Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod Ultegra 2016 road bike - review
One of the best all-rounders out there - a sublime ride
Back in March, in a conversation with Cannondale-Drapac pro rider and social media starlet, Phil Gaimon, I’d made comment about the American's machine. It was the latest version of the SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod, in Gaimon's training bike guise, but I couldn’t help but point out how old-fashioned it looked, with its straight lines and old-school tube profiles. He replied simply: "It’s amazing."
Regardless of how you feel about the look of the SuperSix Evo, his emphatic response stuck with me. Did he say it just because he rode for the eponymous team, was it an opinion on the looks of the bike, or how it rode? I was intrigued to find out and, having spent the past month on the SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod, including a trip to the Etape du Tour sportive, can only agree with Gaimon's verdict. The latest SuperSix may not shout from the rooftops like the latest generation of attention grabbing aero or endurance bikes, but it's one of the best all-rounders out there.
First things first, our test machine isn’t the full-bore Dura-Ace Di2 Team monster of Gaimon and his Cannondale-Drapac team-mates, but the mechanical Ultegra iteration, which at £2,999.99 sits at the 'bottom' of the Hi-Mod ladder. However, where it really matters, the frameset is identical to the team bike, with precisely the same high-modulus carbon layup. So, logically, the bike should provide largely the same experience, give or take a bit where the build is concerned - but more on that later.
The frameset - sleek, slim, with a touch of the Synapse
At first glance, the design looks very much the same as the previous version of the SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod which proved so popular since its launch in 2011, retaining the slim stays, sleek tube profiles and straight lines, except this time it’s been refined even further. It now makes more comprehensive use of Cannondale’s proprietary BallisTec carbon material throughout the frame and fork, making a total claimed weight of 1,303g on my 56cm test machine. Bottom line, that’s one of the lightest frame and fork combos you’re likely to come across.
- Price: £2,999.99
- Weight: 7.0kg (56cm)
- Sizes: 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm
- Website: Cannondale
- UK distributor: Cycling Sports Group
The only area that visibly looks chunky, unsurprisingly, is around the bottom bracket, where the oversized area caters for the (now wider) BB30A standard setup. That undoubtedly helps with power transfer, providing a solid basis from which the rest of the frame can flourish.
Elsewhere, know-how from the Synapse endurance bike has been integrated, so despite the lightweight and stiff intentions of the frame, you’ve got some smoothness along for the ride as well. Cannondale's Speed Save tech has been introduced at the rear of the frame, with a carbon layup which is said to improve compliance by 21 per cent over the previous SuperSix. The fork, which drops 40g in weight to a claimed 280g, gets the same technology - designed to ensure maximum stiffness without sending equally violent vibrations back at you
The carbon seatpost has also been borrowed from the Synapse and is just 25.4mm in diameter, allied to an equally narrow seattube to allow for vertical flex without losing hard earned wattage where it meets the beefed bottom bracket area.
The SuperSix has had a subtle aerodynamic upgrade, too - but it is subtle. The downtube has truncated profile (again, it's subtle) and Cannondale have lowered the bottle cage mounts, which together reduces drag by a claimed six watts. This isn't an aero bike by any means, but by at least acknowledging aerodynamics, Cannondale can lay claim to the SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod being a true all-rounder.
All this, and interestingly, the frameset is only partially internally cable routed. The rear brake cable feeds into the toptube, but the cables on the underside of the downtube remain exposed – hinting at Cannondale's priorities; namely super-slick performance, from both a shifting and frame build perspective, and coupled with easier maintenance.
The ride - a symphony of controlled aggression
I’m not going to beat around the bush here, the Hi-Mod version of the SuperSix EVO frame is incredibly stiff and responsive - and above all, fast - but wonderfully compliant, too.
It responds extremely quickly to shifts in weight, while out of the saddle you can throw it around as much as you like and you barely feel it swinging side-to-side at all, which is a hallmark of great climbing bike. Rolling the frame around on a particularly sticky part of the Col de Joux Plane, the final climb of the Etape this year, it felt sprightly and light-footed, despite heaving my tired, under-trained, 85kg frame up a hors categorie ascent at the end of a long and hot day.
