By Chris Lesser

CANNONDALE HAS BEEN MAKING ITS ICONIC LEFTY SUSPENSION fork for more than a decade now, and while its basic single-leg, needle-bearing design remains unchanged, next year the company is rolling out an entirely new line of Lefties.

The carbon fiber model remains Cannondale's top-shelf offering, but the new aluminum OPI (One Piece Integration) version drops nearly a half-pound from the previous alloy model. The secret to that weight savings-and increased strength-lies in its new manufacturing process: 3D forging.

A slew of companies have employed 3D-forging techniques on components and frame pieces such as rocker links, stems and seatposts, but few have taken the technology as far as Cannondale has. The company first used the manufacturing technique on one-piece stem/steerer combinations. and then with the "backbone" integrated bottom bracket/seat tube on its Rize trail bike. Now that technology has trickled down to the

Cannondale mountain bike product manager Johannes "Johs" Huseby got his first taste of the bike business as an intern with the now-defunct Fat City Cycles. He later raced for Independent Fabrications and then worked for Pedro's before joining Cannondale four years ago.

What does the machine that makes these look like?

It's absolutely massive. It's probably 20 feet tall, so you can just imagine the amount of force that's used. And the difference between 3D forging compared to regular forging is that it operates on several different axes.

Why is Cannondale so hot on 3D forging?

I don't want to say 3D forging is not used by anyone else. It's already used widely in stems and seatposts. But we have a partner we've worked with very closely and reached a level that no other company has come close to.

Why go through all the effort?

We used to have three parts—two clamps bonded onto the main fork tube. Now, with a one-piece upper, we gain a ton of stiffness. There's also an advantage in the weight savings, plus the grain structure runs all in one direction, and visually, it looks better. The backbone [on the Rize frame] is very impressive, but I think this is the most impressive 3D-forged part ever put on a Cannondale bike. The carbon Lefty is still lighter than this, but it's the lightest fork on the market, so we're sort of competing with ourselves. But the alloy version is still unbelievably light. How light is "unbelievably light?"

The longest-travel alloy Lefty Max was 3.38 pounds, and we've brought it down to 3 pounds even. That's a 140-millimeter fork that's lighter than a RockShox SID. A Carbon Lefty Max PBR comes in at 2.83 pounds.

Where in the 2010 lineup will we see this new fork?

We're going to use it as an 80-millimeter fork for 29ers, on 100-millimeter XC

bikes and up to 140-millimeter bikes like [next year's] Rize.

But to appreciate any of this you need a Cannondale frame?

Nope. For the first time, Cannondale this year will offer a branded conversion kit, complete with a headset for integrated or standard headtubes. b all-new 3D-forged Lefty.

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