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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After lots of test rides and consideration for my first mountain bike in twenty years, I have narrowed it down to either the Cannondale Caffeine 29er or the Niner A.I.R 9. I have ridden the 'dale four times on the street, and spent two hours on the trail with a Niner S.I.R. 9 -- no aluminum Niner to test, unfortunately.

Bottom line is that I love the Lefty on the 'dale, but I don't want to deal with the hassle of removing the wheel for transporting the bike in my car, nor do I want to regret the limitations of a dedicated shock system, in case I would ever want to upgrade in the future. I also suspect the Niner frame is of higher quality and is more likely to last me longer.

I would upgrade the brakes on the 'dale to Magura Marta or Avid Juicy 7, so the drivetrains would be similar. The Niner will cost more money, but will be easier to transport, and have that wonderful Tang Orange color. I suspect the Reba is inferior to the lefty, but can't be sure if the 'dale no-stiction deal is really all that significant.

How does a guy make this decision?
 

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I ride the F29 for a couple of weeks now and I really like it. I don't know much about the niner, but I like to mention a few things about the Cannondale that you might want to consider.

The Lefty is for sure one of the best forks I tried. I come from a Marathon XC, which I thought was great, but the Lefty is stiffer, just as smooth and I really like the lock-out and rebound adjuster on top of the fork. I was told that it is pretty easy to service as well. Even if you need something fancier like stable platform etc. you can get Leftys with those features as well or put in a reducer headset and run any fork you like.

As for the quality of the frame... I don't think that's an issue with Cannondale's lifetime warranty.

The front wheel is really easy to remove. All you need is an Allen wrench, which you probably carry anyway.

Instead of the Avid 5 brakes (they work just fine), you should invest into a new wheelset and tires. Both are very heavy. Other than that I really enjoy the bike and would buy it again.
 

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My vote would be for the Niner, but I haven't ridden a Caffeine. The Air-9 is Scandium, so in theory, it should be more forgiving than the Cannondale. I have an old school Cannondale SM-700 26" mountain bike that is ultra stiff and light, but very harsh. Now, I haven't ridden any recent Cannondales, so keep that in mind. The Air-9 is a good balance between steel and aluminum. Nice and light and not harsh, but still stiff. Good luck with the choice, I don't think you can go wrong with either bike. BTW, I am not affiliated with Niner, just have one of their frames...
 

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Francois, from this Thread

" Cannondale Caffeine 29er: Aluminum, Med, Lefty, gearie, ~90 stem, risers, Maxxis Ignitors. This is my first trail ride on a Lefty fork other than riding Aotsy's One9 with a Lefty for 30 feet. The frame is far from the super stiff ride that Cannondale was known for 10+ years ago. This frame was quite supple through the harsh terrain. You could almost pass this as a steel frame. The Lefty fork is really nice. I mean really nice. So far, all the bikes were equipped with Rebas. The Lefty is more controlled both in rebound and compression. Coupled with the Caffeine frame, it made a nice riding package. With the Lefty, the bars end up being pretty high, for me. I lofted the front wheel a few times during some of the power climbs. Putting flat bars on this might have interfered with the fork lockout(which worked very well; rock solid when locked). "

Good stuff ;)
CDT
 

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try driving your car less
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I would get the cannondale. you see lots of folks going to great lengths to put a lefty on a niner. just make sure it fits. also, if the local cdale dealer has good service, then even better. if not, that might hold me back as not everyone knows how to work on a lefty.

for the car: get a roofrack that does not require wheel removal. if you normally remove both wheels to get the bike in the car; i ride with a guy who has a lefty. it's maybe 1 minute extra since he is now fast at it. i wouldnt let that hold you back.
 

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jpatkinson said:
Bottom line is that I love the Lefty on the 'dale, but I don't want to deal with the hassle of removing the wheel for transporting the bike in my car, nor do I want to regret the limitations of a dedicated shock system, in case I would ever want to upgrade in the future. I also suspect the Niner frame is of higher quality and is more likely to last me longer. The Niner will cost more money, but will be easier to transport, and have that wonderful Tang Orange color. I suspect the Reba is inferior to the lefty, but can't be sure if the 'dale no-stiction deal is really all that significant.

How does a guy make this decision?
Sounds like you already are on track based on your above statements. The whole front wheel thing would be a deal breaker on the 'dale for me...but the shock is VERY nice. I have no complaints about my reba. It is very nice as well.

The scandium is a very nice riding frame on the air9....not quite a steel bike but not an aluminum stiff ride either. I put a bonty post on which is more forgiving that a thomson and a bit lighter too. So far so good!

Here are some pics of mine....the tang is SO beautiful and I get so many compliments every time I ride.

Good luck....20 years for real !?!
 

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jpatkinson said:
I also suspect the Niner frame is of higher quality and is more likely to last me longer.
Cannondales are handmade in the US. What is the Niner warranty like? To my knowledge scandium is not a choice material for long-term durability. Cannondale has an extraordinarily liberal warranty and a frame trade-in program.
 

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I'm currently riding the Cannondale 29'er. I love it so far, the frame is stiff but not too harsh (and I'm coming from F/S) and the Lefty fork is great.

