Cannondale is really focusing on the freeride market this year with their Gemini line of bikes. The Gemini 900, 1000 and 2000 will basically cover most of the bases for the typical freerider. The entire Gemini line uses a single allen bolt to adjust the rear travel between 140mm, 150mm and 170mm — a sweet feature!
The 900 comes in at $2,199 retail price; a true bargain in the typically $2,500+ freeride bike market.
As a single-pivot design, the Gemini works well — using tried and true suspension principles. The most surprising feature of the Gemini is its light weight. When I first picked up the test bike at Spin Cycle in Murray, UT, I was totally surprised by how light it was. Dressed in the new Manitou Sherman Breakout with the OnePointFive steerer, Hayes Hydros w/8″ rotors and a slick parts spec including Truvativ cranks, the 900 is alot of bike for the money.
Having ridden a quazi-900 bike build at Interbike, I was stoked to get on the 900 to give it a real-world test in my neck of the woods, on my trails. The differences from the bike tested at Interbike were the Romic shock and beefier wheelset and tires.
Cannondale Gemini 900 Review
Having not spent much saddle time on a single-pivot bike in the past, the Cannondale Gemini was a surprisingly capable climber in and out of the saddle. Even in the granny gear, bob was negligible. I do have to say that the Romic rear shock (standard fare on the Gemini 2000) has a much smoother, solid ride compared to the FOX Vanilla RC. Overall, the RC does a great job sucking up everything I could dish out.
My first ride on the 900 was on a 3,000 ft. shuttle ride from the top of Squaw Peak near Provo, UT. I really noticed how effortlessly the bike climbed up the quick ascents before the steep and long descent back to the valley floor. I was quickly disappointed in the mushy rims and tires. The Mavic F219 disc rims mated with the WTB Weirwolf 2.5’s are much too XC oriented for a bike with 7″ of travel! That ride was mediocre — especially after a pinch-flat and sketchy downhill sections.
Determined not to let the rims decide how I felt about this bike, I swapped out my trusty SUN Rhyno Lite XL’s and beefy DH tires. Problem solved!
We returned to do the same shuttle ride a week later and I found the Gemini to be everything I imagined it would be — an excellent climber and screaming fast descender. The Maxxis Mobster 2.7 front tire held a line no matter what I threw at it. Big drops and dirt jumps were confidence inspiring as opposed to super sketchy with the stock rims and tires.
The Manitou Sherman Breakout is an awesome fork on this bike. It’s lighter than the Super T, delivers a near Marzocchi-like feel and is stiff as all get out! Combined with the 20mm thru-axle, and the reverse arch, this fork tracks straight every time.
I quickly got into the groove and was leaning the bike just like my own and it responded quickly while tracking straight. I did notice some brake jack that I wasn’t used to. This is typical of a single-pivot design.
The Bottom Line on the Cannonadle Gemini 900
The Gemini 900 is truly a breath of fresh air in the freeride market. For $2,200 you get a super versatile freeride bike that can climb too! With the added versatility of adjustable front and rear travel, you can dial this bike in for any ride — all-day epic or shuttle ride with your DH buddies.
My biggest beef is with the wimpy wheelset and tires. Granted, the WTB Weirwolf 2.5’s aren’t wimpy to the XC crowd, but they don’t stand up to the abuse a 7″ travel bike can dish out. I say Cannondale should be able to spec this bike with burlier tires and rims, while keeping the same pricepoint.
Since this bike is so light and efficient, it climbs extremely well. Long climbs are surprisingly easy even in 170mm mode.
Overall, the Gemini 900 is arguably the best value for your freeriding dollars. Combined with a huge dealer network and great warranty policies, the Gemini 900 is one of the most capable freeride bikes for 2003.