Cannondale has never been afraid to push innovation at the risk of looking gimmicky. The new Beast of the East hardtail ($2,700) is no exception.
Spec’d with Cannondale’s iconic Lefty front suspension, 27.5 inch wheels with plus-size 3.0 tires, and a SRAM X1 1×11 drivetrain, the bike is immediately eye-catching. But the most innovative feature of the this ride is actually the progressive geometry, something Cannondale is able to maintain even while integrating the plus tires.
The Beast of the East moniker isn’t necessarily a nod to a region, but rather to Cannondale’s past.
In the ’90s, the Connecticut-based bike maker unveiled the M800, a radical geometry for the time, featuring short chainstays, a higher bottom bracket and a progressive headtube angle.
That bike became known as the Beast of the East for its ability to handle the tight, twisty, obstacle-ridden singletrack the Right Coast is known for.
“The new iteration of Beast of the East has tons of capability packed into it, so we felt it was appropriate,” says Cannondale Global Marketing Manager Morgan Meredith.
To get a feel for the Beast, I took it to two different locations. I tested it first in Cannondale’s own backyard, the Meshomasic State Forest in central Connecticut. Then I took it west to the singletrack surrounding Snowbasin, Utah.
We’ll start with the Lefty. Though the system has been around for more than 15 years, it still has its skeptics (most of whom I’d argue have never ridden it) as well as a dedicated cult following.
Simply put, the single strut works. The Lefty is a completely different technology than other forks. I won’t get into specifics, but there is a good thread explaining it.
The advantages include lighter weight, more stiffness, greater travel and the ability to change a flat without taking off the wheel. (The WTB Scraper rims are tubeless ready, so ideally that won’t be an issue).
In this instance, there is the added bonus of being better equipped to handle the plus-size tires. Which brings us to …
“Plus tires provide such an advantage with traction that all riders in all regions feel the advantage,” says Meredith. The greatest benefit I noticed, however, was float -- for lack of a better word.
The wider tires have the ability to glide over loose rocks and embedded goat heads, helping mitigate bounce and smoothing out the ride. This was particularly noticeable at Mesh (as the locals call the aforementioned Connecticut state forest), where such terrain can make up the majority of your ride.
Plus-size tires, however, can cause design headaches for bike makers. In some designs, the chainstay is lengthened, or some stiffness is compromised.
Others opt for a 2.8 tire instead of a full 3.0. Some riders have found a hack around this by putting 27.5 plus-size tires on a 29er frame in order to get the benefits of the wider tires without messing with the geometry of the bike.
In the case of the Beast, Cannondale is able to maintain the bike’s geometry. Using a system they call Asymmetric Integration, the drive train is offset by 6mm rather than the standard 3.
“Because we make our own cranks and chainrings, we are able to make the space for large tires and still keep short chainstays and stiffness,” says Meredith.
As such, the Beast is extremely maneuverable through the tight corners back East, while not giving up much on the more flowing trails in Utah.
The final pieces of the puzzle are not unique to Cannondale. The 1-by drivetrain has become the new standard due to its simplicity.
No more front derailleur to get out of tune, and no more demoralizing feeling when you have to reach for the granny gear. It also eliminates all confusion when reaching for the seat-dropper--something I didn’t use much on the Snowbasin trails, but that was a veritable necessity in Connecticut.
From there it’s just a matter of preference as to whether or not you want a hardtail. While the plus tires take some of the bit out of the hardtail, you can still expect to bounce around more than you would with a rear shock.
If you prefer to go full-boing, Cannondale offers a similar ride with full suspension in the Bad Habit.
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