- Cannondale Taurine SL Team Replica
- First all-carbon hardtail from Cannondale
- You won’t need any energy products to extract speed out of it
As well as a key ingredient of every cyclist’s favourite get-up-and-go energy drink, the Taurine is Cannondale’s new, and first, Carbon hardtail. A no-frills, race ready 20lb lactic-acid-inducing high speed hardtail, the Taurine is built for the pursuit of speed.
From their Bedford, US, base Cannondale has always stood out from the crowd. First with its trademark fat aluminium tubes and ultra-smooth welds, to the latest carbon incarnation, the company certainly approaches bike design from a slightly different angle to many other designers.
Adopting carbon has been a long time coming, though it has dabbled with the material several times previously in road bikes and the flexible stays on its Scalpel FS bike. The Taurine is Cannondale’s first full-carbon hardtail, and the £3,949 SL Team Replica tested here is the same as ridden successfully by the company’s XC race team.
All dimensions based on Medium frame
- Effective top tube length (TT) 591mm (23.3in)
- Seat tube (ST) 43.2cm (17in)
- Chainstay (CS) 424mm (16.7in)
- Head angle 70°
- Seat angle 73.5°
- Frame weight 1.25kg (2.77lbs)
A collection of high-modulus unidirectional carbon tubes are designed around a familiar double-diamond design. Much of the stiffness of the frame (and there’s lots of it) comes from the huge down and head tubes. Stiffness isn’t at the expense of ride comfort though, and the skinny stays provide a degree of flex. Frame-only weight is a claimed 1.25kg (2.77lbs), which is impressively light.
Much of the weight saving on the SL, though, is due to the company’s pioneering use of “System Integration”. Rather than stick to standard components, Cannondale has reengineered some key parts for lower weight. The 1.5in hourglass-shaped head tube holds the latest Lefty SL 110 Carbon DLR2 fork in place, while at the bottom bracket Cannondale’s latest generation Si chainset spins on a 30mm axle.
Joining these two sections of the frame is the oversized downtube, with PowerPyramid treatment meaning the tube is a larger diameter at the bottom bracket and varying wall thicknesses throughout its length. The ovalised top tube carries the gear and brake cables underneath.
While the front end is heavily oversized for maximum stiffness, the rear triangle consists of shaped chainstays and skinny seatstays, to offer some comfort when in the saddle. The chainstays are very fat leaving the bottom bracket and taper down in the middle, where they offer a little give, then flare out as they approach the dropouts. We quite often find that bikes designed in the US have less than adequate mud clearance, but this isn’t so on the Taurine. Clearance was ample with the stays bending around the tyres heel clearance was good too. The seat tube flares just a little at the top tube/seat stays junction for an increased contact area.
Cable routing has all cables routing underneath the top tube and there are two bottle cage mounts. All the tube interfaces are meticulously smooth, but, presumably in an effort to reduce weight, the paint on our bike was extremely thin which resulted in easy scratching.
Geometry is typically race-orientated with a 70° head and 73.5° keeping handling sharp. The top tube measured 23.3in and chainstays 16.7in.
While other manufacturers like Scott and Specialized have recently started designing their own suspension components, Cannondale has been ploughing its own boingy furrow for nearly as long as there’s been suspension.
It started with the HeadShok during the ‘90s, and later the Lefty fork, to allow increased travel. The Lefty fork has been progressively tweaked and refined and this latest incarnation, the SL110 Carbon DLR2, comes in at 1.25kg (2.8lb) for 110mm of travel. It uses an air spring and oil damping, with a high-flow compression circuit and external rebound dial offering 14 clicks of damping adjustment. There’s also a lockout lever.
The Lefty fork looks crazy but is incredibly stiff, with undeniably accurate tracking. But despite a lot of fiddling with settings, they just didn’t feel as good as the equivalents from other fork manufacturers.
Cannondale’s latest Hollowgram Si chainset comes with a 22/32/44 chainring combination and a 30mm diameter bottom bracket axle – which is reportedly stiffer than any other system on the market. It’s evidently stiff when you’re giving it everything you’ve got, but you’ll be hard pressed to detect the difference between this and more conventional alternatives. Shifting was super slick throughout testing, even in the mud of CLIC24.
Elsewhere, it’s a reliable pick of finishing kit that befits a bike with a 4K price tag. SRAM X0 rear mech, shifters, cassette and chain, Shimano XTR front mech, Avid Juicy Ultimate brakes (with carbon levers), FSA K-Force Lite Carbon seat post, Fi’zi:k Gobi titanium railed saddle, Mavic CrossMax SLR wheels with Maxxis Larsen TT UST 2.0in tyres.
All up total bike weight is 9.07kg (20lb). The Taurine 1, 2 and 3 models offer less expensive build option, but the Team is the only model to feature the Lefty fork. Frame sizes range from S, M, L and XL.
In many ways, the Taurine is in a class of its own. From the skinny tyres to the narrow flat bars, the Taurine makes no concessions to being a comfortable all-day trail bike – it’s a fast-riding, fast-handling, no-compromise race bike.
We might not have managed to get the Lefty fork (tine?) to a point where they felt like they matched the best of the rest, but they’re certainly good enough to let you get on with the job of pedalling as fast as you can. What the stiff-yet-compliant carbon frame does mean is a planted feel – hit a particularly rocky section of trail and while on some hardtails you’ll be bounced off-line, the Taurine’s slender rear triangle will give just enough to let you keep the power on. It may not be the ultimate in comfort, but fast it will be.
The geometry is spot on and the handling is crisp, with precise steering from the Lefty fork. It took us a little while to get used to narrow flat bars after weaning ourselves off them so many years ago, but they suit the nature of the bike. We even found ourselves missing bar ends…
The most startling revelation of just how far lightweight kit has come since the early 90s lightweight craze is that despite the low weight of the Taurine, it’s still incredibly stiff and taut. And with no rider weight limit, there’s no doubt it can take some abuse. It’s snappy out of corners, accelerating through tree-lined singletrack with decisive ease.
Usually, speed and stiffness comes at a price, and the trade-off is comfort. That’s unlikely to put off the sort of rider who’s interested in a Taurine, but the good news is that up to a point the Cannondale lets you eat your cake too. It’s not comfortable in the conventional sense, but it definitely takes the edge off the trail enough to let you keep pedalling. And that alone could be the difference between winning and losing.
Ups and downs
Positives: Fast, light, stiff, traction, comfy for a XC race bike, good spec, did we mention fast…
Negatives: The lower models use the same frame but with different forks and specs for better value for money
Fuel yourself up on a mix of adrenalin and energy drink as the Taurine is on another level. For the price you get a lot of bike for the money. The spec is all top-drawer and found no complaints; the frame is stiff but manages to find enough flex to further propel you forward. You can’t hide behind the Taurine – in fact our only complaint is that it showed up our lack of fitness.