2013 Cannondale F29 Carbon 3: First Impressions

We get attached to things, familiar with how they feel, act, and look. As cyclists, this is naturally true for our bikes, and for good reason! We create memories while riding: discovery, pain, and reward burn their permanent records. But I’m also always curious about trying something new. Is that frame as good as they say? How much does weight really matter? And most importantly, will that sleek new ride expand my biking horizon? After enjoying the last six years on my last mountain bike, it was time to become familiar with something different.

I’ve transitioned from a 26″ full-squish ride to a shiny new Cannondale F29 Carbon 3, and this year I’ll be providing a running review of the bike, detailing what works, what doesn’t work, and how my riding habits will change.

As expected from a company with roots as deep as Cannondale’s, the bike screams quality. The frame uses their BallisTec Carbon, which uses an engineered mix of stiff, efficient fibers mixed with more-elastic, impact-resistant fibers to create a frame that is stiff and responsive, but shrugs off rocks, trees, and careless truck beds that wish to do it harm. Flex points are built into the seat tube and top tube; along with Cannondale’s SAVE frame design (flattened seat and chainstays), this bike should provide all day riding comfort while transmitting pedaling power straight into forward motion.

The build kit is fairly moderate. A Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain with Avid Elixir 7′s, WTB Frequency i19 rims laced to Lefty front and Shimano rear hubs, and Cannondale’s own cockpit results in a parts spec that gets the job done without too much complaining.

The real star of the show is Cannondale’s Lefty fork. Even though it’s been around for over a decade, the Lefty still draws curiosity from most riders. This is my first experience on the fork, and I’m sold. It is laterally very stiff, tracks well, offers easy setup, and has a very smooth feel. I don’t expect to have any complaints with this fork.

Cannondale did a great job with this frame. It is a phenomenal climber and really rewards sprint efforts. The geometry feels fast and efficient. In all, this is a true cross country bike. I did end up changing out the stock flat bar with a low-rise carbon bar, and that helped bring a more stable feel to the bike.

The stock build on this bike is surprisingly light. With Eggbeater pedals and two Whisky bottle cages, my size large hit 23.5 lbs on the dot! The carbon frame and Lefty fork really do help with that! I would have chosen a couple of parts differently, however. The crank, for one, is a SRAM X.7 level crank, but a bike this efficient is begging to be run as a 1×10, and I would have liked an X.9 crank with a removable spider so I could run a direct-mount single ring. Also, this bike could use a wheel upgrade, as the stock rear wheel is pretty lackluster and found its way badly out of true within the first couple rides. Most riders could also benefit from some higher volume tires than the stock 2.0 Racing Ralphs.

Overall, the frame and fork are some of the best I’ve ridden, and the parts spec allows this bike to have a very competitive price point and low weight. I’ve enjoyed every ride I’ve had on this bike so far, and it brings out a competitive side in me that’s encouraged me to enter more races and ride harder than I ever have in previous years.

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