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2003 Cannondale Ironman 2000.
By Tom Demerly.
Read this first about our reviews

Click to enlarge for detailed specifications.

There are forty (40) major components on a triathlon bike. That's counting inner tubes, rim strips, spokes (counted as one component), quick release skewers and cables- not to mention the frame, fork and wheels.

Forty chances to get it right- or blow it. In our store it doesn't take much for a company to blow it. Our standards are high. Ask any sales rep. or product manager: They hate my guts. "Tom Demerly is an asshole, he's a perfectionist, he's opinionated, he's type 'A', he's eccentric and weird". It's all true. In 2002 I wrote a bike review so scathing (and accurate) a company threatened to never sell to us again and are still threatening me with it. But they changed the bike, maybe, to a small degree because of that review. Oh, I forgot to mention, they say I'm arrogant too. There's a saying in the bike industry, "Build a thousand bikes and you're not a bike builder, but wreck one bike and you're a bike wrecker."

It's a new model year. Another chance for companies, their product managers and bean counters to screw up perfectly good bikes with bizarre components and jack up prices.

It's also a chance for a select few companies to get it right. They have 40 chances to make an error on each bike. The chances of achieving that ephemeral perfection, that perfect synergy of mechanical union and economic value are slim.

But so far one has achieved that (near) perfection. In grand and sweeping fashion, perhaps for the first time ever.

I have carefully reviewed the 2003 Cannondale Ironman 2000. My findings are: 39 of the 40 components are without flaw. The bike is speced, configured, priced and designed in such a manner that it is not only the best value I've seen in any triathlon bike for 2003, but the best triathlon bike spec, design, execution and overall performance of any triathlon bike I have tested in the last six years.

If this bike fits your body measurements correctly and suits the terrain you are riding on (more on that…), it is a "Best Buy" and a technological manifestation of perfection. There are 40 parts on this bike: 39 are perfect. One is just "OK". That's 97.5% perfection. My issue with the one "problem" boils down to a matter of opinion- but I will support my opinion, so read on…


Saeco team frames ready for shipment to Italy.

Before you dismiss this review as merely an exhaustive attempt to sell Cannondales, let me remind you: Before our store sells any bike first we have to buy it. And we can buy any bikes we want. I guarantee you this, having purchased over 8,000 bicycles in 24 years in the bike industry (my first job was in a bike shop at 16, I'm 41 now) I am a tough guy to sell a bike to. I'm pickier than you.

Cannondale has a long history of building triathlon bikes. According to Cannondale Tech Support man Tim Corbett at Cannondale HQ in Bethel, Connecticut, the first triathlon bike to appear in a Cannondale catalog was the R700 2.8 in 1993. The bike had a steepish 75-degree seat tube angle and was equipped with Profile Aero 2 handlebars and Gripshift bar end shifters.


The first Cannondale tri bikes used straight seat stays and had an exceptionally harsh ride.


The cantilevered dropout design was a failure and has since been abandoned in favor of more refined designs used now.

As a triathlon bike, it is a failure by today's standards, but was advanced then. It was a necessary step for Cannondale to get to where they are today. The 1993 R700 2.8 suffered from a harsh ride due to an unusual (and long since abandoned) dropout and seat stay configuration. The component spec was rough- but as good as available at the time. It was competing with the new state-of-the-art in triathlon bikes at the time, Quintana Roo. Triathlon Guru Dan Empfield was firmly at the helm of Quintana Roo and making innovations and improvements so fast the big players like Cannondale simply couldn't adapt quick enough to keep up with Quintana Roo. In 1993 (and even today) if you wanted a triathlon bike, a real triathlon bike, you bought a Quintana Roo. All the rest were pretenders then.

But times have changed. While Cannondale was adapting, changing and learning how to build the perfect triathlon bike Quintana Roo reached the apogee of their business lifespan, had been sold to Hyde Athletic (Saucony), and then re-sold to American Bicycle Group. ABG has preserved the essence that is Quintana Roo and added their gift of titanium fabrication to the brand. But in the shuffle that is buyouts and sellouts in the corporate world Cannondale passed them in the tri bike arms race. During boardroom negotiations for the Quintana Roo brand name Cannondale was doing what they do best: Refine, test, refine some more, test again, get feedback from customers, dealers and athletes and keep improving. The Cannondales improved steadily.

