Cannondale VS Specialized: Which is the better brand?


Another one in the series of brand vs brand. This time we’re going to take a closer look at two reputable brands; Cannondale and Specialized. Now, before we open a can of worms let’s jump to a conclusion and elaborate a bit about what exactly makes each brand a great choice.

When comparing Specialized and Cannondale bikes you need need to test both brands to find out who offers better bikes. The best bike brand is the one with the geometry that fits you best. An expensive Cannondale bike could fit worse than a cheaper Specialized bike and vice versa.

The differences are in the details and it isn’t a simple matter of quality. Different bikes go with slightly different geometries and components. Body types, bike fit, and proper measurement are often overlooked.

Main Differences Between Cannondale and Specialized Bikes

Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the brands, it comes down to your personal preference. there are a couple of differences that need to be addressed. Specialized has a wide range of bikes to choose from but are more competitive in the expensive high-end bike segment. Here’s where they truly shine and often offer a bit extra compared to competing brands.

That doesn’t mean Cannondale has less competitive bikes, on the contrary. Cannondale offers a range of high-end bikes that will make you drool.  Like any other brand, the biggest difference is in the frames. Depending on your body type and bike one might be more suitable than the other.

Both brands target the entire spectrum of bikes. Cheap (low-end) mountain bikes and high-end expensive professional bikes. Some people say the Specialized professional bikes are stiffer and more aerodynamic, this isn’t something the average rider has to worry about. Most riders aren’t professional and just like to enjoy themselves without worrying to scrape off a few grams unless you are looking for a bike to boast about.

Cannondale was founded in 1971 and is a Canadian company. They produce components for other brands like Charge, Schwinn, Sugoi, and Mongoose.

Specialized was founded in 1972 and is based in the US. They do their R&D at their headquarters and build their bikes in Taiwan.

The real difference is usually in the component groups, like SRAM and Shimano. If you compare two bikes make sure to look at the tires, wheels, shifters, saddle, and see which bike offers better parts. There could be a difference there and you might end up with better components for about the same price.

You get a bit more bang for the buck from Cannondale when looking at upgrades, but this is just a generalization. It really depends on which bikes you are comparing. It’s safe to say they offer the same quality and your main focus should be how a bike fits. Taller riders need a different geometry than short riders. Weight, your average mileage, riding preferences, all should be considered when buying a new bike.

Price

Both brands are considered the top of the line and bikes go from $500 to $12,000+ (Yikes!). There is one thing to keep in mind when you shop for either brand; If you have less than $1200-$1500 to spend you’re not getting the best value bike. Both brands don’t focus on the lower end bike segment that much but more on higher-end bikes.

This means that if you buy a $1,000 Giant you get more from a value proposition. Both Cannondale and Specialized are less attractive options, so think about it. I think it’s safe to say that both brands are for the more serious riders out there that want top-quality frames and components.

Frames

Both brands offer awesome frames. Cannondale used to make the lightest aluminum frames but those days have passed. Still, they make the best frames you can buy, but so does Specialized. The difference is in geometry, but only slightly. Both brands offer top-quality aluminum and carbon frames for high-end bikes.

Specialized designs their frames in their HQ in California, they do all their prototyping at their headquarters. the actual production takes place in Asia, by Merida in Taiwan. Other Specialized suppliers are Ideal and Giant.

Cannondale used to produce frames in the Bedford, Pennsylvania but also moved to Asia eventually. They started with aluminum frames in 1983 for touring bikes and later included mountain bike frames.

Components

When comparing brands you are mostly comparing frames. Components are made by different companies such as Shimano and SRAM. If you have a hard time choosing between two bikes make sure you take a look at the quality of the components both bikes offer.

Sometimes you get slightly better components on one bike. If both bikes are equal in price and you both like how they ride and perform, the choice should be easier.

Cannondale often comes with additional gear and –  depending on the bike and where you buy-  you also get spare parts. Cannondale also produces helmets, bike chains, sensors, and tracking devices.

Specialized Company also sells products like shoes, helmets, saddles, kick paddles, and a wide range of apparel.

Performance

Both brands have great performing bikes but also offer lesser bikes. From $1,500 and up you get a great performing bike but it wouldn’t hurt to compare a couple of other brands at this price point.

If you’re willing to spend over $2,000, both Specialized and Cannondale offer superb bikes. visit your local bike shop and compare them if possible. Some shops allow you to rent a bike, and at this price point, you really want to take a bike for a test drive.

