By Colin Dennis
Sizes: 46 – 61cm
Size tested: 54cm
The Road Less Gravelled.
Not only does Cannondale’s Apex 1 all-rounder steer happily towards the rigors of cyclocross, but thanks to its updated, lightweight CAADX frame, SRAM Rival 1x11 groupset and a rock-steady geometry, this easy to live with bike transfers seamlessly towards adventure cycling and off-road commuting.
The Apex 1 sits atop Cannondale's four-tier range of aluminium range of CAADX cyclocross bikes, with three further, Shimano equipped models sharing the same SmartForm C2 alloy frame of the SRAM Apex 1 model. The main visual difference from previous Cannondale CAAD Alloy CX framesets is the switch from a uniform diameter toptube to a vastly tapered one. Looks cool though!
On closer inspection, you'll also discover the toptube is flatened both below and above. Add this to the flattened chain and seatstays and you've got yourself a little in-built frame suspension that has proved to provide a plush yet resposive ride that errs on the side of stability and confidence, rather than brash, twitchy steering.
This is all part of Cannondale’s Speed Save Micro-Suspension programme aimed at making the CAADX framesets suitable for racing on Sunday and commuting on Monday. The joy of a more-rounded bike like the Apex 1 is that you can up your commuting fun to include some pretty decent off-roading if you’ve got the trails to hand.
Much of the ride quality comes from Cannondale’s inclusion of their new Ultra X, carbon and disc specific forks. A 1-1/4 to 1-1/8 tapered steerer and headtube beef-up the front end for sure, but the 71-degree head angle should feel slack, but not on the Apex 1.
If you take a closer look down at the fork dropouts, you’ll notice that there’s a subtle sweep to the bottom of the forks allowing the leading edge to sit just forward of the dropouts. I reckon that the resulting fork rake goes someway to neutralising the otherwise slack angles.
Either way, the handling at the front end of the Apex 1 has proved that Cannondale’s new take on steering is easy to live with whether you’re flogging your way around a cyclocross course, or navigating your way through traffic on the high street.
Cannondale certainly know how to make a bike look aesthetically pleasing and therefore more attractive, literally, to the buying public. Their in-house designed cranks and finishing kits of stems, bars and saddles are widely accepted as being well made, robust and nice-looking. This no doubt helps towards making the price very attractive too.
The Apex 1 comes complete with Cannondale’s SI cranks that pair-up nicely to the FSA Megatooth 40T chainring and an all-encompassing 11-32 SRAM cassette. The tall teeth on the chainring ensure there’s nowhere for the chain to go and throughout our time on the Apex 1, whether racing or pootling around town, chain suck is a thing of the past.
What’s also nice to see here down at the sharp end, is that the finish on the teeth is proving to be very hard wearing. I feel it’s going to take a fair-few wet rides to remove the black coating from the teeth.
Talking of which. We’ve not been shy of putting the Apex 1 through a few rounds of this year’s Wessex Cyclocross League. The season continues to be un-seasonally dry, but that makes for fast and furious racing, and the Cannondale Apex 1 has proved to be no slouch on the tight, technical courses we’ve enjoyed so far.
Despite the dry weather, and who are we to complain? The SRAM Apex 1 x 11 groupset, which includes SRAM’s ultra-reliable hydraulic brake system is sure to be a winner in the gloop that’s yet to come. We remain big fans of 1 x 11 or similar set ups and pays dividends should the rest of your bike turn into a demented, mud-collecting machine.
Smaller details that are no-less important include the rear mech dropout sitting inboard of the dropout and out of harm’s way. This also improves chain alignment essential for smooth gear changing on a single chainring set-up.
It would be too easy to overlook the wheelset on the Apex, because, and just like every other feature on this bike, the wheelset quietly gets on with the important task of making the ride as pleasant as possible with the minimum of fuss.
Cannondale have fitted Schwalbe’s new X-one tubeless tyres into the equation and are faintly reminiscent of Onza’s once-fabled, Porcupine MTB tyres, better knowns as 'Porcs' to those riding in the Vets' categories.
The X-one rubbers pair up perfectly with the free-spinning CX20 disc specific rims and Formula CX20 front and CX22 rear hubs. Other than testing and adjusting the tyre pressures to suit rider and terrain, this combination has not only eliminated pinch flats, but thankfully remains completely leak free. One more positive step towards tubeless tyres be coming of age.
In summary: the Cannondale Apex 1 may be marketed as a Jack of all trades adventure road and gravel bike, but to be perfectly honest, it's mastered all elements of road and off-road cycling that we’ve put it through and passed with hounors.
And while some manufacturers struggle to get the weight of their bikes down to around 10kg at this price point, Cannondale equip the Apex 1 with components normally seen on more expensive bikes, and weighing in under 9.5kg, you're certainly getting a great deal of bike for your money.
So, from cyclocross racing on a Sunday, to spicing up your weekday commute, the Apex 1 delivers on all fronts – especially fun!