An Open Letter to Cannondale

03.2.2006 | 7:20 pm

Dear Cannondale,


I was thumbing through the current issue of Velonews when I came across the following ad (click to see large version):



Cannondale, I’m afraid your ad agency and I need to have a little talk.


It’s Like Outfitting Street Thugs with a Fleet of Ferrari’s?

Let’s start with the headline. You are saying, in effect, that giving Cannondale road bikes to Team Health Net is like giving violent felons overpriced, mechanically finicky sports cars. This seems ill-advised, at best.

Clearly, Cannondale, your ad lets the world know you are one angry company. And I’d be angry too if I had recently gone through bankruptcy due to one of the most outrageously boneheaded business moves in recent history (maybe the motorcycles would have been more popular if they had a “Lefty” fork?).

The text of your ad (click to see larger, more legible version), though, is more than just angry. It’s comically angry.

Let’s analyze it.

  • North American cycling is like a street fight. You see, Cannondale, you’re starting off on the wrong foot here. I can see that you’re trying to hint at the brutality of the term “gang fight” without actually saying it, but the term “street fight” just makes me think of West Side Story. Next, I think your metaphor doesn’t really work. You see, North American cycling is more like a race than a fight. Specifically, it’s like a European road race, but not as fast, interesting, or dramatic. But I can see how that might not make good ad copy. If you need a more accurate metaphor, I’d like to suggest the United Nations. Think about it: Separate factions come together, mostly working cooperatively, while keeping certain personal or team agendas in mind. Good visual potential for the ad, too.
  • Chains are flying: Next time you think about running an ad, Cannondale, you may want to run the copy by someone who actually rides a road bike. When I hear “chains are flying,” I think, “Wow, the frame must be horribly out of alignment. That must be a terrible bike.” I don’t want my chain to fly, Cannondale. I want it to silently spin on the cogs, an unobtrusive blur of motion, whirring so smoothly and steadily that you have to look closely to tell it’s moving at all.
  • Elbows are clashing: Okay, now you’re just reinforcing the West Side Story image. I mean, do elbows ever clash anywhere besides in choreographed fights in musicals and Michael Jackson videos from the 80’s?
  • Heart rates are pinned. Pinned? Pinned? Now not only is my mental image of North American cycling trending toward a community production of West Side Story, it’s now a community production of West Side Story as performed by Phil Liggett.
  • And the baddest gang by far is Health Net Presented by Maxxis. Look. You’re just embarrassing yourself when you show off a bunch of skinny white guys in what looks like Garanimals as imagined by Eminem, then say “baddest.” Also, this verbiage, combined with the West Side Story imagery, forcibly calls Michael Jackson videos to mind (“Because I’m bad! I’m bad! Jamon, you know it!”). Please, cut it out. I beg you.
  • Now, imagine giving a bunch of thugs the fastest get-away vehicles around. Now I’m confused. Are the bikes weapons, or getaway (or “get-away” as you seem to prefer) vehicles? And why are these guys running away from a fight? Are the Health Net guys cowards? Or are they just bad dancers?
  • That’s what we did when we hooked these guys up with a quiver of Cannondales. Oh, for crying out loud. A quiver? Now you’ve switched over to Robin Hood imagery.
  • This is one hostile gang that’s gonna steal every podium in sight. Oh, that’s smart. In this age of constant allegations of illegal activity by professional athletes, use your ad space — one of few places where you control the message — to say that your team needs to steal in order to win. I’m curious, Cannondale: do you have a follow-up ad planned showing the riders selling crack?

It’s Not About the Bikes.

Cannondale, I’d like to ask you a question that your ad agency should perhaps have asked itself: “What business is Cannondale in?” It seems to me that you might want to be in the business of building and selling bikes. If that’s the case, I’d like you to take a good look at how prominently your bikes figure into this ad.


These photos are so dark and the bikes are so well-hidden, I can’t tell what models they are. Frankly, I had to take a close look to determine that they’re even road bikes. And I for sure can’t determine that there’s anything remotely Ferrari-like about them.


