Yes. It’s very green. I know. And I like it a lot. It’s certainly different to anything I’ve owned before. Though, I concede, it does make matching kit very difficult. I like red kit, but that’s not going to work at all. Even white may be a bit difficult to carry off. So lots of black it is. With a touch of lime, naturally.
In terms of carbon road bikes this is my third. But I’ve owned a considerable number of aluminium or steel road bikes as well. I’m pretty lucky to be able to call on the cycle to work scheme every year which makes upgrading to a new bike either free or essentially so. My first carbon bike was a 2008 Lemond Zurich. It was a bike, like Greg, ahead of its time. Very good quality carbon frame, a very light fork. It took was equipped with Ultegra. The wheels weren’t great, some very fancy looking, but ultimately dead feeling Bontrager efforts. There were some other annoyances. The bike was from the time before Shimano went with concealed cabling so there was a mess of cables in the cockpit. And it had a triple chainset. Remember those? So, over time, as many of my bikes have, it evolved. In came SRAM Force and some Mavic Ksyrium wheels. I toyed with some carbon bars for a time. Everything worked. At the heart of it was a great frame doing what great frames do. Going fast, being just stiff enough, being compliant over poor surfaces, doing everything with absolutely no fuss at all. And we played nicely together for a number of years. She’s still out there somewhere being ridden by a mate’s son. Last time I saw her she even had some TT bars on.
And then there was my Canyon CF Ultimate. I think I was one of Canyon’s earlier adopters. During the 2012 Tour De France they had a killer deal on framesets. So I managed to pick up a frame, fork, headset, stem and seatpost for about £700. Rather surprisingly, given Canyon’s recent troubles, it arrived in about a week. It was the first bike I’d built from the ground up. On went SRAM Force, Shimano RS80 wheels. Eventually she wore some rather fetching FFWD F4R “deep” section wheels. And she veritably hummed along. I remember on the Wye Valley Warrior having to abandon one of my mates who’d done himself a bit of an injury and having to catch up with the rest of the lads. They were miles ahead and up a pretty long climb. It’s a standout memory because in that section I killed it. I wasn’t just strong or fast, it was the one time, going up a hill, where I passed every single person and not one passed me. But it’s probably all about the bike…………….
And then there was a bit of steel evangelism in the middle. Indeed, there was a time when there was no carbon in the garage at all. And that was all fine but on those fine summer days I just wanted some lightweight carbon back in my life.
Enter the Supersix. It’s a model that’s been around since about 2008 and an evolution of the earlier System Six. There were no Super one to fives, just the Six. So whilst the CAAD frame increases its number every year the Six remains the Six. I’ve had mine a while but, given the weather and my ability to choose other bikes in relation to it, it’s been quietly sitting in the garage and biding its time. The weather has been a bit better recently, I’ve been able to fettle my riding position and am now able to tell you what it’s like. It’s a Supersix. Are the stories true?
Anyway, let’s talk about specs, baby. This is not the Hi Mod version (High Modulus Carbon if you didn’t know). So, arguably, I cannot make any claim that this is a Tour de France pro replica bike. The frame is made of Ballistec Carbon apparently. That sounds fantastic and I have absolutely no idea what it means or what if offers over something that’s not called that. What we have is an intermediate modulus carbon bike weighing a little less than 950g for a 56 frame. Mine is a 54cm frame so I’d guess it will weigh around 900g or so. I am absolutely not taking it apart to verify whether that’s the case or not. The Speed Save fork, more of that later, comes in at around 300g or so making for an overall frame weight of 1.2kg. Not the lightest on the market, not by some margin, but a damn good price to weight ratio depending on what you pay for it. We’ll return to that as well.
This one is fitted with an Ultegra 6800 11 speed groupset though not a complete one. Normally you’d wince at that point. It’s not unusual for complete bikes to be missing some parts of a full groupset and having other cheaper parts substituted in. So, Tiagra brakes on a 105, a non series cassette and chain etc. Most of the time, it’s a cheaper chainset. And it’s true that the Supersix does have a different chainset, but every other part is full on 6800. So, they’ve done it to save money right? Well, it doesn’t appear so. The thing is that beneath those FSA machined rings is Cannondale’s own SI Hollowgram chainset. It’s ridiculously stiff and very very light. It comes in at about 615g. For some perspective, that’s about the same as SRAM Red, a tad lighter than Dura Ace and a whopping 150g lighter than the Ultegra double chainset. That’s some difference. It’s also expensive, if you were buying it separately it retails for about £350. What we have here is the reverse of the normal situation then, something being replaced with a better thing. One of the reasons for this is because Shimano don’t do BB30. So you’d either need a converter in there or a BB30 chainset from someone who do make them. It’s pretty understandable that there’s this change and my experience is that the chainset is very stiff indeed. It’s a Pro Compact rather than a Compact, so the chainrings are 52t and 36t (you might also see this described as semi compact). The cassette is a 11-28. I’ve lost a bit of climbing ability from my old bike (11/34) but gained quite a bit of speed.
