“Maxxis Tires” – Basic Ink #44 “Cannondale” – PulpMX

Through the years there have been many unsuccessful makes an attempt by well-respected producers to interrupt into the motocross enterprise. Harley-Davidson, Buell, BMW, and Aprilia have all dabbled in making an attempt to translate avenue bike success into off-road glory. Right this moment, it’s Triumph with a watch in the direction of bringing 120 years of bike heritage to the stadiums of America. On the floor, these strikes have all appeared like stable bets. Every of those producers loved loyal followings and a transfer to off-road racing promised an inflow of curiosity and, hopefully, a rise in gross sales.

Initially, there was an unbelievable quantity of hype across the new Cannondale motocross machine, however by the point the bike lastly made its debut for 2001 the keenness for it had cooled significantly. 

As historical past would show, nevertheless, that equation was removed from a positive wager. On-road experience doesn’t assure off-road success and plenty of a legendary producer have discovered the motocross world a troublesome one to interrupt into. Motocross is a really particular self-discipline, and know-how and innovation can typically be a double-edged sword in off-road racing. Pushing too far and too quick to interrupt new floor can backfire in a sport the place reliability and ease of use typically win out over absolute efficiency. 

The Cannondale was an extremely revolutionary machine that attempted to reinvent motocross design in too some ways without delay. 

Within the late Nineties, this was simply the state of affairs that performed out when mountain bike pioneer Cannondale tried to leverage its aluminum chassis know-how and stellar biking status right into a profitable motocross operation. On the time, Honda’s all-new aluminum-framed CR250R and Yamaha’s revolutionary YZ400F four-stroke had been the talks of the trade and Cannondale noticed a possibility to capitalize on the hype for each with an all-new machine that mixed their finest traits into an American-made various. 

With Cannondale’s glorious status within the biking world many thought the MX400 would ship America its first respectable motocross contender.  

For Cannondale, the promise of a clear sheet design meant that they had been free to rethink every thing from the chassis to the motor design on their machine. In biking they’d made their status with innovation and this ethos to push the envelope ahead made its method into each component of the Cannondale motorbike’s design. The Cannondale engineers determined to reverse the cylinder to permit a straighter consumption for improved airflow into the motor and settled on gas injection for the gas supply system. The MX400 featured electrical beginning as effectively to alleviate the most important criticism riders had with most four-strokes of the time. Right this moment, all these options are seen on Yamaha’s lineup of four-stroke machines, however within the late Nineties, these had been very avant-garde concepts. 

With gas injection, electrical begin, a cassette-style transmission, and reversed cylinder, the MX400’s motor was probably the most revolutionary design in motocross in 2001. 

On the time, Cannondale’s ace within the gap was considered their proficiency with aluminum chassis development. Honda’s 1997 CR250R had confirmed that aluminum may very well be a viable chassis various, however the first technology of their design was removed from excellent. Cannondale felt that their years of expertise crafting mountain bike frames would give them a bonus within the delicate artwork of metallurgical design. 

In 2000, Cannondale take a look at rider Keith Johnson raced pre-production variations of the MX400 within the outside Nationals. Sadly for Keith and Cannondale’s status, the bikes proved extraordinarily fragile and unable to complete a lot of its motos.

Whereas Cannondale was fairly skilled in body development, they had been completely out of their depth in engine design. This led them to contract out the event of the motor for the brand new machine. Initially, this job went to the Swedish design agency Folan, who crafted a prototype based mostly largely on current Husaberg designs. Ultimately, nevertheless, Cannondale moved the event of their motor to a North Carolina-based NASCAR engine builder who executed their imaginative and prescient for an completely distinctive reverse-engine design. 

The Cannondale’s aluminum chassis featured many attention-grabbing options like its air-channel by means of the steering head, no-link rear suspension, and detachable body rails to help motor servicing. 

For the suspension, Cannondale turned to Swedish producer Öhlins and Cycra was tapped to craft the bodywork. Early targets for the machine had it undercutting Yamaha’s YZ400F by as a lot as 15 kilos, however by the point the MX400 made it to manufacturing three years later its weight had bloated to an XR-like 260 kilos on Filth Bike journal’s scale. This positioned it 10 kilos north of Yamaha’s already portly YZ426F and 20 kilos greater than the KTM 520SX. 

With its mellow energy, mushy suspension, and hefty weight, many individuals thought the Cannondale’s off-road variants made extra sense than its motocross model. 

Along with the load, the Cannondale suffered from a number of points tied to its revolutionary design. The air passage constructed into the steering head of the body failed to supply sufficient air circulation to the motor and the ultra-short exhaust header necessitated by the reversed cylinder proved troublesome to tune. The brand new gas injection system additionally proved problematic and the bike was beset with beginning and fueling points. 

Right this moment, individuals make enjoyable of the Cannondale for its shortcomings, however the press quotes right here turned out to be prophetic in some respects. Whereas the MX400 didn’t rewrite the document books, a lot of its improvements might be seen on the bikes we experience immediately. 

When it comes to efficiency, the MX400 proved to be fairly disappointing in most respects. The motor supplied a mellow supply that was nice however unremarkable. Flameouts had been frequent and the MX400’s battery was typically lower than the duty of getting issues re-lit as soon as the machine was scorching. The premium Öhlins suspension supplied tons of promise however was arrange far too softly for the machine’s prodigious girth. Reliability was additionally a problem with early MX400s affected by a myriad of gremlins that shortly soured the general public and press on the unproven machine. It in all probability didn’t assist that the bike value $7900 as effectively, which was $2000 greater than a YZ426F would have set you again in 2001. 

In hindsight, the unique MX400 in all probability ought to have been a extra standard design.

Cannondale’s want to innovate in so some ways abruptly put them on a path that was destined to fail. Right this moment, we have now seen that lots of the design parts discovered on the unique MX400 can work very effectively in a motocross setting, nevertheless it has taken 20 years of improvement to make {that a} actuality. In some ways, Yamaha’s present YZ450F is an improved imaginative and prescient of what Cannondale was making an attempt to perform with the unique MX400. Whereas this doesn’t reduce the monetary sting of the Cannondale’s failure, it ought to supply some consolation to the courageous and daring engineers who had been making an attempt to push ahead the state-of-the-art in motocross design again in 2001.