Down The Trail: Cannondale’s Carbon Fiber Monocoque Raven

Remembering our favorite stories from 20 years ago

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Back in our January 1998 issue we were thrilled to version of the then-revolutionary carbon fiber monocoque learn that the long-awaited, bike-show-touted, flash- design. Since the MBA test crew had already ridden the bulb-exposed Cannondale Raven had finally made it pre-production version a year earlier, we were curious to out of the prototype phase and into full production. The MBA see if the production model would still be the lightweight wrecking crew couldn’t wait to hammer the production-line performer we had grown to love.

The verdict: After riding the Raven, we said that if riders were looking for a flashy dual-purpose bike, this was not the perfect choice. The production Raven was more suited for the cross-country and trailbike riders who didn’t mind the twitchy handling and short-travel suspension. It accelerated well out of corners and pedaled well, but it required some conscious effort and a talented pilot to keep the bike on the trail through technical sections.

The Raven: A handful of small improvements punctuated the Raven’s design. The bike came in two models to hit different price points, and both sported a clamshell-style carbon construction with a cast-aluminum spine inside to add stiffness. The bike demonstrated Cannondale’s penchant for old-school geometry with a short top tube and very steep head and seat angles. Our medium-sized test bike came with a stumpy 22-inch top tube, 71.5-degree head angle and 74-degree seat angle. Compare those numbers to any bike we test now and you’ll wonder how anybody could ride this thing the way we did.

Ball-bearing-equipped: The Raven’s massive swingarm pivots rode entirely on sealed cartridge bearings. That was a welcome departure from the bushings many early full-suspension bikes came with. The front derailleur was also mounted on that big swingarm to keep the drivetrain in sync with the suspension.

Huck it: With a geometry like this, combined with a 125-millimeter stem and only 3 inches of travel, our testers had their work cut out for them.

Another way to skin a cat: Saddles and clamping straps fix the Raven’s seatpost. The unique design was claimed to work better than conventional seatpost clamps and provided new places to strap toolkits and light batteries.


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