The SuperX. That’s Super CROSS not X. So the CAADX is the CAAD Cross as well. Remember that, for cross is what the SuperX is about. That and being a rather posh wet weather road bike as well if you want. And just being a really lovely thing. This review took a little while coming because, well, it’s all very well using it on road and relying on its claimed pedigree off road, but you really need to use it for cyclocross to see if it’s any good. So I waited, used it, and, read on.
I’ve always wanted a Cannondale and, as you know, I managed to pick up a Supersix Evo last year. And it’s been everything I wanted, easily the best of the carbon bikes I’ve owned. In stock form it’s perfectly good (at Ultegra level) so there hasn’t been too much in the way of upgrading. Obviously it benefited from the Fulcrum Quattro wheels and, latterly, the Bax Carbon deep section clinchers really made it fly.
The Cannondale SuperX on test is equipped with Shimano 105. In terms of spec and price difference it doesn’t give much away to the Ultegra version. The price gap is £300 or so even at sale prices. The SuperX 105 has a RRP of £2200 which isn’t exactly cheap. But it can be had for considerably less if you shop around. The only real difference between them is the wheelset, Aksium on the Ultegra and Maddux on the 105, one wheelset is better but neither is great. The groupsets are little different given that the shifters/brakes are both non series (and pretty much identical) and the chainsets are Cannondale/FSA Si. Given that you’d probably swap the wheels on either model the 105 is arguably the better choice.
For 2017 the SuperX will continue in 105 and Ultegra form pretty much as before. There are some subtle changes but most of the real differences come in the 1x range (which means SRAM). So although this is a review of the 2016 bike not a lot has changed. Oh and prices have gone up, quite a bit in fact. And that’s for 2017, depending on Brexit the prices for the 2018 models might be very interesting indeed.
The spec of the SuperX is as follows:
- Frame: SuperX Disc, BallisTec Carbon, SPEED SAVE, BB30
- Fork: SuperX Disc, BallisTec Carbon, 1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″ steerer
- Wheels: Maddux CX 2.0 Disc, 32-hole
- Tyres: Schwalbe Rapid Rob, 700x35c
- Crank: Cannondale Si, BB30, FSA rings, 46/36
- Rear Cogs: Shimano 105 5800, 11-28, 11-speed
- Front Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800, braze-on
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105 5800 SS
- Shifters: Shimano R685 hydraulic disc
- Handlebar: Cannondale C3, butted 6061 Alloy, Compact
- Stem: Cannondale C3, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 6 deg.
- Brakes: Shimano BR785 hydraulic disc, 160/160mm
- Brake Levers: Shimano R685 hydraulic disc
- Saddle: Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite, Cromo Rail
- Seatpost: Cannondale C3, 6061 Alloy, 27.2mmx300mm
And there are some weak points so let’s deal with those first. We know that most stock bikes come with poor wheels. It’s not that the Maddux are poor per se, they are likely to be bombproof. But they are hefty weighing well in excess of 2.0kg in their unadorned state. And the Rapid Rob tyres might appear to be lightweight (as “light” as CX tyres can claim to be) but they are the cheaper wired version and so they exacerbate the issue of weight. So off they went and the bike now alternates between the Pro Lite Revo and my new Fulcrum Racing 5 LG disc depending on the discipline being deployed. A saving of between 500-800g depending on what’s being used. Most of the time it gets to run on the frankly sublime Schwalbe S-One 30 tyres. And for Cross? Well, that’s when the Pro Lite go on with the tubeless X-One.
There aren’t many other weaknesses. Shimano 105 is fine and, in any event, it’s really only the mechs that are 105. The Shimano R685 brakes are non series and are considered to be Ultegra level, ditto the 785 calipers. The chainset sees no cost cutting in the cranks, Cannondale’s SI chainset arms being things of beauty. But the FSA road rings (46/36) are a cost cutting exercise. They’re also very bendy and I’ve bent them with some high power output! So off they’ve gone and in their place are some very lovely Praxis chainrings which should be able to cope with my phenomenal power.
The brakes are outstanding. They are literally one finger operation with tremendous power. They are equal in ability to anything I’ve ridden with the XT or XTR moniker on them. They’re good everywhere, be that on dry roads, wet roads or being used for the right reasons. Indeed in Welsh cx round 1 they were outstanding and a far cry from the TRP Spyre that I used last year. Both stop you but the R685 require such minimum effort. That doesn’t mean there’s a risk of locking the wheels either, modulation is a breeze. They are stunning. Cannondale choose to spec 160mm discs front and rear here which is fairly normal whereas they choose a 140mm disc on the rear of the CAADX, perhaps recognising that said bike may be used less for cross and more for road.