Nor, Evidently, Is It About the Riders.

One could reasonably argue, however, that this ad isn’t really about selling bikes. It’s about promoting the Health Net team. In which case, I’d like you to take a look at the faces of Team Health Net (click to see larger version), which is, by the way, a medical insurance company:

I looked at these faces, and then, just for fun, went to the team site and tried to match the racers on the site to the gangstas in the ad.

I couldn’t. They all look like Eminem to me.

I feel especially bad for this guy, though:

Looking at him, I have to ask: Why is his hat so big? Are those white velour sweatpants? And most importantly, does he really plan to use that bike chain as a weapon, or did it just “fly” off his bike, due to a misaligned frame? 


To conclude, Cannondale, I would like to offer some advice: Just play it cool, boy.

Real cool.


Kind Regards,


The Fat Cyclist


PS: Cannondale, my weight today is 167.2 pounds. Do you think I’m too fat to be a bike thug?


  1. Comment by Unknown | 03.2.2006 | 7:50 pm

    The Warriors meet Breaking Away.  I’m officially embarrassed to be a Cannondale fan.
    P.S.  Excert from 2001 Cannondale Board Meeting "Yeah, and then we’ll take on Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki in the motocross market. We’ll kick their asses for sure!"

  2. Comment by Tom | 03.2.2006 | 8:16 pm

    What about the errant hyphen typo in the headline of the ad:
    "…with a fleet of Ferrari’s"
    (A fleet of Ferrari’s what?)

  3. Comment by Unknown | 03.2.2006 | 8:23 pm

    Ya, we couldn’t make in the motorcycle biz, but we already paid the ad agency. They wouldn’t give us our money back. It’s not our fault. and no, Mr. B. Experiment, you can’t return the bike. Now, you will never be able to ride your C-Dale without thinking of th ad. Sucks for you.
    Dewy-Cheatum & Howe, For Cannondale

  4. Comment by jim | 03.2.2006 | 8:41 pm

    Very funny post.  Of course the ad might as well have handed you the jokes on a platter.  I cannot believe someone actually published this.  I would be very interested to know their target demographics.

  5. Comment by Unknown | 03.2.2006 | 8:43 pm

    You better watch out – you’re gonna get yourself in trouble w/ Dr. Lammler again!

  6. Comment by Unknown | 03.2.2006 | 8:47 pm

    Uh, Twick, that would be an apostrophe, not a hypen. But at least you know how to use it! As for the quiver crud, it’s clear these guys have also been writing copy for ski companies, who offer the "one ski quiver!" Although, the word "writing" might not be the most exact usage we can come up with for this stuff. Maybe we can refer to these tough guy/thugs (What, no tatoos?!?!?!!? What self respecting thug has no ink?!?!?!?!?!) as the Health Net presented by Maxxis Cannondale Crack Heads? Nothing sells sporting goods like the junkie look.

  7. Comment by Tom | 03.2.2006 | 8:53 pm

    D’oh. Of course it’s an apostrophe.

  8. Comment by Robert | 03.2.2006 | 9:04 pm

    I know you’re just trying to be funny, Fatty, but this is a good, effective ad. I had seen this ad before you wrote about it, and a part of me said, "I’m kind of pudgy and effeminate — maybe I need a bike like that to toughen up my image. Of course, those weren’t the actual words I used. It was more like a fleeting thought. But here’s my point: I want a Cannondale bike to go with my leather chaps, pierced nippled rings, 2-day beard growth, hair gelled into a spike, and black choker. I want to be a tough guy, so I’m going to buy a Cannondale. It’s that simple.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 03.2.2006 | 9:39 pm

    They look about as bad as a gang of Provo Eagle Scouts.
    "Garanimals as imagined by Eminem" is spot on and one of the funniest things I’ve read anywhere.
    Great piece, Fatty.

  10. Comment by Teresa | 03.2.2006 | 9:45 pm

    I’d rather have a Luxury Body.

