It’s been around for a while but Cannondale’s RZ One Twenty platform still has plenty going for it. Geometry trends have moved on, but the RZ’s 1.5in head tube opens up scope for head angle tweakage if you want to slacken it out. The RZ One Twenty 3 is a fun, if portly, bike as it stands but there’s lots of upgrade potential here.

Ride handling: Capable, with confident handling, but weight blunts responses

The RZ One Twenty range uses a single pivot rear suspension design but the linkage-driven shock allows Cannondale to tune the rate curve throughout the stroke. The X-Fusion E1 RL rear shock on the One Twenty 3 is okay, but the RZ’s rear setup flatters it.

While the Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres use the tread pattern from last year’s Racing Ralph treads, it’s rendered in a pretty hard compound – the tyres work fine on softer ground but can be sketchy on hard surfaces. The Cannondale is no lightweight, and a lot of that’s in the wheels which contributes to a sluggish response under power.

Once rolling, the One Twenty 3 takes on a livelier feel. If you’re sitting down, the steep seat angle and inline post push your weight over the handlebar, which makes for positive turn-in and minimal wandering on climbs. Stood up, it’s a neutral handler that won’t spring any nasty surprises on you.

Chassis stiffness is impressive, but the resistance to twist along the length of the frame makes the relative twanginess of the quick-release front axle more obvious than it would be on a flimsier frame. With a big down tube and 1.5in steerer, the quick-release fork is the weak link in the chain.

Frame handling: Well-engineered, future-proof chassis; quick-release fork an obvious weak link

The RZ One Twenty is a popular bike. The 3 is the entry-level model for 2012 but shares its frame with the rest of the range, up to the £2,899 XLR 2. Cannondale’s commitment to stiffness is clear, with the bottom half of the RZ being of considerable girth. 

At the centre of it is the One Piece Integration Backbone that combines the oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell, main swingarm pivot, seat tube and linkage pivot into a single forged piece. Heading forward is a substantial down tube with a dustbin-like head tube at the other end. 

The head tube takes a 1.5in steerer. Cannondale use it on their Lefty fork and spec the fat steerer on non-Lefty-equipped models. The 3 gets a RockShox Recon fork – pretty much the default option for full-suspension bikes in this price range.

Deep, rectangular chainstays hang off a generously-sized main pivot. The stays are asymmetrical to improve tyre and chainring clearance – there’s room for slightly larger tyres than the 2.25in Schwalbes fitted. An X-Fusion shock supports the back end via a linkage in front of the seat tube.

The SRAM X5 transmission and Powerspline crank look a little bit low-rent for the money, but work acceptably. All the finishing kit, including the chunky 1.5in stem, is Cannondale’s own and does the job.

article was originally published in What
Mountain Bike
magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.