Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cannondale Slice 5

Written by: Dan Empfield at

If a company invests a lot of money into the molds that form and shape its carbon frame, a lot of units can emerge from that mold before it's ready for the recycler.

The cheapest way to do this is to make your mold out of resin. A better way is to "carve" the mold out of a billet of aluminum via a CNC machining process. Best yet is to go about that process starting with a stainless steel block of metal; you might get 50,000 units out of such a mold. That's the gold standard.

But, do you want 50,000 units? Will you ever sell that many? Mind, if there are 5 or 6 sizes per model, that's a quarter-million units sold of that model. It's likely you'll be onto the next, new and improved, model before you ever sell that many units.

Regardless of what mold material you use as a bike manufacturer, you'll get a lot of units out of a mold; meanwhile, the pressure's on to sell as many as you can before your industrial designers and engineers show up with the next iteration of the bike for sale.

The later a company is in its product cycle—the longer a mold has been around—the more pressure there is to pay that darned thing off; to get your units out of a mold that's already done its job. Cheaper parts get hung on the frame. Newer, lower-end models featuring the frames popping out of that mold appear for sale. Prices come down.

The enterprising consumer might think about these molds—Kestrel's Airfoil Pro, Cervelo's P2 and P3; the molds that are the basis of Felt's tri bike line; Trek's Equinox TTX; and this, Cannondale's Slice. Just how good are the frames that pop out of these molds? In the case of the Trek, Cervelo and Cannondale, good enough to win grand tours and important professional timed races, and not yesteryear, but,within the past year or two.

So, when these very frames show up, complete, built and ready to ride, for $2000 or thereabouts, that's quite something. That's worth noting.

Last year, frames popping out of the mold featured here went one-two in the Hawaiian Ironman. And, were underneath the riders of the Liquigas Pro Tour team. Plenty of palmares to validate the Slice. So, this bike, which cost $2800 or so last year, is an eyebrow raiser at $2150.

Who does the Slice fit? It's best ridden by those who are slightly longer of leg and shorter in the torso. This, if you ride your tri bikes steep, like I do. If you ride yours on the somewhat shallower side, then your morphology doesn't really matter on this bike, pretty much anybody can ride it.

How does it ride? In truth, this is one of the calmest tri bikes I've ever ridden. And that's because it's got a lot of "trail." It wants to go in a straight line, but not so much so that it's hard to steer while in the aero position. But this 62mm of trail makes it a slight bit of a luggard while out of the saddle, so, just ride it in the aero position. Heck, that's where you're supposed to be anyway.

Let's talk about parts. This bike is spec'd with Profile Design T2+ aerobars. I hate those extensions. But, I love Profile's Cobra extensions. For this reason, you might want to consider a swap of extensions, and this will cost you an extra few bucks.

The FSA Gossamer crank is built around the BB30 standard on this bike. The oversized BB is a Cannondale theme I've appreciated for years now. I rather prefer larger bearings at their traditional English width rather than traditional English diameter bearings placed outboard of the frame.

You also get the nice Fizik Arione Tri 2, with magnesium rails, on this value-priced Slice.

This bike falls into roughly the price category of Felt's B16 and Quintana Roo's Seduza. Cervelo hasn't felt obliged to drop the price of it's all-carbon frame to meet this price category. Indeed, while these other companies are spec'ing Shimano at the 105 level and, on consumables, perhaps even below, Cervelo is sticking to Ultegra on its P2, even with chain and cassette.

This opens the door for Cannondale to scoop up a lot of retail floor space with this bike. Indeed, I was lunching with the owner of a large tri-specific retail establishment just last week, and, while he's a big Cervelo and Felt dealer, he specifically pointed out the Slice 5 as the surprising new hit in his store.

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