First of all, I want to clarify something that was brought to my attention yesterday in the comments. The "Caffeine" designation will be for most all of the hard tail Cannondale line up for '07. The specific designation for the bike I mentioned yesterday will be "Caffeine 29"er". Okay, now that's out of the way..............
The reaction to the introduction of this bike has been all over the place. Things from "Great!", " a new choice" to "dumb name" and "it's overpriced" have been noted by me. It's bewildering to see from an outside perspective, I'm sure. It's actually pretty typical coming from the 29"er crowd. I think I know one of the reasons why this is, too.
Alot of 29"er riders, if not all of them, are coming off 26 inch wheeled bikes. The "regular" mountain bike world of multiple choices, multiple specialities, and multiple outlets is a given with most of us. We do not give it a second thought. I think that we judge our 29"er market in light of this subconciousness. We really need to take a step back and see it for what it is.
The 29"er is in a fast changing place in the market right now, but in reality it's still in it's infancy. Maybe in it's "toddler stages", okay? We do not have many choices. Because of the specific geometry needs, hardware needs, and smaller market, the 29"er has to be looked at as being rather unique in the marketplace. When a bike like the Caffeine 29"er comes out, the reality is that you have one more place to check out for a geared only, front suspended hard tail 29"er besides Fisher. An easier to find choice out there would be tough to name. Let's see, there's who now....................(crickets)............ Bike shops have Fisher and soon Cannondale. Not too long after that we'll start seeing Kona and Haro with hardtail, geared, front suspended choices. (Although the Kona has sliding drop outs, thus sending it into the "do it all" category) If I tried listing all the major and second tier manufacturers of 26 inch hard tail, front suspended, geared only bikes we'd be here all day!
The point is that we can't be comparing what we have in 26 inch bikes to 29"ers. They are two entirely different markets. One has a multiplicity of choices and the other is super limited. For what it is, the Caffeine 29"er is a major step forward in the growth of choice in the 29"er marketplace, and I think it deserves to be seen as such. Yes, the spec is rather odd in places. Yes, it may have it's quirks. (Read: Lefty fork and Cannondales typical overall look) but it's a step in the right direction. What other readily available, bike shop bikes can you point to that are 29"ers? Not many, that's for sure. I say, "Thank you, Cannondale for making another choice available in 29"ers to more people".