With all manufacturers flocking to the 140-160mm travel range for “all-mountain” steeds, it has left a gap in the marketplace for a little less travel and a little more efficiency. Kona, for example, introduced their new One20 lineup with, you guessed it, 120mm travel front and rear, Specialized has the venerable Stumpjumper FSR and now Cannondale has the recently-introduced Rize.

Last season, Cannondale essentially split the old Prophet platform in half by introducing two new bikes in its place. The 130mm travel Rize enduro/trail bike and the 160mm travel  Moto all-mountain trailbike. The Rize is built to handle the abuse of all-day trail rides with the efficiency of an XC machine. After a few weeks on Utah singletrack, lets see how it performed.

Cannondale Rize Three Mountain Bike Review

Cannondale Rize Three Overview

As the top-of-the-line aluminum model, the Cannondale Rize Three is built with a solid parts spec dressing up a beautiful aluminum work of art. Cannondale’s legendary smooth welds and excellent quality is apparent. One slight difference from most Cannondale’s of yesteryear is that the Rize utilizes a 4-bar linkage single-pivot instead of their old-guard swingarm of the past. This allows the suspension rates to be controlled without relying entirely on the shock to do 100% of the work.

A utility parts spec adorns the Rize Three. Here are a few specs of note:

  • Rear Travel: 130mm via Fox RP23
  • Front Travel: 130mm via Lefty Max w/PBR
  • Drivetrain: Mixture of SRAM X.9, X.7 and Shimano
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XR430 rims, DT Swiss Spokes, C’dale front/Sun rear hubs
  • MSRP: $3199

Cannondale Rize Three Review

Cannondale Rize Three Review

The first bike of the season has a bit of a disadvantage because I haven’t quite built up my lungs and legs yet for the year. However, if any flaws would be apparent on any bike, right now they would be amplified and not glossed-over like when I’m in midseason form.

The local Cannondale rep, Matt Ohran, graciously lent me the Medium Rize Three for a few weeks to test. And while the upper-elevation trails have yet to thaw, all the excellent low-elevation trails in the Salt Lake City area are in perfect shape. With new, green leaves on the trees and tacky dirt around every corner, it’s been fun pushing the Rize to its limits.

Lets talk about the uphill capabilities of the Rize. My initial take on the Rize was that it felt a tad sluggish… I think this is mostly due to me being out of biking shape. But, it didn’t feel as sprightly as I think it should.¬† On pavement, it was awesome having the lockable Lefty and lockout lever on the Fox RP2, which provided instant efficiency on the road. I never once on this bike (or any other) found the need to lock the suspension out on the trails–it’s plenty efficient on dirt and hooks up better unlocked.

Cannondale Rize Three Review

The one detractor to the Rize’s climbing abilities is its tendency to wander and wheelie. When things got tight, twisty and technical, I found that the front end popped off the ground with hard pedal strokes and wandered more than it should. Many bikes exhibit this same type of behavior and with time I may develop better Rize-specific technique to combat this, but know that it is a bit of a wanderer.

As far as downhill capability, the Rize performs best at speed on smooth and fast-rolling trails. This bike hooks up really well and responds when pressed hard at high speeds. At slow-speeds, I felt like it lacked sharp handling and got me into trouble on a few occasions.

The Lefty tracked extremely straight and, in spite of what people might think, was as stiff as any traditional fork on the market. It’s just one of those psychological battles you’ll overcome after a couple of rides. I really liked the rear suspension feel and am glad to see Cannondale going with a controlled 4-bar linkage instead of the old-style swingarm. Pedal feedback and brake jack are imperceptible and reduced to a rarity with this design–much better than the Gemini and Prophet of the past.

The workman-like parts spec held up really well. Shifting was smooth and the overall feel of the bike on the trail was comfortable–just the right geometry for a comfortable, all-day steed.

The DT Swiss DT 430 wheelset provided excellent lateral stiffness and rolled fast and smooth and surprisingly the 2.1 width Maxxis Rendes tires hooked up well (I typically prefer a 2.35 width).

Good Rize Three

  • Comfortable cockpit
  • Easy-to-use adjustments on Lefty
  • Straightforward trailbike for the masses
  • Flies on smooth and fast singletrack
  • Responsive when pressed
  • Frame is very stout… feels very solidly-built

Bad Rize Three

  • Front end raises on steep climbs
  • Feels slower than it should… not sure why
  • Lacks razor-sharp handling in tight, twisty singletrack
  • No QR seatpost clamp standard
  • Limited stem selection

Cannondale Rize Three Review

The Bottom Line: Cannondale Rize Three

A workman’s bike indeed… the Cannondale Rize is an all-around trailbike for the masses. If you frequent steep and technical climbs, you might want to look elsewhere, but for fast and hard trail riding on smooth singletrack, this is as fun as they come.

