FLASHBACK FRIDAY | CANNONDALE’S FIRST-EVER NATIONAL ON THE MX400
Many people were surprised by Cannondale’s appearance at the muddy Mt. Morris National in the year 2000. Since Mt. Morris was close to the factory, Cannondale felt that they would never have a better opportunity to try their freshly minted bike out in National competition (just the week before the company started rolling the first production bikes off the assembly line). At Mt. Morris, New England’s Keith Johnson had to ride Saturday’s premier 250/450 National qualifiers to make the big program. The bike refused to start for the first qualifier (reportedly because some wires on the generator were pulled off while the bike was being cleaned after practice). The bike was fixed for Saturday’s Last Chance and Johnson easily qualified for Sunday’s race.
After making the 40-man cut on Sunday, Keith got a good start (from a very bad starting position) and actually ran in the top three for a lap or two. A couple of crashes and some over-heating, brought on by the mud, ended the first moto.
Cannondale decided that the bike had seen enough action for one day, and they weren’t sure how much damage the bike might have sustained when it overheated, so they packed it up after the first moto and went back to the factory.
Cannondale got back in action the next week in Southwick with Johnson heading the charge. In the next race Cannondale put Jeff Gibson on the MX400. Jeff would only race five races. Keith Johnson raced a total of seven outdoor Nationals that year on the Cannondale. His best finishes on the Cannondale MX400 were two 19th place finishes in Broome-Tioga and Kenworthy’s Motocross Park. A Cannondale would never make the 40-man gate at an outdoor National again.
HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT 2001 CANNONDALE FACTS:
(1) The bikes rolling off the assembly line were 2001 models. Cannondale tinkered with the idea of calling them 2000 models up until April 15, but then made the decision that calling them 2000’s would serve no purpose.
(2) The first run of bikes were called MX400’s, even though their actual displacement was 432cc. Why? Because the MX400 decals had already been printed.
(3) There was not a full-time Cannondale motocross team on the National circuit (Keith Johnson only planned to race Mt. Morris and Southwick).
(4) Cannondale planed to continue to work on refinements to the bike and to make running changes if necessary. Among those running changes were to eventual rename the bike as the MX432 and whatever improvements that their R&D department could produce. In 2002, Cannondale ended up calling the bike the X440. 2003 was the last year of the bikes production as Cannondale filed for bankruptcy spending as much as $80,000,000 on the project.
(5) Although it was declared the “Bike of the Year” by one motorcycle magazine, MXA wrote a scathing review of the Cannondale, listing everything from the failure of the bike to finish any races, the weak clutch, heavy overall weight, poor rising rate, spotty electric starting and exhaust pipe design that had no effective tuned length. It made Jody’s list of the worst bikes he ever raced.