There is an issue with the hoods on my bike though. Some of the R685 were given hoods which are a little slack and on downhill braking they do have a slight tendency to slip forward. That’s not ideal, not ideal at all, so I talked to Pedalon, who sourced some new ones and, despite being visually indistinguishable, they are now a perfect fit. Great service from a great bike shop.
Geometry wise I’ve been riding the 54″ frame. The detailed specs can be found here. It’s quite a long top tube but it seems to be bang on for me at 5ft 10″. There was some school of thought that suggested I try the 52 (my Six is a 54) but it seems to be fine. Indeed, it feels just like a Supersix on stilts (CX bb drop takes some getting used to). The frame itself is super ballistec carbon and, no, as I said in my Supersix review I have no idea what that means. It’s not the high mod version but I doubt I could ever tell the difference. What I can tell you is that it’s super plush, super comfy, floaty and just soooo smooth.
So as good as the brakes and transmission are it’s the frame that really makes this bike stand out. It’s a Supersix on stilts for want of a better description.
Given the high price point of the SuperX I do wonder who the buyers are. Will it be bought exclusively by the CX user (who will naturally swap out the wheels immediately), or someone who wants to use it as a do it all bike with forays into cross. The latter is probably my purpose. Well, it probably WAS my purpose. You see, I also have a CAADX which I use for commuting, it’s terrific for that. It wears mudguards most of the time. I had planned on keeping the SuperX for the nice CX days (there are some) and using the CAADX for the nasty ones. There might still be an element of that but I think I’m getting a little less precious about kit now and the SuperX is so good it would be a shame not to deploy it more widely. And, having used the CAADX for one of the potentially dirtier rounds there IS a difference. It’s not a huge one and certainly doesn’t necessarily translate to the difference in cost between the two, but it’s there. A difference in front end control, a modicum more harshness, just something less good. And the CAADX is very good which gives you an idea of how good the SuperX is.
It spent the first month or so exclusively on road. Off came the cross tyres (and Maddux wheels) and on went something more road orientated. I used it with a mixture of Vittoria Rubino, Schwalbe S-One and Schwalbe Kojak. Mostly it gets used with the S-One as a bike this sublime needs a sublime tyre. As I stated above it has the feel of a Supersix. The sensation, due to the high bottom bracket, is more of sitting atop the bike rather than it it. Given the geometry it’s clearly the case that, for pure road riding, it is slightly compromised. But that slight is really ever so slight indeed. It’s a little twitchier on corners but overall it’s perfectly excellent, superbly comfortable and very very fast. In fact my fastest time on a particular circuit (my commute) is under a minute slower on the SuperX than the SuperSix. Not bad for something running on 30c tyres. Other than the fact that it cannot take ‘guards this would make a bloody great winter/gravel/adventure bike and still figure at the front of the Sunday club run. Well, mostly, as the 46/11 combination will see you needing to spin a little more wildly to keep up with those running compacts. Mountain climbing on the 36/28 is absolutely fine, for me, as it’s the same as that on my Supersix. And if you wanted to convert it to 1x then you could, though dealing with the vagaries of Shimano mash ups makes that more difficult than if it ran SRAM.
But that’s not really what you came to read about so it’s finally been out racing. I use the term loosely. Though I was racing at cyclocross round 1, for a change, rather than pootling around at the back. None of that means I was challenging, heaven forbid, but I gave it a better go than I have in the last 2 seasons. And where I generally figured quite squarely at the back I’ve moved up into the 60th percentile or so. Had I not fallen off and been unable to clip out for a moment I may well have squeezed into the top half of the field. This may not sound convincing and much of it may be fitness but it’s certainly a better tool to be racing on.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what the magic is. It’s probably a combination of things. The slack head angle and long front centre do mean that it has outstanding handling. It’s much easier to turn in tight spaces quicker than my previous bikes. There’s a load of traction at the rear and it’s just so comfy to ride on. Get your PSI right and it floats. It’s often the case that the less your bike beats you up the more energy you’ll retain for racing. Of course, to get to this being a SuperX bike, you do need to swap those wheels and, ideally, get some class leading tyres on there. So combined with the much lighter Pro Lite and Schwalbe X-One it really does shine. I’d like to pick up some tubs in due course and see if it can be improved further. I suspect the answer to that is going to be a yes. I guess the magic of the SuperX is that it gets better as you get better and it’s virtually impossible to overwhelm it with your own talent. I’m way off that problem naturally.
It’s certainly not perfect. It arrives “flawed.” But if you can get it for a decent price and make those upgrades you’re pretty much left with perfection, at least for the intended task. Of the three bikes I own, if I could only keep one I think it would be this one. But, you know, I guess I’ll have to tell you about my humble CAADX shortly as well. Half the price of the SuperX, a bit heavier, lacking hydraulics. But it’s much the same story with that one as well. Swap a few things out and, wow, what a bike.