Cannondale is a company that clearly strives to innovate, being the first to develop many of the standards we all take for granted today. The System Six, previously the top of the range choice, has been recently demoted by the all-carbon Super Six, but there’s still a lot going for the System. It’s got race heritage, with the Liquigas team putting the frame to good use and most notably the Giro d’Italia win last year by Danilo Di Luca.
So, if it’s good enough for him Di Luca, it must be good enough for us? RCUK finds out…
Cannondale don’t tend to follow fashion trends in the bicycle industry, instead designing and building their own very unique frames. Aluminium has, until very recently, been the US company’s material of choice and when carbon became popular, instead of jumping on the bandwagon rolling through the bicycle industry, instead sought to integrate carbon with aluminium to produce a frameset that should utilise the benefits of both materials.
Cannondale combines the two materials by using a carbon front-end with aluminium rear triangle, giving the bike a distinctive oversized front end and skinny butt. Instead of designing the frame and popping whatever fork first comes to hand into the headset, the designers produce the frame, fork and head tube as one piece. This results in a 1.5” lower bearing race and 1 1/8” top race in the head tube, with a fat-legged carbon fork and the huge head tube providing a large interface with the equally large top and down tubes. This goes a long way to providing the frame with its unparalleled levels of rigidity.
The frame is built to precise standard, with a 56mm diameter downtube together with the oval top tube providing little in the way of flex. Together with the vertically tall chainstays and large bottom bracket reinforced area, provides a taut frame, with minimal loss of power transfer. All this stiffness isn’t at the expense of some contribution to the comfort of your bum though, as the seatstays are kept exceptionally skinny, and curve throughout the length giving loads of tyre and heel clearance.
The frame is available in the Lightning White pictured here, or in Liquigas Team Replica colours. Those at the extreme end of the height scales are well catered for, with eight sizes right from 48cm to 63cm.
Shimano 105 fills all the main transmission, shifting and braking points, with an R600 compact chainset providing a 34/50 ring setup, which when mated to the12-27 cassette provides a wide spread of gear choice. Fulcrum 7 wheels get wrapped in Vittoria Rubino Pro 23mm tyres, and the stem, handlebars and seatpost are Cannondale C3 own-branded items. The saddle is a matching Fizik Arione item.
While Shimano 105 works really rather well, and all the finishing components posed no problems, a look at the spec on some of the similarly priced bikes in this grouptest reveals that the Cannondale is rather lacking. It’s clear the customer has to pay for the frame and the likely higher costs of its development and production, meaning the componentry suffers in comparison. This is a shame as it’ll likely put many people off more than a cursory glance when weighing up the options. I’d like to see Cannondale raise the stakes a little.
The performance of the frame goes some way to make up for the disappointment in the spec stakes, however. The frame provides a solid ride, which doesn’t err too greatly on being stiff. The mix of carbon and aluminium is a rare one, but it’s a choice that results in quite a fine ride. The greatest surprise is that despite the obvious high levels of stiffness, it’s almost certainly a good choice if comfort is at least a priority.