Lefty forks have it rough. They've never really fit in, and they get teased a lot for it. But do they really deserve it? Have you ever actually stopped to think about a Lefty? The reasoning behind it is sound. There’s less friction in the system under normal load and a lot less friction under braking or twisting loads. And they've always been that way.
Up until now, Lefty’s have been dual-crown forks. Today that changes. Cannondale’s new Lefty Ocho is the first single-sided, single-crown fork on the market.
The Ocho is available in two versions, the Ocho Carbon and the Ocho Alloy. The carbon option weighs 1,446 grams, while the alloy is 1,735. It's only available with 100 millimeters of travel. If you are well-read on 100 millimeter lightweight XC forks (and who isn’t?) you are probably thinking, hang on, the Fox 32 Step-Cast only weighs 1,358 grams. Well, informed reader, you are correct. But what you didn’t know is that the Ocho claims to be stiffer than the Fox 32 Step-Cast. As a matter of fact, Cannondale claims the Ocho is the stiffest XC World Cup fork, as well as the lowest-friction XC fork available. Big claims. It’s a big deal.
Let’s take a closer look. A traditional fork with two legs works as tubes—the stanchions—within shells—the lowers. This is a gross oversimplification, but will suffice. A single-sided fork can’t work the same way as a normal, dual-stanchioned fork because a single stanchion within an outer housing would simply spin. Cannondale saw this as an opportunity to improve upon the traditional fork model. For the Ocho that improvement comes in the shape of a triangle. A keyed, triangle stanchion. The triangle stanchion slides into the fork leg on needle bearings, interfacing with channels that stop the stanchion from rotating. Cannondale suggests a home experiment to explain: Rub your hands together hard. There is a lot of friction. Now put a pen between your hands and repeat the same motion. The pen rolls and it is easier to move your hands. Needle bearings are doing the same thing in the Ocho, and it's the secret to how Cannondale made its fork so frictionless.
The Ocho also has the new Chamber damper, with six clicks of compression adjustment, 23 clicks of rebound damping and a remote lockout that can work on its own or in conjunction with a rear shock. It's available with a 55-millimeter offset for 29-inch wheels, or a 50-millimeter offset for 27.5-inch wheels.
Maybe most news-worthy is that the Lefty now comes with a standard tapered steerer tube, so it can fit on a standard bike, thereby making that bike quite un-standard.
To go with the new fork is an entirely new bike. Or maybe the fork goes with the bike. Either way, the new F-Si is an XC hardtail through and through. Racers rejoice. Cannondale uses its proprietary BallisTec carbon, and the company claims it can tune the rigidity throughout the frame. Cannondale took advantage of this to tune the rear triangle to be vertically compliant for what it calls SAVE Micro-Suspension. And if that makes you scared for the carbon’s strength, fear not, the frame has a lifetime warranty. There are two different frames depending on which build you go with, the Standard weighing 1,100 grams, or the Hi-Mod weighing 900 grams, which happens to be the lightest mountain frame Cannondale has ever produced.
All F-Si builds will come with the new Lefty Ocho. There are seven different models priced from $2,200 to $9,000.