In the lower range, I wouldn’t be looking at these brands. You would be better off with a brand that focusses less on expensive bikes. You often get more bike at the same value. Don’t buy a $2000 bike of you’re just want to commute in your local town, it’s a waste of money.

Design

I personally like Specialized more when it comes to design, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Aesthetics don’t have an impact on quality or performance but you don’t want to ride a bike with an ugly paint job right?

When you pick a bike you want it to look nice, it just adds to the overall experience but you shouldn’t just focus on aesthetics!

Reputation

Both are reputable brands but in my search, I did find something interesting. When browsing forums I noticed people don’t like Specialized because they have sued a lot of companies for trademark infringement. Many refuse to buy their bikes because of this, I personally don’t know enough about this subject to state an unbiased opinion so I leave that to you.

Cannondale seems to be more loved by bike enthusiasts. I couldn’t find any stories about lawsuits or negative press.

If you ignore people’s opinions and let the bikes speak for themselves you can’t go wrong with either. Both brands offer great bikes!

Bike Chain

Often overlooked but you want a reliable and quality bike chain, there’s nothing worse breaking a chain while being miles away from home or your car. Sure hiking is a good exercise but like many bike parts, you want a chain that can handle abuse.

Specialized treats bike chains with a special anti-corrosion coating for extra protection against mud and puddles you might encounter. You can always get a better chain when you buy a new mountain bike, but you can’t just easily replace them. It’s not only the chain that needs to be replaced, you also have to replace parts of your drive train and cassettes.

I learned this the hard way when I lost my chain and went to my local bike shop. They advised me to go back and look for my chain first. Fortunately I was able to find the chain which saved me quite some money.

Bike Sizes

Both Cannondale and Specialized offer bikes in sizes XS, S, M, L, and XL. Specialize also offer bikes designed for women. If you’re looking for a mountain bike I wouldn’t worry about gender, MTB’s for women is nonsense and just marketing. Both men and women can ride the same mountain bikes.

Warranty

Usually crashing a bike isn’t covered and the warranty only covers defects caused by production flaws or workmanship. Normal wear and tear aren’t covered and both companies don’t offer any transferable warranty. Frames are covered for life when you’re the original owner except for freeride, dirt jump, downhill, and other ASTM category five bicycles.

I suggest to check out both brands for the specific details on what is covered and what not.  Often components like swing Arms, seatstays, shock links, chainstays, and components from other brands have limited warranty.

Cannondale Pros and Cons

Lets look at some of the pros and cons of Cannondale bikes, perhaps a bit generic but in the end you’ll need to compare the bikes you prefer. Depending on the bikes you consider, the most important thing to compare are the standard components.

Pros Of Cannondale

  • Cannondale bikes are lightweight
  • The brand usually comes with durable parts
  • Lots of sizes to pick from
  • Obviously Cannondale bikes come with (limited) warranty
  • More value for money

Cons of Cannondale

  • Cannon bikes can be expensive
  • The bike design is not for everyone but hey, beauty is  in the eye of the beholder

Specialized Pros and Cons

Again, you have to look at bikes individually to really get an idea of what’s great and where there is still room for improvement. The best thing is to go to your local bike shop and ask the experts.

Pros of Specialized

  • Specialized bikes are manufactured with high-quality aluminum.
  • The bikes are loved for their durability and build quality.
  • Lots of sizes to pick from.
  • Can be very well fitting depending on you body type.
  • Head turner

Cons of Specialized

  • Specialized bikes are expensive, often a bit more than other brands with comparable components.
  • Under $ 1500 you won’t get a great bike, other brands offer more bang for your buck.
  • You have to pay over $1500 to get a decent bike to get better components.

Conclusion

If you decided to pick either of these brands you need to come up with a significant amount of cash. Both Cannondale and Specialized excel at making top quality bikes and they come at a price. if your budget is limited it’s best to look at other brands. I recently wrote a detailed post about Trek VS Giant and found a couple of surprising facts.

The best bike depends on your budget, your body type, components, and other personal preferences. Is the frame size measured relative to the length of the top tube or just the seat post length? What’s the angle of the seat post tube? it all matters to your corresponding body geometry

There isn’t a way of telling which brand is the best and I tried everything to find out what makes these brands stand out. Truth is, there isn’t a winner.

 

 

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Ruben

I always had a thing for bike sports and love almost anything that involves bikes and boards. I work part-time as a designer in the tech industry and work on my blogs whenever I can.

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