It was hard to ride the Cannondale Slate at the Interbike OutDoor Demo, hard because people kept stopping me. I mean look at the thing, it’s an attention grabber to say the least: drop bars, disc brakes, smaller wheels, fatter tires and half a fork that moves. I think I spent half my ride explaining the bike to the passing curious.
During my alone time with the Slate I did find it to be an able climber, especially with the Lefty fork locked out. It’s only 30mm of travel but the Slate, with its 650b road wheels, accelerates so quickly that it is nice to have that energy used for forward motion as opposed to a downward bob.
On the descent and with the fork open, the Slate offers are more planted feel compared to most gravel/adventure bikes. The fork and generously spec’d tires (42c) are an obvious reason but its seat and chain stays had ample give and kept the rear wheel from skipping. I did find the Slate’s breaking point in loose, 3 inch deep gravel and sand. It’s font wheel dug in and brought me to a stop.
The Slate comes in the three spec ranges: CX1, Ultegra and 105 but just one frame material: Aluminum. Our Ultegra test model’s asking price is $3520. In showrooms this fall.
One of the cool things about Interbike is meeting the people behind the products. And I don’t mean the people paid to talk about the products. I mean the engineers and designers; the people who come up with ideas and concepts and see them through to finished product. There’s honest excitement and a bit of nervousness in their voices as they talk about what they have come up with.
I walked past the Litespeed tent at the OutDoor Demo a half dozen times and each time I took a long look at their quiver: titanium is eye catching under gray skies. On the seventh pass and with Padraig acting as my demo day docent, I was introduced to Litespeed’s chief of design and development, Brad DeVaney. Brad is one of those people, excited and enthusiastic about what he has made. Before talking to DeVaney I wanted to ride a Litespeed, after talking to him I had to ride one.
DeVaney put me on the T5G, Litespeed’s gravel specific machine. Litespeed has three drop bar bikes designed for off road duty but the T5G is their no compromise gravel rig. The TG5 specs say “please take me offroad”: 71mm BB drop, 142mm rear drops and enough room for 40s. And best I can tell from a one hour ride, the numbers do not lie. No problem keeping the T5G on its line over rough fire roads and it is a fantastic climber. I took it to the top of Bootleg Canyon where downhillers were being dropped off by shuttles and never felt like I was grinding. The tube set was a buzz kill in a good way. Vibrations were dampened but the bike still felt alive and spry as I rotated the Ultegra crankset.
Some things at Interbike require an open mind and I think the Lauf fork is one of those products. The thing looks a little strange. The rubber bands in charge of bump control are, according to company specs, military grade glassfiber. They offer 60mm of travel. The selling point is weight. The forks is sub 1k grams. Most 29er XC forks are at least 1500g.
On the trail, the Lauf’s light weight took some of the tilt out of the climb up Bootleg. But on the rocky singletrack that parallels the fire road, the Lauf objected to the bigger bumps. It has this springy nature to it that makes it a little difficult to control.
Lauf has carved out a niche somewhere between rigid and short travel suspension fork. The XC model comes in two spring rates based on rider weight. The company is from Iceland but they take U.S. dollars, 990 of them for the Trail Racer.