Review: 2002 Cannondale SPEED ATV


Feb. 01, 2002 By Dean Waters

February 2002


If any factory sport quad can satisfy your need for speed, the 2002 Cannondale SPEED must be it. In 2001 Cannondale introduced their first ATV, the FX 400, and entered the sport ATV market. As with many vehicles in their first year of production, a number of flaws were discovered. Cannondale voluntarily recalled about 630 ATV units for a ball joint problem. A number of riders complained about a twitchy front-end.

Cannondale did their homework and addressed the issues with the FX-400 and kept going. Cannondale is putting a full-on assault on the sport ATV market, with four new models in 2002.

The 432cc Cannondale SPEED is the successor to the FX-400, meant to be practically race-ready right out the door. One major addition is Optimum's GP control fuel-injection system. This is a state-of-the-art fuel injection system that can be tuned to maximize performance. In fact, with the optional GP control unit, you can actually modify the MAP while riding!

Rebuildable Ohlin shocks right from the factory
Braided Stainless steel brake lines
While the SPEED may seem somewhat pricey with a MSRP of $7,999, you need to consider what you are getting. There are literally thousands of dollars of upgrades included, that would generally be must-haves for a competition sport quad. Put away your catalog and tech manual, it's all done for you. And under warranty! This quad has already been through the "goody catalog" - from the stainless steel braided hose to the Magura hydraulic clutch, Cannondale thought of everything to get you on the track and competitive immediately. There's more quad here than a beginner needs, but easily enough for the serious rider.
Full aluminum chassis
ITP Holeshot Tires

We eagerly took a couple of the new SPEEDs right out to the sand of Ocotillo Wells. They were purposely equipped right as the factory would ship them to you. After a long day of dealer demos, they were ready to go again with little effort.

Satisfied with the good looks of the SPEED, we gave our full attention to making it prove it's worth. Two riders of different riding levels, size and experience put the quads to the test, over whoops, loose sand, hill climbs, open desert. Our riders come from a fairly stock Yamaha 660 Raptor and a very modified Honda 400EX. The consensus was - What a great handling quad! Well-balanced and powerful, the SPEED handles whoops and tight corners without any rolling or bucking. At top speed, it still felt totally stable. That's a must for open desert racing.

The power is smooth through the complete powerband
The SPEED would slide through corners with ease

The only thing that raised a concern was that the suspension was somewhat stiff on the two units we rode. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that they had been setup for a motocross track test the day before. Some lighter springs and a little adjustment to the Ohlins would take care of this. The suspension probably also contributed to the steering feeling a little hard at slower speeds.

The seat felt wide at the area of the gas tank, but that's just a matter of getting used to it. We did notice that the slope of the gas tank made it difficult to tell how much gas you had in it, but again, once you figure that out, it wouldn't be a problem again. (With no reserve tank, you'd better make sure you DO know your range on fuel!)

Sitting side-by-side, the SPEED's motor is loud enough that it's impossible to hear anything going on outside your helmet. But on long runs in the desert, what's there to listen to anyway?

Hill climbing was a pleasure with the low center of gravity...
...and the decent was just as much fun
Conclusion While several hours of riding gave us only a taste of this new quad, we were thoroughly impressed with the performance and handling characteristics. We think the SPEED is an easy choice over the Yamaha Raptor (do you really need reverse on a performance machine?), and while we want more time on it to stand it beside the Raptor, initial impression was that it was indeed quicker. The only thing better may be a Cannondale Blaze... We'll have to let you know after we get our hands on a couple of those later this spring!
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Cannondale Corp
16 Trowbridge Drive
Bethel, CT 06801
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