  11. Comment by craig | 03.2.2006 | 10:20 pm

    the guy in the hat definately has a reason to looked pissed off. 
    Oh oh…… I have an answer to last weeks contest. 
    I would wear that Wackodoo shirt before I would dress up like these clowns on this advert. 

  12. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 03.3.2006 | 12:31 am

    Dem boyz is da shizznizle.  Dey fully roll da boulevarde posse style wit sick fancy Cannons prezented by Dale.

  13. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 03.3.2006 | 12:37 am

    Healthnet presented by Maxxis – these boys have a lot to learn: 
    First and most life threateningly obvious is, never bring a Cannondale to a knife fight.
    Second and most embarassing for a pro squad is their presentation.  Hairy legs and baggy clothes are not the appearance of winners.  They’re not even the appearance of wanna-be’s.  They look exactly like they stole the bikes not the podium.

  14. Comment by Nanget | 03.3.2006 | 12:57 am

    That guys hat makes his whole head look too big for his body.
    But what about the farmer gangsta with his sleeves ripped off. How do you use a chainring in a fight? Like a starknife maybe?

  15. Comment by Tyler | 03.3.2006 | 2:45 am

    Newsflash: Team Healthnet pb Maxxis will be outfitted with Assos kit for the 2006 road season.
    "At first, we were opposed to providing the Luxury Body experience to any professional riders, but, when we saw the kits that Health-Net’s riders had been outfitted with in the Cannondale ad, we were sold," said an Assos offiical.
    "Furthermore, we love the powerful and diverse imagery created by the description of North American bike racing in the advertisement.  Brilliant!  We couldn’t have done it better ourselves.""Therefore, Assos will supply Health-Net presented by Maxxis with Assos attire to steal all the podiums they like.  With their arrows.  And flying chains.  It’s now!"

  16. Comment by Unknown | 03.3.2006 | 2:54 am

    Overhyped B.S.

  17. Comment by Burra King | 03.3.2006 | 2:54 am

    I think their chains keep flying off because of the baggy pants their wearing. I guess their new sponsor assos should fix that. Mayby they could make a "luxury body" bib with baggy legs for these bad boys.

  18. Comment by Zed | 03.3.2006 | 4:21 am

    Maybe if they raced Chase Hardtails?
    Fatty, I know why you didn’t fault them over the apostrophe thing.

  19. Comment by Shari | 03.3.2006 | 6:22 am

    Fatcyclist, you are too funny. You may also have too much time on your hands, seeing your obvious obsession with bike ads. Confuscious say: Get out and ride! :) This hilarious!

  20. Comment by Bryn | 03.3.2006 | 9:34 am

        The fact that they set the photo in a prison makes it much more ‘thugish’ i think, don’t you?

  21. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 03.3.2006 | 11:34 am

    Dang, Elden! Now I have a sore belly! I was laughing too hard!

  22. Comment by Unknown | 03.3.2006 | 3:45 pm

    team davitamon-lotto is real happy they don’t
    ride for health-net-maxxis-cannondale-in-da-hood.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 03.3.2006 | 5:56 pm

    Just think how much fun that chain would be int he peloton… 
    commentator: ‘There goes Basso, accidnetally pulled off his bike by his
    own team mate.  Looks like he’s out of the running for this years tdf’ 
    It would turn cycling into a full contact sport…At least that’s what
    I would use it for.

  24. Comment by Unknown | 03.3.2006 | 8:22 pm

    It’s a good ad.  If Cannondale is aiming to expand their buyers market beyond those who have worked their ways into disposable income, to those who just steal it.
    Or maybe the ad copy is left over from the recent corporate unpleasantness.

  25. Comment by Unknown | 03.3.2006 | 9:55 pm

    I wonder if I can get some of the Dura-ace stuff that the thugs stip off of the bikes. I could use some cheap upgrades. New shifters, brakes, etc… Sweet !!

