Prior to landing in Milan, I’d been hearing rumors about new road bikes from Cannondale. I’d heard they created a response to the new aero road bikes like Felt’s AR and the Specialized Venge, and I’d heard they finished a revision of the SuperSix called the EVO. When I told the folks at Cannondale, while on our way to the introduction venue, what I’d heard and asked which of those bikes we’d be seeing, the answer was, “We’ll just be showing one bicycle.”
It didn’t seem like much of an answer at first.
What I was to learn was the SuperSix EVO was both the evolution (hence the “EVO”) of the SuperSix and Cannondale’s take on the aero road bike. Two birds, one stone.
The folks from Connecticut went into this project with high goals, though they began with a simple enough question, which was, “How do we make a rider faster with less effort?” After all increased efficiency is free speed. Put a rider on a bike that operates more efficiently than his previous and he’ll be faster, period. To achieve that goal, the engineering team had to create a bike that would weigh less, offer greater stiffness, increased strength, a smoother ride and a reduced aerodynamic profile.
When I tell you that Cannondale’s new SuperSix EVO weighs 695 grams in the 56cm frame size, understand that I’m not telling you the most important detail about this new flagship bicycle. Still it’s a pretty impressive number, provided you believe it, and here’s why you should: The weight was arrived at via Tour magazine test standards and the testing was provided by an independent, third party, Zedler Fahrradtechnik.
Zedler normalizes frame weights by truly comparing apples to apples. If a bicycle doesn’t have a front derailleur clamp or rear derailleur hanger, they add weight to account for that. If a frame uses an integrated headset, they deduct weight for that. They add weight for a sloping top tube, and so on. The SuperSix EVO is the lightest frame Zedler has ever tested. Pretty cool, but let’s face it, a great many ultra-light frames aren’t all that stiff.
Unsurprisingly, Zedler found that the SuperSix EVO wasn’t the stiffest frame they had tested, but it possessed the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio they had ever tested, an impressive 142 Nm-Deg/Kg. This number was 40-percent or more higher than most of its competition.
Lots of companies talk about vertical compliance. And lots of it can be dismissed as bunk for the simple reason that most chainstays are taller than they are wide in profile. Cannondale flattened both the chainstays and the seatstays at the midsection to allow them to flex to a small degree. The engineers also redesigned the rear dropouts, making them full carbon fiber and hollow. The upshot is not only a reduction in weight, but a structure that can flex more and attenuate vibration over a greater length of the chainstay.
The engineering team employed woven fibers (rather than unidirectional) in the fork and seat tube to allow increased fore-aft flex. This means the fork is meant to offer improved vertical compliance while the seat tube is meant to work in concert with the seatpost to offer a degree of flex to improve rider comfort. The improvements to the stays and fork are referred to in Cannondale literature as Zone 1: chassis dynamics, while the changes to the seat tube are called Zone 2: rider dynamics. The package of the three has been termed “micro-suspension technology,” which results in what they call the “Speed Save.” Honestly, we’re talking tiny bits of flex, but it wouldn’t take a lot to yield a bicycle that combines better wheel tracking and improved comfort out on the road.
While some companies, such as Cervélo and Felt have aggressively tackled the aero road bike, Cannondale decided to take a more measure approach. The SuperSix EVO looks almost exclusively at the bike’s frontal area. The head tube and down tube are almost 20 percent smaller in diameter, the fork blades are 15 percent narrower and the fork steerer now tapers from 1 1/8 inch to 1 1/4 inch. The top tube has also been tapered in the mid-section to allow riders to ride with a more knees-in position to cut their own drag coefficient.
The other key ingredient in this new-tech bike soup is the carbon fiber. Changes in the lay-up schedule could easily merit an entire article on their own. The important point to convey here is that there are more fibers running long distances in the frame; continuous fiber is one of the watchwords companies use when they want to convince you they have created a bike with a lively ride.
Impressively, the SuperSix EVO was created in just four sections. The front portion of the frame includes the top tube, head tube and down tube. The bottom bracket and seat tube comprise the next section, while the rear triangle is molded in two pieces: the left seatstay, dropout and chainstay are molded as one piece as is the right seatstay, dropout and chainstay.
Don’t be surprised that the SuperSix EVO uses a press-fit BB30 bottom bracket. The engineers believe it’s still the best system on the market because a short spindle (as compared to BB90) suffers less torsional loss and weighs less, plus it doesn’t change a rider’s fit at all and offer more choice in cranks.
When dealing with so little material (695g, remember?) it’s paramount that you make sure each piece of carbon fiber is placed perfectly. Wrapping pre-preg carbon fiber sheets around a bladder is a bit like style your hair underwater. The Cannondale engineers settled on a system of EPS internal forms onto which the carbon fiber sheets can be placed, thus giving the technician the opportunity to perfectly place each layer of fiber.
Cannondale uses three different modulus carbon fibers in the creation of the SuperSix EVO. There’s intermediate, high- and ultra-high-modulus carbon fibers used in the frame. In a deviation from a traditional industry practice, the engineers spec’d an intermediate-modulus carbon fiber that (when compared to commonly used carbon fibers) has somewhat lower ultimate tensile strength and stiffness numbers, but improved numbers in elongation. This is the same carbon fiber they have used in some of their mountain bikes and it’s their belief that this higher-elongation carbon fiber can help a frame better survive some crashes. That’s why they call it “Ballistic Carbon.”
A crash-worthy carbon fiber bike may sound like a pipe dream, but testing has proven the SuperSix EVO to be stronger than the CAAD 9.
The SuperSix EVO Ultimate has a parts pick most riders would kill for. From the FSA stem to the Zipp bar and USE seatpost, every part on the bike has earned the honorific of “ultra light.” As a result, the bike weighs a scant 10.89 pounds. The team edition of the bike, which sports an actual paint job, rather than a matte finish spiced with decals, weighs in at a still-svelte 14.08 pounds. The ultimate edition frame, with derailleur hangers, tips the scale at only 727g.
Bikes start shipping in June. No word just yet on suggested retails, but in addition to the ultimate edition, there will be a Di2 bike, a SRAM Red-equipped bike as well as Dura-Ace mechanical.