That said, CANNONDALE are the kings of Aluminum Race bikes…
These guys have grand tour wins in the past decade on Alu. Lots of ‘em. And Cannondale turn the CAAD series out to the number-wearing masses at fantastic prices, making them a staple of the racing public.
But while they’ve used carbon for lots of parts (starting back in the early 90′s with a swing arm for their Super V and continuing on the mountain side with lefty forks, cranks, the new Flash, a few versions of the Synapse and a previous model Six), Cannondale were not quite producing a top level full carbon race frame until the latest SuperSix High Mod Team…
And poof… Grand Tour win 2010 (OK, maybe the rider had something to do with it too…).
We’re calling this the “SSHM” from here on…
Where the Synapse and the last version Six were good bikes, the Synapse is better suited to a less racy (suited well to lots of honest people) riding position and with a bit more smoothness than the first version Six just lacked a bit.
This latest version SSHM hacked off a third of a pound and noticeably upped the bottom end stiffness to put it right at home competing at the sharp end of things.
Visually it’s still a conservative shape.
Cannondale didn’t waste much carbon going for visual effect. There’s a tapered steerer tube and carbon bearing cups in that front end, and there’s shaping in the top and down tubes, but it comes off looking pretty conservative.
The top tube is an oval shape and tapers as it retreats to the rear (or grows as it goes up front if you rather)…
The down tube shows off the uni carb top layer (which hides a few other directional layers built into the tube to help do the twist resist job)…
It’s a tall oval at the head tube and flattens out at Cannondale’s gift to the bike world-BB30 box.
There’s a lot of carbon here but it’s only “fairly” large as some bottom ends go on the latest bike.
Cannondale kept the look of this area in line with the rest of the bike rather than following the common thought that “Bigger BB must mean more stiffness”…
That’s becoming the cycling equivalent of stuffing a sock in your pants and Cannondale understand that proper wall thickness and the right carbon can mean job done.
Adding to that solid bottom end are among the tip top crank sets currently available, The SISL…
The single coolest part on the Bike are the cranks (just a personal thing) and I had been wishing Cannondale would bring back CODA and launch these to the open market.
The SISL are in the latest book and available with Standard (130), Compact (110), Campy (135), XX mtb, and Triple MTB. That with a choice of the standard or ceramic BB. Not to mention it’s the lightest SRM setup available. All in BB30, of course. There is also an aero spider available now for all those Tri/TT bikes.
I didn’t know that until Cannondale’s “Muscle Man” hit me up a few minutes ago… Pretty much good news and bad news for me as I will follow up shortly by spending money I don’t have for a set or two of these for future projects.
Retail pricing for crank and BB will be some place near $850-900 (900 with Ceramic) and given the weight and stiffness, that makes for a relatively good price.
A neat bit of tech is hidden at the back where the stays meet the frame.
The stays are notably thin… So much that they needed to be labeled that way. But the hidden bit of tech is really in how Cannondale join the stays to the frame.
It’s similar to tube-to-tube builds but Cannondale molds the stays with ends that match the shape of the frame where they come in contact. Rather than bonding the open end of a tube, as is the case with tube to tube builds, the surface area is quite a bit larger and that allows for a more secure bond and more strength than tubes that are cut to dead end at an important junction.
The seat stays are flat as a ruler from the side view but hand a little wiggle from behind…
The chain stays are about as plain as they come… Same principal as the BB. Right wall thickness, right carbon, right performance.
Another very simple and stout area are the drops. Reinforced with metal but solid carbon from stays through the drop…
Yep, it’s MOTOREX doing the lube duties.
Last but far from least is Cannondale’s fork…
In fact, while the added stiffness and lowered weight are what Cannondale speak about the most and what the Media seem to smack about as most critical, the front end of this bike and the handling overall are probably the SSHM’S top feature.
Another example of a simple shape handled well on the inside, a stiff steer tube (taper 1.125 – 1.5) and stiff legs mated to one of the larger head tubes on the market is a good start. Cannondale didn’t pull too much material from the top and down tubes either (a fairly common mistake for folks going too much for a weight spec).
FSA did a nice job with the K force bar and OS 99 stem.
There are stiffer bars on the market but I think much more would be overkill here and this set up mates well.
The SSHM also has the single largest Headset topper I’ve seen in a while.
No panic for you yoga folks though as a 5mm spacer is hidden right underneath to get your ass well above your hands. (a 15 is available but I think it’s a euro gig…).
The hoops that came stock with the bike are a great effort for Mavic. Cosmic Carbone’s have been around through several editions and while I used house/benchmark wheels for most of the reviewing, the latest SLR’s do the line and the brand proud.
These went on to a couple house bikes and honestly, I wish a set had stayed around a while…
At the end of the day (or the start of the ride), the beauty shots and babble mean jack and you read through your hands feet and butt…
The new version SuperSix High Mod Team puts Cannondale in a place they haven’t been in a few years and that’s in direct competition with Specialized, Trek and other top line brands in Carbon Performance bikes.
The bike sits at the UCI limit straight out of the box in a 54. The improved stiffness in the bottom end makes for no excuses power delivery that now gets in the face of the CAAD series. And now the whole bike lives up to the fork and geometry.
The SSHM front end was good in the last model, but it now mates with an all round better balanced chassis and that makes for direct response and stable follow through. You could load the front end on the first model Six a little and while it wasn’t bad and didn’t bite you buy snapping around, the bike could drift a bit when pushed hard and that made you want to lean in a little more.
The new SuperSix just sticks a turn. It’s responsive tipping in at high speed is just as easy (relative to your wheel choice) as the old model, but it doesn’t load up and the new Six neither drifts nor makes you feel like it’s dropping further into the turn.
You would expect ride quality to suffer with increased stiffness and lower weight. The stiff fork, mono front triangle and the shape, structure and build process of the stays all improve the bike’s get up and go. They also make for a bike that gives you some more vibes than the Synapse and the last Six. But the newer Six plays out a little different to what most people generalize about the character of “Carbon”.
People often associate carbon with less high frequency feel and the feeling of being disconnected with the road rather than still having good road feedback. The new SuperSix High Mod gives good feedback without being what I would have expected as much more harsh over the mid-sized bumps (most all high performance stuff sucks on the really big hits so why bother talking about it). I like a reasonable amount of feel but generally hate the lack of bump damping that comes with it. While the SuperSix isn’t a comfort bike, it didn’t lose as much comfort as it gained in stiffness and weight reduction. Nice trick there.
All round, Cannondale did what Cannondale do…
They sat and listened to every-day pedal stompers like most of us, and they listened to Pro team feedback. Then they went and tweaked their bike in a way that genuinely improved it for the people and purpose it was designed to suit. They’ve done that for quite a while with Aluminum, and now they have a pretty dang good understanding of Carbon.
Given Cannondale’s history of innovation (which is substantially different than a few competitors’ history of name-o-vation), I would guess the latest Super Six High Mod was the last thing several other companies wanted to see, as it means Cannondale are getting Carbon.
But not everyone thinks that’s bad. I know at least one guy that appreciates what they have available right now…
Retail on the Team Edition High Mod Ultimate is around $8,499 AND…
Cannondale will launch a separate level SuperSix any day now, manufactured in the same process but using a bit different type of Carbon Fiber. The “105″ will start some place near $2,130.
Have a peek at Cannondale’s full range at CANNONDALE.COM.
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