  26. Comment by Jsun | 03.3.2006 | 11:35 pm

    I was going say something about how you are showing your age, not liking the street-cred look, et cetera, but you are actually right.  And, if someone with some real street-cred (not me, because I too, am young like you) saw that ad, they’d probably laugh it off for same reasons as you, except for not caring about the bikes.
    I will now and forever associate thugs with Cannondale and vice versa, and will be scared of anyone riding one.
    Thanks for the warning, I will stay indoors now.

  27. Comment by Shelley | 03.4.2006 | 12:28 am

    HA!  You are so correct in this blog!!  I work for Healthnet and I must say this is the first time I’ve seen this ad and it just sucks!  Poor Team Healthnet!  To be affiliated with something this pathetic.
    I enjoy your blogging.  Keep it up!

  28. Comment by Donald | 03.4.2006 | 2:35 am

    I think my local girl scout troop can take those guys.  hehehe  Last time i saw a cannondale was at costco, i didnt even know they were still in business

  29. Comment by Unknown | 03.4.2006 | 6:35 am

    I definitely AM old.
    I thought it was the Village People.

  30. Comment by Scott | 03.4.2006 | 8:01 am

    So, since I already ride a C’dale, does that make me a thug too?  I hope so, cuz my street cred is nil. 
    Love the site, FC.  I have a link to it on my site.  Keep ridin’, man. 
    And keep writin’. 

  31. Comment by Ashbygirls | 03.5.2006 | 4:03 am

    Is it just me, or are the first three guys all the same guy?  Maybe the rest of the team didn’t show so they had to photo shop the one guy in a variety of hats.  That’s why the big-hat one looks so mad- his teammates stood him up.

  32. Comment by Carolynn | 03.5.2006 | 7:42 am

    You WILL let us know if they, ie the ad folks, won’t you???

  33. Comment by Carolynn | 03.5.2006 | 7:42 am

    if they respond or contact you…….

  34. Comment by Unknown | 03.6.2006 | 1:43 am

    I’m not positive, but I think the big hat guy is Nathan O’Neil, 7-time
    Australian time trial champion.  I’ve met him a couple of times at
    my LBS, he’s way too nice a guy to be in an ad like that.

  35. Comment by Bryan | 03.6.2006 | 5:57 pm

    I think this might have worked a little better with some sort of ‘extreme’ mountain biking.  In any case, I think the biggest problem with Cannondale is the lack of dealers.  I think REI is the only place within 100 (maybe 150) miles that actually stocks Cannondale road bikes (I’m in eastern WA).  And their selection sucks.

  36. Comment by Unknown | 03.12.2006 | 4:25 am

    The icing on the cake here is the blatantly illegal apostrophe in blatantly big type. Even a third grader knows that the plural is formed by adding an "s," and that apostrophes are reserved for contractions and possessives.
    FERRARIS – more than one Ferrari
    FERRARI’S – belonging to Ferrari
    It’s such a stupid mistake I can’t even believe it. Right there for every elementary school graduate to laugh at. Along with the rest of the ad.

  37. Comment by Unknown | 03.30.2006 | 12:09 am

    perhaps cannondale should give up. I mean, the bikes are no good, really…and this ad is even worse.
    Love the blog though….especially as an anything but skinny cyclist myself…

  38. Comment by Maggie | 03.31.2006 | 6:42 pm

    thanks for morning smile, check out the "Haines to Haines bike relay" no big sponsors here, just for the love of it…..keep on free wheelin….love your sister’s art, thanks to you now I want to buy a piece of her work that I probably can’t afford……
    oh…just one more thing….THANKS A LOT!!!!   not sure how I feel about going to the pool in the mornings anymore……eeewww….
    kindest regards

  39. Comment by Unknown | 03.31.2006 | 9:02 pm

    I am with you on grouping different sports together to make a triathlon. My favorite is bay kayaking/fishing, drinking beer, and eating. My second favorite is mountain biking single track, drinking margaritas, then working on landscaping my yard. Lastly, I enjoy running, eating a huge meal, and then sleeping. Unfortunately it is very hard to get anyone to sponsor me in my triathlon endeavors unless it includes swimming biking and running and excluses everything else. Humph.


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