The finishing kit is pretty standard fare overall. Cannondale’s own aluminium bars and stem. The bars supplied on this 54cm model are 44cm. I have a personal preference for 42cm but that’s easy enough to swap out. It does seem a rather odd inclusion though. The bar tape is quite lovely so replacing it isn’t currently very high on my wish list. The seatpost is Cannondale’s own 27.2mm carbon affair. It works nicely. There’s a thumb wheel and bolt arrangement which makes getting the correct angle slightly more convoluted but it’s a system I prefer. It’s the same setup as you find on the excellent Fizik Cyrano seatpost. Finally there’s the venerable Fizik Arione. Not the new model, but they’ve gone to the expense of having it colour coded. It’s 95% of the way there anyway, see what you think. It’s a standard magnesium railed model rather than anything more exotic.
And then, the wheels. At the (£2k) intended price point for this model and other “premium” brands like it the wheels are never sparkling. You’re looking at Mavic, Fulcrum et al. You’ll be getting something in the region of 1700-1800g and worth around £150. This Six is no different. The wheels are Mavic Aksium, their entry model. These are a slight improvement though as they are apparently the S and WTS model. That last bit doesn’t mean anything other than they come with Mavic’s own supplied tyres, back to those in a moment, but the S denomination means that they are slightly better than the stock Aksium. So, 20 bladed spokes front and rear and a weight of about 1735g.
Psychologically that’s a bit heavy. My lightest wheels to date have been the Fulcrum Racing 3 coming in at 1555g. So a penalty of about 180g. Context. Over two wheels that’s slightly heavier than an iPhone 6S. Does it make a difference? A little, certainly. But they’re plenty stiff and get up to speed reasonably well. Once you change the tyres. I didn’t like the Mavic ones. They felt a little dead and I really wanted the Six to sing. So off came the Aksions and on went a pair of 25c Schwalbe One. And 25c is about all you’re getting on there. No space for 28c. Don’t even think about it. Indeed, there may be tyres to avoid, I doubt you’d get Michelin Pro 4 Race 25c on here as they come up almost at 28c. That said, one of the chaps on bike radar is using these with some Reynolds Assault. Not much clearance left but absolutely no rubbing when sprinting. I’ve always been a fan of the One’s and my experience of them so far on the Six is that they sing. That clearance might also have some consequences for which wheels will fit in there with which tyres. Anything too wide might cause some issues. But there are people using these with H Plus Archetypes. They’re 23mm external and nicely wide. So anything that size with 25c should work well.
And that’s that. Add some Shimano Ultegra carbon pedals and we’re ready to go. Just about. If it wasn’t for spacers. Billions of them. It’s hard making one bike fit all so this one comes with a bar that’s considerably higher than it needs to be. Let’s avoid calling for my stem to be slammed please. I may, in due course, but I’m still fettling. The bars were too high so I decided to move 3 spacers above for now and drop the stem a bit. And, let’s say that Cannondale’s FSA SI headset is weird. You use a 6mm hex key to remove the top cap. Then you undo the stem bolts, rearrange, and reassemble. Do NOT, under any circumstances, stick a 5mm hex key into the hole and undo. You’ll undo the fork bung and cock it all up. The Cannondale tech document is also a tad unhelpful. Apparently you’re suppose to drop the fork bung so that it sits in line with the stem. But the only way to do that is to cut the fork so that the top cap is immediately above the stem. For now, I’ve ignored it. Cannondale have sent bikes out to test fleets looking worse than mine (in terms of above stem fork) so, until I’ve finally decided where I want my hands to be, I’ll leave messing around.
There was another annoyance. Shimano 6800 Front Mechs. SRAM get around the need to trim with their Yaw mechanism. Set it up properly and you get no chain rub in any gear. Shimano’s approach is to have 1 trim and 1 normal setting in each ring. So 4 movements of the front shifter. That’s, well, overkill. And makes setting the damn thing up very hard and lacking in intuition. Out of the box mine wasn’t quite right. Normal trim worked in 11-15 gears and trim then in 16-22. Annoying. So I set it up like any other mech. And that meant messing it up completely. Then I followed a useful online setup and, by fiddling around with the front mech inline adjuster, managed to get it so that normal trim worked in 11-19 or so and trim was only needed for the last few gears.
