June 29, 2015 – There was some serious hyperbole flying at the launch of the CAAD 12. Cannondale alternately described themselves as the “high priests of alloy,” “alchemists” and finally, the “Aluminati.” It was all quite tongue in cheek but does drive home a simple point, Cannondale has and still does take aluminum more seriously than any other brand and considers it a point of pride to be the best.

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Hyperbole aside, they have every right to feel ownership of the material. They started it all back in 1983 when the rest of the world was on Columbus or Reynold’s steel and they haven’t stopped pushing the material. When carbon took over, Cannondale was the only major manufacturer to keep the accelerator on the floor of alloy R&D.

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The CAAD name (Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design) has been the top of the heap in aluminum since its debut and the CAAD10 was a big step forward, the real benchmark. Since other companies have rediscovered alloy and made some truly great bikes in the process, Cannondale has decide to move the goal posts, launching the 2016 CAAD 12.

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The new CAAD 12, they went with 12 because they felt it was too big a leap in performance to call it an 11, owes its gains to two technologies. The first is not new, Cannondale calls it SmartForm construction and it involves hydroforming, tapering, butting, mechanical shaping, double-pass smooth welds and 3D machining. The second technology is brand new and what Cannondale credits with much of the bike’s improvements -Tube Flow modeling. It’s something quite similar to what BMC calls ACE and employs in carbon design. The engineer defines the characteristics the tube must have, from stiffness and compliance to clearance for tires and basic dimensions. Tube Flow modeling software then creates and tests hundreds of virtual designs to find an optimal solution with optimal material distribution.

With Tube Flow modeling and SmartForm Cannondale was able to design in every feature the frame needed. Instead of actually denting or crimping tubes to create front derailleur or tire clearance every shape is mold in removing any possible stress points or inexact dimensions.

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With this process what frame did they build? The new CADD 12 is a reported 10% stiffer at the head tube and 13% stiffer at the bottom bracket. Of course if you had ridden a CAAD 10 and asked for more stiffness you must currently be at the tail end of a World Tour lead out train. The big improvement was in compliance. The new CAAD 12 has 50% more vertical compliance in the saddle thanks to the potent Speed SAVE rear end Tube Flow modeling helped the Cannondale engineers create.

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As always, System Integration is a big part of Cannondale’s design philosophy and with a SAVE seat post more than a 30% increase in compliance is added thanks to its narrow 25.4mm diameter. In fact it’s the same seat post the new EVO uses, just in a lower carbon modulus, except the Black Inc CAAD 12, that gets the same Hi-Mod post as the EVO. The fork is also shared across platforms, with again, the Black Inc getting the Hi-Mod and the rest of the CAAD 12 line getting a lower modulus version of the new Speed SAVE fork.

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The CAAD 12 shares more than just posts and forks with the EVO. It uses similar Speed SAVE tech out back, both run HollowGram cranks (with a new Cannondale SI forged crank on Shimano 105 CAAD models) and both use the Delta seat tube shape and new 73mm wide bottom brackets. Both bikes also share clearance for 28mm tires and have a slightly lowered bottom bracket to keep ride height consistent with bigger tires. In many ways, the CAAD 12 is the alloy EVO.

RELATED: Check out the new 2016 Cannondale SuperSix EVO

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How effective was all this tube shaping and System Integration on the scale? Raw frames are slightly lighter than the CAAD 10, 1o98 grams for the rim version and 1094 for the disc version. Cannondale was able to make the disc frame lighter than the rim version thanks to a slick, and patented, new flat disc mount. In addition to being very light, Cannondale found it passes its tandem level brake testing by a factor of 2. Riders that believe through axles and discs go hand in hand need not apply,  the CAAD 12 is traditional QR. If you want through axles for perceived stiffness or just accuracy of wheel install to mitigate disc rub the CAAD 12 is not for you.

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When System weights are considered the bike gets even lighter, lighter in fact than most carbon in its price point. When you factor in the seat post, fork and headset, it is 200g lighter than the CAAD 10 rim and 236g lighter than the CAAD 10 disc. HollowGram cranks can shave another 200grams off that number versus other high end cranks.

We’ll be getting a test bike in soon for long term test and are contemplating a fully alloy bike to see just how low on the scale nd high in the power transfer we can get in metal. Stay tuned for that.

The Builds
CAAD 12 Black Inc: Hi-Mod EVO Fork, Hi Mod SAVE seat post, Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 with HollowGram SiSL2 cranks and Mavic Ksyrium Pro WTS – 14.8lbs.
CAAD 12 Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 Disc: HollowGram Si cranks and Mavic Ksyrium Disc WTS – 17.8lbs
CAAD 12 SRAM Red 22: HollowGram Si cranks and Mavic Ksyrium WTS -15.8lbs
CAAD 12 Disc Ultegra 3: HollowGram Si cranks and Mavic Aksium Disc WTS – 18.3lbs
CAAD 12 Ultegra 3: HollowGram Si cranks and Mavic Aksium Elite WTS- 16.5lbs
CAAD 12 105 Disc 5: Cannondale SI cranks and Maddux RD 2.0 Disc – 18.9lbs
CAAD 12 105 5: Cannondale SI cranks and Mavic Aksium – 17.7lbs

USA prices TBD…

For more details check out cannondale.com