Cannondale Judge 1 FR review

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Impressively versatile full susser at the top of its game

Meet the Judge 1 FR – a high performance, high end full susser that’s laying down the law…

The Judge (named after Judge Dredd from the comic 2000AD) is Cannondale’s latest and greatest gravity weapon, as used by The CUT freeride/downhill riders, such as ‘Sick’ Mick Hannah and Aaron Chase. It’s available in downhill and freeride versions – we got to thrash the top-of-the-range 1 FR freerider.

The frame is a burly evolution of the previous Gemini frameset. It’s made from 6061 T6 heat-treated aluminium that’s been TIG welded into a smooth, strong and understated chassis, which merely hints at the depths of the bike’s capability. This is a fast yet elegant looking machine with a matt platinum finish that lends it an incorruptible sheen. With an overall weight of 18.7kg (41.2lb), the Judge is remarkably light for its hardcore freeride/downhill class.

The rear suspension is a single-pivot design – as on virtually all Cannondales these days – with the pivot situated just forward of and above the bottom bracket, on the cusp of the big ring’s circumference. The Shock Link rocker pivot and super stiff swingarm drive the shock in a controlled and staged way. The frame offers 220mm (8.6in) of rear wheel travel via a Fox DHX 5.0 coil shock, with a plush 1:2.89 ratio. The first 75mm (3in) is supple, before the mid-stroke stiffens for solid, non-wallow pedalling, and the final stage ramps up to soak up the biggest hits with ease.

Stiffness, low weight and suspension performance are the Judge’s watchwords: the 83mm bottom bracket and oversized main pivot are machined from one piece of aluminium for maximum strength and stiffness at the pedalling/weight bearing belly of the beast. Front and rear through-axles (12mm rear, 20mm front) lock the wheels in for tight tracking, and the Shock Link pivot keeps the back end precisely in the vertical plane.

Top spec

The Judge 1 FR comes draped in freeride finery, but all Judge models (DH, 1 FR, and 2 FR) share the same frames. The 1 FR has 200mm (7.8in) of travel up front thanks to the impressively light and stiff for its class Fox 40RC fork. The wheels are made up of Mavic EX-729 rims laced to Sun Ringlé Abbah Lawwill hubs – not the lightest set available but they provide burly strength.

Transmission duties are handled by dependable SRAM X-9 shifters and an X-9 rear mech, together with a Shimano XT front mech to shift the chain around the freeride-friendly 24/36-tooth, doublering Truvativ Holzfeller crankset with bashguard. The cockpit is calm and collected thanks to the FSA oversized FR-270 BOS 40mm riser bar and Cannondale’s own oversized freeride stem. Out back is a tough WTB Lazer Pro V saddle held up by an FSA SP-DH- 300 post, and stopping duties are handled admirably by Hayes El Camino hydraulic disc brakes.

The Judge 1 FR lays it down with the confidence and elegance of a bike at the top of its game.

Rock muncher

The 1 FR is a finely poised rig that’s more than capable of handling almost all situations: its slack geometry (69- degree seat angle and 64-degree head angle) makes easy work of the steep stuff and the staged travel ensures that the rear end is never too hasty in moving through its full travel; the Fox DHX 5.0 coil shock is a controlled rockmuncher with the ability to soak up even the biggest hits.

The high (14.7in) bottom bracket, combined with the 46.6in wheelbase of the large frame we tested, gives great stability at speed and during dynamic moves, but also highlights the one slight fl aw – in the tight stuff it’s slightly compromised. That said, everywhere else, from gap fests to the rock garden, it lays it down, and does it all with the indisputable confidence and elegance of a bike at the top of its game.

Dual-ring crankset and bashguard

With the help of the shock’s firm mid-stroke and the 24/36 double-ringed Truvativ Holzfeller crankset, the 1 FR can easily make its way to the top of a hill before taking on the steepest and gnarliest lines with confidence-inspiring ease.

Shock Link

The Shock Link helps manipulate the rear shock’s plush travel in three distinct phases for plush small bump tracking, pedalling performance and effortless big hit absorption.

Class-leading suspension

The Fox 40 RC fork, mated with a Fox DHX 5.0 coil shock, allows the 1 FR to sweep over the small-fry hits and concentrate on the really big obstacles with confidence and precision.

US-made frame

The US-made 6061 T-6 mainframe and swingarm features a machined one-piece bottom bracket and pivot housings, and a machined shock bridge and swingarm ‘hot box’ for rigidity and strength.

Bottom bracket

The wide and stiff bottom bracket shell provides great strength and a solid platform for both pedalling and back end rigidity. The oversized bearings, Shock Link and Thru-12 bolt-through rear axle keep the back end of the bike rigid too.


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