Cannondale SuperSix Evo: Inside Tech
Cannondale SuperSix Evo
Launched just days before the 2011 Giro Start in Turin, the SuperSix Evo is a rarity in this year's bike launch season. It is not a bike whose primary focus is on aerodynamics. In fact, unusually perhaps, there is no one major focus for the Evo apart from the rather nebulous ‘efficiency'.
The marketing bumf states: "the truest expression of efficiency is a ride that disappears beneath you". This was reiterated during a presentation by the designer Peter Denk. Rather than the usual super-stiff chassis - one that gives you a "clokk" over every bump, he preferred a small "dak" over road imperfections.
To bemused faces, he explained that the best bikes offer "a feeling like flying". We'll return to the ride later as the headline-grabbing weight needs further attention.
Weight a minute...
Really? 695 grams for a 56 frame? Available on a £3,999.99, SRAM Red equipped machine? That's quite some shout. It is not just a tiny, unpainted frame either. In order to get comparative data, Cannondale sent its frame to the Zedler Fahrdadtechnik facility in Germany to get a ‘normalised' weight.
In the institute they take into account headset type, required seatpost length and even front mech clamp to get real world data. In the same facility, Cervélo's Project California frame came out a gram heavier.
Low weight is no use if the bike is flexible. Cannondale chose a route perfected on its mountain bike frames to get the strength and stiffness required in its super lightweight frameset.
BallisTec carbon is used for the structural elements of the frame. With a high level of elasticity, this carbon stretches more than high-mod before failing, and makes up enough of the frame to pass Cannondale's testing process - regarded as some of the toughest by the rest of the industry.
High-modulus fibres are then added externally during the tube to tube joining phase of construction. Continuous fibres run along the down tube and into the seatstays and from the down tube into the seatstays. They also wrap the BB, continuing from the seat tube, down around the shell and back up to the seat tube forming a loop. The result is a frame stiffer at the BB than a SuperSix and stronger in testing than a CAAD9.
While not an aero frame per se, reducing drag was a design feature. Very basically, drag increases with frontal area, so Denk's team simply made the frame narrower. A 1 1/4 lower race allows for a 20 per cent narrower head tube and narrow fork blades reduce the fork's wind catching surfaces by 15 per cent. It is noticeably smaller in direct comparisons to older 'Dales.
As already alluded to, the ride was the biggy when it comes to the Evo's song sheet. Cannondale did not want a comfort bike - it has the Synapse for that - but a replacement capable of being used at the highest levels of the sport. Rather than just relying on flexible seatstays and post for rider comfort, it realised that to maintain ride quality at all times, the fork and chainstays needed to be taken into account.
Wide, flattened chainstays, dubbed SpeedSave, offer micro-suspension in order to keep the wheels on the ground while resisting the sideways loads placed by the rider.
Up front, the fork has a zone where the carbon is laid up with 70° crossed fibres to allow for some aft movement. At the same point, high-mod. fibres are placed along the fork edges to resist cornering loads. Offset dropouts allow for more fork rake to improve ride further and permit more vertical flex in the lower legs. The seat tube has the same lay-up about two inches below the top tube to allow some seatpost movement.
Vincenzo Nibali will be riding the Giro on an Evo and recalled a story to us during the launch. When descending during early testing, Basso aboard an Evo, Nibali a standard SuperSix, the Sicilian could not drop Basso. Knowing the difference between the two riders' downhill talents, this is perhaps the most telling anecdote when it comes to the ride offered by the SuperSix Evo.
The SuperSix Evo range is made up of five bikes ranging from the quite astounding 4.9kg Ultimate at £8,799.99 to the SRAM Red equipped Evo 2 at £3,999.99. A Shimano Di2 variant comes in at £7,599, £500 more than the mechanical version and includes Mavic's Exalith-rimmed Ksyrium SLR's. For the Liquigas fans, a Team replica with Cosmic Carbone SLR wheels and colour-coded Red equipment at £6999.99 should tick the requisite boxes.
This article originally appeared in the May 26 2011 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine