SuperSix Evo : The Evolution of a Classic

   Words by Dave Butcher

   on 28/06/2019 13:00:00

The SuperSix Evo is a discreet beast.

It is recognisable not for its off-the-wall silhouette, oddly shaped or large tubing; rather its elegant simplicity. With more traditional ‘square’ geometries and classic rounded tube profiles, it is a purist’s delight, uncompromisingly engineered to be fast.

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When Cannondale first created the SuperSix EVO, they wanted to maintain the legendary handling and stiffness of the preceding model, the SuperSix. Aerodynamics were obviously factored, but at the time they were a relatively small consideration in the development of a pure, all-round race bike. Cannondale focused on enabling the rider (80% of the aerodynamic problem) to achieve a better aero position through narrowed top-tube sections (to allow the knees to be tucked in) and small changes to the the front of the bike (narrower head tube and smaller bearings in the headset), in order to reduce the surface presented to the wind. In addition, Cannondale were keen to ensure that the SuperSix EVO was comfortable enough to allow riders to push-on hour after hour, without being punished by the stiffness of the frame beneath them.

They were extremely successful and the SuperSix EVO has been widely praised by those in the Pro peloton, the industry and everyone who has ridden one - myself included. It is already a legendary bicycle and will no doubt be fondly remembered by generations to come.

But things are about to change…..

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In the past 5 years, frame aerodynamics has become a serious development consideration, not just for ‘Aero’ bikes (The SystemSix for example, the Giant Propel, the Bianchi Oltre XR4 etc etc) but for all-round race bikes. This is obviously for the power savings and marginal gains but also because most serious bike manufacturers are at the development limit of weight savings, certainly within the constraints of UCI regulations at least. In addition, the proliferation and adoption of disc brake systems, widespread use of wider tyres and system integration - changes the aero game significantly.

Cannondale recently delivered their first pure Aero Road bike, the SystemSix. While relatively late to the party (Felt produced the first Aero bike back in 2007 - the AR), the SystemSix has been an immediate success. You would expect no less with Cannondale’s pure engineering focus.

The SystemSix enjoys incredible real-world aero gains thanks largely to its system integration. So, using much of the research and development understanding from the SystemSix project, the new SuperSix EVO has evolved. The new 2020 SuperSix EVO boasts some spectacular numbers that will be well received by those who race and ride them. Significantly though, since the previous S6 has remained so competitive while those around have been evolving into more aero creatures, the new SuperSix Evo should be feared!

The same, but different.

The success of the SuperSix has been thanks to its balanced - almost psychic - handling, super low weight, perfect stiffness, explosiveness, comfort and incredibly accommodating fit. Consequently, Cannondale were obviously keen to retain all of these defining characteristics when delivering their latest version; all while stepping into the aero arena with their big-boy pants on.

The 2020 SuperSix Evo is the “fastest lightweight aero road bike there is”. Developed, much like the Pinarello Dogma - as an all-round, high performer - the SuperSix Evo has been improved in every way and - more to the point - has been made to accommodate a broader spectrum of riders; from Pro racers to Sportive riders and everyone in between.

Cannondale have achieved this by ever-so-slightly tweaking their already excellent geometries to deliver the handling that riders have enjoyed since the introduction of the EVO. A slightly taller stack height (c.3mm) and reduced reach (3-10mm depending on size) on all but the 44cm – which is actually lower and longer to bring it in-line with the rest and satisfy the demands of smaller riders - not only accommodate more ‘normal’ riders but also reflect current bike-fit science.  Interestingly, the new SuperSix Evo is now even closer to the highly lauded geometry of the Pinarello Dogma that has found so much favour among racers and non-racers alike, something that historically is unusual in North American bikes.

Cannondale have accomplished this while making the Evo faster with an all new design, aerodynamic tube shapes and system-wide integration that dramatically reduces drag.

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Enough pre-amble, you want the numbers!

All in, the new Cannondale SuperSix EVO saves 30 Watts* over the previous frame.

On top of that, wind-tunnel testing against its direct competitors (S-Works Tarmac, Cervelo R5, BMC Road Machine and Trek Emonda) demonstrates that the new EVO has a lower drag (between 9 and >40 watts) across yaw angles that encompass more than 95% of riding conditions.

30 watts is a lot. It’s a fair few weeks of dedicated training if you want to achieve it through physiological change!

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Cannondale have made this huge leap forward firstly because it is their first aero road bike. While the likes of Pinarello - who have been playing the Aero Game for 5+ years - may boast single digit improvements vs their last frame design, Cannondale’s development is a step change. That said, there are a raft of obvious changes to the new EVO that deserve our appreciation.

A new collection of highly truncated airfoil frame tube shapes have helped deliver a 30% reduction in drag without weight penalty, and yield equal or better stiffness than the round tubes they replace. Like the SystemSix, the new EVO has been developed and integrated as a system with (on higher-end models at least) new tubeless ready, HED-developed carbon HollowGram 45 KNØT wheels - touted as one of the fastest and lightest mid section carbon wheels on the market; 27 KNØT SAVE seatpost and a new SAVE integrated bar with KNØT stem that deftly hides and routes cables and hoses internally through the headtube. It is this routing at the front of the bike, combined with the shape of the integrated bar/stem that reduces drag generated by cables by around 85%.

