Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
By Matt Pacocha
Gord Fraser and Mike Sayers each got something special for this year’s Tour of Georgia (April 19-23), new bikes from their sponsor Cannondale. Now approaching mid-June, it’s hard to miss the growing number of big neon green sixes adorning the head tubes of many of Health Net-Maxxis riders’ bikes.
In April, both racers were on pre-production prototypes, but now in less than a month, Cannondale is set to have the new rig ready for retail.
The new bike, which mates aluminum and carbon utilizing the same process as Cannondale’s Six13, combines a complete carbon front end with a new CAAD 9 rear triangle. The head tube houses a proprietary oversized headset and 320 gram fork. The fork’s steerer tube tapers from a large 38mm at the crown to a standard 11/8 inches at the top, while the head tube’s diameter remains constant throughout. Because of the enlarged sizes, Cannondale had to play a role in making the front end’s components compliment each other both aesthetically and functionally.
FSA makes a proprietary headset with an oversized lower bearing, 1 1/8 inch top bearing and a finessed top cap. Cannondale enlisted Control Tech to make a proprietary System Six stem. The stem is made from carbon fiber with alloy inserts for the steerer and bar clamps, it will be available is 80-120mm sizes. The steerer will also accept any conventional 1 1/8 inch stem.
The oversized set up noticeably increases front-end stiffness over the Six13 by allowing Cannondale to use an oversized round down tube and ovalized top tube. The System Six uses a round down tube because, as Cannondale’s VP of engineering and R&D Chris Peck says, “Round is the best in torsion. So don’t believe it when people tell you a triangle or a 10-sided tube is something that’s best in torsion, really round is where it’s at.”
Because the down tube can be so large, Cannondale engineers actually chose to decrease its size on models below 56cm. The smaller 52mm down tube helps soften the ride for lighter riders while actually dropping a bit of weight from the frame. As for larger riders the 56mm down tube provides maximum stiffness to inspire confidence in sprints and on descents.
While the front end is hulk, like the Optimo aluminum rear end is a picture of elegance. The butted seat tube is mated to large chainstays and Cannondale’s trademark hourglass seatstays.
“The rear triangle of the System 6 is what we’re using on our upcoming CAAD 9,” said Peck. “So again we have really combined our best Cannondale technology from aluminum, that we have known for more than 20 years now; with what we can do with carbon to oversize the front end and make it as stiff and light as possible.”
As a complete package, Cannondale’s System Six has already proven it can make the pros happy. In fact, Fraser has deemed it is the best bike he has ever ridden; of course he’s paid to ride it.
My own impressions
I found in my brief time on the new bike that there is a huge contrast between the stiffness of the front end and the bottom bracket, and the smooth ride the rear end provides. This seems to me, to be a combination that any rider could appreciate, whether they are a paid professional or a weekend warrior.
The overall weight of the new System Six frame in a size 56cm is targeted at 1115 grams, a weight that includes paint and hardware. The bike will come in eight sizes; the first seven are separated at even 2cm intervals from 48-60cm and the largest measures 63cm.
The System Six is set to be on shop showroom floors by July first in three versions. The first is the Team 1, a Dura-Ace equipped bike with four Cannondale crank options: the Hollowgram SRM power meter, Carbon SI, Carbon SI compact or Dura-Ace. The second model, the Team 2, will feature SRAM’s new Force group and two crank options: Cannodale’s Carbon SI in standard and compact.
Finally an Ultegra version will also be available with a Carbon SI crank. Keep in mind the Team 2 will be one of the first bikes on the market with SRAM’s new road group. Prices have not yet been finalized.