Sunday, February 3, 2008

Of love and Cannondale Headshoks

Part I

I used to dearly love Cannondale bikes. Even when they ventured into manufacturing motorcycles.

It all started with an ad in Cyclist magazine sometime in the mid-to-late 1980's. It was an ad for Cannondale's "Black Lightning". Do you remember it? I've ridden bikes since I was a kid and never really stopped -- sure my bike life went on hiatus now and then for motorcycles, girls, etcetera but I always came back to the bike.

When I saw that Cannondale I seriously had to have one. But as a teenager in rural Idaho the only thing going was lots and lots of manual labor at the surrounding farms. Not much money. So I built up a road bike from my dad's old Miyata Americana-- I had it repainted, I replaced the old worn out stuff with a hodge-podge of newer equipment-- 105 cranks (Biopace!!), Dia-Compe brakes and levers, Weinmann alloy wheelset (replacing heavy chromed steel clunkers). I was pretty proud of it but I never forgot that Black Lightning.

Then, the summer after I graduated from college, the planets aligned and I bought my first Cannondale bike. An R-400. Metallic black. Sort of a 2nd cousin to the Black Lightning.

Then when it was time for a new mountain bike the only option was... a Cannondale. With a Headshok even, woo!

First time I ran into a problem with the Headshok, the dealer kept my bike for 7 weeks! I've always been the sort that places great value on self-sufficiency so it galled me that I was unable to deal with the Headshok myself. Cannondale makes no service manual available. Their line is that only authorized service centers -- or their own factory center -- is capable of servicing the Headshok. Now I can understand wanting to protect the quality of the ride for the customer. I have met plenty of folks that have sworn off various components or even brands simply because of their own mechanical ineptitude. However, taking a customer's bike for 7 weeks is hardly a good alternative.

Cannondale's tight fistedness with the Headshok is the only worm in a really good apple. But it's a really big, ugly worm.

Stay tuned for Part II. In which your intrepid author takes the plunge into the black arts of Headshok self-service... sort of.

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