2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

It’s been teased with two different videos (here and here), which gave up plenty of details, but now we’ve got hands on the new Cannondale Slate gravel/adventure road bike bike with the new Lefty Oliver suspension fork.

The alloy frame is basically what we’ve expected from video, but there are a few surprises. First, the basics: It uses 650B wheels, which gives them plenty of hubs and wheels to choose from. It borrows plenty from the new SuperSix EVO and CAAD12 alloy road bikes, getting the asymmetric stays and wider BB, plus a worked over set of seat and chainstays to give it plenty of cush in the back to match the 30mm of Lefty suspension up front…

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

Starting with the back of the frame, the entire rear triangle is designed around maximizing compliance. That means even flatter alloy stays than what’s found on the new CAAD12, and a slight flattening of the seat tube as it meets the BB. It’s not as drastic as what’s on the CAAD12, though, allowing the Slate to fit a standard front derailleur clamp. Clearance for up to 42mm wide tires enhances ride feel even more.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

The bike was shown to us without the luxury of a product manager or project engineer available, so we’re lacking a few key details like deflection measurements, production frame and fork weights, etc. So, more official specs will come in time, but we’ve got a good bit here to tide you over. It uses the wider 73mm BB30 with asymmetric stays like the others new bikes. We’re quite interested to see what actual build specs will be as this particular bike’s Ultegra and Si cranks with SpiderRing chainring combo seems fairly high end for a model that doesn’t even get Cannondale’s SAVE flex seatpost.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

The slim dropouts give it the minimalist appearance of a quick release system, and based on the videos they’ve shared, that’s what we thought. Turns out it’s just a very streamlined thru axle system made all the sleeker looking by using Shimano’s new direct mount rear brake.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

Moving forward, the head tube gets a sleek hourglass shape that does a good job hiding the fatter diameter of a Lefty’s steerer tube.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

All shift cables and rear brake hose run internally through very sleek ports:

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

The frame gets some hydroforming and Cannondale’s trademark double pass smooth welds.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

At the very front is perhaps the most interesting bit of spec – the new Lefty Oliver.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

It’s limited to 30mm of travel, and inside the fork is a coil negative spring rather than the Solo Air system used on the mountain bike Lefty’s. With that is a reworked shim stack to create more of a platform rather than a full lockout.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

So, when you push the PBR button to firm up the fork, it still budges under hard impacts or earnest push-down-in-a-parking-lot tests. That helps it keep traction even if you hit a rough patch while it’s locked out, and there’s a built in blowoff in case you hit something really big while locked out.

The outer red knob is your rebound damping. Compression damping is set at the factory, but you can always play with air volume in the positive chamber to tweak how it feels for you.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

The front brake is a standard caliper (as in, not flat mount) to fit the Lefty’s brake mounts. The mounts allow the caliper to quickly slide back by simply loosening the bolts holding the adapter onto the fork. This lets the wheel slide off to the driveside since the caliper is no longer trapping the rotor, but you should only have to do that for major maintenance. Flats, tubes and tires can be changed without removing the wheel.

2016 Cannondale Slate gravel adventure road bike with new Lefty Oliver fork

Complete bike weight without pedals is 9.92kg (21.87lb), likely with tubes in the tires.

UPDATE: Claimed frame weight is 1250g and Lefty Oliver weight is 1180g. The frame uses “Flow modeled tubes”, has 405mm chainstays, big air volume, “snappy racy handling” and atent-pending super light braze-on flat mount disc mounts.

Pricing and availability TBA.

Cannondale.com

53 COMMENTS

  1. 21.87lbs doesn’t seem very light; for a “cross” bike without pedals or cages in an ultegra SI crank build with lighter 27.5 wheels… I would have expected considerably less.

  2. I will add that I think one of the least thought out about this bike is the availability of gravel/cross/skinny tires in 27.5. If you decided to race CX with this you aren’t going to have any good options for tires.

  3. @Dustin – you make a good point. That Crankset/chain-ring combo would be a swap, but it is a cool bike, its nice to see Cannondale putting it out there.

  4. Yeah, I wouldn’t accept a dual crown fork for 30mm of travel, not justifiable. Those Maxxis Detonators have got to go but there are precious few 650B tire choices. If I were designing a complete bike for this capability it would be 700C with a larger BB drop. 650B x 42 is useful for wheel conversions that preserve pedal clearance, not wise for a new design.

  5. Post again when they go to 700c, 29er wheels and headshock. Makes more sense for this bike. Worked in the past. Can work again!

