One of the fastest growing segments in adventure travel over the past few years has been in the area of cycling tours. Many active travelers have discovered that rolling along on the back of a bike provides a unique and personal perspective to the places they visit. A cycling tour gives riders a chance to travel at a measured pace, allowing them the opportunity to savor the environments they pedal through while interacting with the locals on a completely different level. Each of these elements has helped to contribute to the rise in popularity of these types of tours, which are now offered on six continents.
Unlike many other types of travel, a cycling tour is the kind of trip that you actually have to physically prepare for long before you actually embark. For instance, you’ll want to ensure that your body is up for the long days in the saddle and capable of pedaling for extended distances. You’ll also want to be sure that it is actually something you’re going to enjoy, otherwise the trip will quickly turn from a relaxing experience into endless days of misery.
One of the key elements that can sway your decision in either direction is the quality of the bike you train on. You’ll want something that is lightweight, properly sized for your body and just plain fun to ride. Take for example the CAAD8 5 105 from Cannondale, a bike that is designed with beginner and intermediate riders in mind that offers a refined cycling experience at a surprisingly affordable price.Cannondale was generous enough to loan me a CAAD8 to test drive for a few weeks and as an avid cyclist, I can honestly say that it has been a blast to ride. It features an aluminum frame that is both tough and incredibly lightweight, and the included components are of a higher quality than I would have expected for a bike that falls into this price range. Those components include a Shimano gear set, Tektro brakes and plenty of Cannondale’s own proprietary equipment. The CAAD8 has even inherited some design elements from Cannondale’s more expensive, upscale models, giving it a premium feel without breaking your bank account.
All of those technical specs don’t amount to much if the bike doesn’t perform well out on the road. Fortunately, over the past 40+ years Cannondale has learned a thing or two about putting a great bike together. The CAAD8 handles extremely well, hugging corners like a sports car and accelerating along straightaways with impressive bursts of speed. The gear system was quick to respond when shifting either up or down and the breaks brought the bike to a halt quickly, smoothly and quietly.
Of course, a lot of bikes handle well when they aren’t put under too much pressure, but add a few decently sized hills to your route and you’ll quickly gain a better understanding of just how well they truly performs. With its lightweight and nimble frame, I found myself effortlessly pedaling the CAAD8 up some challenging slopes that looked a lot more daunting when approaching from the bottom. The bike’s ability to climb so well will be much appreciated by beginner cyclists who are still learning the nuances of riding as it provides for a more forgiving approach on longer and steeper hills.
I’ve mentioned several times throughout this review that the CAAD8 5 105 offers great performance for the price. This really can’t be stated often enough as this bike does deliver a surprisingly great value. While putting it through its paces on a variety of roads I was continually amazed at how smooth it rode and how well it handled. If I hadn’t already known the price tag on this bike you could have told me it cost twice what Cannondale is charging and I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least. The fact that this bike can compete with bikes in an entirely different price class says a lot about what has been delivered here.
And just how much does this model of the CAAD8 cost? The MSRP on this bike is $1450, which puts it well out of the range of those who would typically buy their bikes at Walmart. But that price is actually quite affordable for a someone who is serious about cycling or is hoping to get into the sport more fully. Cannondale hasn’t skimped on the extras either as the bike ships with a basic pair of pedals, a fairly comfortable seat and even a water bottle cage. Some of those items will actually cost extra on a lot of bikes from the competition. That said, you’ll probably want to upgrade the pedals at some point, as I found myself missing the clipless models on my personal bike while I test drove this one.
So, just how well does the CAAD8 perform as a training or touring bike? In both cases, I’d say it does a remarkable job. The bike is fast, agile and just plain fun to ride. That is the magic formula that makes you actually want to take it out on the road, which is just what you need when you’re prepping for a cycling tour of Italy or France. And should you decide to take this bike on one of those tours, I think you’ll find that it is more than up to the task.
Beginner cyclists will love the CAAD8 for its forgiving ride that allows them to build their skills without crushing their new-found love for the sport. More experienced riders will find the bike more than exceeds their expectations for the price. Those poor saps are apt to wonder why they paid so much for their bike without getting an appreciable gain in performance.
[Photo Credit: Cannondale]