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Cannondale Fat CAAD 2 Review

A reasonably priced fat bike that feels a little dated and was outdone by the competition in this review
Cannondale Fat CAAD 2
Photo: Jenna Ammerman
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Price:  $2,100 List
Pros:  Reasonably priced, good component specification
Cons:  Awkward geometry, moderately heavy
Manufacturer:   Cannondale
By Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue  ⋅  Dec 31, 2018
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 8
  • Downhill Performance - 30% 5
  • Uphill Performance - 30% 8
  • Versatility - 25% 6
  • Build - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Cannondale Fat CAAD 2 is a reasonably priced fat bike that was bested by the competition in this review. It performs admirably and is a fine option for smooth and mellow snow or dirt trails, but it has an outdated feeling geometry that holds it back compared to the other models we tested. The bike has a low front end that results in a less comfortable seated pedaling position and less confidence on the descents. It also has long chainstays which help to provide stability at speed but make this bike the least playful of the bunch. Overall, the component specification is similar to several of the other models in this test. That said, this bike works just fine for casual fat biking or riders who prefer a more aggressive old school rigid bike geometry.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Cannondale Fat CAAD 2
Awards  Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $2,100 List$2,100 List$2,600 List$2,299 List$1,999 List
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Pros Reasonably priced, good component specificationDropper post, nice build, great all-around performanceSuspension fork, dropper post, well-rounded performanceInexpensive for carbon, lightweight, livelyReasonably priced, 12-speed drivetrain, comfortable geometry
Cons Awkward geometry, moderately heavyModerately heavyModerately expensive, heavy, a bit clumsy in tight spacesBudget component spec, excessive handlebar backsweepHas a speed limit, not exciting
Bottom Line It is reasonably priced and plenty capable, but it feels a little dated and was bested by the competition in this testCapable and well-rounded, the Yukon 1 is one of the best fat bikes in the testA well-rounded fat bike that blends a nice build kit with a solid all-around performanceThe carbon-framed fat bike is lightweight and a solid all-around performerA mid-pack performer that doesn't stand out from the crowd but is still a solid fat bike
Rating Categories Cannondale Fat CAAD 2 Giant Yukon 1 Trek Farley 7 Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore Salsa Mukluk SX Eagle
Downhill Performance (30%)
5
8
9
7
7
Uphill Performance (30%)
8
8
7
9
8
Versatility (25%)
6
8
8
8
8
Build (15%)
8
8
8
7
7
Specs Cannondale Fat... Giant Yukon 1 Trek Farley 7 Salsa Beargrease... Salsa Mukluk SX...
Wheelsize 26" 27.5" 27.5" 27.5" 26"
Weight w/o pedals 32 lbs 32 lbs 13 oz 36 lbs 11 oz 29 lbs 11 oz 32 lbs 7 oz
Frame Material Fat CAAD SmartForm C1 alloy ALUXX SL-Grade Aluminum Alpha Platinum Aluminum High-Modulus carbon 6066-T6 Aluminum
Frame Size Large Large Large Large Large
Available Sizes S-XL S-XL S-XL XS-XL XS-XL
Fork Fatty Fat alloy rigid Rigid Composite with low-rider rack mounts Manitou Mastodon 34 Comp Bearpaw Carbon Fork Bearpaw Carbon Fork
Wheelset SUNringle Mulefut SL 80 rims with SUNringle SRC hubs Alloy rims, 90mm, with Giant hubs SUNRingle Mulefut SL 80 rims with Bontrager hubs SUNringle Mulefut 80 rims with SUNringle SRC hubs SUNringle Mulefut SL 80 rims with SUNringle SRC hubs
Front Tire Maxxis Minion FBF 4.8 Maxxis Colossus 4.5" Bontrager Gnarwhal Team Issue 4.5" Maxxis Minion FBF 3.8" 45NRTH Dillinger 4.6"
Rear Tire Maxxis Minion FBR 4.8 Maxxis Colossus 4.5" Bontrager Gnarwhal Team Issue 4.5" Maxxis Minion FBR 3.8" 45NRTH Dillinger 4.6"
Shifters Shimano SLX 11-speed SRAM NX Eagle SRAM SX Eagle Shimano Deore 10-speed SRAM SX Eagle
Rear Derailleur Shimano SLX 11-speed SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle Shimano Deore 10-speed SRAM SX Eagle
Cranks Cannondale Si SRAM NX Eagle DUB FAT 5 SRAM X1 1000 Eagle DUB Race Face Ride SRAM X1 1000 Eagle DUB
Chainring 30T 30T 30T 28T 30T
Bottom Bracket Cannondale BB30XL SRAM DUB Pressfit SRAM DUB Pressfit not specified not specified
Cassette SunRace 11-46T SRAM NX Eagle 11-50T SRAM PG-1210 11-50T Shimano Deore 11-42T SRAM PG-1210 11-50T
Saddle Cannondale Stage 3 Giant Contact (neutral) Bontrager Arvada 138mm WTB Volt Comp WTB Volt Sport
Seatpost Cannondale C3 Giant Contact Switch dropper Tranz-X JD-YSP18, 130mm Salsa Guide Salsa Guide
Handlebar Cannondale C3 Riser, 760mm Giant Connect Trail, 780mm Bontrager Alloy, 750mm Salsa Rustler Salsa Rustler, 800mm
Stem Cannondale C3 Giant Contact Bontrager Elite, 80mm Salsa Guide Salsa Guide Trail
Brakes SRAM Level SRAM Level T RSAM Level T SRAM Level SRAM Level
Warranty Lifetime Lifetime Lifetime Five Years Three Years

Our Analysis and Test Results

For 2020 Cannondale offers one version of the Fat CAAD. The 2020 Fat CAAD 1 shares the same frame and a nearly identical component specification to the version we tested, but now it comes with 27.5" wheels and tires, a new paint job, and a $100 reduction in price. November 2020

The Fat CAAD 2 is one of just two models of fat bikes offered by Cannondale. As their entry-level model, it is reasonably priced and has a component specification that is quite similar to several of the other bikes in this review. We tested the Fat CAAD 2 for a couple of months on groomed and packed snow trails as well as dirt singletrack. Testers found its overall performance to be decent, but it couldn't quite match the competition due mostly to its more awkward feeling old school geometry.

Performance Comparison


Riding the Fat CAAD 2 in its element, smooth and mellow.
Riding the Fat CAAD 2 in its element, smooth and mellow.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Downhill Performance


The Fat CAAD 2 is one of several rigid fat bikes in this test, so it came as no surprise that it preferred to be ridden on smooth snow or dirt trails. Thanks to this bike's long chainstays, 463mm, and moderately long wheelbase of 1175mm, it is best suited to carrying speed on smooth and flowy terrain where it feels stable and planted. The long chainstays have the unfortunate side effect of making it tougher to get the front end of the bike off the ground and made it feel much less lively and playful than other bikes in our test. The 69.3-degree head tube angle is pretty close to all the other models in the test, but the lower height of the front end makes it feel steeper than that and consequently a bit less confidence-inspiring on steeper sections of descending.

Taking the Fat CAAD 2 out of its element and down some steeper...
Taking the Fat CAAD 2 out of its element and down some steeper terrain.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Uphill Performance


In general, the uphill performance of the Fat CAAD 2 is fine, but due to the more awkward feeling geometry of this bike it isn't quite as comfortable as the competition. This is largely due to the low front end which makes the rider break more at the waist into a more aggressive feeling position. At 457mm, the reach isn't incredibly long or anything, it's more that you have to reach down a little bit more that feels awkward. Beyond this less comfortable rider position, the bike climbs reasonably well. There is adequate range provided by the 1 x 11-speed drivetrain and the 4.0" Maxxis Minion FBF, and FBR tires offer a good level of floatation and plenty of traction on most surfaces. The bike's long, 463mm, chainstays also help to keep the front end planted even when the going gets steep. Overall, the climbing performance of the Fat CAAD 2 is one of its best attributes; testers just preferred the comfort of the other bikes in this test more.

The Fat CAAD is a relatively efficient feeling on the climbs...
The Fat CAAD is a relatively efficient feeling on the climbs, although the geometry results in a somewhat uncomfortable seated position.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Versatility


The Fat CAAD 2 is a relatively basic rigid fat bike that is best suited to smooth snow, dirt, or mixed condition riding. The bike's lower front end puts the rider in a slightly more aggressive riding position that is best for grinding away on XC style trails. It lacks the versatility of some of its competitors due to its shortage of accessory mounts on the frame and fork, making it less ideal for bike packing and adventure riding.

Build


Cannondale's Fat CAAD 2 has a modest component specification that is pretty nice considering the asking price of this bike. It's built around Cannondale's Fat CAAD Smartform C1 Alloy frame with their Fatty Rigid alloy fork up front. Axle spacing is somewhat standard for modern fat bikes with a 15 x 150mm front and 12 x 197mm rear thru axles. This frame has relatively standard water bottle mounts within the front triangle, but virtually no other accessory mounting options otherwise.

The frame is nice and well crafted with ample room for larger tires...
The frame is nice and well crafted with ample room for larger tires, though it has an odd looking fork.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Drivetrain duties are controlled by a Shimano SLX 11-speed shifter and rear derailleur with a Sunrace 11-46 tooth cassette and Cannondale Si cranks with a 30 tooth front chainring. This drivetrain configuration provides ample range and the Shimano shifting was crisp, precise, and worked flawlessly during testing. The Fat CAAD 2 is equipped with SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm front and 160mm rear brake rotors. These brakes are similar to those found on several other fat bikes we tested and work adequately for the lower speeds typically reached while riding these big wheeled rigs.

