Pro Bike Test : Cannondale Super Six - Road Cycling UK

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Pro Bike Test : Cannondale Super Six

Cannondale’s latest and greatest

Tour KoM Mauricio Soler placed 3rd at Plateau de Beille

Lugged appearance…

… looks like this before assembly

New ‘Dale fork goes 1.5″ for lower steering bearing

Modular B/B and chainstay moulding

No sooner had I finished writing about the Specialized Tarmac SL than another U.S bicycle manufacturer thundered into the spotlight on the Tour de France, winning flat, rolling and mountain stages.

Cannondale supply both Liquigas and Barloworld with the brand new Super Six and had wins across a wider spread of terrain than any other manufacturer in La Grande Boucle.

Robert Hunter sprinted in to victory in Montpelier, Mauricio Soler triumphed over the Galibier to Briancon and, just for good measure, Filippo Pozatto won the stage into Autun over a course profile more like a classic race than any other in the Tour.

So, new flagship model, big successes for Cannondale and the bike itself is very interesting both in design and execution.

Construction and Set-Up

In common with many other large manufacturers, Cannondale have the production facilities to be able to provide a wide range of stock frames to riders with sizes ranging from 48 to 63cm. Refreshingly, although the Super Six is the latest evolution of its racing frame range, the company is keen for teams to make use of the full range of Cannondale frames if conditions or rider preference dictate.

What I like about this machine is that Cannondale have approached problems in a very logical and elegant manner.

The heart of the bike is the high modulus carbon monocoque main triangle with its massive down tube mated to the substantially oversized bottom bracket housing. Cannondale opened up their designs for 42mm oversized bottom bracket to competitors a couple of years ago and the trend has been taken up by various manufacturers.

The whole b/b area and main triangle displays minimal torsional flex and it takes a lot of wattage to bend this bike but talk to a powerhouse like Magnus Backstedt and he will admit it certainly does flex more than its predecessor.

Make the main triangle stiff and the energy from each team rider’s pedal stroke has to go somewhere. It should be straight through the drivetrain but making that as rigid as the System Six meant that there had to be a compromise in rider comfort. Super Six frames were out on road test with Vincenzo Nibali in the Giro, meaning that early season development by the Liquigas squad resulted in increased comfort and rideability of the frame with only a small loss of stiffness. This is a more all-round bike than the System Six.

The comfort factor comes from the pencil thin hourglass seat stays, while the thrust goes through an oversized driveside chainstay. It’s very elegant and very simple. A nice touch is that every dropout is custom sized for every frame; no compromise there.

At the front end the load bearing surface area on the headtube has been increased by producing a tapered steerer on the fork. The diameter on the bottom load surface is 1.1/2 inch, the top 1 1/8th. This has the additional benefit of stiffening and strengthening the critical part of the fork itself.

The vast majority of the pro peloton are equipped with full manufacturers’ groupsets but Cannondale surplant the Campag Record chainset with their own Hollowgram SL offering. Again very, very stiff and very light. I think it is probably the nicest chainset in the professional game.

Wheels on the test bike were Campagnolo’s Hyperon carbon clinchers.

The Ride

In comparison to the uber-armchair sensations of the Specialized Tarmac SL, the Super Six feels a far more instantly responsive bike. It flows rather than leaps forward and with a tight rear triangle and slightly ‘Italianate’ longer rake is immensely stable.

Pitch it into a corner and the lean is predictable with excellent tracking, thanks largely to the wide load spread and excellent all-carbon fork.

Test riding was done over the winding, shallow rises and dips of the New Forest with Cannondale Brand Manager Mike Cotty, whose brief was to find as many bad surfaces as possible, thankfully achieved and reflected in a mid ride pothole puncture.

Get up on the pedals and the drive is progressive and quick, and although I’m no sprinter you just have to see the kicking this frame receives at the hands of Robert Hunter to know it can shift.

Barloworld team mate to Hunter, Mauricio Soler did a pretty good job at proving the Super Six can climb as well. You get the feeling that the bike under you is comfortable with every movement you make in or out of the saddle. Always stable, light and responsive to rider input, it is an extremely accomplished bicycle. That stability and excellent tracking is demonstrated to full effect at full chat downhill.

Weight distribution is slightly back of centre thanks to a good length of top tube and for a tall, heavy rider like me keeps you comfortably stretched out although as a heavier rider I would assuredly make use of stiffer frames in the range for some of the nastier classic routes as team members do.

Once again the Campagnolo Record Ti shifting worked faultlessly, mating beautifully with the Hollowgram crankset.

The Hyperon wheels were really a revelation. I have to admit a general antipathy to carbon wheels; they may be lighter but are often far too stiff and are fraught with wet weather braking problems. The Hyperon wheels were both light and comfortable, a good match to the frame and possibly slightly more comfortable than the Liquigas team-issue Fulcrum hoops.

Overall Impression

A fine bike with a beautiful blend of stability, comfort and responsiveness. I have seldom ridden a machine this good. It is beautifully constructed with some good lateral thought and simple but effective engineering.

The frame gives excellent feedback from the road without transmitting harshness and makes fast distance riding a pleasure.

Perhaps more suited to Puncheurs than Rouleurs, this bike it has nevertheless already proved to be a winning steed in the toughest race of all.

Liquigas/Barloworld Cannondale Team Bike

  • Frame/Fork: Cannondale Super Six all carbon
  • Groupset: Campagnolo Record Ti with Hollowgram SL Crankset
  • Wheels: Campagnolo Hyperon
  • Tyres: Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX clinchers @ 7.5 bar
  • Finishing kit: Campagnolo, Deda
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