When we first rode the bike back in the
spring of 2011, it was a pre-production prototype. As we have learned
firsthand over the years, it makes no sense to form a strong opinion
based on a prototype frame due to the plethora of changes that often
occur before the final “production” tag is applied. And so we waited,
and waited, and waited for a real bike until early October, so this is
the first actual test of the new Cannondale SuperSix Evo model.
Tires: Schwalbe Ultremo ZX
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT THE FRAME?
The Evo goes high-tech—by going oldschool. BallisTec Carbon
Technology allows the Evo a trio of advantages over the previous
SuperSix: weight savings, superior aerodynamics and better ride
compliance. The evolution is possible due to BallisTec’s extreme
strength and impact resistance. The strength of the BallisTec carbon
allowed Cannondale to take a different approach to frame design than the
current modern trend of bigger being better. Comparing it to last
year’s SuperSix, the Evo has downsized tubing diameters in the downtube
by 20 percent, the headtube by 11 percent and the fork blades by 15
percent. This improved aerodynamics without resorting to airfoil tube
shapes, which add weight and can sacrifice ride quality. Boosting ride
quality, the Evo employs damping features called “Speed Save Design” to
the fork, seat tube and, most noticeably, to the chainstays, which use a
flattened top and bottom shape to optimize vertical compliance with a
wide side-to-side profile for lateral stiffness. Oh, did we mention the
Evo also happens to be the lightest production frame? That’s right, 727
grams (56cm) wins it the weightweenie award. The Evo 2’s frame is the
same frame used for the entire Evo line, including the $12,000 Ultimate.
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPONENTS?
The Evo’s parts list is trendy, functional and gives the rider a
lot for the money. From the latest “all-black, all-the-time” rage, the
Evo comes with SRAM’s Black Red group, complete with custom neongreen
accents to match the frame— a nice touch of detail. The FSA SL-K alloy
stem and carbon seatpost also sport the neon-green accents shared by the
SRAM parts, giving the entire bike a pro-level allure.
Keeping the price in check, Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels get the
call-up, but with a 1550-gram weight and sturdy build, there’s not much
of a downside to the French alloy hoops. Rather than the SRAM Red
cassette, the Evo sees the PC-1070 cassette, again to keep the price
down. Funny thing is, the PC-1070 weighs about 50 grams more than the
Red cassette, but it has smoother shifting and a quieter ride. Two crank
gearing options are available: 53/39 or 50/36.
WHAT ABOUT THE RIDE?
It’s safe to say that two of the biggest elements that make a great
race bike—low-weight and high stiffness— don’t usually coalesce into
making a comfortable bike. That was until Cannondale introduced their
“Speed Save Design” to the Evo. We chuckled skeptically when we heard
the phrase “suspension-like vertical compliance” from the Cannondale
marketing department, but out on the road, our skepticism vanished and
our lips formed a smile. When we were seated and rolling along at a good
clip, the difference we noticed in shock absorption was dramatic, so
much so that we had to see if our rear tire was going flat—it wasn’t.
When jumping out of the saddle to accelerate up a climb, the lateral and
torsional stiffness the Evo exhibited made it feel like every bit of
the top-tier race bike it was designed to be.
Even though the Evo’s tubing has a reduced waistline compared to
the 2011 SuperSix, which does bring with it aerodynamic benefits, it’s
not enough of a difference to notice when you’re pounding on the pedals
down a flat section of road—like you can on the S5, a true aero road
WHAT ABOUT THE LOOKS?
Understated is what comes to mind when admiring the Evo’s
relatively small round tubes. Not hiding the unidirectional carbon with
paint is a treat for the eyes; the same goes for the color-coordinated
components, which gives it an equally snazzy appearance as anyone on
SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
Probably the most intriguing new bike for 2012, the Evo completely
goes against industry norms and pulls off a remarkable feat. The Speed
Save Design gives the Evo an undeniable level of comfort from the road
that no other race bike offers. Building a frame that can provide this
level of controlled vertical flex is great, but doing it without a
detriment to lateral stiffness (the holy grail of a race bike) is
something the Evo has been first to attain. The benefits of Speed Save
go deeper than just keeping your back from aching; it also improves the
bike’s handling. Hitting a bump in the apex of a turn can have serious
consequences if your wheels break traction, but the Evo’s ability to
smooth stutter bumps gave us the green light to descend faster and with
the confidence that we (and the bike) could handle it.
Ideal buyer: From the racer to the wanna-be racer and everyone
between. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a bike that packs such a
punch—to the road, not the rider.
Thanks to an impressive feat in frame engineering, the Cannondale
Evo proves that a top-tier race bike doesn’t have to be a one-trick pony
thanks to three words—Speed Save Design. The Evo proves that comfort
doesn’t have to come at the expense of performance. Even with the
highest stiffness-to-weight ratio, though, it didn’t have quite the same
snappy acceleration as the SL4, earning it the runner-up position.
Still, on a simple cost/benefit analysis, at $5500, the Evo is easily
one of the best deals going today.