 


This evolution of Cannondale triathlon design still had straight seat stays but more conventional wheel dropouts.

 



A good view of the old (mid '90s) straight seat stay design.


The new curved seat stay design facilitates much greater ride comfort and strength: An enormous improvement.

Other triathlon bike builders came and went. Felt got a foothold, lost it, then came back swinging with renewed product, capital and dedication two years ago. Cervelo gently put their foot in the door some years ago, then kicked it off the hinges with their incredible, basically flawless designs- the Ferrari of the triathlon bike world. Now the triathlon bike market is divided among the major players: The inventors, Quintana Roo; The workhorses, Cannondale; The innovators and artisans, Cervelo; and the come-back kings, Felt. The remainder of the business is divided among suppliers like Kestrel, Softride and other great companies like Litespeed who specialize in one material or one type of design.

In 1996/97, Cannondale took a giant leap forward: They began providing bikes to a top European professional cycling team, Saeco/Cannondale. Cannondale was the first U.S. bike manufacturer to sponsor a European pro team. How has this benefited their triathlon bike program? The experience Cannondale gained in sponsorship with the Saeco Pro Team was applied to future bike designs, road and triathlon. The bikes became more comfortable, stronger, lighter and more aerodynamic. Frames and rider positions were tested in the Pininfarina wind tunnel in Turin, Italy. More importantly, they were tested in the real world. Races were won and lost, materials and designs were changed. Cannondale accomplished what would take most companies at least a decade to achieve (if they ever did) in three model years. In the same way Ferrari, Porsche and Honda develop their high-end road cars (on the Formula 1, LeMans and Indy Car circuits) Cannondale refined their triathlon and road bikes. The results are obvious. The only other U.S. manufacturers to do this have been Trek and ABG (Litespeed/ Quintana Roo). Of those two, only ABG (Litespeed/Quintana Roo) has demonstrated a commitment to triathlon bikes and truly benefited from their triathlon sponsorships with Litespeed and QR. Trek paid lip service to triathlon bikes for a couple seasons, but has since essentially dropped their triathlon efforts, this year offering a (distant) version of the time trial bike used by Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. Compared to both these companies Cannondale's racing development program seems to have yielded superior results on the sales floor (and at the races) for consumers.


Despite his sensational, flamboyant persona, Mario Cippolini and his Saeco team helped Cannondale development rocket forward.

Cannondale vaulted forward. The company was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange (NASDAQ symbol: BIKE) and raised additional capitol for greater production capacity and research and development including new product categories such as motorsport, which later proved to be a white elephant. Their 2002 fiscal year sales were $156.7 million, an increase of 6.7% during a year when most other companies were floundering. After announcing earnings in 2002 the stock shot up over 31% in a single day. The company remains entirely committed to U.S. frame manufacturing and employed 863 people at the end of summer 2002. By contrast one other highly recognizable triathlon bike manufacturer has 1 (that's right, one) employee answering the phone in their sales department. If he's in the bathroom or at lunch, they are basically out of operation. Every other major player in triathlon bikes relies to some degree on off-shore frame production (Cannondale only sources components off shore), a situation that became critical during the 2002 September/October U.S. West Coast port lock-out.

 

What does this Harvard MBA stuff mean to you? Cannondale is real: Spend a couple thousand dollars on a Cannondale and they will be there in five years. Through reorganization, failed ideas and turbulent times Cannondale has proven that. The company has intrinsic value. They have history; experience and support their customers. They've done their homework. That is how they got where they are today. They can supply bikes at the height of the season and get them here reliably in four days. If you have a warranty issue on Friday morning (before a major race) chances are I can have you on a new bike by Friday afternoon. That Friday afternoon. The ownership experience doesn't get any better than that.

In January of 2003 Cannondale fell victim to the pitfalls of the post 9/11 economy and that most vicious of corporate afflictions: Ambition. Cannondale's attempt to enter the motorsports market put an enormous drain on the profitable bike operation. Being a publicly held company there was additional pressure to demonstrate the stratospheric (and unrealistic) growth seen in the late '90s among NASDAQ home run hitters. Most of those are gone, but Cannondale remains. By December of 2002 the cash drain from the unprofitable motorsports division became so severe Cannondale was forced to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Only 53% of the company was affected- the U.S. motorsports and bicycle division. A white knight called The Pegasus Group took financial control of Cannondale's domestic bike operations and infused millions of dollars that had been bled away by the hemorrhaging motorsports division. Cannondale has emerged as a privately held U.S. bike manufacturer.

