Slate Vs Cyclocross bike - what should you buy?

Should you buy a Cannondale Slate or a traditional cyclocross bike? A CX bike is the closest thing to the oddball Slate in terms of performance and ability so it’s the likely choice that people will have to make. Below is our for and against when making this choice.

Words - James Raison     Pictures - Lana Adams / Max Hardy / Jake Thomas @lilbikenerd


THE CASE FOR THE SLATE

It’s a whole bundle of fun

The Slate’s entire reason for existing is pure fun-ness. You can’t race CX or road, so this whip exists to have a good time on.

It is a freakin riot too! There’s buttons to play with, whacky steering to learn, curbs and roundabouts to jump, MTB trails to bomb down. Sure, those things can be done on a CX, but this thing just does it easier. 

Oliver

 Oliver is very cool, if a little weird looking. Photo: Max Hardy 

Oliver is very cool, if a little weird looking. Photo: Max Hardy 

Oliver is the Slate’s lefty fork and he makes the bike more versatile and sometimes faster than my CX bike.

I rode my CX while some friends on the Slates up a rocky trail and their 30mm of travel allowed them keep the power down while I was bouncing, deflecting, and trying to pick clean lines. You don’t need to do that on the Slate. The front end is kept much more stable. The 40mm tyres on my CX bike at 35psi can’t match the compliance of the Slate’s fork. That’s a big win for the Slate.

Ted King

Did you hear Ted King won Dirt Kanza on a slightly modified Slate? Well he did, and nothing sells bikes like winning. Sure, Dirty Kanza is the unregulated Wild West of bicycles where participants have discretion to choose whatever they think will make the ride less horrid. Nonetheless, Ted King powered away from the field on a Slate. This thing can move with velocity if you have the motor.

Check out Ted’s Dirty Kanza Slate setup.

It’s just different - and that's good

 I love that this bike exists. Photo by Jake Thomas / @lilbikenerd

I love that this bike exists. Photo by Jake Thomas / @lilbikenerd

In the ruthless cycling industry obsessed with weight, price-points, marketing, and… errr… ‘adopting’ each other’s technological advances, the Slate is a breath of fresh air. It’s something different. It turns heads. People will talk to you about it, ask questions, and ask to take it for a spin. Sure, some people will mock it for being a boondoggle, or a toy, but it’s unlikely they’re having as much fun as you.

For people not looking to race, why not consider a Slate?

THE CASE FOR A CX BIKE

 My very own CX bike. We've still had a lot of good times together.

My very own CX bike. We've still had a lot of good times together.

They're cheaper

To me, the Slate’s fork puts it in a category of one, so I don’t believe it’s right to compare spec. It’s just too different. So I won’t say that a CX is outright cheaper because it’s apples & oranges.

Having said that, my Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2 has a better drivetrain, carbon frame, and cost about $1,000 less. It’s hard to recommend the Slate when looking in brutal cost/benefit terms.

Most of us don't have an infinite budget, so the CX bike is the smart buy.

A CX bike will do 90% of what a Slate will

 40mm tyres at 40psi have quite a lot of compliance. 

40mm tyres at 40psi have quite a lot of compliance. 

Yep, my CX with its big fat 40mm Clement tyres will do mostly what a Slate will, and out-perform it in a number of ways. As mentioned above, the Slate’s suspension is brilliant when you’re on rough terrain. For that, I love it. Its slick tyres and sharp steering make it feel clumsy on slippery surfaces though.

My CX has better steering, better grip for gravel grinding, and geometry closer to a road bike. So the gap between a Slate and CX bike is not massive. Ultimately, if you’re just doing gravel and road, that fork isn’t really necessary.

Proprietary

There’s a lot more proprietary parts on the Slate which could make it hard to live with. Cannondale recommend servicing the fork annually through a Cannondale Dealer. You also have much less wheel choice with the front being a lefty. Those are things to consider over the lifetime of the bike.

WRAPPING UP

 I still think the Slate is an excellent bike. Photo by Jake Thomas / @lilbikenerd

I still think the Slate is an excellent bike. Photo by Jake Thomas / @lilbikenerd

The Slates I tested were from Adelaide-based Velo-Porte Performance Bike Hire fleet and I think they’re perfect for that sort of application. Many people will have a holiday romance; hire them, fall in love with how fun and quirky they are, but ultimately decide that want don't want to take one home. That's fine, and will match my experience during the review period. 

The Slate is something you need to ride before buying because it’s a big ticket item. If you’re thinking of buying a Slate, try and ride one first. If you love it, and simply must have one in your life then go for it. A lot of people will be ecstatic with their new whip. They’re a bucketload of fun. 

A lot of people’s needs will be serviced by a CX bike though. Including mine.


Disclosure statement: Adelaide's Velo-Porte Performance Bike Hire lent us 2 Slates for us to give feedback on before they hired them out to customers. This is not paid content for Velo Porte or Cannondale and we receive no money for the hiring of their bikes. We really appreciate the opportunity to ride and review these bikes and thank Velo Porte for letting us do it!