The end to n+1 ?
As polite as ever, we demanded on Twitter that someone in South Africa send us a Cannondale Slate. Low and behold minutes later the awesome team from Cycle Teknix had got in touch and made our dream a reality! We see if this bike will end the need for the number of bikes owned to be n+1 for some, n being the number of bikes currently owned.
We picked up the stealth grey beast with silver splashes and the Carbon 30mm Lefty Oliver slapped on the front. A few little things which stand out on the bike straight away, the wheels are 650b and come with commuting Kenda 1,75 tyres. It has an Ultegra groupset with hydraulic disc brakes, compact crank and a 28-11 cassette. These are some of the key features we noted on the bike.
As Cannondale have placed this bad boy firmly in the gravel grinder category, we thought we would try it out on as many different places to see how it handles.
Since we are severely an amateur team, the first time on the bike was a commute into Cape Town from Claremont. The first impression was how similar it was to the road bike setup, with the comfortable narrow bars, although the “setup” is more relaxed than the Venge due to the higher head tube. After weaving through the traffic and flowing up and down the pavement for a few minutes there was a massive smile that did not want to go away.
There was plenty of grip on the wet and dry roads with the tyres and on the road the disc brakes were amazing when needing to throw out the anchors. There is a lot of construction happening in Observatory on the bike path and the Slate breezed through it where one would have had to get off the road bike. Also there was plenty of glass and debris on the road which the Kenda tyres did not seem too worried about, they are not tubeless but do have red goo in the tubes.
Having ramped over countless pavements and carved up some gravel paths in Rondebosch we thought our bike handling skills were at a Greg Minnaar level, so we agreed to some midweek mountain biking! Putting our trust in some our mountain bike friends we saddled up on our cyclo cross bikes and headed up towards Signal Hill.
|At the Block house with the rest of Savage|
On the slopes through Bo Kaap the Slate did well, we managed well until about half way up when the gradients kicked up to 20% on the gravel jeep track when the Slate lost traction. With the 34-28 gearing and commuter tyres it was never going to be smooth sailing on the steep gravel climbs, I was with two others pushing so did not feel too bad.
Going up we found was only the start of the suffering our fat wheel friends had planned for us, instead of cruising on Tafelberg road to the Block House we were taken through Deer Park. Which can best be describe as a mixture of rock gardens, down hill track and drop offs for a roadie.
We got to the block house after a rather tough slog as the gearing allowed for a cadence similar to that of a revolving door. We descended the mountain on Tafelberg road and the Slate came into its own with quick tyres and disc brakes, had some out of breath MTB at the top of Kloof.
Having had our fun and games it was time to take the Slate on a Savage road ride around the Peninsula to see how it would hold up. Having cruised up Constania Nek we carved down into Hout Bay, the Slate was great in the bends but just a little less precise as the Venge running 23mm GP4000’s, which is to be expected. The braking modulation with the disc brakes was superb around the bends and with the Lefty the rough road surface was turned into butter.
There was more of the same as we breezed over Chappies towards Noordhoek. We hooked a left and headed toward Slang hoek, for those of you have not been there since the Argus, the road works have not got any further and the “road” surface has remained classified as a road, just. This is where the Slate came into its own, over the bumps and potholes it was able to keep putting the power down when the others were just trying to keep their bottles from flying out.
Once into over Slang Hoek we kept the Slate on gravel all the way to Cape point, this was very interesting, on the road the bike was 3-4km/h than the Venge, but if pulled off the road onto the gravel shoulder I could maintain the same pace as the tar with very little additional effort. (Effort measured on the, “can I still talk?” scale.)
The additional rolling resistance and smaller wheels did add a little extra sauce to the legs at the end of the 115km ride. However, it was a very physically comfortable ride and mentally relaxing ride as you do not worry about cat eyes, curbs, road edges, potholes or debris in the road.
Constania Green Belt
After seeing a whole bunch of mountain bikers disappearing and reappearing at random places in Constania I followed a bunch of them on to Vida Constatnia Village, where I eaves dropped on their conversation, after 15 minutes of talking about dropper posts, flat pedals, tyre pressure and how cool all their Pyga’s looked, they discussed the Constania Green belt trail. A little investigation on bikehub.co.za and I found the starting point of said trail.
The first section of trail was some cool flowing track with a few roots thrown in for good measure, no problem for the Slate and my non-existent skills. The trail slithers through the Constania suburb towards Tokai crossing roads making use of the green belt.
|These trails were chilled for the Slate|
After the first two or three sections it became flowing track through meadows and fields right up the Slate’s alley, this was where the Slate truly is at home, it was light and nimble with enough gears for any of the climbs, enough grip on the gravel/grass track and the Lefty Oliver made light work of the small ruts in the track.
Things I would change.
The Kenda commuters as proved above managed to handle most which was thrown at it during the miles it did, although there were times when a little more traction would have been a blessing. As they are 650b wheels, the choice of tyre for the bike is a little limited as the maximum width is 1,75. We did locate these tyres that would do the trick though we recon: http://goo.gl/dND8VV
The gears only caused issue on the real steep stuff, but as a do everything bike a 42 or 36 cassette at the rear would sort you out for 95% of riding. I am not sure a 1×11 set up would work on this bike as the jump between gears would be too large, leave you grinding a massive gear or ending up spinning like a washing machine.
The Cannondale Slate was an amazing bike, it was a jack of all trades and master of one. It started a lot of conversations with other cyclists asking about the bike again confirming that there is a demand for this type of bike in South Africa. I think the fork is worth the extra spend as the level of comfort it brings is phenomenal for a very tiny weight penalty, do not be fooled by only 30mm of travel.
|So much fun in one bike|
Special Thanks: A massive thanks to the team at Cycle Teknix for enabling us this opportunity to review the Slate and for not getting bleak that we returned it really, really dirty.