Founded in back in 1971, Cannondale started with a relatively humble product range manufacturing backpacks, camping bags and bike trailers. However, in the early 1980s Cannondale was one of the main pioneers of aluminium bike frames. These strong and lightweight machines quickly gained a reputation for excellence, to the point where it’s no exaggeration to suggest they were even considered to be the Rolls Royce of bike frames by the late ’80s.
However, as happens with so many dynamic companies, Cannondale overreached in the 1990s by trying to go into motorsport. The results left the firm in financial difficulties and Cannondale was on the brink of bankruptcy. Since then, though, a takeover by global cycling giant Dorel Industries — which also owns Schwinn, Mongoose and GT Bicycles, among others — has seen the Cannondale brand flourish once more, and the firm is again producing some of the most sought-after, top-level road, mountain and hybrid bikes on the market.
Aside from cycle sport — where Cannondale has enjoyed huge success in both international road racing and mountain biking — possibly the firm’s greatest moments have come with product innovation, especially those early aluminium frames. Although it was the company’s mountain bikes that initially caught the public’s attention, the first Cannondale aluminium frames actually appeared on road bikes. Employing the established engineering principle that if you double a tube’s diameter you increase the tube’s stiffness by four and a half times, those early models were notable by their massive down tubes and enlarged head tube. Combining those design elements with the other inherent benefits of aluminium made for bikes that were light but incredibly strong and high performing.
But while Cannondale became the first mainstream manufacturer of aluminium bike frames, the firm’s desire for innovation has never stopped. Cannondale has become a market-leader when it comes to carbon-frames as well; its ‘Lefty’, one-legged suspension fork is less a novelty and more a proven piece of unique engineering; and the BB30 super-strong bottom bracket design originally created by Cannondale is now an international standard.
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