Bikes & Tech
Photo: Meg McMahon

First Ride: Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo, now with aero touches

Cannondale reimagines its flagship climbing bike and adds plenty of cross-category features.

STOWE, Vermont (VN) — Here’s a refrain that’s becoming more common: At first glance, bike X looks an awful lot like Bike Y. Such is the case with the updated Cannondale SuperSix EVO, which looks an awful like Specialized’s Tarmac, or BMC’s Teammachine or Roadmachine.

Is that bad? Not at all. It means designers in the industry have stumbled upon a design that clearly works better. So while the new generation of SuperSix may not be breaking the mold, it is indeed keeping its finger on the pulse of all that is cool and beneficial in bike design.

The new SuperSix, now in its third generation, has most notably gone more aero with some airfoil tube shapes and lots of integration. But it still sticks to its climber roots with a lithe ride feel, especially uphill.

Going Aero

The SuperSix Evo adopts the now-common dropped seatstay design, which factors significantly into a bike’s compliance. Cannondale introduced this design to its lineup last year on its aero flagship, the SystemSix. The dropped seatstays also offer some aerodynamic benefit, though this is hardly the only aero touch on the newly reborn SuperSix.

In fact, the SuperSix no longer looks at all like its former self. The updated bike features truncated airfoil tube shapes, instead of the round tube shapes of its wispy predecessor.

Cannondale representatives were quick to note that, of course, they hadn’t invented aero tube shapes, nor were they the first to bring such shapes to the all-around category. In other words, perhaps they’re a bit late to the game. Despite that, they were eager to let the ride speak for itself, while still noting the tangible improvements over the previous SuperSix.

The SuperSix gets integrated cable routing, an integrated seatpost, and a Knot stem and handlebar integration. The latter is another feature Cannondale adopted from its aero bike, the SystemSIx. Cannondale claims the integrated cockpit saves the rider 9.1 watts at 48.3 kph (30mph) compared to a normal handlebar and stem.

Stack height and reach measurements have changed throughout the size spectrum as well. Notably, the stack height has increased. This puts the EVO 3.0’s stack right between Cannondale’s Synapse and SystemSix, with the latter favoring a more aggressive and purely race-ready position.

Of course, going even slightly aero means more material, and thus more weight. Yet the hi-modulus frame weighs just 866 grams (size 56cm) including paint and small parts. Add the fork and seatpost and you’re just over 1,400 grams. Not bad at all.

Details

The HollowGram 45 Knot wheels also got an update and come stock with 28mm tires. The EVO 3.0 has been designed with enough to clearance for 30mm tires. As with its recent Topstone, there is enough clearance to even fit 32mm tires, which will end up measuring close to 34mm when paired with the HG 45 Knot wheels.

Old-schoolers, Cannondale hears you loud and clear: The SuperSix will be available in a disc brake option and, notably, a rim brake option too. The disc brake models come stock with 160mm rotors.

The full lineup features six disc brake and two rim brake models for men (sizes 48, 51,54, 56, 58, 60, 62) and three disc brake and one rim brake women’s models (sizes 44, 48, 51 and 54).

As was the case with the SystemSix, the SuperSix Evo Dura-ace Di2, Ultegra Di2 and Dura-Ace models come with ready-to-activate Power2Max power meters. Consumers will have the option to activate the power meters for an additional $490. As tech editor Dan Cavallari noted in his review of the SystemSix, Cannondale’s approach to power is a bit of a headscratcher. It’s disappointing to see the activation charge bleed into other models in the Cannondale lineup.

The top of the line SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Disc with Dura-Ace Di2 costs $11,500. Comparably, the line starts at just $2,200 for the SuperSix Carbon with Shimano 105 and rim brakes.

Cannondale may be late to the aero-all-around crossover game, but it come out swinging with a few bold claims on how fast the EVO 3.0 actually is. Cannondale says the EVO 3.0 will save a rider 30 watts at 48.3 kph (30mph), its testing protocol speed, against its old EVO 2.0.

Not surprisingly, Cannondale claims its bike is the fastest against the competition. The EVO 3.0 was pitted against the Tarmac, Roadmachine, Cervelo’s R5, and a few other bikes in the same category.

First Ride

The backcountry roads of rural Vermont offer plenty of undulations and a fair bit of kick-in-the-teeth climbs, and that’s where I tested the SuperSix EVO with a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and a hydraulic disc brake setup. In between bouts of rain and wind, we even got to put the SuperSix Evo to the test on some dirt roads.

First impressions are important. My first impression took a bit of time to develop, but after a few miles it became clear the SuperSix is one fast bike. If Cannondale’s aim was to make the SuperSix feel like an aero bike on flat or rolling terrain, it succeeded. But with one caveat: The ultra-stiffness we usually associate with a full aero frame full of airfoil shapes was absent and, thus, it still felt like the climbing bike it is intended to be.

It’s quite comfortable and notably agile when climbing, especially out of the saddle. So Cannondale didn’t lose any of the climbing character of the previous Evo. Handling still feels quick and responsive; if you’ve ridden the previous SuperSix Evo, you’ll find yourself in familiar territory here.

Like the many bikes before it that have blurred the lines between categories, the SuperSix Evo confirms that such designs make sense and offer the rider tangible benefits. While it’s impossible to confirm or disprove Cannondale’s claimed aero benefits without some wind tunnel time, it’s safe to say the SuperSix Evo gives its competition a run for its money. And Cannondale offers something fewer and fewer brands are committed to: rim brakes. Grab ‘em while you can.

We’ll put the SuperSix Evo through a long-term test and report back on how it feels on our home roads over the summer.

Cannondale provided airfare and accommodation for VeloNews to attend this event.