Buy Now: Search for Your Local Cannondale Dealer

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Interesting… thanks Sharon! How a bike rides does depend on a lot of factors and it does come down to personal preference and riding style. Try as I may, I couldn’t get it to climb straight when things got steep and technical. Strong pedal strokes would make the front-end wheelie and I’d lose momentum entirely. It was a little frustrating.

    What size were you riding? It also could be due to having a little more sag in the rear shock than some people would ride. Dunno… interesting how well you felt it climbed though.

  2. Sorry Jason,

    I’m with Sharon. I own an aluminum Rize one in size Large. It out climbs any bike I’ve ever ridden, especially on steep technical climbs. It is far faster on any trail than my 09 Anthem X 1, or my Team Rush Carbon. And how can you not love a 5.1 inch travel 24lb. trailbike?

    Thanks for listening

  3. Well… try as I might, I could not get the front end to stay put consistently. I only had the bike for 3 weeks, so I wasn’t able to tinker with cockpit bits, etc. as much as I think I’d like to, but out of the box, I felt it wandered too much.

    It shows you that riding styles and body positioning has a lot to do with ride quality. As much as I try to be as objective and thorough as possible, it’s always subject to each rider’s individual impressions. Take a bike out for a demo (if possible) to get a personal feel for it. Sometimes you may agree with my views and othertimes not. Lots of great bikes out there.

  4. Hi Jason,

    Interesting review.

    I’ve got a (large) Euro spec Rize 3 with Fox forks. I found the bike had a tendency to wander on steep climbs until I worked out how to dial the forks down to 100mm travel – that sorted the problem right out.

    I don’t know if the lefty has the same adjustment capabilities, but if it does – that’s your solution!

  5. @Olly

    Unfortunately, the Lefty doesn’t have travel adjust… just lockout. I’m confident that a travel reduction would eliminate the wandering tendency as well.

    I’m still a bit baffled because others have found this bike to be a straight climber and I did everything I know to reduce that and it still wandered a bit much.

  6. Gregory Ceconi on

    I test rode the bike last fall(top line Rize Carbon 1) and found it to be quite light and an excellent climber. Nice machine. I thought it climbed like a tractor!
    I never had the opportunity to take it on tight, technical stuff really though. I’ve asked to order a Rize 3 alloy now. Does the Alloy 3 model feel heavy?

  7. Gregory Ceconi on

    Thanks. I see the spokes are DT Swiss competition which I think probably means double-butted spokes. As long as the wheelset is somewhat light, the perceived weight always seems less. I heard there are wire bead tires? That has to be replaced with some nice folding beads!

  8. Gregory Ceconi on

    I think it is considered a good climber because the suspension is always active and keeps the rear wheel in contact with the ground all the time, provided you are seated. I also test rode the Scalpel on the same day as the RIZE and I actually rode faster on the RIZE. The Scalpel was too stiff and the rear susp. almost felt as if it was not really active, leading me to believe that you should just go to a straight hardtail without the weight penalty of a rear shock. They did set the shock pressures for my weight too. The RIZE has a very upright geometry very much like my old C-Dale “Beast of the East” frame I used to have in the 90’s. Thus, the front wheel is unweighted as you say, but a comfortable riding position. I just rented a 2009 Specialized Epic Expert with the new mini-brain and was impressed with that bike as well. The Brain works very well on climbs and is just right in terms of being active when needed. You can also play with the activation levels of the brain as well.Nice very balanced feel on the Epic, but they are two totally different bikes obviously with the Epic being a X-Country bike and the RIZE a longer travel, all mountain machine.

    • You are correct on an active rear suspension being a more capable climber, however that doesn’t always mean more efficient. The rear end of the Rize is definitely active and able to hook up under all conditions. I just felt like the front end could be a little lower, thus steepening the head angle and putting the center-of-gravity a tad forward.

      Lots of great climbers in the XC and AM bike world!

  9. HEllo, does anybody have advice on buying a used demo Rize. I just rode it for the first time and loved it. I am considering dropping 1200 $ for a used one with approx 200+ mijles on it. Is this a good deal or should I buy new?

      • I have a tricked out 2008 rize 3 set up for park. Full XO drivetrain 2014 pbr 140 carbon lefty with a project 321 lefty hub, fox float x2 rear shock with cs mounted with rwc needle bearings, enduro max suspension bearings. Brakes are Sram guide ultimate 200mm rotors frt & rear bled with motul rbf 600 and Galfer pro pads, wheels are sun inferno 31 laced to a Onyx 10mm thru bolt rear hub set up tubeless with wtb vigilanti tires tough hr frt and tough fr rear. KS lev 125 dropper, answer pro taper 780 carbon dh bars. This bike is a absolute monster downhill. It handles like none other. It’s only limitation is travel. As far as trail riding goes it’s a beast also. I would the two best upgrades are the X2 and Onyx hub…..game changing

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