KITZBÜHEL, Austria — Kitzbühel is the sort of place that makes you want to fall in love. Just about every building is charming and the looming presence of the ski slopes reminds you constantly of the adrenaline-inducing terrain around every turn. It’s here, set among fairy-tale forests and Lord of the Rings mountains, that Cannondale chose to release its new bike, the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod, so we would fall in love with it. And like all love stories, the promises were lofty.
Building on the success of the previous Super Six Evo Hi-Mod, Cannondale sought to perfect the ride with a good balance of stiffness, compliance, lightness, and aerodynamics. “That’s where you find a bike that disappears beneath you,” said Murray Washburn, Cannondale’s global director of product marketing. Creating such a combo is an unenviable task, since these traits often trade off for one another: stiffness comes at the price of compliance, and aerodynamics often come at the price of lightness. But Cannondale said it had found a way to create a ride with all of those characteristics. The question was simply a matter of where the compromise would rear its ugly head in the ride.
Of course, the goal for Cannondale was to avoid compromise altogether. The company’s pursuit of a balanced ride started with a proprietary carbon layup process called BallisTec carbon construction. The rear triangle and dropouts are molded as one piece for increased stiffness, and each frame size has its own mold. The goal was to ensure the ride quality is maintained throughout the size run.
The bottom bracket was also redesigned to increase stiffness at its center, with more flex radiating outward down the chainstays. “This creates a leaf spring effect,” said Washburn, creating jump-forward stiffness combined with compliance for comfort. Cannondale uses a BB30A bottom bracket shell that’s wider, but when used in conjunction with Cannondale’s crankset, the Q factor does not get any wider. The seat tube tapers into the stiff BB for compliance as well, counteracting what ultimately could have become an exceptionally harsh ride.
Once again, balance was the name of the game. Increased stiffness never came without increased compliance in the design process. The non-drive chainstay is thicker than the drive-side stay for increased stiffness balanced against the thinner bottom portion of the seat tube that supposedly increases compliance. See? It’s all give and take to ensure balance.
With all that comfort and stiffness going on, it became important to ensure the bike could still go fast, so the frame was redesigned with aerodynamics in mind. The seat stay water bottle cage was lowered to avoid an eddy of wind between the two bottle cages, and the down tube and top of the fork were reshaped to eliminate a similar eddy just behind the top of the fork. The fork blades, too, were re-shaped. The result is a claimed 6-watt savings at 40km.
Curiously, Cannondale chose to avoid internal routing on the down tube for mechanical shifting systems. The difference between internal routing and external routing that is run down the center of the down tube was said to be aerodynamically minimal enough that engineers did not see the value in adding material within the tubes to accommodate an internally routed system. There are, of course, internal routing options for Di2, and the battery is mounted within the seatpost.
With all of those changes, the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod ran the risk of becoming a comfortable, stiff tank, but Cannondale engineers trimmed the fat to create a claimed 1,303-gram module. That’s nine grams lighter than Trek’s Emonda, according to Cannondale.
If the SuperSix EVO had an online dating profile, one might be curious if it was a fake. The promises were all too perfect, so we took it for a ride to see how it performed in real-world conditions.
After spending 50 miles on the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod, I can say that Cannondale delivered on its promise that this bike jumps forward eagerly. It was every bit as peppy as promised, and the rear compliance was noticeable as the miles ticked away. I was more impressed with the rear compliance than I was with the front, but generally, the bike was comfortable and fast.
I was curious to test the notion that a bit of flex aided in cornering at high speeds, so when I got the chance, I dove in. The SuperSix EVO felt solid and tracked through the corner well at high speeds, so it seems another point goes in favor of Cannondale.
I found the cockpit to be a bit problematic, mostly due to the FSA handlebars that were flattened in strange places and curved in other strange places. My hands just never felt comfortable anywhere on the bar, which ultimately led to numbness in my palms.
Mavic’s Cosmic Carbon Pro wheels complemented the light and sturdy frameset quite well, though while the tires I rode were spec’d as 25c, they did feel a touch narrow. I noticed this mostly when we hit chattery parts of the pavement. I wouldn’t say this was especially problematic, but it was noticeable.
The SuperSix EVO seems to have something of a cult following, and for good reason. As an all-rounder capable of climbing well — as Davide Formolo demonstrated as he blew past me in the Austrian Alps — descending confidently, and sprinting with pep and playfulness, Cannondale has delivered on its promise of balance.
Prices in the U.S. will range from $4,500 for a 15.2-pound Ultegra model to $12,500 for a 12.7-pound Dura-Ace equipped bike, and the expected U.S. availability is slated for mid-September. Look for riders on green prototype SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod bikes at the Tour de France this year.