The Best $1,500 Road Bike: Cannondale CAAD8 5 105

Cannondale CAAD 8     Photo: Courtesy of Cannondale

Having tested and absolutely loved Cannondale’s top-shelf aluminum race bike, we were anxious to see how the CAAD8 ($1,450) compared. The short answer is, very, very well.  At 19 pounds, this bike won’t supplant its more expensive (and three pounds lighter) sibling—and it isn’t intended to. Instead, it brings the exceptional performance of the family line to a much broader audience.

THE FRAME
Though it’s built of a lesser quality aluminum than the CAAD10 and the tubes are mechanically shaped not hydroformed, this bike looks and rides almost as well as its more expensive counterpart. The geometry is virtually the same, meaning you get a time-tested, race-worthy bike for surprisingly little money. We were shocked how snappy it was in sprints and hard accelerations, and it felt much more willowy and light on long climbs than its weight suggests. At this price, the only thing we might change about this frame is the styling: the red-on-black is a bit disco for our tastes, but the electric blue grows on you.

THE PARTS
For our money, there is simply no better value in road bike parts than Shimano 105. It wouldn’t be fair to say that these components perform as well as Ultegra or Dura Ace, the more expensive upgrades, but they are admirably close given the big difference in price. The shifting was crisp and exact, and we felt no consternation really pushing hard on these parts. It’s a shame that Cannondale spec’d Tektro brakes rather than 105, but clearly price dictated and to be fair the stopping power is much greater than that of either of the other brakes in this review. The one uninspiring choice is the wheels (Formula hubs laced to Maddux rims), which are smooth rolling but relatively heavy. Then again, they’re light for this price point; we were just wooed into wanting more by the standout performance elsewhere. Even the saddle, a nondescript house-branded variety, was pleasantly and surprisingly comfortable.

THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s tempting to call this a great budget bike, but the truth is that it’s great apart from the price. It compares favorably up against bikes double its cost. For the budget rider, it presents incredible value and performance for minimal commitment. And for the seasoned rider, it’s one heck of a backup. Though lots of expensive bikes roll through our offices, we’d be more than happy to have the CAAD8 as our training ride. In fact, it’s even a perfect criterium bike because not only is it relatively light and fast, the muscly aluminum build means it will brush off scuffles and crashes. Simply, the CAAD8 costs 60 percent less than the astoundingly light and quick CAAD10, which would be at home in Cat. 1 races, but it comes a lot closer than that in terms of flat-out performance. If this is your price range, you will not buy a better bike, period.

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