The results of the bankruptcy have been minimal. There was a two week interruption in normal Cannondale operations. Regular production resumed on February 14, 2003. The Pegasus Group was committed to finding a new corporate (private) owner by the end of March. The consensus was that Cannondale dealers and owners would never notice the changes. As of this writing, that appears to be the case.


The Saeco Professional Cycling Team and Cannondale conducted
wind tunnel testing of bike and rider in Italy.

This history brings us to the 2003 Cannondale Ironman 2000. The bike uses the tried and true Cannondale CAAD5 (Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design version 5) triathlon frame and aero fork. This frame and fork has remained essentially unchanged for three model years. As well it should- it is outstanding. The CAAD5 frame and fork are the direct result of Saeco-Cannondale experience and sponsorship of elite triathletes like '97 Ironman winner Thomas Hellriegel. Hellriegel blazed to the fastest bike split in Kona in '02 at 4:34:00 on a Cannondale.

What sets Cannondale frames apart from all other aluminum triathlon frames is their manufacturing process. Cannondale starts with a heat-treated 6061 T6 aluminum tube set. The tubes are TIG-welded together in a similar manner to most other manufacturers. This is where the similarity ends. Once the welds are complete a hand finishing process smoothes the welds on the Cannondale frames at each joint. The combination of the heat generated from the welding process and the grinding done during the smoothing process creates a large "heat affected zone" where the joint is actually weakened. This requires Cannondale's unique second heat treating process. The welded, smoothed frame is then heat treated as a unit in a process exclusive to Cannondale. The process is closely guarded. Guests on tour at the Cannondale factory are not allowed in the heat-treating room. The purpose of smoothing the weld beads is not aesthetic, it is structural. An engineer will tell you the distinct edges of an unfinished weld bead are "stress raisers", or a point where cracks can get a start and spread or "propagate". Cannondale has removed these stress raisers and improved the strength of their frames over other brands of aluminum bikes by over 30%. That's huge.


Frame quality is the the second best reason to buy a
bike (fit is first). These welds are second to none in the bike
industry, hand made and hand finished in the U.S.

For 2003 the Ironman 2000 wears a component group second to none in performance and value. If you think that's a cliché', I invite you to get out your spreadsheets and compare. We did. The components are a good mix of performance where you really need it and value where it makes sense. The Ironman 2000 sells for about $2399.00. Carefully go nut to bolt with everything else out there within a couple hundred dollars in either direction and you'll see nothing else is as nice or makes as much sense. No one else has the double heat-treated, smoothed weld bead frame.

The Ironman 2000 uses Shimano Dura-Ace 9 speed bar-end shifters with a Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleur. The rest of the bike is essentially Shimano Ultegra. In the hierarchy of prices Shimano Ultegra is positioned below Dura-Ace, but the performance is still there. Up-specing the rear derailleur from Ultegra to Dura-Ace provides faster, more powerful shifting in the rear where you shift most. It also upgrades your derailleur bushing to sealed bearings (as opposed to one bushing on Ultegra) and saves 20 grams. The Dura-Ace rear derailleur features a plastic "push plate" that facilitates smoother, faster, lighter feeling shifts. The derailleur can shift with lighter cable tension, making the shifting action easier and faster. Most riders will be able to detect the difference in shift quality between Dura-Ace and Ultegra. It isn't subtle. It's an upgrade that makes sense. Keeping the Shimano Ultegra components on the rest of the bike also makes sense since it keeps the bike well below $2500.


In addition to an outstanding frame, the no-nonesense component
specifications like this Shimano Ultegra crank, chainrings and front
derailleur make the the Ironman 2000 a dependable bike and excellent
value. Ultegra crank, bottom bracket and chainrings insure excellent front
shifting every time. No cheap aftermarket, off-brand cranks and
downgraded derailleurs here.

