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Racing the Cannondale SuperX at CrossVegas

Cannondale's new SuperX weighs about 14 pounds in an all-carbon construction.
Cannondale's new SuperX weighs about 14 pounds in an all-carbon construction.
A few years after Cannondale built upon its “Made in the USA” aluminum history by adding carbon road bikes to the mix, the company has done the same in cyclocross with the SuperX. I got a chance to race one of the superlight bikes at CrossVegas Wednesday night.

Our technical editor Zack Vestal first reported on the details of the SuperX at Eurobike, so I’ll just jump straight to my riding impressions.

First off, the thing is almost absurdly light. At about 14 pounds for a complete bike, it feels comparable to a standard ’cross bike — without wheels. Last year I bought the predecessor to the SuperX, the aluminum CX9 ’cross frameset, and raced that for the season. True to Cannondale’s reputation, the CX9 is a very stiff bike, and that served as my main reference point for the SuperX.

The SuperX maintains the snappiness of the CX9, but is worlds more comfortable, thanks to built-in vertical flex of the flat carbon chain- and seatstays. For this element, Cannondale took construction cues from carbon hardtail mountain bikes, such as its Flash.

If you’ve been reading bike magazines or web sites for even a little while, you’ve heard the laterally stiff/vertically compliant mantra repeated by scores of companies. There’s reason for this — it’s generally a good thing. You want a bike to efficiently transfer your pedaling load to the rear wheel (laterally stiff), but you don’t want to feel the impact of every little bump and crack in the road transferred into your tail end without some load absorption (vertically compliant).

The chainstays and seastays are wide and flat to take the edge off bumps while keeping Cannondale's famous pedaling stiffness
The chainstays and seatstays are wide and flat to take the edge off bumps while keeping Cannondale's famous pedaling stiffness
Anyhow, the SuperX has a little bit of vertical flex engineered into the back end. It most certainly does not feel like a full-suspension mountain bike that sags when you sit on it. But what it does do is absorb some of the chatter, such as the choppy tufts of grass at CrossVegas. You still get bounced around, for sure, but the added traction compared to the CX9 is noticeable.

Last year’s CX9 used an Easton fork. The SuperX gets a Cannondale carbon fork that tapers from 1 1/8-inch to 1 ¼-inch at the race, and is tuned in concert with the rear triangle. The bike feels very stable and handles predictably. I first hopped on the bike 10 minutes before the race start (great idea, right?), and it felt like home, perhaps because the geometry from the CX9 carried over.

The frame and fork plus hardware weighs 1,400 grams in a size 56cm. The bike comes in sizes from 44 (!) to 58.

Cannondale’s marketing manager Murray Washburn describes the carbon used in the frame as “ballistic” grade, built with resins often used in high-impact pieces like hockey sticks — “stuff that’s designed to be smacked,” he said. In other words, the bike isn’t fragile. Luckily I wasn’t put in a position to test this aspect during the ‘Wheelers & Dealers’ industry race at CrossVegas.

Like all Cannondale bikes, the SuperX is lab tested to simulate to rigors of a 250-pound cyclist riding 25 miles a day for 25 years. With the confidence of such testing, Cannondale does not impose a rider-weight limit.

The SuperX will be sold as a Team Edition with SRAM Red for $7,900 and as a SRAM Rival build for $3,400.

At CrossVegas, the bike certainly didn’t turn me into Tim Johnson — I still rode with the grace and finesse of a drunken elephant — but the sturdy handling, chatter-reducing rear end and light weight made for a very enjoyable ride.

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