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June 28, 2015 – How do you define a successful bike? Is it race wins, test bench numbers or sales? Maybe it’s ride feel or even a more subjective measure – fun-per-mile. Whatever your metric, the original Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod has to be considered among the most successful bikes ever made. It won under climbers, sprinters, rouleurs and puncheurs, sold like crazy, was an absolute hoot to ride over any road for hours on end and of course, it was famously declared the best bike ever made due to the greatest stiffness-to-weight ratio ever recorded at the time of its launch. All this is something Cannondale should be very proud of, the ultimate validation of Cannondale’s desire to create the best all around race bike.
Of course, the flip side of that is how do you top it? How do you deliver a new ‘better’ bike to the rabid cycling throngs that demand new products every two years? For starters, Cannondale ignored the typical product cycle, we are four years on from the original EVO and finally, the new bike, the 2016 SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod is here.
On first glance you could be forgiven for assuming the bike was the previous EVO. The silhouette and lines are almost identical. There is no major departure from the original, no integrated brakes or deep airfoils, no one piece bar-stem or proprietary seat mast design. Initially, this was a surprise. In today’s ADHD world of product development a striking element or visual signature (some may say gimmick) is necessary to get noticed. But upon reflection, it makes sense. The original EVO was so good, why chuck it out and start over? This is a totally new bike to be sure, but truly an evolution of the concepts that made the original the legend it has become.
BallisTec Carbon we know well, and again it is the basis for the new SuperSix EVO. The high strength fibers and hi-impact resin provide incredible strength and durability. To tune the ride, high and ultra-high modulus fibers are plied over the frame in a network. At the BB, down tube and chain stay junction layers are staggered, thick at BB and stepping down as they hit the chain stay, creating a virtual leaf spring for compliance and damping without decreasing stiffness.
Like most frames, the new EVO is born from separate molds, but Cannondale creates very different sections than other manufacturers. The bottom bracket and seat tube are a single mold, the chain stays, seat stays and dropouts are molded as single pieces, allowing ride feel to be tuned further in back, critical to Cannondale’s Speed SAVE system’s ability to create vertical compliance.
Cannondale approached design with a two zone system: one zone to create compliance and one zone to create a stiff platform for power transfer and handling, basically how most manufacturers approach carbon frame design these days. In the compliance zone, the Speed SAVE seat stays and chain stays along with the Delta Seat Tube provide 15% more compliance than the original EVO, which was already among the best.
In the power zone, bottom bracket stiffness was upped by 11%. Cannondale could have gone higher but it found 11% optimal for a lively and rigid feel under power but still allowed the bike to hook up in the corners and deliver Cannondale’s vaunted ride quality. The BB is now as wide as the Synapse (73mm) with the same Delta shape seat tube for later rigidity and vertical compliance. With the wider BB the non-drive side stay is 5mm wider for an asymmetric profile and more stiffness under power. Thanks to Hologram cranks, the stance width or Q-factor’ is the same as a BB30 with equal ankle clearance.
Head tube stiffness increases 12% but, like the bike’s bottom bracket, it’s not as stiff as Cannondale could have made it. It is tuned it for a smooth ride in choppy corners but a precise front end for sprints and handling, but to never feel harsh at the bars.
The new fork is very svelte and looks like a comfortable and quick way to control the front wheel. It appears nimble not obtuse. The fork is molded as a single piece – steer tube to drop out – with in molded crown race to remove right angles and weight. This has now become quite a typical fork design found in many other high end bikes. Over all it saves 30 grams versus the original EVO fork but the big goal was 21% more vertical compliance to help further balance the bike to the Speed SAVE rear. The end result, 15% more compliance out back and 21% up front is, Cannondale believes, the ideally tuned package.
A new SAVE Seat post throws its hat in the compliance ring as well. Like the post launched with the Synapse it has a 25.4mm diameter versus 27.2 for original EVO. 36% more compliant than 27.2 and 180 grams lighter as well. Tires are a huge part of the compliance picture, and Cannondale knows 23mm tires at 120psi can destroy ride feel, regardless of what the frame is doing so it gave the bike clearance for 28mm tires and spec’d it with with 25mm. To keep the geometry spot on it also dropped the BB slightly to account for the taller tire.
