The 19th-century antecedents of the bicycle—from the velocipede, with its wooden frame and iron tires, to the high-wheeled Original—did little to keep the bumps in the road from reaching the seat of the rider's pants. The pneumatic tire did away with the "boneshaker" in about 1888, but as the bike cruises into the next century, having a smooth ride is still a concern.
Though its frame recalls its rough-ridin' ancestors, the Raven 4000 SX could never be accused of their shortcomings. The most innovative feature on this mountain bike, made by Cannondale of Bethel, Conn., is the Lefty fork on the front end. The Lefty is the latest in long-travel forks, which can compress up to 100mm, allowing the front tire to maximize contact with the surface of rocky trails. It's also lighter and stiffer than most long-travel forks. Complementing the Lefty is the Raven's frame, which distributes loads differently from other off-road bikes. Its magnesium spine absorbs the impact of jump landings, and its carbon fiber "skins" take the torsional loads caused by pedaling. For more information call Cannondale at 203-749-7000, or visit its Web site at www.cannondale.com/bikes.