However, it is a portly bike in stock form. Most of that weight is in the wheels, something I noticed when changing a flat on the rear the other day. The good news is that the frame itself is very light, so you could upgrade as things wear out and end up with a nice light rig. The stock components are pretty nice for the price range and I'm happy with it as it is.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
On the way home from work today, I was heading to the Cannondale dealer to just buy the Caffeine ... but I ended up at the Niner dealer's shop. I feel more passionate about the Niner, and decided this was to be the bike. Then, I found out that the Niner has a TWO year warranty. Now, I am right back on the fence. Has anyone here ever used the frame warranty on their bike?
 

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try driving your car less
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jpatkinson said:
On the way home from work today, I was heading to the Cannondale dealer to just buy the Caffeine ... but I ended up at the Niner dealer's shop. I feel more passionate about the Niner, and decided this was to be the bike. Then, I found out that the Niner has a TWO year warranty. Now, I am right back on the fence. Has anyone here ever used the frame warranty on their bike?
If you are a big guy and ride hard and tend to break stuff... get a good warranty. If you never tend to break stuff, I wouldn't worry about it. Personally, I never seem to break stuff like other people, probably because of the location, style and frequency of my riding.

Really... this is not a rational purchase. Go with your passion. None of this expensive bike stuff makes sense. Don't try to make sense of it.

Do try to test ride, tho. If nothing else, for getting the right size.
 

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I too would find the front wheel issue to be a deal breaker. I own both fork mounts and the vaunted Thule sidearm upright mount, and personally I very much prefer being able to take the front wheel off easily and lock the bike down securely. The upright is fine for quick trips around town (since I bike to work from my son's daycare, I must install and remove my bike from the car a total of four times per day), but it is nowhere near as secure and I would hate using it for roadtrips to real MTB terrain. If this is a big deal for you too, I'd strongly lean towards the Niner.

Also (and again this is an issue of personal taste) I would prefer the steeper HA of the Niner to the somewhat slacker 'Dale. (Actually, to be truly honest I wouldn't get either, since both are too long in the TT for me -- but again, that's just me).
 

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Cannondale vs Niner

I have a Cannondale Prophet and a Niner Air 9. I like the looks of the Caffine 29er but I can't see buying a 30 lb hardtail. that is heavier than my Prophet. My Niner has a White Bros fork and a lot of lightweight stuff. It weighs 23 lbs in XL. For cross country the Niner is much faster than the Prophet.
 

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Cdale Details

I have been on mine just a few times but so far here are the high points of the bike.

-Lefty- Very VERY solid and smooooth as they get. I have tried other 29er sus forks and they have all felt very loose and noodly.

-Comfort- This bike might make my Rush even dustier. Now with 2 Single speeds I have little use for Full Suspension. I will still ride the rush when i go on super long or rocky rides. The F-29 paired with a carbon post and Rampage tires rides much like my Ti SS from Seven Cycles. Really!

-Traction. While this is true of all 29er's that i have ridden, I continue to be amazed at how well the tires stick to the ground. Many times during my last muddy ride I braced myself for 2 wheel drift but it never happened.

Clearance- This thing rolls over log piles like a BIGFOOT truck! So fun.

-Service- Cannondale's Warranty and Service are hard to beat. These guys spend more on R&D than advertising. None of the other big names can say that. The niner might be nice but this bike just rocks!

-Price- Here is where I am going to cause trouble. Just this week C-dale released TRADE-IN pricing on F-29er Frames. This means that if you have an old C-dale Frame hanging around you can score a NEW F-29er Frame for much much less than you think. This also goes for the Lefty. I am not going to give out the prices but your local dealer should have them by now. They can get the price from inside sales if they need.

-PIG.. The stock F-29 is a Pig for sure. It should shop at the Big and Tall (and Fat)store.
You can tear tons of weight off it in a hurry but you will spend a ton more $$$.

If you ride the stock version of this bike you may not be all that inspired. I was not. It is like driving a Porsche towing a trailer fill of cinderblocks. Not fun. The true spirit and capability of this bike became more clear with my build kit:

Here is the Build:

C-dale F-29 Frame (LG) Raw
Lefty Speed Carbon
White Ind ENO Disc rear Hud
C-dal Front Hub
Salsa Delgado 29er Disc Rims (silver)
14/15 DT Spokes (black)
Panaracer Rampage tires F+R
Easton EC 90 Post
WTB TI Saddle Rocket V
Seven TI Bar
Ergon Mag Grips
Magura Louise BAT 07 Brakes (very sweet!)
Race Face X-Type Cranks Surly 33t Steel Chainring
Raceface Bashring
XT BB (tossed the shitty raceface bb)
XTR SPD Pedals
Salsa Seat Clamp
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
jdog said:
The stock F-29 is a Pig for sure. It should shop at the Big and Tall (and Fat)store.
You can tear tons of weight off it in a hurry but you will spend a ton more $$$.
I didn't know I could just by the F-29 frame! If so, I will call the dealer today and get working on a price for a custom build for that bike! Niner is coming out with the MCR 9, but I think I would rather have a 'frame for life' than go with a new company who only backs up their frames for two years.

Thanks for the post!!! :thumbsup:
 
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