  6. I like it. I’m totally cool with the 650B wheels too. But 30mm of travel doesn’t seem like enough to bother with. I wonder why they didn’t go with something more like 60-80mm?

  7. It’s not a cross bike. It’s a rough road bike with a similar rollout to a bike with 700 x 28 tires. I like it.

  8. @Steveo: why would carbon or 18 pounds make any real difference?

    @James S: why would you ever need that much travel, especially with 42mm tires? This isn’t a MTB. Plenty of people did the Oregon Outback with just 42mm tires and zero suspension and safe to say that ride is harder than 99.9% of the rides most other people do.

    @ifbikes: Huh? Great gravel tires are available right now from Compass, Grand Bois and Pacenti. Have ridden any of them? Highly doubt it or you wouldn’t have made such a statement. The bike isn’t a CX bike so why should tire options for that matter? Not many great CX tire options available for fat bikes either.

    My only real qualm is the apparent inability to mount fenders on the front. Beyond keeping the rider dry they also keep your drivetrain clean which can be an issue on long wet gravel rides. Also not convinced I need a suspension fork for gravel riding. People have been riding on gravel without suspension for over a century. They even used to have a big race in Europe on gravel: the Tour de France! 😉

  9. Fearing Cool! It’s about time a manufacturer came out with something a bit different. Bikes have been soooooo boring for the past few years.
    Hope I don’t lose to much when I flip it for the carbon in 8 months!

  10. @everyone- Chris L is right.
    This bike is brilliant. I had a cx bike last year that I built 650b wheels for. I ran it with the panaracer col de vie tires (650bx42mm, converted to tubeless better than any tire I have ever owned cost $40) That setup was amazing, rolled like a champ, smooth and absorbed huge potholes and lowered my bb height for commuting which was great. 650b tires have been the staple for touring for decades. There are amazing gravel and road tires available for 650b, even hutchinson makes a supple cotton casing tire that is used heavily in europe. I understand the point of this bike. It is designed for the rider that just wants to leave out of his door and ride. Whether on the road or a horse trail or and rail bed trail. Our shop sells cannondale, I have seen the pricing and the models. I just sold my cx bike to build a litespeed t5g with enve 3.8s and surly knard tires. I have to say I may have 2 gravel bikes by winter. Especially with the matte model with purple cranks-wow.

    here is why this bike rocks-
    alloy-keeps the price down, durable and can take being chipped and scratched (gravel is
    abrasive, my buddies carbon gt looks like it went through a sandstorm of glass
    shards)
    lefty- love it or hate it- it draws attention, its light, stiff and 30mm is more than enough
    for gravel. More would make the front end too tall (also the issue with using a
    headshok)
    650b wheels- this allows you to run big meaty tires but keep things compact. There is
    something no one is mentioning. Bikes need to work for riders of all heights and
    skills. I own a gravel bike with 41mm tires- its tall and bigger than my road bike.
    650b allows the bike to have great standover (so small sizes are possible) but
    have big tires. As cannondale adverts say- 41mm tires have the same diameter as
    a 700/22- this means this bike will feel like your road bike till you hit something
    ruff- that’s good. If you really want to build a set of road wheels for it and bam- its
    gravel and a slick road bike- bad boy style

    @chris l- i agree on the fender but I wonder since its 30mm if you couldn’t modify a fender
    like the bar fly one to work (or make something stiffer that mounts off the one
    leg

  11. Another site is reporting pricing as follows

    Force: $4,260
    Ultegra: $3,520
    105: $2,980

    I was actually going to preorder / put a deposit on the Ultegra, but now I’m not so sure (this was when I was wrongly assuming the price was going to be somewhere under $3k, but over $2.5K). While I think this is a very cool idea, it most definitely is not, in my case, a primary bike, in fact it’s probably 3rd in line for me, and so I’m not sure the value proposition is there for me personally.

