Last week, Cannondale quietly pushed out a video teasing an all-new, Lefty fork equipped gravel road bike. This week, they followed up with part two, in which many details are unveiled.

Called the Cannondale Slate, it’ll get a new Lefty Oliver with 30mm of travel and a lockout. The surprising part? 650B wheels in the form of Stan’s NoTubes Flow EX. While randonneuring bikes in the past have used the 650C wheel size, more and more gravel bikes are looking to the ‘b’ option due to the increased amount of rim and tire options. Official production spec remains to be seen, but the bikes should be available this fall.

Here’s four minutes of gravel grinding goodness with plenty of shots of the bike…the important of which we’ve captured below…

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

Depending on the angle, the bike can look a little odd with the Lefty…

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

But at others, it looks quite alright. The smaller 650B wheels seem to help the proportions without making the bikes look too small. More than anything, they just look fun!

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

The Lefty Oliver looks to get 30mm of travel with their PBR (PB = Push Button / R = Rebound) lockout with an external rebound control knob on the top.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

Here’s where the 65oB spec is confirmed, and tire clearance for at least a 42mm width, which they show as having the same roll out (read: circumference) as a 700×22 tire. That means more cush and traction without giving up the speed and roll-over of a standard road bike wheel and tire.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

The rear end appears to keep standard quick release axles. Considering the number of flats and sidewall tears we’ve seen on our gravel rides, quicker wheel changes and weight savings might have been a priority…a decision we think is backed up by the lack of rack and accessory mounts. Could be the Slate is initially aimed at the performance riding crowd more than touring.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel road bike with Lefty Oliver suspension fork and 650B wheels

More as we get it!


  1. Mr. P on

    “650b + 42c = 700c + 22c … That means more cush and traction without giving up the speed and roll-over of a standard road bike wheel and tire.”

    Haven’t 29ers taught us that bigger wheels have better speed and roll-over? So a 700c wheel + 42c tire should have better speed and rollover.

    I’m not against the 650b, I’m just not biting on the claim. Sounds very opportunistic.

    Initially I thought about how a suspension fork would be terrible and get junked up quickly on a gravel bike, but the lefty seals are away from the tire and inverted, so it might be the best fork for the job.

    Interesting concept, seems like a niche of a niche.


  2. Timquila on

    My goodness, when will roadies invent something of their own instead of copying from the Mountain Bike arena… tubeless, disc, cushy frames and then tip-toeing on “gravel,” (don’t call ’em dirt, roads), not to mention suspension yearning. I would wager that next will be a dropper post with some kind or aero-brag of course.

    That being said, this bike would make a fabulous addition to my Cannondale quiver, sign me up, it looks like great fun!

    …actually a dropper on a road bike would be handy occasionally, especially at stop lights –drop down and avoid the “hope-my-shoe-don’t-slip-tippy-toe” stand.

  3. Handsome Dick Manitoba on

    @timquila, to be fair mountain bikes stole carbon frames and rims, index shifting, 650b (27.5″) rims/tires, multispeed drivetrains, clipless pedals and a whole lot more from road bikes.

  4. jeff on

    While im a believer in 650b for mountain bikes, I cannot understand the reasoning for Cannondale to run 650b on this bike. Try finding tires that you would want to use on this bike, plenty of 2.25+, havent seen any smaller.

  5. Mr. P on

    I see, they are comparing a 650B/42 against a 700/22(or 25 or 28). I misread.

    I think is an interesting concept. I wonder if front suspension is very beneficial when the rider is seated so much.

    Dropper posts are on Specialized Diverge. I would not mind a dropper even on my road bike. You just can’t beat the security of getting low on a fast corner (and on a gravel road x1000)

  6. Dockboy on

    I think they chose 650b x 42 for the tighter chain stays and wheel swap convenience if you wanted a smooth road wheelset. I like this, and in Vermont there are plenty of roads that merit a bit of suspension, but mountain bikes are slow.

  7. LOLWUT on

    650bx42 means running a big tire but still being able to keep things like a short rear triangle and road chainline intact.

    There is a reason bikes that run tires bigger than 700×33 have longer stays. A 700×42 would hit the seat tube on any bike with chainstays in the road to “endurance road” range.

    Also fitting that wide a tire on a 700c rim also has potential problems with road gearing. It’s not a big deal if you are using the wider spaced mountain chainline standards but it takes some serious finagling to the chainstays to make room for a wide tire AND a 110 bcd road crankset.

    The whole point of 650b for these kinds of applications is that it does not come with the inherent design problems associated with wider tires on a 700c rim.

  8. Birdman on

    Love it! All the pieces are finally in place for my next-next gravel hardtail! Front suspension, dropper post, hydraulic road brakes. The only thing missing for me is in-line hydraulic breaks, anyone working on that?

  9. Volsung on

    They might sell more aftermarket forks if they made it for adult sized wheels. 650b are for shorties and retro grouches who wouldn’t use a lefty anyway.

    Rockshox makes a 50mm travel 700c fork that no one uses. That’s probably because it’s not necessary.

