Cannondale Slate Ultegra
JanuaryBikerumorReview: Cannondale Slate "all road" bike is just too much fun
The promise of gravel bikes is freedom. The ability to dive off the paved road and into the unknown. To explore those backroads, short cuts and secret paths. Or to just stave off boredom. The Cannondale Slate delivers on all those promises with one of the funnest bikes I’ve ever ridden. When it first debuted, …
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The Cannondale Slate is one of the most radical bikes out there. We've tested the Ultegra spec to see how its on/off road credentials stack up
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Would set the standard for the gravel-genre, if it weren’t for the tyres. Buy if you want an amazingly good all-road machine. if it had tyres to match we’d seldom ride anything else.
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The Cannondale Slate caused quite a storm when the first pictures were leaked, but what is it for?
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The last few years have seen the rise of a new sub-category of road bikes — so-called “gravel grinders” — that have been designed to better handle unpaved terrain. Cannondale’s latest entry into this market is called the Slate and it borrows heavily from MTB. Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom spent a few weeks
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MarchCX MagazineFirst Ride: Cannondale's Slate Front Suspension b All-Road Bike
The Slate is a fun bike. It’s the bike you want when you’re not sure where your ride will take you. It’s quick on the road, and more than just capable on the trail.
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Frame - Slate, SmartFormed Alloy, Di2 ready, SAVE PLUS, BB30a
Fork - Cannondale Lefty Oliver Carbon w/ PBR, 30mm Travel, 45mm off-set
Wheels - Slate Disc, b, 28H, welded
Crank - Cannondale Si, BB30a, FSA rings, 52/36
Group - Shimano
Price: , THB
Cannondale Slate LEFTY B
- The model Year
- Catalog / Web Name (updated) Slate
- COLOR/config01 GRN
- Frame Slate, SmartFormed Alloy, Di2 ready, SAVE PLUS, BB30a
- Fork Cannondale Lefty Oliver Carbon w/ PBR, 30mm Travel, 45mm offset
- Rear Shock N/A
- Rims Slate Disc, b, 28H, welded
- Hubs Lefty 50 Road front, Formula x12mm thru rear, 28h
- Spokes DT Swiss Champion
- Tires Cannondale Slate Folding TRS tubeless, x42c, by Panaracer
- Pedals N/A
- Crank Cannondale Si, BB30a, FSA rings, 52/36
- Crank Option N/A
- Bottom Bracket FSA BB30 Bearings
- Chain Shimano HG, speed
- Rear Cogs Shimano , , speed
- Front Derailleur Shimano Clamp
- Rear Derailleur Shimano
- Shifters Shimano R Hydraulic Disc
- Handlebar Cannondale C3, butted Alloy, Compact
- Grips Cannondale Bar Tape w/Gel, mm
- Stem Cannondale C1, Alloy, ", , -5 deg. mm
- Headset Tange Seiki Head Shock Integrated
- Brakes Shimano BR/, /mm
- Brake Levers Shimano R Hydraulic Disc
- Saddle Fabric Scoop Radius Sport, Cromo Rails
- Seatpost Cannondale C3 Alloy X mm
- SIZES AVAILABLE SM, MD
Cannondale Slate Ultegra
Availability: In stock
Eurobike Gold Medal "Best Road Bike"
"This new bike by Cannondale combines two worlds that usually have little to do with one another. It echoes elements of a mountain bike and interprets these for road use. As a result, it taps into a bigger target group of cyclists.”
Roadies looking for a new thrill. MTB'ers or action-sports enthusiasts looking for a looser, more open definition of "road riding". Highly skilled riders looking for new limits to push. Highly unskilled riders looking to build skills without consequences.
weight Kg. (from size L)
- Frame - Slate, SmartFormed Alloy, Di2 ready, SAVE PLUS, BB30a
- Fork - Cannondale Lefty Oliver Carbon w/ PBR, 30mm Travel, 45mm off-set
- Wheels - Slate Disc, b, 28H, welded
- Crank - Cannondale HollowGram Si, hollow forged, w/ OPI SpideRing, BB30a, 52/36
- Group - Shimano Ultegra
|Catalog / Web Name (updated)||Slate Ultegra|
|Frame||Slate, SmartFormed Alloy, Di2 ready, SAVE PLUS, BB30a|
|Fork||Cannondale Lefty Oliver Carbon w/ PBR, 30mm Travel, 45mm offset|
|Rims||Slate Disc, b, 28H, welded|
|Hubs||Lefty 50 Road front, Formula x12mm thru rear, 28h|
|Spokes||DT Swiss Champion|
|Tires||Cannondale Slate Folding TRS tubeless, x42c, by Panaracer|
|Crank||Cannondale HollowGram Si, hollow forged, w/ OPI SpideRing, BB30a, 52/36|
|Bottom Bracket||FSA BB30 Bearings|
|Chain||Shimano HG, speed|
|Rear Cogs||Shimano Ultegra , , speed|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano Ultegra , Clamp|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Shifters||Shimano R Hydraulic Disc|
|Handlebar||Cannondale C2 Compact|
|Grips||Cannondale Bar Tape w/Gel, mm|
|Stem||Cannondale C1, Alloy, ", , -5 deg. mm|
|Headset||Tange Seiki Head Shock Integrated|
|Brakes||Shimano BR/, /mm|
|Brake Levers||Shimano R Hydraulic Disc|
|Saddle||Fabric Scoop Radius Race, Ti Rails|
|Seatpost||Cannondale C2 Carbon X mm|
|SIZES AVAILABLE||SM, MD, LG, XL|
I like to imagine that Cannondale’s bike designers have a thousand page manual of rules on how to design a bike. And that each time they develop a new bike they delight in ripping out as many pages as possible. The brand has a habit of turning conventional thinking on its head.
