Let’s start with what’s wrong with the Cannondale Bad Boy 1, which, if we’re honest, isn’t so much something wrong as something necessary to achieve a commuter bike better than all other commuter bikes: the price. It costs $1,840. That’s prohibitive, but once you work around it, the bike is, for all ostensible reasons, completely flawless.
Cannondale’s ultimate commuter has four features that set it apart: an internal rear hub, disc brakes, front suspension on a lefty fork and an integrated front light. They work together to make city riding as good as it can be. For a commuter, it’s a thrill comparable more to an advanced road or hard tail frame.
The rear hub keeps the chain completely in line, removing the chance of grime buildup on the cogs and any chain stretch or catch that can occur from shifting. As Shimano’s top of the line, the Alfine is reliable and shifts cleanly with the righthand shifter through all eight gears. (For all the lightness and minimalism of a single-speed bike, I’ll always take eight gears over one. Upgrades to Shimano’s Alfine 11 Speed internal hub are also possible.) Keeping the chain in line also cuts the visuals of bike, keeping things streamlined, which fits with the general vibe of the design.
Disc brakes should come standard for commuting, given the degree of control needed on the streets. As on a road bike, more control translates to more confidence. The front head-shock suspension (along with the 28mm wheels) also increases confidence by eating up road noise and softening bumps. With a small twist of the headset (on top of the head tube), the suspension changes from locked to shock absorbing. I often found myself locked at a standstill to increase power, then switched to the suspension once up to speed. The tail is hard, which keeps the bike still enough to maintain acceleration, and doesn’t detract significantly from the feel.
The clean lines of the lefty fork don’t hurt — on the street, looks are part and parcel of cred.
The nature of a lefty fork, Cannondale’s signature development in mountain biking, is to leverage strength from a square, rather than tubular design, allowing more stiffness in the fork. The perks are evident in mountain biking, but in commuting, the implementation is more aesthetic than functional, unless someone’s hyperbolically charging through the streets. But the Bad Boy 1 is as much about aesthetics as it is performance, and the clean lines of the lefty fork don’t hurt on that front.
Cannondale also integrated a front light, which sits as part of the handlebars, which themselves are flat with a wide grip (more in line with mountain biking than city cruising). The light is attached by two screws and can be removed to be charged by USB. It’s a clean integration, and the white LED is plenty bright for alerting cars, although not enough lumens for seeing road in the dark. It’s also angled up, which, in flashing mode, I found distracting at the base of my vision. As for the rear of the bike, there is no integrated tail light, so the rider is required to bring that essential accessory.
The Bad Boy 1’s minimalism extends to its weight, which is notably light; carrying it to a fourth-floor walk-up isn’t necessarily pleasurable, but it’s not difficult, and compared to a bike like the Trek Lync, these wheels are light. Altogether, in ride, design, and quality, it proves itself the best commuter bike from one of America’s best bike manufacturers. The only unfortunate part is what that excellence will cost you. But rest assured: pay the price and you’ll be handsomely rewarded on the street.