Reviewing high-end components is one of the best parts of our job, so I was nothing less than happy to see what the Cannondale Lefty Carbon XLR 130 fork is able to do. With a travel of 130mm and a 1.3 kilograms weight, the component has All-Mountain written all over it, that is, of course, if you have a 1.5 inch headtube and 1.599 euros to spare.
A short description of the tech
Because we aren’t talking about a very common product, we have to present a bit the Lefty. The single-arm design sets it apart from the rest of the forks on the market, with implications regarding functionality and visual looks. During my first rides on the Lefty, I needed some time to get used to the fork, because things tend to appear somewhat insecure given that only one arm is present instead of two. But few thing are as well-built as the Lefty.
The axle on which the hub is mounted is very resistent, basicly being a part of the lower section of the fork, built directly into it. So, once the wheel is connected to the fork, the whole system acts as one single piece, like a well oiled machinery, that has clockwork precision.
The upper part of the fork is fixed and has a double crown, with a piece under the head tube and one above it. Thus, the fork sits well in place, while the lower part works accordingly to the principle of a upside-down fork, only with just one arm.
The 2013 Lefty models use a new technology called Hybrid Needle Bearing Technology. Those bearings ensure the high stiffness of the fork, having been placed between the fix arm, where they are also mounted, and the mobile arm. Due to this, the more the fork compresses, the stiffer it gets. In the good-old Cannondale style, the cartridge is sealed and keeps air from mixing with oil, lowering the weight level through the smaller amount of oil needed to lubricate the system.
Last but not least, the new Lefty uses two air chambers, a positive one and a negative one, which adjust themselves according to the settings you have made depending on your weight and terrain. Of course that there would be much more to say about this one-arm wonder, but it would then become a really long story.
On the trail
So, how does the Lefty Carbon XLR handle the demands of a mountain trail? The answer is quite simple and predictable: flawless. It can handle anything a wild off-road path can throw at it. It almost seems to have an appetite for bumps on the road, be they small or big. And to be more accurate, an 130mm travel was never so sufficient as it was on this ride, although I had figured that only an 150mm fork would do the trick.
As wheel traction is not a problem in the case of the Lefty, it is time to get into the adjustements. Lefty Carbon XLR has a lock-out remote placed on the handlebar and an option that allows you to set the rebound speed. Introducing or letting out air of the fork is as easy as a child’s play, though you might want to keep in mind the recommendation of the producer, which says you shoul check the pressure every time you ride, for optimal fork performance.
There also is a plastic protection against rocks that could hit the fork, a component that is not only useful, but gives the Lefty Carbon XLR a bit of a sophisticated look.
The new Lefty Carbon XLR 130 is at the twilight of fiction and reality. Cannondale didn’t spare any effort in making real the most stiff and light All Mountain fork available on the market and they did an excellent job. If money are not a problem for you, than buying this fork is something I recommend because it is one of the pinnacles of bike engineering.