    The thing that is a bit mystifying is that based on my understanding, the frame, fork, wheels, and tires are the same with the exception that the top model has ano 3D purple bits and an ano black frame which is cool. So really the price differences are being made up in the components. The top two models have a ti rail saddle and slightly better grades of alu cockpit components, but after that’s it’s drivetrain, shifters and brakes. The Force model seems really expensive, although I think it gets C-dale’s best crank and it’s purple, but Force 1X road hydro isn’t that much more than Ultergra 800 series flatmount hydro, plus I’d personally want a front der. And this is coming from someone who runs 1X on mountain (even though I know 1X cross / road is different in ratios). So, I do think they are a bit pricey but I guess that’s the price for something new. I have C’dales currently and my first real bike was a Cannondale, so I have a soft spot for the brand, but at $3.5K, if I was going to spend that much, I might splurge another $400 and stretch for a Stinner, Geekhouse, Breadwinner or Mosaic. Sure at that spend the components wouldn’t be as nice and no suspension, and they would be steel, but they’d also be custom and I could upgrade over time. I totally get that it’s apples to oranges – that’s just my thought process.

    That being said I am calling my LBS tomorrow to verify pricing, just to double check the interwebs MSRP being reported.

  12. wow yeah thats expensive for what it is 🙁
    id rather buy a good 29er and put smaller tires on it

    id expect the 105 build around 2k for this to make enough financial sense (yeah that’d make it only a lil more expensive than similar builds without the lefty)

    i guess the lefty just costs a lot. too bad

  13. For clarity my terribly inaccurate price assumption was based on a completely spurrious projection based on the price of their cheapest alu MTB with Lefty with is in the low $2k’s. So what you’re definitely paying for is:

    “Newness”
    “Coolness”
    “New flat mount hydro brakes”
    “new 105 hydro which isn;t even out yet to my knowledge”
    “Aesthetics in having a black ano frame and 3D components”
    etc etc

    Not knocking any of these attributes – I’m steadily talking myself isn’t just buying it after all 🙂

  14. “It uses 650B wheels, which gives them plenty of hubs and wheels to choose from.”

    Huh? how does the size of the rim affect the number of hubs to choose from?

  15. @Josh Get a Flash and throw on some 650B wheels and drop bars?

    Was actually already considering doing that. Am I crazy?

  16. Mountain bike with drop bars ?
    It might looks better with mtb handle.
    still…whenever I look at this bike.. I felt like something is missing.. 😉

  17. “Starting with the back of the frame, the entire rear triangle is designed around maximizing compliance. That means even flatter alloy stays”

    But it is still almost a pure triangulation of the stays. How is the axle on the chainstay to flex up, when it goes directly into a straight to seatpost seatstay?

    P

  18. I’d rather put a drop bar and a some slick wheelset on my full susp MTB, would probably have a 17 pounds… fully lockable…100mm front and back dream gravel machine.

  19. The guys at Salsa and Surly are kicking themselves for not coming up with this. I would be all over a rigid version. The added tire width would enable you to run tubeless at a reasonably low tire pressure compared to tubeless CX tires.

    If this wheel/tire setup fits in something like a disc Tarmac…

  20. @Mr. P

    The flat sections are in the same position on the seat stays and chain stays. Assuming it moves vertically along both of those positions. ie. The entire triangle isn’t moving, you’d just be getting vertical compliance at the very back.

  21. Interesting concept and probably fun to ride, but strange that they have opted to forego a full lockout….so you have a road bike with a sus. fork with no lock out…..did I miss something??

  22. Does seem like it could have been lighter. Much lighter, even. Tire selection issue is a good point.
    Headshok would have been better-looking, but that is part of the Cannondale brand’s past and not its future, i.e., putting a Lefty on the bike is rolling advertisement, while a Headshok is, but much less so.
    Remember: no Centerlock hubs on a Lefty. So you’ll miss the latest generation of Ice-Tech rotors (which for some is an issue, but not most- I am one of them).

  23. Thats nearly $1000.00 premium for 30mm of front travel that will cripple your bike when the lefty strut shits the bed. Are some aluminum frames more compliant that others, yes but nover even close to what can be done with carbon.
    There are already so many good choices for comfy gravel bikes on the market that are MUCH lighter and less expensive.

  24. My All-City Macho King (Reynolds 853) with a practically identical kit, and a fork with 2 blades is 19lbs flat in a 52. Cannondale, you missed the mark on this one.

  25. 650b wheel trend for rough roads? Fail…….

    larger wheel trend for rough roads would have been a better idea.

  26. After racing this year’s Dirty Kanza 200, I understand the attraction of front suspension for a rocky race. At mile 150+ I would guess that it would make a big difference in rider fatigue. But that’s a heavy bike. If it lost 2 pounds, it would dominate the market. I would love to test ride it on a DK200 course.