The 11-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain is nice and works well, a step...
The 11-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain is nice and works well, a step up from the Deore found on some of the other models.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Like most Cannondale bikes, the Fat CAAD 2 comes clad with numerous house brand Cannondale parts. Most of these are in the cockpit and include the stem, 760mm wide handlebar, and the grips. The width of the handlebar and length of the stem feel good, but testers weren't fond of the non-lock-on grips. The slip-on grips they chose move around a fair amount and didn't do this otherwise well-equipped bike any favors. Cannondale has also spec'd a standard alloy seat post and saddle, both house brand, and again, the saddle was one of our least favorite in the test. Both the saddle and grips are relatively inexpensive to upgrade to something more appealing, so not a deal breaker by any means. As with a few of the other bikes in this review, we'd much prefer a quick release seat post clamp for raising and lowering the saddle more efficiently.

The Fat CAAD has a decent cockpit setup but testers weren't thrilled...
The Fat CAAD has a decent cockpit setup but testers weren't thrilled about the non-lock on grips or the uncomfortable saddle.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

When it comes to wheels and tires, we might sound a bit like a broken record because all of the fat bikes we tested have some sort of SUNringle Mulefut wheels. The Fat CAAD 2 has 26" SUNringle Mulefut 80 SL rims laced to SUNringle SRC hubs. Maxxis Minion FBF and FBR 4.0" EXO tires are mounted up and provide plenty of air volume and excellent traction.

The Maxxis Minion FBF (pictured) and FBR tires are pretty standard...
The Maxxis Minion FBF (pictured) and FBR tires are pretty standard fare, though testers found the 26" wheel size to feel a little out of date compared to the 27.5" wheels on all the other bikes in this test.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Geometry


On paper, the geometry numbers of the Fat CAAD 2 look somewhat similar to the other rigid fat bikes in this review. Interestingly, it doesn't translate quite as well on the trail, and this bike has a decidedly old school feel to it. Trek has gone with a conservative, but pretty standard for a fat bike, head tube angle of 69.3 degrees and a 73.6-degree seat tube angle. These numbers are right about where the other bikes measure give or take a degree or so. While 69.3-degrees sounds steep for a head tube angle by today's standards, it works for a rigid fork, especially one that is meant for riding in snow and you won't be likely to tackle the steepest and most technical descents on. The 73.6-degree seat tube angle is a reasonable middle ground that puts the rider up above the bottom bracket and allows for good power transfer and traction on the rear tire. The reach of 457mm is also middle of the road, but testers found the front end of this bike to feel low, we measured it at 909mm in a straight line from the ground to the top of the head tube. This lower front end makes you break a little more at the waist and puts you into a more aggressive position while climbing or seated pedaling. Testers preferred the more comfortable position offered by bikes with a slightly higher front end.

The geometry of the Fat CAAD feels a bit dated, especially the long...
The geometry of the Fat CAAD feels a bit dated, especially the long chainstays and low front end.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The 1175mm wheelbase is also moderate in length, long enough to give the bike some stability at speed, but not so long that it becomes unwieldy in tighter terrain or when making turns. The 463mm long chainstays are among the longest in this test and surprising given the 26" wheel size of this bike. The long chainstays do help with stability somewhat but certainly make it harder to get the front end of this bike off the ground and are one of the reasons this bike feels less playful than the competition.

Value


Like many of the big bike manufacturers, Cannondale bikes aren't known for being inexpensive. So, at a retail price of $2,100, we were pleasantly surprised by the price of the Fat CAAD 2. The alloy frame is reasonably lightweight, and the component specification is pretty good considering the asking price. Since our testers preferred the performance of the other models in this test, we'd be less inclined to recommend it over any of the competition.

Getting loose on the Fat CAAD in some mixed conditions.
Getting loose on the Fat CAAD in some mixed conditions.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


On paper, the Fat CAAD 2 looks relatively similar to several of the other models in this review. In practice, the whole package doesn't come together all that well out on the trail, and this bike has an awkward feeling geometry that makes it less comfortable and confidence-inspiring to ride than the competition. The bike's low front end is tough to get used to, and the long chainstays make this bike feel more sluggish and lifeless comparatively speaking. It gets the job done; it just feels a bit outdated and old school in the process.

Other Versions and Accessories


Cannondale makes two models of Fat CAAD including the Fat CAAD 2 reviewed above. The Fat CAAD 1 ($3,360) is their top of the line model that comes with their Fat CAAD alloy frame and a Lefty OLAF 100mm suspension fork. It comes equipped with a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Guide R brakes, and a Tranz-X 120mm dropper seat post.

Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue