4000km on a Cannondale Slate

bikes 31 May 2021

Back in 2016 (or was it 2015?) when the Slate was announced, it was if not the first, a very early bike in a new breed: Cannondale called it an 'all-road' bike, a category that has become gravel bikes. The Slate features unusually small 650b wheels, and even more unusually a Lefty front suspection fork. To cap off the unusualness of the bike, the steerer tube is 1.5", really restricting the stem choices available.

I bought my Slate when I first moved to California, and across many iterations have ridden metrics, a century, and a lot of other rides in-between. I bought it from Sports Basement, as an ex-display model with a 30% discount, which on top of another 10% discount was incredible. Since then, I think the only component I haven't changed on it is the frame and the fork (the wheels were replaced under warranty).

TL;DR?

The Slate is very comfortable, easy on the wrists thanks to the suspension, very manoeuvrable thanks to its smaller wheels and generally a pleasure to ride.

What have I used my Slate for?

One century, several metrics, and lot of rides in between, mostly on road but with a bit of gravel.

What changes have I made to the original build?

Drivetrain

The biggest change I've made, and one that I still have trouble with today, is the switch from the flawless Ultegra shifting to SRAM's eTap. I should clarify this is original eTap Red, not one of the newer variants.

Why is it troubling? Neither I, nor my local bike shop, could ever get the front shifter to behave: every so often when changing sur la plaque it would through the chain off. Combined with how the battery sticks out from the front shifter, it greatly restricts the tyre size. The 42c tyres - big, cushiony balloons to ride on - rub on the battery casing by about 2-3mm (possible less).

I - to my chagrin - worked around this problem by switching to a 1x setup. I have a gorgeous oval chain ring, but I find I miss the top-end speed.

Power meter

With the switch to eTap, I added a SRAM Quarq Dzero power meter. Wonderful thing, works perfectly, L/R balance, with cadence information. Battery changes are easy, and rare.

Freshly-wrapped K-Wing AGX bars, and a lovely Omata 'computer'

Seatpost

Long before I knew about Canyon (and the Grail), I knew about Ergon, and their CF seat posts: adding one of these really took the sting out of the rough roads in the Bay Area, I can't recommend them enough.

Handlebars

For a while I had Specialized S-Works Aerofly Carbon Handlebars, which I loved, but I started to want something with a bit more spread to them. I'm currently enjoying the FSA K-Wing AGX bar: similar rise to the Aeroflys, and oh-so-comfortable.

The gorgeous lines of the Aerofly bars

Tyres

There's been a lot of tooing-and-froing with tyres on this bike, but I've settled on the Specialized Sawtooth 2Bliss Ready 650b Tire. Never have I had a tubeless tyre seat up so well, and they are fast. I'm tempted to try a return to a 2x - they might not rub - but I haven't been motivated yet. Yet.

Clearance with a 38c tyre: just a bit close for comfort!

Chainring

I have a 42T oval ring from Garbaruk and it pedals very well. As noted earlier, I miss the top-end speed of a 2x setup, but for rolling along peacefully this is a delight. Perhaps I just need to get a bigger chainring..?

What problems have I had over 4000km?

This bike has a lot of quirks: more quirks than regularities, from the very tight fit of the tyres near shifting components, to the steerer, take your pick. But, it's worth it. I've had so much fun riding the bike, fixing problems of my own creation, that I'd happily do it all over again.

What's next for my Slate?

I'd love to get it back to a 2x, eTap, without the chain jumping off, with 42c tyres. Is that too much to ask?

Tags

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.