Saturday, January 18, 2014

1991 Cannondale SM2000

Whilst navigating around the detritus of my sprawling, half-renovated mansion I stumble across a dusty box of mountain bike magazines. About 50 kilograms worth of yellowing, well-thumbed paper. I dust them down, flick through a few pages, think “fcuk I’ve wasted a lot of time on bicycles”, and stack them on a shelf in the bike room under the shelves of road bike magazines. 

I go back to whatever it is I have to do.

What kind of bird are you?

Between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s the Japanese established index shifting as a fundamental human right; aluminium and carbon tubes evolved from a bunch of equations on an engineer’s desk to become the foundations of fun for the common man; and the birth of suspension meant we could dare wring out the very essence of life, bounce, survive, and still get home before dark. Yet bicycle collectors appear to ignore the decade between the Ritchey Annapurna and the M900/910-equipped Klein Adroit or Attitude. I can’t possibly imagine why. 

Good God! It’s hideous.

But.. I can’t take my eyes off it.

Cannondale’s CAD 3 frame.

With Pepperoni forks.

Back in 1990 Cannondale released the second itineration of the CAD 3 SM2000 in one of the more striking (or ridiculous, depending on your sensibilities) colour schemes for a production bicycle. It was state of the art. A bit like the carrier pigeon a couple of thousand years ago. The following year Cannondale released the SE range of suspension bicycles as their big cheese and had their rigid offerings relegated to the second tier. There is probably no connection between off-road locomotion and long-distance messaging but in a world now dominated by suspension and carbon fibre, mobile devices and social networking, the SM2000 and the carrier pigeon are both little more than a curiosity. The SM2000 had two years at the top. The pigeon had two thousand years.

1991. The third and final year for Cannondale’s SM2000. 

Bridgestone MB-0 from the class of ’91 (via the remarkable MOMBAT collection).

1991 Ibis SS.

1991 Trek 8700.

1991 Cannondale SE1000.

1991 Rock Lobster.

1991 GT Zaskar (custom).

1991 Yeti Ultimate.

1991 Specialized Stumpjumper S Works.

Night clubs were jiving to this.

And this was tearing up the track at Le Mans.

Yeah baby. I remember.

Twenty two years earlier the Americans had the audacity to land a couple of men on some barren rock in outer space.

So much has happened in modern “mountain” biking that it’s easy to get lost amongst the flurry of trajectories and technological wizardry that give us the multidimensional sport we have today. From a bunch of bicycle enthusiasts whooping down a mountain on modified Schwinns we now have a sport that has diversified into disciplines including but not exclusive to XC, AM/enduro, freeride, DH, dual slalom/4X, and trials (observed and street). And, should you be competitively inclined, you can purchase highly specialized equipment for each of these pursuits. Then consider a single speed, a 'fat' bike, a snow bike, an expedition bike, and maybe something for your next 24hr endurance race. All of which, arguably, in part, owe their existence to clunkers that had their bearings fry on a single run down some hill in Marin County

That’s a staggering amount of progress in less than forty years.

An exciting new sport with enormous scope for catch-up technology, restless young men, and a bed of resourceful and determined enthusiasts provide the ingredients for blue touchpaper. Give it a stir, throw in plenty of coin from big manufacturers getting in on the game, and the whole damn thing ignites. 

Somewhere in this explosion of innovation, in amongst the many wondrous and confused creations, is the SM2000

Mostly original parts.

And some.

Odi lock-on grips.

Terry Fly saddle.

It is possible to fall in love with an inanimate object. Women do so all the time for shoes and handbags. Men for various modes of transport. And, at this point in time, I’m in love with Cannondale’s SM2000. The plan was to bring the Cannondale back to original spec. The parts are easy to source and, since few people with coin bother with stuff from this era, cheap. 


Close enough to spec for the likes of me.

But like so many things, somewhere along that trajectory the plan changed.

Hybrid/ commuter.

Chris King hubs. Ti spokes.

Mavic 217 rims. Fast-rolling Schwalbe Durano rubber.

Drilled for Shrader valves (because nobody told me about this).

7spd Hyperglide.

Original XT long cage RD.

Diehards will struggle to cope with the miscellany of parts. 
And even Cannondale followers might covet the higher specced SM Omega or the rarely seen 1MB.

Let’s hope the natives are friendly.

NOS Stardrive chainset by British make Long & Marshall.

Shimano’s trusty PD540.

Piscine Molitor Patel learns in “The Life of Pi” (Ang Lee’s/ David Magee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s memorable novel by the same name) that when you look into the eyes of a tiger what you see is not necessarily what you think you see (Pi thinks he sees its soul) but your own emotions reflected back. Pi learns an important lesson. And his relationship with a Bengal tiger follows a spiritual awakening in himself. Pi also learns that a rolling narrative has a start, a present, and some matters-of-fact that fall in-between. And the manner in which we choose to fill the details is as important to the human condition as the events that come to pass. Avoiding altogether a discussion about God, the human need for spiritual nourishment, the importance of defence/ coping mechanisms, and whether Pi actually answers the questions asked by the investigators, watching this movie (again) makes me think back to some insightful research by Daniel Kahneman. Using the somewhat more prosaic language of a psychologist trying to make sense of economics he tells us, amongst other gems, about human ability, or rather, fallibility, in recollecting events. The lesson we take from Mr Kahneman’s work is that the recollection of events, no matter how convincing, can be inaccurate. Nor is it ever the whole story. How we join the dots makes us what we are. 

Mr Martel tells us that some imagination does not hurt.

Thankfully mine is a less fantastical and much more simplified world referenced by bicycle magazines, comic books and animated movies. I’m well aware that my local bike shop can sell me a purpose-built commuter/hybrid for about $599. That this here isn’t some iconic bicycle or something ridden by someone famous. Until two months ago it wasn’t even mine. I didn’t ride it, or love it, or modify it over the past twenty two years. I bought it on ebay. 

Real bicycle collectors tend not to bother with run-of-the-mill, production bicycles. Because collecting that would simply be too easy. Anyone with a bit of spare coin can do it. And if they did (which some might do in a sentimental concession to past experiences/ exploits) then they would at least put it back to spec or, at the very least, put it back together with period-correct parts. 

But, as every child knows, being relevant, factual or fictitious matters not. To get anywhere all you need is confidence. And go for volume.


Anonymous said...

Great post, as indeed they all are. You have particularly good taste.

Thank you


Anonymous said...

I worked at B&J Bicycle Shop in San Antonio Texas in the early '90's and did an employee purchase of a C'dale SM2000. I loved that frame but not the pink decals. After just a short time I stripped the paint off and covered it in various stickers. In 1995 while washing it I discovered a crack just behind the headtube and ended up replacing it with another C'dale rigid frame that I still commute on daily. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Anonymous said...

I have this exact bike...all original except for the tires.Came with Campagnola crank. It like brand new in storage for 20years.
It's for sale
Ron (

Sprocket said...

I had this bike. Mine was a custom frame set... The color was a very rare Jade green with metallic flakes. It truly was a work of art and a joy to Ride. I rode it everyday and would lock it up, at night, inside my house. One night I didn't and tragically the bike was stolen. I've looked high and low for a replacement but have never seen one like it. Yours looks beautiful. If your interested in parting with it look me up.

Sprocket said...