Back to the frame. It’s a BB30 Press Fit. Cue much discussion about creaking and groaning. Mine seems fine. I’ll keep an eye on it. It does mean that the BB area is nicely oversized and capable of dealing with my incessant stomping and grinding. The tubes are oversized as well, naturally. It’s the rear triangle where things get interesting. Those seat stays are skinny, and emblazoned with the words “thinline technology” and “Speed save” on the chainstays. What does this mean? Well, let’s let Cannondale explain:
“Race‐oriented SAVE features. Much like the suspension on F1 cars, SPEED SAVE features are engineered to help the bike roll faster, not simply to make it more comfortable. Emphasizing light weight and torsional rigidity, SPEED SAVE delivers improved rolling speed, better acceleration, and dramatically improved cornering speed without negatively affecting power transfer.”
It sounds like management speak. But it does make some sense. There are two aspects to it. Think of the first as being micro suspension. The rear triangle is allowed to flex vertically alongside flexing in the Speed Save front fork. Result? It rides better, not just in terms of comfort (which is the second aspect) but in terms of being able to hug the road, corner without deflection, track accurately etc.
Does it work? And then some. Carbon bikes are lovely. They tend to soak up road vibration anyway. But they are all so very different. Some aluminium bikes are harsher than carbon. Some carbon bikes are harsher than a comfy aluminum one. Some steel bikes can have an unforgiving ride. You can generalise about frame materials but, in the end, specific bikes do specific things. The Supersix is legendary in terms of its ride quality and handling.
I’m not here to tell you what it’s better than other than to say it’s the fastest and comfiest bike I’ve owned. So I can’t tell you to put this at the top of the list of bikes I’ve never ridden. But I can tell you what it’s like in the real world.
On new tarmac it flies. There’s just nothing holding it back other than the rider’s ability. On the flat it’s incredibly easy to maintain your pace. Point it at a slight incline and it turns it into a flat. I actually like the Pro Compact chainset in these scenarios as well. Cornering and descending are utterly predicable. And then the rough stuff. Look, this is a race bike. It has a traditional race bike appearance. It’s not designed for the Tour of Flanders (Peter Sagan swaps to his Synapse for these types of races). But it’s staggering. Whether it’s the inherent quality of Cannondale’s design, the Ballistec Carbon or the Speed Save system (and it’s probably a combination of all of these things) it just rides through the rough stuff like it’s not there. Yes, there’s a tad more road vibration but even 50c tyres won’t avoid that. But for something running mere 25c tyres, with aluminium stem and bars the comfort is way beyond any other bike I’ve owned.
Of course, this isn’t really an endurance machine, whatever its comfort levels. It wants you to ride it fast but it’s happy to do pootling. It’s predictable and linear in how it corners. There are just no nasty surprises. It’s smooth and pointable. It’s actually a master of all trades, though with some concession to trading off in a few areas.
Climbing is handled with ease. It’s not the lightest of bikes, coming in at around 7.5kg, but it doesn’t hold you back at all. There’s a weight penalty in the wheels, clearly, but you don’t really get any sensation of that when climbing. Indeed, you don’t really feel that penalty at all, though it is very likely to be the case that lighter wheels will make you even faster again. Descending is an absolute hoot.
Is it worth it? Well there’s plenty of stuff out there. The RRP of the 2016 model, which comes in very different colours, is around £1999. It’s fair to say that carbon+ultegra+askium can be bought for less than that. In the case of some direct retailers such as Canyon, Rose, Planet X, a lot less. So you need to consider whether the heart of the machine, the frame, is worth the money. My experience is that of all the bikes I’ve ridden, this is the best frame I’ve sat on.
Still a bit overpriced? Well, hang on for a while. Get it when the sales kick in. Here’s the thing. This one wasn’t £1999. In fact it was nowhere near that. £1299 to be exact. Think about that for a moment. £400 groupset, £350 chainset, £150 wheels, £150 of other stuff. You’re getting the frame for a few hundred quid. And that’s staggering value for something that goes like this. A no brainer. You could happily use it do whatever you wanted to. You could upgrade the wheels and make it better. But you don’t need to do that. If you’re impatient you could just pay the premium for the 2016 model now. Save that it’s not a premium at all. It’s the price you pay for riding a legend. And in that context it’s a pretty small price to pay.