Well, that manual got a lot thinner when the Cannondale Slate came off the drawing board. It’s one of the most radical road bike designs out there.
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But the Slate isn’t just a road bike, being designed to take on multiple terrains, including gravel. Cannondale describes it as “new road”.
Cannondale wanted to keep the Slate’s handling sharp whilst providing a large tyre volume to cushion the ride over bumpy surfaces. So it specified b wheels, with 42mm tyres. The net result is an outside diameter to the tyre which is similar to a 23mm tyre on a conventional c wheel.
This allowed Cannondale to keep the Slate’s chainstay length to cm and its front centre to cm for the size Medium. With a wheelbase of cm, its geometry is similar to a conventional performance road machine.
>>> Cannondale Synapse Carbon review
And Cannondale also gave the Slate a suspension fork. Its Lefty Oliver single leg gives the Slate 3cm of front end travel, helping it to ride over rocks and bumps. Being carbon, the fork doesn’t add a lot to the bike’s weight. The shock’s air pressure and rebound can be dialled to suit your weight and riding style.
There’s also a lock-out on the top of the shock for climbing. This can be reached easily with the hands on the bars. There’s still a bit of bob in the fork and the tyres once locked out, but it does make out of saddle efforts easier.
You’d expect that with only a single leg, the Slate’s fork would be subject to flex, but inside the round body the tubes are square so that they cannot rotate. They are supported by needle bearings, which gives a very rigid interface between the moving and the static sections of the fork.
It’s also attached to the frame at the top of the headtube as well as the bottom, using oversized bearings. And unlike standard fork designs, the axle is made in one piece, making it very rigid. Other versions of the Lefty are considered amongst the stiffest MTB forks around.
Cannondale has always made cutting edge aluminium frames, so the Slate makes use of the brand’s expertise, having many of the design features of the alloy CAAD12 road frame, including curved and flattened SAVE Plus sections in the stays to absorb vibration.
>>> Does this Cannondale CAAD 12 have the best paint job you've ever seen?
There’s also a sloping top tube which gives plenty of free seat post extension to help smooth the ride. The seat tube mimics the CAAD12 too, splaying out at the bottom bracket junction to increase rigidity and power transfer.
All the Slate’s cables are routed internally and, in a nod to off-road use on more extreme terrain, there’s a spare port for a dropper seatpost cable.
Cannondale backs up the Ultegra-equipped Slate’s on-road credentials with a 52/36 semi-compact own-brand chainset and cassette, giving highish ratios and allowing rapid progress.
The top spec £ SRAM Force 1 variant gets a broader range, with a 42 tooth largest rear sprocket running off its 44 tooth chainring. There’s also a Shimano equipped Slate priced at £ with the same gearing as our test bike. At the bottom of the Slate range, the £ SRAM Apex 1 single ring variant comes with an alloy lefty fork without suspension.
In all cases, you get hydraulic disc brakes. The Shimano Ultegra version provides effective, confident stopping unaffected by mud and wet.
There’s a lot to get your head around with the Slate. The tyres are perhaps where to start. Run them at 60psi, as I did initially, as this is around the middle of the recommended pressure range, and they have a lot of inertia and make for a very heavy ride. I dropped the pressure to 40psi and the difference was dramatic, with the ride transformed. It felt much faster and more enjoyable and far more like the road bike feel which Cannondale says the Slate was designed to emulate. It’s important to get this right to get the most out of the bike.
>>> Should you switch to tubeless tyres?
There’s a bit more effort required to keep the large tyres moving on road than with a conventional bike and you can feel a bit of drift on corners from their higher volume. The large contact patch does feel very grippy and secure though. I was able to keep up fine on group road rides with riders with skinny tyres.
There’s no tread to the tyres either. In thickness of the rubber, they feel like an extra-wide summer road tyre. This was fine on road and on gritty tracks but in mud the bike snaked and slipped and on the muddiest tracks clogging at the chainstays was a problem.