Absolutely every watt is made the most of the fantastically stiff fork and frame, which in turn works Cannondale's Speed Save layup technology hard in order to direct your efforts into the road without feeding too much back into the contact points. There’s serious engineering in there - but the evidence is in how it feels, not what you can see.
Descending, the SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod is just about as predictable it gets. Lean on the bike, and it turns in a gracious arc. There’s no sudden darting through the front end, no nervousness, just easy-to-read responses and feedback. It gives you the strange – albeit welcome – feeling that the front and back ends are genuinely working together to inform you about the road beneath you.
Even with the rear frame under heavy braking, there’s not a vague feeling as the rear end goes light and skips, but a sense that the bike hunkers down to re-establish cohesion with the tarmac as soon as you release the levers. This is one sorted out chassis.
We've already touched on compliance – it’s where the know-how from the popular Synapse comes into play - and the occasionally broken road surfaces encountered in the Alps were easily dealt with. It’s not just a flash in the pan, either, as back in the UK on more ‘realistic’ roads, the SuperSix remained forgiving for all-day comfort, and not just a unbridled race machine focussed purely on speed.
The geometry is equally well tuned and that contributes significantly to the excellent handling. It's a racy setup, as you'd expect, but the traditionally straight tubes help give a direct feel to the bike. It’s like being in a well-looked after home - everything is where it’s supposed to be, and instantly rideable from the first pedal stroke.
While the Etape, and my local test ground in fact, is rarely flat, on the rare occasion I came across flatter terrain I was impressed with the SuperSix’s ability to maintain speed. It’s no aero demon, but the low weight ensures it accelerates quickly and there's certainly no sense of lugging the bike up to speed.
The spec - racy persona backed up
All in all, the SuperSix Hi-Mod is available in five builds (and three more with disc brakes), all the way up to the £8,499.99 SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod Black Inc, tricked out in Shimano Dura-Ace and Enve wheels.
Our test model may sit on the bottom rung of the Hi-Mod ladder, but it still features a full mechanical Shimano Ultegra groupset. That speaks volumes for the racy pretentions of the bike, with shifts that are crisp, clear and quick.
The only deviation from the Ultegra gruppo, as is sometimes the case with off-the-peg bikes, is the chainset, which in this case drops Shimano's four-arm design for Cannondale’s own eight-arm HollowGram Si chainset. To look at, it appears delicate, but like the top of the range super-light ten-arm version seen on the super bikes further up the range, it more than holds its own, working seamlessly with the Ultegra set around it. In fact, special kudos to the crank arms, which divot out from the centre slightly in a step. The effect reduces the chance of shoe rub against the crank arms, without sacrificing any noticeable directness in power application
Up front you’ll find an alloy bar which does a great job of smoothing out the road buzz which does make its way through the fork. It's a sensible shape and provides numerous comfortable positions, with a looping drop that facilitates a low-slung position. One area I found lacking was in the diameter of the C1 handlebar, which could’ve done with being a few millimetres wider for comfort. While the general trend towards narrower profiling for added compliance is a theme on the SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod, a thicker bar may offered more comfort through improved ergonomics. The specced 'bar tape is grippy and plush enough for the job.
At the back, the supplied carbon seatpost, paired with a Fizik Arione R5 saddle and aided by Cannondale's comfort-inducing tech elsewhere on the bike, helps provide a buzz-free ride.
Finally, the rolling stock, which comes from Mavic with the French firm's Ksyrium hoops and Yksion Elite tyres. Honestly, they’re adequate - everything you’ll need in an everyday training wheelset - but when you’re spending £3,000 on a bike with a frame which absolutely justifies that price tag, it’s an area which also completely justifies further investment.
The Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod is one of the best all-rounders out there - quick on the flat, with buckets of predictability going downhill, prodigious talent on ascents and a slathering of compliance thrown in.
- Light, stiff & responsive chassis
- Impressive comfort for a race bike
- Superb handling
- It's hard to fault