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I recently added two Cannondale Mountain bikes to the fold. '89 M500 and a '99 F1000, both mediums.

On the F1000, I was quite surprised that I can flex the rear stays with my V-brake alone. It took me a bit to find where the extra play was happening in the difference between the front and rear brake. The other day I was leaning against a truck tailgate with my handle bar, both brakes locked and I loaded the pedals and was shocked at how much the bike flexed. I went and grabbed the older M500 and did the same thing and the flex was nominal in comparison. Interestingly it was quite a different flex as well. The older M500 seems to rotate around the bottom bracket (the bottom bracket stays stationary and the top of the seat tube pulls over a bit). The F1000 seems to rotate around a point about 1/3 up the seat post (the bottom bracket pushes one way as the seat moves the other). Coming from an '88 Cannondale Crit/Shimano 105 road frame and a really tall Cannondale mountain frame of the same vintage and now adding these two bikes it would seem that Cannondales are getting 'mushy'. Not a word I would ever have associated with them.
 

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That "lean the bike and step on the pedal" flex test makes me laugh... You are testing (a) how much air you have in your tires and how flexible your tires' sidewalls are, and (b) how much flex there is in your wheelset.

As for the seat stays, having some ductility is a good thing to temper the ride. The point at which you can bow the stays is well past the point at which you will have locked the rear wheel...
 

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On a hardtail I wouldn't complain about compliance, so long as everything works as it supposed to.

On a modern full suspension, however, I'd like more stiffness than what my Prophet's rear swing arm provides.
 
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