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Many may baulk at the idea of an integrated bar / stem combo for fear of losing flexibility with fit. However, like the SystemSix, the Evo system bar allows for pitch adjustment of a full 8°, so you can dial in your perfect position, while the rounded, truncated airfoil shape of the flat section not only maintains consistent airflow throughout the pitch range, it’s also far more comfortable on your hands than other bars with sharp trailing edges. This comfort is enhanced with the added comfort afforded by the SAVE flex. The partnered KNOT Stem routes brake hoses, cables and Di2 lines cleanly into the headtube via a channel underneath a mechanic-friendly cover. This ease of set-up and adjustment is a consideration that many other brands ignore in their search for absolute speed - which can turn fast into frustrating if you need to make changes on event day. A case in point with the SuperSix EVO is the shape-matched gated spacers that allow you to easily adjust the stem’s stack height, without having to disconnect cables.

One of the major problems when developing aero tube shapes is the weight penalty that is often suffered as a consequence. Cannondale have built a reputation on extremely light bikes that still handle well and remain comfortable, so riders will be pleased to hear that despite all of these new aero developments and the use of more material, the new EVO frame is actually lighter by 19g (56cm). At the same time it maintains its perfect stiffness thanks to the new tube shapes, integrated seat binder and new 27 SL KNØT seatpost.

In addition to the ‘perfect stiffness’ - the Cannondale SuperSix Evo is a remarkably comfortable race bike. The development of the 27 KNØT seat post and the associated internal seat binder (commonplace in the industry now), in partnership with the dramatically altered, lower seat-stays, has allowed Cannondale to increase the frame’s vertical compliance to deliver even greater comfort and confident handling. Cannondale have also increased tyre clearance to allow the use of 30mm tyres (with 6mm either side to accommodate movement), which in turn helps yield an 18% improvement in compliance - all without sacrificing any of the race performance synonymous with the frame.

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The new SuperSix EVO uses Cannondale's SwitchPlate - an interchangeable plate on the downtube that houses a Di2 junction box, allowing easy access for charging or adjustment. A separate blanking plate is supplied for those using eTap wireless systems. Fully hidden brake and Di2 lines offer a super clean, cable-free aesthetic and the internal routing goes through an opening in front of the headtube and outside of the headset bearings, making it uncommonly easy to set up. Like most aero road bikes worth their salt, the downtube and seat tube shapes minimise the aero effect of bottles, and Cannondale have introduced a multi-option mount for the Down-tube bottle to allow you to choose maximum aerodynamics or maximum hydration. For faster and easier wheel changes, the frame and fork use the Speed Release thru-axle standard for simpler and faster wheel removal and fit - all the stiffness of a thruaxle with faster and simpler wheel release so you spend less time at the side of the road or faffing at your workstand. It's compatible with most standard thru-axle wheelsets too.

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Ultimately, speed comes from the rider and the best way to get fast, is to train smart. To this end, on many of the SuperSix EVO models, Cannondale have pre-installed a Power2Max power meter. SuperSix owners simply pay a one-time activation fee with Power2Max and start collecting data to enhance their training and get faster, quicker!

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A new feature finding its way into the Cannondale range this year is ‘Connected’. Connected is an integrated wheel sensor that delivers hyper accurate speed, route and distance info, registers your bike, reminds you of needed service and more, all through the new free Cannondale App and is available on Disc models with Ultegra spec or higher.

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The Range :

Like most Cannondale models there is both a Carbon and a Hi-Modulus offering. Ultimately, the Hi-Modulus bikes use a carbon that has been ‘cooked’ at higher temperatures and pressures to yield greater elasticity and strength. This Hi-Mod carbon conveys the same stiffness while requiring less material, making for lighter bikes.

From a model standpoint, the first thing to note is the absence of Rim brake models in the Hi-Modulus range. The reason for this is a simple business decision; according to Cannondale (and we tend to agree) the overwhelming trend in the market is towards the use of discs. There are rim versions in the Carbon range for those that still prefer them and - as you would expect - Disc models abound.

There are 4 Women’s models all using the Carbon frame : 1 Rim (Shimano 105) and 3 disc, (105 / Ultegra / Ultegra Di2) the latter being a fully system-Integrated bike employing all KNOT components, SAVE SL seat post and with Power2Max Powermeter.

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In the Men’s Carbon range there are 6 models : Shimano 105 (2 colours) and Ultegra specifications are available in Rim brake, while the Disc equipped models range from 105, Ultegra (2 colours), Ultegra + KNOT Wheels, to a fully integrated Force eTap AXS equipped model.

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The 4 Disc-only Hi-Mod models all feature the complete suite of integrated KNOT wheels / bar / stem and seat post with Powermeters on all except the Ultegra model. The others come spec’d with either Dura Ace Mechanical, Ultegra Di2 or Dura Ace Di2 at the top of the range.

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No matter which model you choose, Cannondale have delivered (as they so often do) a market defining aero road bike that sacrifices nothing of the handling, comfort and pure performance of its predecessor, but that offers huge power savings that will be translated into improved performance for those that ride it. At the same time, the revisions in geometry and further enhanced compliance, make this not just a race bike, but a lightweight, agile and complete all-rounder that will suit most - regardless of how they define their riding.

You can see the range here and as always, if you want to know more – please get in touch!


*That 30 Watts figure is at 30mph, so you can take it with a pinch of salt but whichever way you slice it, that’s a BIG chunk of free power / free speed for any rider.

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