When we first saw the video for Cannondale's all new Slate platform our excitement couldn't be contained. We checked the dealer site almost daily waiting for an ETA so we could begin planning ridiculous adventures in and around Cleveland. As the 2016 products began pouring out we anxiously waited. Days turned to weeks - weeks to months - and alas, the clouds broke and the bikes began to ship.
For those of you who haven't heard of, or read about the Slate allow us to give you a simple walk through. A few years back manufacturers began looking at the new possibilities for the road category. With an overwhelming desire to make road bikes more capable of all-road riding a new category was born - the gravel bike. Many gravel bikes embody three common traits - a geometry similar to endurance road bikes, disc brakes and more generous tire clearance. These simple augmentations have allowed manufacturers to create a bikes that keep riders more comfortable and more in control over grueling terrain. Cannondale took many of these concepts to heart but the outcome, you'll find, was far more radical then most would have expected. In short, the outcome was glorious.
From the ground up, the Slate stands as the most unique gravel bike the industry has seen and has already begun to rack up a list of accolades not seen by any other bike in its class. Equipped with the specially designed Lefty Oliver - a suspension fork with 30mm of front wheel travel - the bike begins to bridge the gap between true off the path adventure and speed most would expect from a performance class road bike. To add to its capabilities off road, Cannondale opted for a 650x42 tire opposed to the commonly used 700c wheel option. This provides the rider with a nimble handling bike without sacrificing the comfort wider tires offer.
The goal for my first ride was to test the bike on the worst terrain possible so I pointed towards downtown and off I went. The road to my chosen testing ground provided me a great opportunity to mentally compare it to my road bike. Acceleration and speed were very comparable which was a pleasant surprise given the wheel and tire combo were giving a clearly superior feel across rougher patches of road. Traveling down through the flats (which I regularly compare to many of the mountain bike trails I've ridden) I really began to appreciate the suspensions task of keeping the bike firmly planted over some of the more unruly sections of road. After almost 40 miles, mud, gravel and Cleveland streets I was home with an ear to ear grin.
I know what you're all thinking, this is a Cannondale dealer swooning over a Cannondale bike - how accurate can this be? And you're absolutely right - there's definitely a conflict of interest in what I'm writing. But I must mention this, almost 20 years in the bike industry riding some of the best brands the industry has to offer and I can say unequivocally, I have never ridden a drop bar bike this fun - this capable. Perhaps its my mountain bike heart but I feel a bike should open up possibilities, not limit them. Stop by and check out the entire Slate family today.