A word about components in general. First of all, don't shop for a bike by components. I know that sounds like a contradiction. Components are interchangeable. Stop comparing components and start comparing bike fit and frame quality. If you find your dream bike but it doesn't have the derailleurs, shifters and brakes you want, or you don't like the crank, it easier to change those than make changes to the frame. When you buy a bike you're predominantly buying a frame and fork- the components are largely generic and interchangeable. You can have the best components money can buy, but if the bike doesn't fit you it won't provide optimal performance: You wasted your money. Shop for frame quality and fit first, they are most important.

From Shimano 105 to Shimano Dura-Ace they all provide at least good performance. The biggest difference is in the frame and fork and how the bike fits your body.

Having said that, we did a survey of our returning customers after Ironman Wisconsin 2002. We asked five customers who bought bikes from us (two Litespeeds, two Cannondales and one Cervelo) how their bikes performed during Ironman Wisconsin. Our store set-up 23 bikes for Ironman Wisconsin and we learned a lot about preparing bikes specifically for that course. Each of the five customers surveyed had their bikes tuned up by us within three weeks prior to Ironman Wisconsin. We asked each customer the same questions about how their bikes performed. Two customers were on Shimano Dura-Ace components throughout, one was on Shimano Ultegra and the other two were on Shimano 105 components but with Shimano Tiagra front derailleurs. We test rode each bike prior to the customers' departure for Ironman Wisconsin to verify their mechanical integrity.


Although the Profile Carbon Strike bars are adjustable to
almost any position, we feel they are heavy and complex.

What we learned from our customers who did Ironman Wisconsin 2002 on these bikes was they all had basically good component performance with two notable exceptions. Each of the five surveyed said they had excellent rear shifting performance. Two of the five reported they "Had trouble with their front derailleur". Both of those two had Shimano 105 cranks and Shimano Tiagra front derailleurs. They mentioned it was difficult to shift the chain from the small chainring up to the large chainring and one dropped her chain to the inside as she shifted from the large ring down to the small ring. Neither knew the position of their chain on the rear cog when they experienced the problems, a critical aspect of front derailleur performance. Ironman Wisconsin is a somewhat unique course in that it has lots of short, steep climbs, necessitating frequent front changes to maintain the light cadence you need to keep your legs fresh at Ironman distance. For this reason it is an excellent testing ground for front derailleur shifting performance.


This bottom bracket was removed from a triathlete's bike
that was bound for Ironman. It was so worn it needed replacement.
The Cannondale Ironman 2000 uses a sealed cartridge bearing
Shimano Ultegra bottom bracket which requires almost no
maintenance- an excellent choice for triathletes.

The lesson learned is that front derailleur performance can be highly dependent on component selection. The cranks, bottom bracket, chainrings, front derailleur, front derailleur mounting to the frame and cable installation are all critical to the performance of the front derailleur, in addition to a precisely aligned frame with a stiff seat tube and bottom bracket. Bikes with Shimano Tiagra front derailleurs, shifted by Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end shifters on Shimano 105 cranks with Shimano SG brand chainrings did shift adequately under light use (flat to rolling courses, not much front shifting required), but were not up to our standards for race performance on a course with frequent front shifts.

The 2003 Cannondale Ironman 2000 uses a Shimano Ultegra crank and Shimano SG chainrings with a Shimano Ultegra front derailleur. This combination assures excellent, accurate and repeatable front shifting even on the most demanding terrain if the athlete has practiced their shifting technique. This is the best front derailleur, chainring, crank and shifter spec available at this price point. Only a few bikes share this, including the excellent Cervelo P2K. Any frame can be built to this specification, but usually at additional cost. Cannondale also includes a Shimano Ultegra bottom bracket with sealed cartridge bearings. We consider this more appropriate for most triathletes than even a Dura-Ace bottom bracket since the Dura-Ace unit, although lighter, uses fragile alloy cups and a relatively complex bearing/roller bearing assembly that can be maintenance intensive. From our experience triathletes are best off on equipment that avoids exotic maintenance.

In 2003 a lot of bikes use combinations of brands of shifters, front derailleurs and most notably cranks. FSA and Truvativ are supplying many bike brands with cranks and chainrings in 2003. We have ridden them and used them in the real world. Most of them can be adjusted to deliver adequate front shifting performance, but do operate as quickly or smoothly with a minimum of adjustment as does a complete Shimano front transmission assembly. This is understandable as the Shimano mechanisms are designed as a unified system at the same facility by the same engineers to work together as a unit. When separate companies have to make the bottom bracket, crank, front derailleur and even chain rings it is difficult for everyone to be on the same "sheet of music" so the components work together perfectly. This is not to say the FSA and Truvativ equipped bikes are bad, they are configured to reach certain price specifications and do so, offering the consumer a viable alternative to expensive Shimano brand components. Like automotive design legend Carrol Shelby said, "Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?"