  10. Chris L on

    “While randonneuring bikes in the past have used the 650C wheel size”

    Huh??? Rando bikes have used 650b for decades. OTOH I’ve yet to see a rando bike with 650c. That size has most commonly been associated with time trial and triathlon bikes in the past few decades.

    Author’s ignorance aside, this looks like a fun bike. I’ve been riding 650bx42mm tires for a few years now and they’re great. You give up a little speed on smooth asphalt but make up a lot of that when roads turn crappy and on downhills.

  11. Andy on

    Timquila, you realize that the first MTBs borrowed their entire drive trains from road bikes, not to mention 29ers use 700c “road” rims.

    Though didn’t Specialized come out with a road dropper late last year.

  12. mr_ocd on

    Cool. Cannondale got their mojo back. We are fortunate to live in a time where bikes can be optimized for very specific riding styles and conditions. As a medium sized rider I will soon be able to build a low stack 650B without jacking the BB way up and have just enough suspension to take the edge off the comparatively benign trails here in Michigan.

  13. Chris L on


    I can only assume you haven’t been riding for very long! No other way to explain your astonishingly clueless statements. MTB has borrowed far more heavily from road than the other way around. Also riding “road” bikes on gravel is hardly new. Maybe you’ve heard of this little thing called the Tour de France? For decades much of it was run on dirt. Also just about every MTB pioneer – Ritchey, Fisher, Potts, Breeze, Chance, Bontrager, etc, etc, etc started on the road. Of course you’re such a newbie you probably have no clue who these people are! Seriously, try doing some reading next time so you don’t look like an idiot.

  14. Justin! on

    I think MTB was borrowing a little bit from moto In The Beginning: suspension, disc brakes, grips, levers, trails to ride… everything let’s say except wheels, frame, and drivetrain.

    After that, it’s mostly in parity where road mtb.

  15. Ajax on

    650b x 42mm tire for a gravel bike means you don’t have to use a tall cyclocross tire, and hence a cyclocross fork.

    The real beauty of this bike is its use of a normal road-ish length axle-to-crown fork. And since the fork length is approximately the same as a road fork, this Canondale handles more like a road bike instead of a cyclocross bike.

    AND if you want to put on a 700 x 23mm tire or a 700 x 28mm tire, all you have to do is change wheels! No fussing with changing to a different reach brake!

    650b + disc brakes = AWESOME!!!!!!!!

  16. Ryan on

    Will you drive the crazy-looking car with 3 wheels because it’s lighter & fuel efficient or would you rather prefer to drive the sporty car with regular 4 wheels ?

  17. Craig on

    Using 650b with up to 42mm tires is awesome! Great, Cannondale!

    Also bring on long chainstays!

    I have 470-480mm chainstays on my touring bike. Gear shifting is awesome, I can run big
    tires and the long wheelbase makes the bike very stable.

    I’m confused though as to why both the author and the screen shot (that presumably was supplied by Cannondale) have got mixed up with the use of 650c and the BSD’s. Ie, 571mm is 650c (tri and small road bikes), and 584mm is 650b (touring bikes and french porteur/randonneur for decades…).

  18. muf on

    i kinda like it.

    – the lefty fork seems like a good fit (better than on their mtbs…). for i have ridden countless gravelish-slightly rocky terrains on a CX, a bit of dampening is simply required if you wanna survive more than an hour (even CX races arent rocky in fact). it kills the hands even on a perfect fit.
    – the 650b wheel seem like a good trade off between weight stiffness and tire volume actually, regardless of the “700cc” marketing factor

    Now i’d have liked thru axles. Not sure why BR says quick releases are faster. with tabs in particular i could never change a wheel faster on my CX (which has quick releases front and rear) than i can on my mtb (which has thru axles front and rear and bigger wheels).

    takes me about 5s on the mtb and about 15 on the CX (per wheel). I just never understand that argument. It seems ridiculous. Have you never used a qr thru axle? Such a misconception.

    Anyhow, looks like a very interesting bike IMO.

  19. Larry on

    Yes. I will not buy it die to it being a 650b. If it was a 700c bike yes. I would buy it ao i can yake wheels off of my scalpel and swap around. But 650b is not helmping me there. Cannondale please make it 700c.
    the happy canncannondale customer

  20. Ajax on

    Larr, the bike comes with 650b disc wheels, but it has disc brakes meaning it is compatible with 700c disc wheels.

    Too bad it doesn’t have a rear thru-axle.

  21. Eric Hansen on

    SOMEONE has to produce 100% crazy to move things forward. Cannondale is consistently that someone.

    Cannondale has done pretty much exactly this before with their BadBoy range. In that case, they used the Caffeine 26″ MTB frame, stuck 28-622 tires in there, and slapped on a 50mm Lefty. No redesign required at all. You could swap on some 50-559 tires and go rock some mild singletrack. This is probably the same thing with whatever their ‘mountain hybrid’ frame.

    Me personally i’ve got to say “nah”, but I don’t hate it.