  27. Adding a drop bar and a “slick wheelset” will make a high bb, long toptube, long chainstay lousy gravel bike, exactly what you DO NOT want. 650b is a good idea, people over look how important bb height is to how a bike can be purposed. Big tire, short rear end, fullish 700 roll out. Get a halfway decent set of wheels and tires the bike will lose a pound or two at least. Since when do cannondale cranks have a cracking problem? When over torqued and abused? The fork is kinda dumb doh

  28. Lefty… Why? There’s no logical reason (to me) for not having 2 fork blades. This just seems like an over engineered, over complicated idea that could be simplified with 2 fork blades. Issue #1, it has to apply more torque / twist to one side of your headset and frame that could be balanced better with 2 fork blades. Issues #2, why load 1 wheel bearing so hard? Issue #3, I really like having lots of wheel options and not being tied to proprietary “lefty” technology.

  29. Better looking/ugly…???
    Headshocks, imo, are not better looking and in fact seem to be the ugliest of things. Reminding me of all that was bad in the 90’s. Lefty’s are actual one of the better looking things on a bike that isn’t built to have nice clean lines to begin with. I never understood the “its missing something”.

    Maybe I just see the beauty in the technical advantages to the lefty.

  30. I will add that although I like the lefty, I’d like to see a rigid version that keeps the 650b wheelset. Its a good idea for gravel. Nice big tires, while maintaining the same of larger diameter of a normal 700c road combo. Allows one to have two wheels – one for road, one for rougher rides.

  31. Every big name is jumping on the gravel train now, maybe they need more actual time on the gravel instead of sitting in a room talking about gimmicky ways to sell bikes.

  32. @james o- a 140mm travel Lefty is around 700g lighter than a 140mm Fox fork, if memory serves. A Lefty has only one leg, but it’s not the same leg that is used on standard forks. The outer (upper) leg has an enormous diameter: 46mm. That’s a whole centimeter more than a Fox 36. And remember, a 2mm difference in upper leg diameter is considered serious. We’re talking 5 times that. Plus- the inner leg is square. That also makes it much harder to twist; round tubes freely rotate inside each other. Square ones don’t. So- a Lefty is much lighter than a traditional fork, and stiffer. But yes- they do require proprietary hubs, and you can’t use Centerlock rotors on them. If either or both of those is a game killer, then the Lefty is not for you.

  33. @tim the lefty weights do not include the heavier hub, required brake adapter, and the heavy stem and headset/steerer tube. Overall system weight is fairly comparable to a traditional fork. I would rather see something like a lauf on this type of bike.

    But what do I know. I ride a steel bike with 700x38mm tires, a high bottom bracket and one gear.

  34. Marketing marketing marketing. It surprises me that so many people don’t understand the marketing scheme with bringing out a bike like this. Cannondale nor no other bike maker will ever come out with the best bike first, this one is just one of another novel concept it’s going to come out with improvements to come. Some of that is purely logical, trial and error but some of it’s certainly plan that they will come out with a nice fly weight by later tossing carbon in, offering more options in appealing to the entire marketplace. After they get done with this will be offering 700c New and improved model. But that’s me stuff and that’s business guys

  35. Hmm…. Why didn’t they just modify the Synapse concept to a smaller wheel size instead, and enjoy the full benefits of their proven (and invested in) technology?
    Why not make the lockout in two variants for the fork; semi lockout (as now), and complete lockout (as 100% rigid)?
    Also, it really needs to lose 1kg.
    I’ll pass this version (model year), and hope that next one will correct the issues. 🙂
    Otherwise, nice concept.

  36. @Chris L

    All the tyres you mentioned offer very little in the way of tread for more wintery conditions. This may well not be a CX bike as such but its usefulness as a Gravel/Adventure/Gnarmac etc etc bike is seriously compromised by the lack of tyres available as far as I can find. I’m ready to drop the money on the CX1 equipped model right now if someone can point me in the direction of a more aggressive, versatile tyre??

  37. I love the concept and I would buy it but will not just for the BB30. I hope the idea works on the market and other brands do something similar with threaded bottom bracket or the new T47 or what ever…

  38. Coming back to this post more than 3 year later. I bought the Slate Ultegra in 2016 and have ridden more than 7k miles on it. I made some modifications, replaced the Ultegra for a Rival 1×11 with a 44t chainring and 10-42 cassette. I run 38c slick tires for road and 42c gravel tires for gravel. The bike is not light but it is quick, stiff, responsive, agile (a bit nervous at times) and a lot of fun. It is not a Cyclocross bike. I absolutely love it and I hope to keep it for many years to come.

    Piece to you all!

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