Another view of the old cantilever dropout from the early 90's.


And the new dropout design which is lighter, stronger, stiffer much more dependable.

 

While we discourage people from buying a bike based on component spec (fit is much more important) it is worth considering in this package. The shift quality on the front of the Cannondale Ironman 2000 is outstanding, second to none. If you are doing hilly events like Ironman Wisconsin, Lake Placid, Canada, etc. this is something to think about. If you are a beginner who wants a minimum of component hassles and are will to pay a few extra dollars for it- this is a good place to put your money.

Spending a few extra bucks up front is worth it in the long run to get the good stuff that really works.

The rest of the component spec on the Ironman 2000 is equally without flaw. Brake calipers are genuine Shimano Ultegra. They work great- no problems ever.


You may never think about how important a micro-adjust
seatpost head is until you don't have one. The excellent
seatpost on the Ironman 2000 permits infinite angular
adjustment of the Selle San Marco Azoto Triathlon
saddle, our best triathlon saddle.

The seatpost is a Cannondale micro-adjust post with no annoying serrations to prevent you from adjusting your saddle angle to perfection. This seatpost is easy to adjust and holds adjustments securely. The saddle is the state-of-the-art Selle San Marco Azoto Triathlon, the best triathlon saddle made. Read our detailed review here.

The stem and base bars are excellent quality as are the brake levers, a lightweight lever with no return spring. Brake cable installation is very important on this braking system to insure good lever feel. The cable and housings must be cut to precise length (not too long, not too short) and have the housing ends precisely ground flat and smooth on a grinder. It is critical to use a durable cable lubricant inside the housings and be sure the inner cables are spotlessly clean upon installation. We like the cables supplied, we're not big fans of Flak Jacket, Gore or other PTFE "slick" style brake cables. For triathletes, good quality stainless brake cables with meticulously prepared lined housings are always best.


Carbon fiber head tube spacers are OK if you are only
using 2.5-5mm of spacing. If you need more than
5mm of head tube spacing we recommend alloy
as the carbon spacers tend to compress and produce
"creeking" noises. Personally, I prefer aluminum
spacers in all applications but many customers
like the "look" of carbon.

The headset spacers supplied with the bike are carbon fiber. You may or may not have to use spacers depending on your body measurements. We have had problems with carbon fiber headset spacers. When more than 1 centimeter of carbon fiber spacers are used the spacers tend to compress and bulge out causing the headset adjustment to marginally change (loosen) and produce a creaking noise. For any height above 1 centimeter we recommend alloy headset spacers as they are non-compressible.


The Spinergy Xaero Lite wheels and Cannondale Carbon fiber
fork improve ride quality, increase strength and save weight.
The wheels add substantial value to the entire bike package.

The wheels on the Ironman 2000 are another home run. The Spinergy Xaero Lite wheels used on the Ironman 2000 are the best training wheels available in my opinion, and a decent race wheel as well. These wheels sell for $699.99, so they add substantial value to the bike. They weigh only 1450 grams for a pair of 650c clinchers. That compares to Zipp 404 650c clinchers that weigh 1465 grams per pair at $1195.00 and Zipp 303 650c clinchers that weigh in at 1543 grams (weights quoted were obtained from Zipp directly via phone) for $1095.00.