  22. Math on

    Not hating on Cannondale but for the price of the Oliver Lefty alone there are lots of creative gravel options. 650bx42 works out approximately to 26×2.1″, for which a plethora of rim and tire choices (these days quite economically) are available. Figure out a favorite cockpit setup and old MTB frames are new again!

  23. Tim on

    Its clear from the number of nay sayers that this category of bike is very misunderstood and no well known.
    For those of us who were cycling before it became cool i.e. Pre L.A. this category of bike is what tourers and audax riders love. Good one Cannondale. I’m starting to beleive in the brand again

  24. Timquila on

    Sorry to get you all rialed up. Perhaps I should have prefaced my rant with ” seems like recently” and responders, most of which are respectful, maybe start with”historically…” But Chris L, relax already, as a matter of fact, I’ve been riding aggressively for 40 years or so and I currently have over twenty modern Cannondales in my “A” fleet, road, mountain, hybrid, road tandems, mountain tandem, literally at least one for every venue that I may chose. All are very clean and at the ready. Some I purchased complete and some I built frame up, some geared, some single… some of everything. And yes I am quite familiar with cycling history and yes again; I’ve lived a lot if it. Some of you haters really crack me up.

  25. Bruce McDove on

    I think it’s odd no one mentioned this ridiculous film shows them doing no riding a regular road bike couldn’t handle.

  26. OFfCourse on

    This just in!!! Companies are researching a long lost 26″ wheel size for benefits compared to 650B and 29ers. Finding lighter rotational weight and greater lateral rigidity over both alternate wheels. Some engineers have just uncovered century, err decade old tire molds to kick this new phenomenal discovery into full gear. Prepare for some new designs exploiting this new, soon to be standard size covering a wide range of offerings. Integrated lever operated not-so thru axles will be in production soon to satisfy the eminent onslaught of early adapters. Oh what a time we live in.

  27. overgearedss on

    Why the Stan’s Flow rims? Why aren’t they using something lighter like the Crest or Arch that would suit a bike like this just as well? DH rims for a glorified road bike?

  28. Durianrider on

    I look forward to taking one out for a ride. Test ride then decide.

    Right now I wouldnt be interested but a test ride on my local loops would shape my opinion better.

  29. Frippolini on

    Seriously, what difference does it make?!
    You could ride those sections using your current mtb / road / cx / touring / tandem / whatever and have an equal amount of fun; just go out and ride and don’t get stuck on some name or tech spec. Just ride, pedal on, and put your mind on having fun instead.
    As for the parallel discussion on road vs mtb technology stealing… what difference does it make? Sure there’s a inspiration of technology solutions, but that’s good. It means all cyclists, irrelevant of category, get to enjoy the advances in technology and innovation irrelevant where they show up, agree?
    @ Timquila: why don’t you take a photo of your impressive Cannondale stable and show here at BikeRumor, would be nice to see.
    @ Lemond Rider: LOL +1

  30. Aaron on

    I love the idea, it’s a concept that hasn’t been really done yet.

    But the look is awful. I don’t care how well they perform. Lefties have, and always will look awful. It’s like making a really souped-up mini cooper for racing, that’s on par with high end sports cars, but in the end it’s still a mini cooper. It just would look… weird.

    At the end of the day it is a cool idea, but if I’m hitting something rough enough to warrant suspension, put me on a hardtail or something.

  31. Fred on

    Did anyone else notice that in the side by side capture of the two bikes, each has the fork crowns oriented differently? Wonder what’s up here or if it was just them testing out various heights.

  32. hair on

    @Fred- hmm, good catch. One has a fork cover and the graphics on the are different, too. Different forks or just different graphics?

  33. RYAN on

    Cannondale should have gone full proprietary on this. Can we develop a new wheel tire system that doesn’t use an old wheel size? How about we shrink the bead seat diameter of a 700c so fatter tires fit in almost every road frame with extended reach calipers?

    27″ road bikes will fit cross tires without issue if you change the brakes. You could turn a $400 craigslist road bike into a Salsa Warbird with a new set of wheels, tires, and brakes.

  34. Vignesh on

    The riding position is a bit ridiculous for this type of bike. Something a bit more upright would’ve been more sensible. Specialized needs to make a Diverge with a low-travel suspension, it’s a spectacular bike. This just seems like committee created product that can’t make up it’s mind about what it’s going for.

  35. Jay on

    Absolute waste of resources, corp R&D and marketing money to create another new breed of bikes which simply is a ‘compromise’ bike that designed to handle both road and loose gravel (that’s about it as anything rougher will tilt in the direction of cyclocross and MTB territory).

    The fancy picturesque video and wide angle helicopter shots certainly gave the appeal and the fun factor and hands down I would have the same amount if not more fun riding the same road and gravel conditions on a highly spec cyclocross bike that could easily handle and ride similar to a roadbike and also more than capable in handling the gravel and rough roads shown in the video.

    I don’t imagine anyone that already has a roadbike, CX and MTB would want to splash the cash to get this but for those thinking about a CX, this might be one of the alternatives.


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