The Cannondale Touring 2 may be a touring bike in name, but it's really a candidate for an 'everything but racing' bike. It's intelligently designed as a pothole-basher or long-distance ride, with a lot of thoughtful touches, though it's a bit under-specced for the price.
The bike proudly wears its Touring name, harking back to Cannondale's roots, but it is noticeably on trend as a gravel bike with frankly huge tyres and disc brakes.
With this test running over the winter, I didn't have a change to load up and go touring; instead I treated it as an urban and trail all-rounder.
The 40mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres invited me away off to explore the local byways and bridleways. And, erm, footpaths. Naughty, I know, but fun. On a damp day the shallow tread did have shortcomings away from tarmac, but the bike was stable enough to handle momentary losses of traction. The huge clearance avoided problems with getting gummed up. On the road the heavy tyres did feel like hard work, but they smoothed out potholes and cracked fen roads like a dream. With such big chambers it's hard to assess Cannondale's claims about the vibration damping properties of the frame itself; the tyres surely do most of that work.
One problem with some older disc-braked bikes (like my own commuter Kona Dew Drop) is that the front quick release needs to be over-tight to hold the wheel secure under braking. While a through-axle is the ideal solution, Cannondale have gone for a more forward-facing and quite deep fork end. This works very well, and even with the quick release open the wheel stays put.
I took it on a bit of a holiday to show it some more varied terrain. On a circuit through Fife, across the Forth Bridge (with no trucks thundering past) and back along the West Lothian shore of the Forth it took in straight and smooth paved railways, potholed towns, farm tracks and gravel paths through woodlands and always felt at home.
For comfort, I'd swapped the stock WTB saddle for my own Brooks C15, but saddles are always a very personal thing. Nice to see the Touring 2's seat mounted on a setback two-bolt micro-adjust post so you can get the saddle angle spot on. The shallow and flared drop bars may not be ideal for aerodynamics but are very comfortable. The position is ideal for long rides and gives good control on rough terrain.
In fact, that's where the Touring 2 really shines. It's stable and assured even on fast, rough descents. You'd need a proper mountain bike to beat it downhill, and then you'd lose its road speed.
The Cannondale-branded handlebar is a standout design and makes a big contribution to the bike's versatility. It has a wide, straight top section for cruising, with tight bends to the hoods providing maximum space. The drops flare out a little, increasing high-speed control if you're tucked in on a decent. Flip the stem to raise the bar and you get a position in the drops that's equivalent to most bike's hoods position, giving excellent control off road and easy access to the brakes.
As well as the lowlands I headed into the hills. With a Shimano Sora triple I never quite ran out of gears, though I came close as the road reared up to 30%. Once in the hills I was tempted again to leave tarmac behind and headed off to let the Highland cows get a closer look at the bike.
They were unimpressed, but then cows always are.
I like the frame. It's a purposeful, if not elegant, design with fat down tube and well shaped top tube if you do find yourself shouldering it. The welds are particularly neat and tidy as should be expected of a Cannondale CAAD frame.
The paint job is a little curious, with the retro reflective flashes on the attractive dark blue continuing so that the whole of the inside of the fork and underside of the seat stays are reflective. It's all very well adding visibility aids, but perhaps they should be in more, well, visible locations? A baffling decision that means two places prone to muck are white.
It's a bit cheeky for a touring bike to be supplied so bare. You get no mudguards here and no pannier racks, which at a shade under £1,000 seems a bit stingy.
Cannondale UK says mudguards and rack were omitted to keep the price down, but that does mean this is a Sora-equipped bike with an (admittedly very fit-for-purpose) aluminium frame for £1,000.
There are plenty of places to bolt on a rack and mudguards though. The forks have a full set of mounts including low-rider mounts halfway up the fork. There are separate mudguard and pannier eyes at the rear and you get three sets of bottle bosses (the extra one's under the down tube) so you should never get thirsty.
With my club having a winter mudguard policy I fitted a set destined for my commuter bike and took it out one damp Sunday. While the rolling resistance of the thick, very puncture-resistant tyres made this a bit more effort than usual, on poorly maintained back roads it was rather easier to hold the line through the potholes.
I found the gear changes heavy and imprecise; it was extremely tricky to get them dialled in properly. It wasn't very obvious why, but we suspect the combination of a non-Shimano chain and quite a tight curve on the gear cable outer wasn't helping.
The test bike is fitted with Shimano BR-R317 brakes which are solid enough. I never felt a lack of control even when pointing myself down steep tracks. This is the correct spec, by the way. Cannondale and retailers list the bike as coming with Avid BB7 brakes, but the bikes are actually coming with these Shimano brakes.
The money question
I'm a little unsure whether the Touring 2 is good value. I think there's something of a premium being paid for the frame and the big name brand. While other bikes in this price range do come with Sora groupsets, there are bikes with Shimano 105, two rungs up, at under a grand. Admittedly 105 no longer has a triple option, but Tiagra does to keep the hardcore tourists happy.
The lack of mudguards and racks means the Touring 2 is more of an adventure bike in specification than a touring bike. That makes it a little hard to recommend at this price. It's a fine and very versatile bike, but I think you may get more for your money elsewhere.
Versatile tourer, pothole-basher and adventure bike, but a little under-specced for the money
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Cannondale Touring 2
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
6061 Aluminium Frame & Fork, double pass welded.
Shimano Sora 3500 9 Speed Triple Groupset.
Shimano BR317 Disc Brakes.
Maddux DC3.0 Disc Wheels.
Schwalbe MARATHON PLUS SmartGuard 700x40c tyres.
Cannondale C3 Touring Bar and C3 Alloy stem.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
"This ain't no boring beast-of-burden. This is performance touring at its best . Stable and confident when loaded up with gear, yet still nimble and engaging when rolling free, these lightweight, versatile and capable machines are perfect for the modern tourer. They're ideal for bike-packing, credit card touring or imaginative commuting, so load up and get out there."
I say: perhaps a categorisation error? You could use this happily for touring, but this seems more of gravel/adventure bike- a role which it is more than suited.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Solidly and smoothly built with neat and tidy welds.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
High spec 6061 aluminium alloy, using the same technology as the CAAD8 road bike.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A long wheelbase and quite long trail helps make it well behaved- and the long chainstays means plenty of clearance for large tyres with space for mudguards.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort is the bike's strongest suit. The 40mm tyres and shaped chain stays contribute to a very comfortable ride, though the saddle lets it down.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
For the sake of my own behind I swapped to my own saddle for much of the testing. The tyres are superb, absorbing potholes, bumps and gravel without complaint
This is no racing bike.
Heavy tyres and and robust rims are hardly a recipe for snappy acceleration.
Why would you try to sprint on this?
It's not ultra lightweight, but the touring gears will get you up most hills in time.
Quite heavy to shift and not always reliable in doing so
Wheels and tyres
Solid. These are wheels for going everywhere.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? I frequently had a grin on my face riding this. So yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Ah. No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Again, no, I wouldn't
Use this box to explain your score
This is a good bike. However, for the price the specification is just a little lacking.
About the tester
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop My best bike is: Ribble Sportive Bianco
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, General town riding, exploring