If you live somewhere with plenty of gravel roads or plan to ride the usual dodgy UK lanes, they’re fine. But most bridleways in the UK soon get muddy and the choice of grippier b tyres narrow enough to clear the chainstays is limited. When Cannondale updates the Slate, expect its replacement to benefit from the better clearance provided by the Ai bottom bracket design found on its mountain bikes and its SuperX cyclocross bikes.
I swapped the tyres out for a set of Schwalbe G-One Allround inch width tyres, one of the few b tyre choices narrow enough to fit the Slate. They’re significantly more robust than the supplied Cannondale tyres and benefit from a tread of closely spaced knobs, which provided just that bit more grip in muddier conditions.
Watch: How to set the perfect tyre pressure
The suspension fork coupled with the high volume tyres, definitely smoothes out the ride and makes for faster and more comfortable progress on bumpy paths. I found I was consistently using around 25mm of the 30mm travel.
The lock-out is also useful to reduce bob if you want to climb out of the saddle. The quite high gearing of the Ultegra and models is likely to force this on you once you hit a hill. You need to remember to unlock on the other side though as the bike makes unhappy noises on the way down if you don’t.
The Slate is not cheap for its spec. A lot of the cost is tied up in the complex carbon fork. The other components specified by Cannondale are good quality too though: Ultegra-level shifting and braking work well, while the Cannondale chainset benefits from a single piece Cannondale SpideRing double chainring and Mavic’s wheels are well built.
Ultegra slate 2017 cannondale
Cannondale Slate Ultegra review
We’ve always loved the fact that Cannondale isn’t afraid to take chances and push the boundaries. And it’s trying its envelope-expanding antics again, with its new and typically distinctive-looking – or dare we use the overused word ‘unique’ – Slate.
A ‘road’ bike with true off-road legitimacy?
Well, what’s it all about, then? According to Cannondale, it’s “A full-tilt road bike with legitimate off-road chops. Slate is the bike for cyclists that want to ride roads without having to ‘road ride’.” So, that’s told us.
Essentially it’s a bit of a mongrel – think music mash-ups or fusion food. If those examples are making you shudder, let’s break it down: Cannondale has taken aggressive road bike geometry (for quick, responsive handling), b mountain bike wheels, massive 42mm-wide tyres and a road-specific version of its Lefty single-sided suspension fork, with extra low-speed compression damping and virtually no sag when you sit on the bike.
The Slate features Cannondale’s new road-specific Lefty Oliver fork
That single-sided fork may put people off, but bicycles are one of the few forms of transport where these aren’t the norm. Cars, trucks and even aircraft support wheel axles at one end, and if it’s good enough for landing tons of Jumbo Jet, we reckon it’ll take our weight. Probably the biggest negative factor is psychological – looking down and thinking, ‘Yikes, someone’s stolen a fork leg!’
It works too. The front end doesn’t bob as you pedal as many mountain bikes do, though if you hammer into a sprint in the drops you can induce a little movement. But Cannondale has considered that…
Related: Cannondale Slate Force 1 first ride
On the top of the fork leg is a button with a secondary ring button around it. Push the middle one down and the fork locks out; press the outer ring and the suspension works as normal.
Fast-rolling but fragile fatties
We expected the big tyres to slow the Slate down on tarmac. In fact the opposite was true: run the tyres at around 45psi and they roll fast, with exceptional cornering grip.
Cannondale’s Si SpideRing crankset is paired with Shimano Ultegra gears and hydraulic disc brakes
It’s easy to hold speeds of 20mph-plus on the flat, and thanks to the smoothness of the fork and frame, with its flattened stays offering buzz-killing flex, you can maintain that pace even on the coarsest tarmac.
It manages to feel agile too, thanks to its short chainstays. The fork is more offset than on a standard road bike, so you have to be more forceful pushing into fast sharp corners, but we adjusted to its traits fairly quickly.
Off road and on gravel roads and byways the Slate comes into its own. In fact, it’s by far the quickest bike we’ve tried on the rocky, rutted surfaces of the military roads in South West England’s Salisbury Plain that we regularly put bikes through the mincer on.
Riding the Slate off-road is fast and fun, but the slick TRS tyres are frustratingly fragile
The fork may have ‘only’ 30mm travel – not much compared with a modern mountain bike – but this proved sufficient to deal with large ruts and washboarded descents. The rear matches the front well, helped by features like Fabric’s comfortable Scoop saddle.
There is one major downside to the extra speed that the Slate is capable of. The TRS tyres are impressive on tarmac, but they’re correspondingly unimpressive on the rough. We can forgive the textured slick tread, since it’s so good in the dry. What we can’t forgive is the tyre’s fragility. They cut and puncture far too easily – to the extent that every time we took the Slate out, it wasn’t so much a case of if but when we’d run into trouble.
For a bike so capable, and so much fun to blast down byways, roads and tracks on, the protection offered by these tyres is a major flaw. Luckily, there are loads of other b options out there, from Schwalbe’s slick Kojaks (we love them, baby!) through semi-slicks to full-on knobblies. That aside, the Slate is another example of Cannondale pushing boundaries in all the right ways.
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