LET'S BUILD A BIKE: '01 Cannondale CAAD7
WE LIVE IN HELL. I CHOOSE FUN.
Cycling has a materialism problem.
Let’s poke fun at Specialized, a company with a sterling reputation that makes the winningest bikes in the pro peloton.
In the last year Specialized has both made a bike for kids who can’t even pour their own bowl of cereal that retails for $1,000, and marketed another as being a no-frills, aero-isn’t-everything approach to road biking with an asking price of…$14,5000.
Companies get away with this because this idea of “buying speed” has gotten out of hand. Diminishing returns be damned, cyclists have shown they’re willing to pay a premium for anything that makes them faster.
They want hand-woven carbon wheels. Integrated stems and handlebars with proprietary parts for electronic shifting. Wind tunnel-tested everything. They want the very bikes on which pros scale the Alps and Pyrenees in the Tour.
$1,000 for carbon wheels that really only make my bike sound and look faster? BUMP THAT.
I’d much rather go on down to the island of misfit frames and see how far my dollar can go. I do subscribe to the idea that racing bikes is more about the wizard than the wand, but I’m this way mostly because I’m cheap.
Anyway, the opportunity to buy this 2001 Cannondale CAAD7 came on my radar quickly and I did not think too hard about it.
The guy selling it said his old man wanted to build it up but never got around to it. Said it sat untouched in the basement for years. Its condition corroborates that: it looks like it’s never been ridden.
I don't have any delusions it’s faster than my TCR, and it sure as hell isn’t a smoother ride. But getting this thing rolling was fun. We live in hell right now. I choose fun.
(This is going to get nitty-gritty at times. On the off-chance that someday someone else builds up a similar frame, I hope this can be a resource for them)
The frame came with nothing but a BB30 bottom bracket. I had a few spare parts on hand, but the list of things I’d need to buy for it got long real quick.
While I’d lean heavily on the ol’ Electronic Bay, I first dropped it off at my Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop and let them figure out the trickiest parts: the headset and fork. Apparently the fork Carytown Bikes found matches the CAAD7’s original geometry pretty much exactly, which was a huge relief.
The externally-routed cables made tying the bike together a breeze, though I had a little bit of trouble installing the crankset — something to do with the wave washer threw me off — and the front derailleur predictably broke me down, so I went back to the professionals for that.
A real perk of building a bike is you learn what your mechanical blindspots are. I feel pretty good about my mechanic skills, but I know now that I will never be able to get a front derailleur completely dialed in. I have accepted this.
The finished product
All said and done and this cost me ~$919 out of pocket. A race-ready bike for that price is hard to hate, especially considering the global bike shortage.
An initial ride up Old Gun left me thinking two things:
Holy crap this thing is rigid
It weighed in at 17.6 pounds, nearly two pounds lighter than my TCR. I suppose that explains why climbing felt better.
This thing does not offer much in the way of comfort, though. Bikes nowadays (from brands like Specialized) are made to flex in all the right ways, making accelerating a breeze while also absorbing road vibrations.
But in 2001 the approach was to just make frames as stiff as possible. A carbon seat post might help with that, but I kind of like the road feel. It’s kind of like taking slams skating: it’s good to feel connected to the ground every once in a while.
I don't want to put too much emotional stock in this bike, but it feels like a chance to recapture some of that initial love I had for cycling.
When I rolled out of Bar Harbor on my first road bike in 2014, I didn't care about my sock height, didn't know what power meters were, and sure as hell didn't worry about anything being aero.
James Huang recently wrote about his early days riding for CyclingTips, and I found it easy to relate to.
"I had no concept whatsoever of my painful lack of coolness,” he said. “All I was noticing was how much I was enjoying it."
I threw my leg over that bike in Maine seven years ago and rode hard because that was all I knew how to do. I intend to ride this Cannondale with equal aplomb.
Full parts list:
Cannondale CAAD7 frame ($150, Facebook marketplace)
Mavic Aksium wheelset (already owned)
Easton S-Lite saddle (already owned)
Shimano Ultegra/105 mix-matched pedals (already owned)
FSA Omega crankset ($100, eBay)
Shimano 105 R7000 rear derailleur ($50, eBay)
Shimano 105 BR-5700 brakes ($45, eBay)
Shimano 105 ST-5800 shifters ($145, eBay)
Ritchey FK3216 fork ($210, CBC)
Cane Creek Forty IS42/28.6 //IS42/30 short headset ($52, CBC)
Unbranded seatpost ($18, CBC)
Cannondale 42cm bars and FSA 120mm stem (donated generously by Johnny Phan)
Jagwire cables and housing ($45, Richmond ReCycles)
Tacx Deva bottle cages ($40, eBay)
Cannondale Garmin mount ($14, eBay)
Lezyne saddle pack + tire levers, C02 nozzle and multitool ($50)