The Spinergy Xaero Lite uses the unique PBO fiber spoke. The spoke is flexible and can actually be tied in a knot, unlike conventional wire spokes. PBO stands for Phenylene Benz Obisoxazole, the material used in the spokes. The PBO spoke can withstand impacts 25% greater than a traditional wire wheel and 50% more than comparable high-end products such as lightweight double butted or bladed spokes. Spinergy's impact fatigue tests show that a PBO spoked wheel is designed to be more resistant to repeated impacts than any other wire wheel design. PBO wheels will need much less truing and maintenance than other wheel designs. My own tests on the road confirm this. Ride comfort is also substantially improved. Xaero Lites ride more comfortably than any other wheel I've tried. This is a wheel set you can ride every day on any road, no matter how bad the pavement. You can dent any rim if you aren't careful, but these are the most durable wheels you can find. The light weight means they will accelerate quickly responsively and climb well. These are the perfect wheels if you only want to own one set of wheels. They do not replace an aerodynamic race wheel like a Zipp, Hed or Corima, but you shouldn't train everyday on a race wheel like those. On a hilly course the Spinergy Xaero Lites are very good race wheels. On a flat course the round PBO fiber spokes and shallow rim depth won't match the performance of Zipps, Heds or Corimas but you need to spent another $1000 + to get those additional time savings. Bang for the buck, for most athletes the Xaero Lites will do everything they need, even on race day.

Now, my one criticism:

The Ironman 2000 uses Profile Carbon Strike aerobars. These aerobars are highly adjustable and comfortable to use when adjusted to your taste. My issue with them is they are comprised of exactly 50 (fifty) different pieces. They arrive to us in a semi-disassembled condition that requires extensive assembly of bolts, washers, etc. By comparison the Syntace C-2 Ultralite aerobar uses a total of 28 separate components, a 44% reduction in hardware. The C-2 Ultralite is not adjustable for length and rotational grip angle, as is the Profile Carbon Strike, but is adjustable for elbow pad width. For length adjustment the Syntace bars are available in three sizes (Small, Medium or Large). I like Syntace better than any aerobar.


Our favorite aerobar: The Syntace C-2. Light, simple and sold in sizes. Only 28 separate components.


By contrast the adjustable Profile Carbon Strike uses 50 separate bits and pieces(some of the small washers are not visible). It is heavy, complex and has a lot to go wrong. Some people favor its adjustablitly however. (click either photo to enlarge).

Here's the debate: What is the point of adjustable aerobars? Once you find the place you want them to be adjusted to you simply leave them adjusted that way. But you still have to carry around 44% more hardware (and its weight and vulnerability to failure). It's just more weight and more things to go wrong. With the Syntace approach you find the aerobar size that fits you and use that, without the extra weight of all that adjusting hardware. Perfection isn't when there is nothing more to add; it's when there is nothing left to take away.

In fairness, not all the Profile hardware is required to assemble the bars, as pointed out by Bikesport, Inc. Manager Mike O'Donnell. "Some of what is in there are risers and the longer bolts for those risers, so you wouldn't be using those necessarily". Risers for Syntace bars are sold separately.

It boils down to your preference. I will argue the simplicity and reduced weight of the Syntace is better. You could argue having a greater range of adjustment is worth the additional weight and complexity. When you think about it in the grand scheme of the entire bike, this is a very, very minor concern. We charge $30 to upgrade to Syntace bars on an Ironman 2000, giving you full credit for the Profile bars that come off.

What about the ride? I have a Cannondale triathlon bike, a Multisport 5000 from the 2002 model year. It isn't for sale. I love that bike. The ride quality is better than any other aluminum bike I've been on. I have several aluminum tri bikes, but this is my favorite. I hate to revert to that stupid cliché used by ride reviewers everywhere, but it is the perfect combination of stiffness versus comfort. Super fast on the climbs, handles great and still feels good after six hours. I love my Cannondale triathlon bike.

What are these bikes best suited for? The type of triathlons and duathlons we do in Southeastern Michigan: Flat to rolling terrain, good to horrible pavement. Although the Cannondale triathlon frames climb better than any triathlon frame I've tried (owing to their laterally stiff bottom bracket), they still aren't necessarily perfect on a super hilly course. Usually you need something different and highly specialized for very hilly terrain and that is a whole other article all together. That is also going to depend on your body measurements- so this will vary from person to person. This points to the importance of being accurately measured by someone who knows about triathlon bikes, the courses you'll be riding and has lots of experience in all of them. A person with ten triathlons under their belt and a thumbnail knowledge of fitting is dangerous, they think they know it all, but they only know enough to screw it up. Our primary fitter has done over 200 triathlons all over the world including three Ironmans and measured several thousand cyclists.

