and i'm still in the cable-stretching, nut-loosening, adjustment-needing, quirky stage of owning a new bicycle, but everything is adjusting well and it's starting to regulate. (I mention this because a few of the negatives I'm reading here really seem to be able to be attributed to this adjustment period and not the overall quality of the bicycle.... just sayin') I've had the 10mm hex nut loosen on the front sprockets and I'm constantly readjusting my derraileur limit screws as the cables get stretched out. Again: par for the course.
The bike is great. I'm a very, very happy owner and i'd recommend it to anyone.
Strengths: It's light weight, nimble handling, on-rails tracking, and all-day comfort have made this a great tool for xc racing, regular trail riding, and even long endurance days.
Weaknesses: It causes you to do way more mileage than you had planned. I find myself running out of daylight constantly.
THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2013 CANNONDALE F29 Carbon 3
I received this bike in August as a birthday gift. Since then, I have put almost 500 miles on it. The ride quality is amazing. The handling is quick but also forgiving. The rear is stiff enough to drive forward with every pedal stroke but supple enough to reduce chatter and track well. I hate to sound like a fanatic but that is exactly what this bike has turned me into.
I've tried and tried to ride beyond the limits of the bike and I'm finding it difficult. The Lefty does a phenomenal job at keeping the front glued. In a climb, slide forward on the Prologo X8 saddle and pedal away like the hill is flat. On the descent, just point it down and let it go. The F29 Carbon is a beast that feeds on speed. The faster it goes, the happier it is.
Normally, I would present the good and bad of a product. Perhaps I need for time with it. I'll come back and write another review in a few months. But, until now, I have nothing but positive things to say about this amazing machine. If you are a racer, recreational rider, endurance, whatever, this bike does it all.
Similar Products Used: 2012 Stumpjumper, Stumpjumper Evo, Epic.
Bike Setup: 2013 Lefty 90mm PBR, Elixir 7 180/160, SI Cranks, X7 FD, XT RD, WTB i19 Wheels, Racing Ralph Tires.
Date Reviewed: August 2, 2012
Strengths: Lightweight, stiffness, race monster!
Weaknesses: paint aint hard enough. easy paint job damages with rough use....
standard mixed drivetrain components.
This a reply on al the chainsuck drivetrain issues.
Bought my 2012 flash carbon 3 this year. Standard delivered with the xt derailleur, kmc chain and sram drivetrain. To ridiculous!!!
On the drivetrain a sticker says: sram chain only!!!!! and still...cannondale still makes the choice of mixed parts delivery.
I direclty changed the complete setup. X9 derailleur, sram drivetrain, sram pc91 hollowpin chain and xo gripshifts. Shifts like a formula 1 racecar!!!!!! No problems at all after 6 months....
Chainsuck can happen with really muddy conditions but a mixed setup doesn't work as good as originally matched components. This should be an issue at cannondale's tech department.....
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: May 11, 2012
Strengths: Hard to find a better bike dollar-for-dollar. Carbon frame is stiff and compliant in all the right places; Lefty fork is the most laterally rigid fork I've used; mix of drivetrain components work in good harmony (no instances of chain suck - believe previous issues were the fault of the FSA crankset used in the earlier model). Geometry is well balanced so it climbs and descends nicely. SAVE technology saves your body from the abuse that the rocks and roots dish out. Lightweight - my large frame with pedals is 23.5lbs. The color scheme ain't bad either.
Weaknesses: For what the bike costs, I have no complaints. As I find extra money, I would like to upgrade the wheels to something a little lighter and stiffer. The Avid Elixirs were squeally mothers at first and had a shimmy. I think this was the result of the pads not being seated properly at first. I swapped the pads out for SwissStops and they've been good ever since. Doesn't say: "Handmade in the USA" on the seat stay.
For the price, Cannondale cooked up a great bike. I've riding an aluminum singlespeed 29er for serveral years, but wanted something with gears to add to the quiver. I had a budget of $2k, which can get you into a number of solid bikes. While checking out the aluminum version of the Flash, I stumbled upon the Carbon and felt that for a little extra, I could get so much more. So far, I feel the extra money has been well spent. It handles singletrack responsively, climbs efficiently, descends confidently and thanks to Cannondale's SAVE technology, doesn't kill your body after a long time in the saddle. There is so little left to be desired from the frame and fork. There are things I'd like to eventually upgrade, but out of the box this is a very solid bike with a good component mix.
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: May 7, 2012
Strengths: Overall Great Bike. Amazing Quality components and a Bargain for a Carbon Frame. Lefty fork was not what I exepect in good Way I was use to very stiff (XC) forks Manitou's Skareb's and Minute's, Cannondale Fatty comes to mind. Lefty is different Great small bumps absortion and does a great work when big drops and medium rocks come in the way. On rocky technical terrain the bike shines I may say better than a 26er Full Suspension ( Santa Cruz Blur XC ). Tires are great Schalbe Racong Ralph had no problems on wet terrain. Shifting is Flawlwss with Shimano XT and a Mix of SRAM X7. Great Brakes highly modular and versatile. I expected that due to the bike was a hardtail I will be wishing for my Full Suspension Bike but to my surprise the Flash 3 Carbon was better handling, bumps and rock eating machine. Only flaw was the grips, very chap and high fatigue on the hands. Handle bar is wide great until you hit extremely twisty single tracks with trees very close to the trail path. I think I will have to get use to that.
Weaknesses: Only flaw was the grips, very chap and high fatigue on the hands.Have to get use to Wide handlebar
Great Light Frame, Great component package. Lefty was a surprise in good great way. Very Happy with my purchase
Strengths: Lefty stifness, climbing capabilities, lite and smooth descender for a hardtail.
Weaknesses: Can't think of anything
Disregard the earlier reviews, because I have the 2012 model and it's an amazing bike. Super light out of the box. The lefty is awesome and super stiff. The geometry just feels good for super efficient climbing, but relaxed while descending too. The bike surprisingly eats up rough terrain very well. I want to upgrade the wheels to some Stans Crest though. I have a Trek Fuel EX8 as well, so I debated forever about FS or hardtail 29er. I am happy with my choice, especially after a podium finish at my first race with this bike.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: April 8, 2012
Strengths: Very lightweight frame, lefty fork
Weaknesses: Crankset, wheelset (Sun), Avid Elixir CR Mag brakes (spongy, unpredictable setup like a drama queen)
I essentially bought this bike for the carbon frame and lefty fork. It's the cheapest carbon flash in the lineup. Stiff front end with good traction due to the lefty, very light, and fast. The main highlight for me is the stiff frame and the Lefty Fork. Its one of the best Fork I've ever ridden in terms of trail compliance, traction, and being stiction free. With the current setup, this bike is an outstanding machine. If you're looking for a fast bike with a lefty, then this is your bike.
I ran the original setup tubeless (Sun rims) and got it down to 22++lbs. It ran ok for a couple of weeks, but wheelset was heavy. So I replaced it and it made a huge difference. I didn't have any chainsuck issues like the others, but keep in mind I ran a 9sp setup and I want to stick to my XTR Rapid Rise Derailleur.
One major issue I had was the stem. If it was installed improperly, it will creak!. I had to remove the OPI stem assembly, greased all the threads liberally with a stiff brush (a must), then reassembled them. Noise went away and never came back. You will need the "Ernie" lefty steerer install tool to remove the OPI stem available at www.cannondaleexpert.com. Otherwise, try to get creative with home made tools and you may just destroy the fine threads under the upper stem.
Bike Setup: Only thing left stock after 1 year is the fork and crappy Avid brakes. Stan's Crest Wheelset, Cannondale Flash Seatpost, FSA K-Force crankset, Niner carbon bars, XTR Rapid Rise shifter and derailleur (I'm old skool), Specialized Phenom Saddle, Maxxis Ikon Tires. Total wt: 21.25lbs
from Arlington, MA
Date Reviewed: March 14, 2012
Strengths: Smooth for a hardtail, nimble, stiff. Lefty fork tracks better than any other, more responsove.
Weaknesses: Finish quality of adhesive chain guard, helicopter tape etc not perfect. Lefty's have to be serviced more often. Came with Avid/SRAM brakes which are spongy,have to be adjusted too often, and use corrosive DOT fluid. Switched to XTR with ICE rotors, big 180mm in front (even though I'm light) and stopping power and modulation is much, much better.
