Thursday, September 20, 2007

2007 Cannondale Optimo Feminine 2 Review

Last Fall, I put slick tires on my hardtail mountain bike and rode on pavement doing as many miles as I could to prove to myself that I needed and would use a proper road bike. I planned to ride at least as many miles as dollars I would spend and I managed to do even better than that!

So, while I was testing myself physically, I had a few months to think about the new bike I would buy and research the brands and components. I went to shops to see bikes and talk with knowledgeable folks, got the bike catalogs and read up on them. Pretty quickly, I decided I didn’t want to get an ‘entry level’ bike as it seemed like most people who got them wanted to upgrade just a year or two later. So, I started looking at the next few steps up and basically it came down to a decision between carbon and aluminum alloy. Although carbon excited me, I liked the practicality of aluminum. I decided that I could get carbon sometime down the road, but my first bike should be aluminum. So that narrowed it down quite a bit. After looking at all the brands in the shops, the Cannondales really stood out aesthetically because of the neat welds at the joints and the graceful hourglass seat stays. Also, many years ago when I was riding a lot on a Sears ‘mountain bike’, my dream was to have a Cannondale sometime.

When I made a decision to go with Cannondale, there was really only one women’s specific design bike that met my requirements, the Optimo Feminine 2. I liked that it is basically the same as the men’s CAAD9 bikes that I had first seen in shops and loved on sight! The feminine bike just has some subtle adjustments to the geometry without sacrificing a racy form. It has a short wheel base, in fact, I have some toe lap. It is very light and responsive while at the same time having great inherent stability. It has the stiff rear triangle that Cannondale is known for. The feeling of power transfer you get to the road makes hill climbing a lot more fun than it could be! You really feel like you are getting somewhere when you put force down into the bike and sometimes it feels like you almost get a push/spring back at you as you start into your next pedal revolution. Whether that’s real or psycho-somatic doesn’t really matter to me as long as it feels good. I was also satisfied with the full Ultegra component group, though I may slowly upgrade to Dura Ace as parts wear and need replacing. However, I really have had no problems with the Ultegra. I went with a double crank as I live in a flat region. The shifters are particularly nice and are ‘short reach’ for women’s smaller hands. The Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels were a major selling point for me since I like the look of the flat spokes! I added Ultegra clipless pedals just to be in keeping with the rest of the components.

Luckily, I like the stock seat, a Fizik Vitesse. The Elle handlebars have quite deep drops and I wondered at first if I would like them or want to switch to a shorter, more contoured drop like is on my husband’s CAAD8. But after using it some and then tipping the bars forward a little to change the angle very slightly, I am used to the deep drops and appreciate them very much when riding into a headwind along our breezy coastal routes.

My bike has only been to the shop for basic maintenance like tightening cables. I’ve replaced the stock tires once with the same kind, Maxxis Zenith Hors Categorie and like them very much. They are fast, yet stick the corners very securely even on our frost heaved New England pavement. My husband got the same ones for his CAAD8 since he’d seen mine perform so well. However as leaves fall on the bike routes and obscure glass and other sharp objects, we may have to switch to a more puncture resistant tire. I had my first flat last week and the tire was wrecked by a piece of glass.

The two color choices for 2007 were great too. A bright green with a bamboo motif which was pretty, but not exactly me and a Patriot Blue design that I went with.

Though I haven’t raced, this bike certainly could. My goal for the time being has been to increase my speeds and go on faster group rides. The bike has certainly helped me achieve my current level of ability and I highly recommend it. You can see all the specs for this bike here. To get more of a sense for how I'm using it, check out the sidebar for my year to date miles total and some ride stats.

I am very happy with Cannondale and was thrilled to see that they have added to the women’s line for 2008. Just look at this beauty! It is the Six13! In a couple of years, I hope to add a carbon women’s bike to my ‘stable’ and one like this could be in the running. It is great to see more and more women’s specific bikes to choose from!

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