Like the Rush we tested a few months back, the Rize gets a two-part frame with a composite top , down and head tube, co-moulded to an aluminium seat tube assembly. The latter goes through a dual 3D forging process — the BB30 bottom bracket and main pivot are formed first then the blank is stretched out to form the seat tube. Cannondale calls this ‘backbone technology’ and it not only creates a stronger structure, but also eliminates the weak joints and welds, and increases fatigue life.

The carbon front end is a monocoque made using high modulus uni-directional carbon fibre. Exact details are hazy, but since the frame weighs a touch over 5lb (2,340g) we suspect Cannondale hasn’t done anything radical with the lay-up or material. While this isn’t the lightest frame here, it’s the stiffest under power and the reason for that is the oversized asymmetric swingarm and, more importantly, BB30 bottom bracket. This consists of an oversized 30mm aluminium axle running on oversized bearings press-fitted into the BB shell.

It’s not exactly new technology, but it is stiff and, since there are no external cups, also lightweight. In an attempt to encourage component manufacturers to make BB30 cranks, Cannondale is offering BB30 as a free international standard, but currently only FSA and SRAM have taken up the offer.

If you’ve been in a coma for the last 10 years then you might not be familiar with the Cannondale Lefty. It’s a single-sided telescopic fork with a dual crown, stub axle, internal roller bearings, and both the spring and damper housed inside the leg. The model on our test bike is a Lefty Carbon with Fox RLC damper and a titanium coil spring. We’ve got to applaud Cannondale for persisting with it, but it’s not as good as it looks. The fork apparently weighs less than three pounds but the Rize is still the heaviest bike here. It’s claimed to be as stiff as a standard single crown, so should track in the same way, but there are times when it pulls to one side and we can definitely feel the front wheel deflecting on the stubby axle. In time, there’s some bearing migration, which means they need resetting periodically.

Setting up the Lefty isn’t easy either. Our test fork was under-sprung so we asked for a firmer spring. One arrived, but it was for a 110mm Lefty and the wrong length. We were then told Cannondale hadn’t started production of spare firmer springs, even though it’s selling the bikes. The final solution was to strip a firm spring from a fork on a large frame. But it doesn’t end there — fitting the spring means all three control dials have to be removed from the top of the fork, the top cap has to be loosened with a Shimano BB tool and finally the upper part of the damper has to be unscrewed. With no exposed stanchion, setting sag involves a tape measure, a helper and further dismantling if you want to make changes and then try them out. So, what is a simple operation on most other coil sprung forks is a real headache on this bike.

Things are much simpler to set up on the rear suspension, and accessing the rebound and ProPedal lever on the move is easy, with none of the restrictions of the Whyte. In terms of ride characteristics, the Rize is identical to the HiFi, with the same main pivot position, rear Fox shock and seatstay pivots.

Like the Lefty, the idea of an integrated stem and steerer makes sense — stiffer, lighter, etc. But things come unstuck if a) you want a different length and b) you want to raise or lower your bars; two things you can do much more easily with a conventional set-up. Cannondale offers a number of alternative stem lengths and rises but they have to be specially ordered. Fitting isn’t easy, and requires partial dismantling of the fork and headset. We’re also unsure whether you have to pay for a replacement stem from the dealer.

There are a couple of saving graces — the bike has a good width FSA riser bar, firm Gobi saddle and a one-bolt FSA carbon post. Oh, but there’s no quick-release collar; just an Allen key bolt which makes getting your saddle up and down much more time consuming than it needs to be.

It took about a month to get this bike set up to our liking, and we can’t imagine it’d be any quicker if you bought one. The delay wasn’t really to do with Cannondale’s System Integration, it was more to do with the lack of specific UK
distributors who carry stock.

Once up and running, the first thing we noticed about the Rize was how stiff it was under load. Stomp on the pedals and the bike feels like it’s on steroids, with every ounce of effort propelling it forward. The long 43.75in wheelbase and relatively low bottom bracket mean it lacks the nippy feel of the Rush on the move, but it’s more stable and there’s a good balance in terms of grip between the front and rear wheels.

In wet conditions it was better than the Fisher and Specialized, and while some of this could be down to the longer 90mm stem placing more rider weight over the front wheel, it’s still a good bike for muddy winter riding, having acres of mud clearance.

The suspension isn’t that sophisticated. There’s not a lot of rear-wheel grip on loose or rutted climbs, and the fork doesn’t deal with hard hits that well, but in terms of handling, some testers preferred it to the Fisher. The Mavic X-Max ST wheels are pretty flexy but they’re properly UST compatible and one of the few brands available with a Lefty front hub.