I rode a Gary Fisher SF100 last year and raced it a million times, broke 3 frames. THis year I am on a cannondale sponsored team and took the option of the least expensive flash, stripped parts from it, sold them, and put my own collection of parts on it. It is under 19 pounds without pedals, but incredibly solid, and for a hardtail eats up an incredible amount of chop. I would say for smoother, flowing courses, I don't miss the full squish at all. Riding the lefty is a dream. For the money, the Carbon 3 out of the box is about 22 pounds (if you run it tubeless on the Sun Wheels) and is an amazing platform to upgrade. If you already have fast wheels, it makes more sense to get the 3 than the 2. I have the same reservations with Carbon that others have and the rear derailleur guillotine problem is a known entity, more risky per the mechanics if you run SRAM as it tends to wrap around often. I love riding this bike. I just feel very connected and intuitive on it in a way that I did not on my full squish and more so than other hardtails. If comfort is less important and you only want rigidity for XC racing, the Stumpy 29er is amazing. I do longer races, so appreciate the supple ride of the 'Dale.
I just read the review posted by Cainam and experienced some of the same issues - and then some.
Within weeks of buying the Flash Carbon 3, my chain also came off multiple times and wrapped around the bottom bracket when shifting down from the big gear in front, without putting any real pressure on it. And since it is a light-weight high-end chain, it immediately got warped just a tiny bit and then caused the rear gears to jump unexpectedly until I replaced the chain.
But that was only the beginning. Four months after buying the bike, I was on a trail and rode over a small stick that got stuck in the rear derailleur. It ripped off the derailleur (stuff happens), but not until it first cracked the carbon frame right where the derailleur is mounted. I walked my $3,000 bike five miles out of the woods to be told by the shop that the entire frame had to be scrapped.
I reached out to the folks at Cannondale. Clearly, this had to be a warranty issue. The first email from the rep back to me was (and I quote): "Hey...you had some questions about the frame you broke?" It went downhill from there. The best they could do was offer me a 20% "crash discount" on a replacement carbon frame - for $2,000. Way to stand behind your product Cannondale.
At the end, I swapped the frame for the "cheap" alloy version. While they put the bike back together, the shop informed me that the Lefty fork had to be re-built and the bearings in the bottom bracket replaced. All after just four months of weekend riding.
Including repairs, I've spent $4,000 on a mediocre bike with mechanical issues. But it looked awesome for a while.
a Cross Country Rider
from Bremerton, WA
Date Reviewed: August 25, 2011
Strengths: Geometry feels good. Light carbon frame, but still stiff in the right directions.
Weaknesses: HORRIBLE drivetrain - bad to the point of being dangerous.
When I got the bike, I was really excited. I've been wanting a Cannondale for years, but the price has been out of my reach. And although the Flash 3 is at the low end of the series, it still costs $3000. This should be a really sweet ride. . .
Unfortunately, it is a mix of pretty good and downright terrible. The frame and geometry setup is great, it rolls great, and as long as I don't hit any bumps or try to shift gears, it is a nice bike to pedal.
A small bump that you would normally ignore and keep pedaling over causes the rear derailluer to try to shift, then spring back. If you are pushing at the time, it will scare you half to death.
If you are pedaling with any force AT ALL - anything but freewheeling and just moving the drivetrain along to allow it to shift, the chain WILL wrap around the bottom bracket when going down from the big gear. Cannondale puts a little aluminum and plastic sticker on the bottom bracket to help protect it when this happens. Mine got ripped off the first time the chain hit it. True quality engineering there, folks.
The bike has been back at the shop, and there isn't anything out of adjustment. That's just how the drivetrain works.
I wonder if the problem is the big mix of components they are using: FSA crank and front chainrings, KMC chain, Shimano rear cogs, and SRAM deraillures. 10 speed systems have alot closer tolerances, and mixing the drivetrain group may just be a bad idea.
The bike looks very good, and now that I have spent some time with it I get the feeling that is really what Cannondale is all about - looks and snob appeal rather than making a functional piece of machinery. I can go to Toys 'R' Us and get a low end bike that actually works for less than 1/10th of what I paid for this. (Actually, they have a Huffy mountain bike there for $80.) It would weigh a ton, and it would break if I hop off a curb, but it would work.
Yes, I did just unfavorably compare Cannondale to Huffy.