Stiffer, smoother… how about aero? The last bike gave some lip service to aero. It was a bit narrower, but not competitive against real aero bikes. Using TAP tube shapes, truncated airfoils similar to most other aero platforms, in strategic places, including the fork blades, Cannondale was able to subtly improve aerodynamics. Bottles cages were also moved lower, again similar to most aero bikes. While the result in aesthetics doesn’t scream aero, Cannondale shaved some real drag, 60 grams off the original. Not in the ball park of today’s pure aero machines, but we’ll take it. At 40kph it equates to a 6watt saving. But as Cannondale was clear about, it made no intention of making the fastest bike, just the best all around, and aero is part of that equation now.
What about weight, the EVO’s original calling card? Cannondale used system integration to fight the weight penalty associated with aero shapes and stiffer construction and saved 67 grams over the previous system – fork, frame, head set, seat post. The new EVO is lighter than even the Emonda: 1303 grams for the new EVO vs 1312 grams for the Emonda SLR 10. Perhaps to drive home the ‘system point’ raw frame weights were not announced. External cables, quite a relic these days, were retained to keep weight down and Pro-Tour mechanics happy. Mechanical cables track the centerline of the down tube and Cannondale found aero losses under the margin of aero, less than a gram. Di2 still gets a battery mount in seat post and runs internally from the head tube, but it is not Campagnolo EPS compatible and interestingly Cannondale offers no SRAM models.
Add Cannondale’s Hollowgram SiSL2 cranks to the mix, which they do, and the system gets even lighter. Hollowgram cranks save up to 200 grams over other high end set ups thanks to single piece dual rings and spiders called the SpideRing. Crank stiffness to weight is off the charts too.
As mentioned earlier, geometry is essentially unchanged save for the slightly lower BB for 25 and 28mm tires in addition to some stack and reach tweaks at the small and large ends of the eight sizes to create more even differences between them.
Our first ride experience on the new bike was a rolling 47 miles in Austria, near Kitzbuhel. As with any first ride impressions need to be taken lightly, but the ride quality was quite astonishing. The new EVO feels light, nimble and kinetic under power, almost nervous and ready to jump. Yet, point downhill or hit a tight corner with some speed and the bike feels more stable and planted than any other 14-pound bike we have ever ridden, the exact opposite of twitchy and nervous. It can carve a tight and precise line while letting you know you have not come close to finding its edge. That will take roads we know better than those in Austria.
Under big power the bike is again better and it begins up front. The head tube, steer tube junction is robust and stable, in and out of the saddle, never groaning or flexing as you ask the rear to handle big watts. It’s precise and unified, moving as a single entity and rewarding five or six hard pedal strokes with a gap closed and big increase in speed.
But, most importantly, the new SuperSix EVO allows you to forget about all the numbers and technology and just ride. Whatever the road throws at you, however long you want to ride, no matter how hard the group goes, much like the previous EVO, the new bike is about providing you with a real tool to get the most our of your motor in every situation. All indications after our first ride are the bike is true to the magic of the Cannondale ride quality and if it does it with a little more stiffness, a little more comfort and a little more speed, well, it’s tough to ask for more than that.
SuperSix EVO Hi Mod Black Inc: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 shifting and ENVE 4.5 wheels and Light weight ee brakes – 12.76lbs
SuperSix EVO Hi Mod Team Replica: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon – 14.0lbs
SuperSix EVO Hi Mod DA 1: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 with Mavic Ksyrium -13.8lbs.
SuperSix EVO Hi Mod DA2: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 with Mavic Ksyrium Elite Wheels – 14.5lbs
SuperSix EVO Hi Mod EVO HI Mod Shimano Ultegra with Mavic Ksyrium – 15.2lbs
Weights: size 56, full paint and hardware.
For more info hit up cannondale.com and look for bikes to hit your local dealer in mid-September.