Several customers wondered about the Ironman, World Triathlon Corporation "M-dot" logo on the bike. World Triathlon Corporation, the Ironman people, owns the Ironman name and M-dot icon. If you want to call a product "Ironman" you have to license the name from them, and plenty of people have. From breakfast cereal to trash bags to sports drinks to wrist watches, SUVs and tons of clothing and accessories for athletes and non-athletes the Ironman brand is up there with the NFL and the NBA as a sports marketing label. What does this mean to you? Cannondale is committed enough to the sport to put money back in. I asked several insiders what they thought it cost for Cannondale to put the M-dot Ironman logo on the Ironman series bikes. Guesses ranged from "Not all that much" to "About $4 a bike maybe is my guess". Lew Kidder, founder of Inside Triathlon magazine did tell us that Timex paid "A buck a watch" for the Ironman Triathlon watches Timex sells. When we asked Jason Edinger, our Outside Sales Rep. for Cannondale, how much Cannondale pays for the use of the M-dot Ironman logo he said "Let me make some calls to find out…" He told us it is a figure tied to overall sales that does not impact the price of the bikes, and that it is primarily a "co-branding" partnership. It's worth mentioning (again) Cannondale had the fastest bike split at the 2002 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii with Thomas Hellriegel's incredible 4:34:00 bike time.


The "M-dot" Ironman logo is part of a co-branding partnership
with World Triathlon Corporation. The paint and finish on the
Ironman 2000 are extremely high quality. We have not seen
a single paint defect.

One of the benefits of the Ironman name on the Cannondale bikes is it demonstrates Cannondale's commitment to the sport: They are putting money back into triathlon. World Triathlon Corporation is a private company, but the more successful they are the more events they can afford to produce. Some people have been sensitive to having the Ironman logo on their bike when they never plan to do an Ironman. I think that's stupid. I have a watch that says "submariner" and I've never been on a submarine. I have owned shoes named after Olympic events and I've never been to the Olympics. Maybe you drive a vehicle called an Explorer. Are you an Explorer? You get the idea. It's a brand identity that demonstrates Cannondale's commitment to the sport.


Cannondale has been active in support of elite triathletes.
German "uberbiker" Thomas Hellriegel has been on
Cannondale for three seasons and got the fastest bike
split at Hawaii in 2002 on a Cannondale.

As for fit: The Cannondale Ironman 2000 has a moderate to slightly longish top tube length. The top tubes run longer than Quintana Roo (the shortest in the industry), a bit longer than Felt and about the same as Cervelo (also moderate).

Sizes from triathlon bike brands are hard to compare, as demonstrated by this table:

Frame:
Frame total seat tube length.
Frame effective seat tube length.
Top tube center to center.
Cannondale
Ironman 2000
(size name 52cm.)
60.5cm.
49cm.
53.0cm.
Felt DA 650
(size name 52cm.)
52.0cm.
49cm.
52.0cm.
Cervelo One
(size name 54cm.)
54.0cm.
51cm.
53.0cm.
Quintana Roo
Kilo/Tequilo
(size name 53cm.)
51.0cm
47cm.
51.5cm.

We independently verified each of these measurements here in our store, they are the actual dimensions, not the manufacturer's published ones- this is what the bikes really measure.

More than anything, this points out how important it is to get measured and buy your bike from a store that sells each of these brands and specializes in fitting triathlon bikes. While the size names are within one centimeter of each other they each fit totally different body dimensions. How do you know which to buy? You don't. Your bike fitter does if he has enough experience fitting triathletes, working with each of the available brands and racing himself. Beware of posers, one race wonders and "Johnny come lately" sales guys who have sold a couple triathlon bikes and are now self-appointed "experts".

The interesting anomaly is the extreme variance of total seat tube length with the Cannondale. Cannondales generally have a 13cm. extension of the frame seat tube above the top tube. This helps improve ride quality by dispersing road shock over a greater surface area of material. This is also a big advantage for larger riders, improving lateral stiffness. For long legs and short torsos this may be an advantage. Again, it boils down to body measurements.

In the final analysis the Ironman 2000 may be the single best triathlon bike you can buy dollars for performance. It will take you from your first triathlon through your fifth Ironman without having to substitute any components. The bike can save you from spending well over a thousand dollars trying to upgrade a bike you paid just $300 less for. If you understand the true meaning of value- not false economy but real value and savings, as well as buying smart the first time; you will consider the Ironman 2000. If it fits you, it is the closest thing to perfection.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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