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Written by: Joe Rarey aka "LapTraffic"
Date: January 16th, 2003
2003 Cannondale Cannibal LE
Iíd like to start this with a little background as it might make the rest easier. Iím new to this sport, really new. Iím sponsored by my meager bank account and if I break something or want a performance modification I canít turn to parents for the funds, they come out of pocket. So buying a Cannondale came as a shock to most of my friends, and particularly my wife, who had heard the requisite horror stories related to supposed Cannondale reliability.
The decision to buy:
Then, ironically, I saw the shootout in the November edition of ATV Action. Though the Cannibal lost in the review to my beloved Z-400 it piqued my interest in a very infectious way.
The quote at the end of the article,
ďThe Cannondale is simply an expert aimed machine in a world full of casual, fun loving riders.Ē
grabbed me and never let go. After I read the article the Z started smelling of mediocrity while the Cannondale screamed in uncompromising purity.
So the seed was planted and I struggled a great deal with my decision. It was especially hard being new to the sport; if I ran into troubles with bike reliability Iíd have very few resources to turn to remedy the problem, and I wanted to ride, not work on bikes. Finding an online community of riders here and on other sites instilled me with the confidence to at least consider the bike enough to give it a test ride.
The test ride took place in a dealer parking lot on a very cold night in early November on an í02 Speed. I got on the bike, a bundle of nerves, familiarized myself with the controls and then I was off.
I tore an impromptu wheelie across the parking lot and down the alleyway behind the shop. Any doubts I had were left on the sidewalk that night along with .73 cents in loose change, a small amount of drool and my wifeís approval. Anyone on the fence needs to find a Cannondale to ride. You will know right then and there if it is the bike for you. If you have ridden the bike and are still on the fence I would recommend looking elsewhere. The ride is the righter of any wrongs you will encounter
My previous riding experience was relegated to a Yamaha Warrior, and let me tell you, I was in for a big surprise.
Break in went fine; I was absolutely amazed at how this bike responded to any input, either from the throttle, brake or the English that my untrained body was giving to the bike. Itís 100% thoroughbred and responds as such. It was intimidating in that I felt as though I was always out of position, always about ready to get thrown. This sensation passed after a few hours of saddle time and with itís passing opened up a new level of ability. The track I had built at my house was suddenly quite tame and far too small though it was all I could do to ride it fast on the Warrior. To put it simply, this bike goes where you think, so predictable and precise. I hesitate to say that it instills rider confidence because that statement could be taken as Ďover confidenceí which could get you into trouble. What I would say rather is that it elevates rider ability to a new level and through that you gain confidence. Not a big difference, but notable.
Itís a good idea to familiarize yourself with the plug change process prior to getting into a situation where you need to change it, like a trailhead while your friends are waiting. While a lot can be done to avoid fouling it can still happen and the change out process does take a bit of time. Once youíve done it though itís really a no brainer. Other than checking fasteners thatís about it.
Tire / Wheel upgrade:
Valve Check @ 25 hours:
If you have found this review on the Internet without someone having to hold your hand then you have within you the skills required to work on the fuel delivery system on a Cannondale. I highly recommend getting the software to be able to load your own MAPS and perform your own fine-tuning, but I place a lot of credence in a dealer that will do the MAPing for free. From a buyerís standpoint it shows that this dealer is particularly interested in me enjoying my bike and in a coarse way it speaks to a level of support that the dealer is going to provide should problems arise.
Well there you have it. My review. Whatever your decision, my hope is that you enjoy it as thoroughly as I have enjoyed mine.
Joe Rarey aka "LapTraffic"
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