I bought my (in)famous Cannondale MX400 just before ’you-know-what’ kicked off in early 2020 and the link to that ‘purchase post’ as at the bottom of this one. What I have found quite interesting about MX400 ownership is the reactions I get when I tell someone I have one, or post a picture of it on social media. Broadly, if I post a picture of it on social media, I get three responses. The ‘big wow!’ response comes from the global Cannondale cycling communities as the MX is the seen as the Holy Grail of all Cannondales, even if it did kill the company. The second response is more mixed, and from the global motocross communities. Of this group, about 50% appreciate it and see the bike as a design icon in Moto-X history. The other 50% refer back to the magazine articles and stories from its well anticipated launch, and focus on the disappointment of delayed launches, performance not meeting expectations, reliability etc. Then there are the global groups that love, own and aspire to own these things, particularly the ATV version of the bike, which has a good following in the USA AND where the majority of ATVs were sold. These last groups are there to help each other out when needed, and it is also a good forum for non-members who want to sell an Cannondale ATV or moto, as there is always a willing buyer in the group somewhere. As these machines get rarer, finding one is now almost a sport. In the USA, I’ve heard of people searching these machines out and even driving for a full day to pick one up. I have had a lot of help and advice from these latterly mentioned Cannondale groups, and it is much appreciated🙏.
I bought my bike with eyes wide open being a Cannondale bicycle appreciator and owner, as well as knowing the rarity of an MX400 in the UK. My bike is a 2001 model and this is exactly the time when Cannondale changed the model type and styling from my MX400 version to the later X440S, so mine is from this transition period. It was in a tidy-ish cosmetic condition when I bought it, but needed some detail work doing to it to get it to how I wanted it to look and work. It was evident that my MX had seen all of the early recall modifications such as the magnesium engine covers changed to alloy versions, the updated S1000 ECU and some other parts, but it also came with some common issues. For example, the starter bearing was broken and which sits down by the crank, so the starter wouldn’t turn the engine over, it also stalled when running etc etc blah, blah, blah. It was my goal to fix it and get it back on the track. I’m not someone who must have every last nut and bolt correct, I just want a great looking, running and sounding MX400. The big thing was getting the engine fully updated and fixed.
It was clear that whilst there is a lot of knowledgable and experienced Cannondale owners, my main support came from two people, well known in the Cannondale community and both US based. They are; Ken Deal and Dave Muller. Ken is the recognised engine builder and proprietor of the business Black Widow ATV. Dave owns many Cannondales and is the source of many NOS parts as well as a wealth of experience and advice. For me, everything started with the engine. From his records, Ken couldn’t guarantee what had or had not been done to the engine in terms of modifications and it needed fixing, so I had a choice, which was either to send my motor out to Ken for a rebuild or get a second ‘newly built’ motor from him and worry about the original when I have the bike running. I went with the second option.
What is amazing about the whole vintage scene, whether it be cars, bicycles, motorcycles, in fact anything, is that there are people nowadays dedicated to making the original product work better than it had been originally designed and made. This is true with Cannondale motos and ATVs. To be honest, there was a long list of design improvements required with these machines anyway. Ken has fixed the issues with the engines and Dave has a wealth of knowledge regarding the fixes required for owning and running both the motos and ATVs.
Whilst Ken was busy with my new engine, I kept an eye out for any spares that might be useful and a good buy. When I bought the bike, the seller had included some black body kit panels as the MX400 came in red or black. Whilst the black body kit wasn’t complete and I actually don’t like black bikes, I have since found over time, the rest of the ‘getting rarer’ black bodywork parts and even some original decals for them from Dave, so that’s now part of the bike’s spares kit. I also managed to get a full set of manuals, sales brochures over time and I also got a few other NOS consumable spares from Dave.
The new engine arrived from Ken in the USA in a large beer cooler box as this is how he ships them to customers. This new 440cc engine has had all of the original issues designed out of it to ensure performance and reliability, which is what Cannondale never got around to doing in the short space of development time prior to launching. It took some time for me to get some quality time to spend in the shed and swap my original motor with the new one. This was my first motor swap with one of these bikes and with no time pressure, I got the new motor fitted, plumbed in and with all new liquids. Dave Muller was instrumental in helping me work through the process from ‘motor in to motor start’ to ensure that I didn’t f@@k it up with a schoolboy error.
There was a huge sense of ‘OMG anticipation’ as I wheeled the bike out of the shed and into the April UK sunshine (yes, really!) for its first firing. Dave said, stab the starter a few times to get the fuel primed and make sure its pumping back into the tank, and then fire it up. I did this and after about 5 presses of the starter motor without starting, my newly charged battery was flat. Fortunately, I was prepared with a jumper box and this extra juice was enough to get the engine moving on its own, and what a great sound! The bike just burbled and growled away as it warmed up. I have recently bought a small and very powerful jumper battery which is about the size of a VHS video cassette (remember them?) and is small and light enough to keep in a waist pack when out riding for the times when the bike stalls and doesn’t have and power in the battery.
The next job is gently running the motor in, then change all of the oils, and then get it out onto a track. I’m also sending my original motor to Ken so that he can do a full rebuild and update. These activities will provide the content for the next exciting-ish post on my Cannondale ownership journey, and coming very soon!
In summary, it has taken me time to get everything together and unusually for me, I’ve done it slowly and patiently, hence the title to this post, going-slow-to-go-fast!
Here’s the link to the post about how I bought this bike https://diaryofamotorcyclingnobody.com/yes-i-really-have-bought-a-cannondale-mx400-surprised/
All photos by the Author