First Ride: 2016 Cannondale SuperSix Evo

By Zap

Here we are somewhere deep in the Tyrolean Alps surrounded by a gaggle of new Cannondales that include the highly anticipated SuperSix Evo carbon racer and the latest aluminum steed in the stable, the CAAD 12 (stay tuned for more on that bike in an upcoming web story). Both of these bikes represent the latest in carbon and aluminum technology for the Connecticut-based bike brand.

THE SUPERSIX EVO

THE ROOT OF IT ALL
It’s a kind of a shame to witness somebody trying so earnestly to convince you of something that, for the most part, you don’t buy. That was my initial reaction as the first day presentation of Cannondale’s latest SuperSix Evo carbon bike kicked-off. We were told that it was “completely redesigned.” Really? It didn’t look a whole lot different from the first vintage that was launched four years ago.

Ah, but then as we dug deeper into the details, first glance appearances aside, there was a plethora of detailed changes that contributed to making the bike something new. “Completely redesigned?” Of that I was still unsure. After all, how “completely redesigned” could it be if the bike still found itself lacking such de rigueur frame details as internal cable routing or even, gasp, a disc brake version?

Lucky for Cannondale, and notwithstanding my initial doubts, the good news worth reminding ourselves of was how the first rendition of the Evo (introduced four years ago) was touted by many as one of the best carbon road bikes on the market. So how much better could they make it?


After going over the details, I’m sticking to my nit-pick about the language used to describe the bike. However, the list of changes, improvements, enhancements or whatever they could be called is indeed impressive, and, they speak to the highly evolved place that high-end carbon frames have attained in 2015. In short, top-of-the-line carbon bikes no longer need, or rely on, over-the-top visual enhancements to indicate needle moving improvement. One catch phrase used that I was buying into was that “true performance lies in balance,” and few bikes I’ve ridden have exhibited that maxim better the Evo.

Regardless, over our buffet salads on the last night of the launch, I went ahead and challenged Senior Global Product Manager David Devine on the merits of the Evo’s “totally redesigned” status: Do you really believe that I asked?

“I do,” said Devine. “I’m positive it is. I can’t tell you how much sleep I’ve lost over that bike! I was asked a few times internally, ‘Do we need to make a bigger visual statement with the bike?’ And for me, the challenge was to meet all of our performance goals before I worried about a different look. It was important for us to be honest about things like the weight savings and increase in compliance. Those are things that can be measured. I think when it comes to bikes like the Evo, incremental changes are becoming more of the norm, but also, I can’t tell you how many different iterations of lay-up schedules we tested before settling on the final product.”

THE BIG CHANGES
* The SuperSix Evo lineup is comprised of five different models. Although there remains a super, over-the-top expensive ($12,500) Black Inc. edition, it is no longer made with nanofiber technology – the frames are the same on all five bikes.
*While the bike’s outward appearance seems entirely similar to the previous version, the top of the forks, the downtube, the seat tube and the top of the seatstays all use what’s called a Truncated Aero Profile (TAP).
* Yeah! All the bikes are spec’d with 25mm tires with rear wheel clearance now open to a 28mm tire. We have ridden a few different Evos that have had difficulty with 25mm rear tires so the added space is welcome for the modern age of bigger tires.
Mavic wheels are used exclusively thru-out the line.
* All five bikes are now spec’d with two versions of Cannondale’s Hollowgram crank that remains a true standout not only in terms of weight and stiffness, but appearance as well.

A wider bottom bracket (5mm wider on the non-drive side) melds into Cannondale’s svelte Speed SAVE chainstays are a big contributor to the Evo’s overall ride quality.


THE NUMBERS GAME

* Thanks to an emboldened BB30A bottom bracket, the BB stiffness number has been improved by 11%. The headtube (with new hourglass shaping) has seen a 12% bump in stiffness.
* Interestingly, it was noted that the water bottle mounts have been re-positioned to their lowest possible place to help maximize the aero flow.
*  The rear brake cable is routed internally.
* The Evo retains the Speed SAVE rear triangle which Cannondale refers to as “micro-suspension” but is really closer to just deflection (3mm). The new bike is now claimed to provide 15% more vertical deflection.
* Following in the spec footsteps of the Synapse, the new Evo now uses a downsized 25.4mm SAVE seastpost which we were told provides 36% more comfort.
* The bikes are available in eight different frame sizes.

The minimalist frame construction still pulls a capably stiff, but compliant ride.

AND THEN WE RODE IT
The scheduled rides for the Evo were broken into either a short or long option with the latter based on a rolling 60-mile course through a succession of small Austrian mountain towns. Now, for anyone reading this in search of a definitive thumbs up or down, I hate to disappoint. Let’s first keep in mind the very real truism that applies to every launch ride in a foreign land: there’s only so much of a takeaway that can be applied to the experience. And this ride was no different. Between unfamiliar roads, sightseeing, a little rain and riding in a pack of 24 strangers, I’d say the takeaway was not much.

There are now three different levels of the Hollowgram crank with three possible chainring combos.

Lucky for Cannondale, that’s a good thing because ever since the carbon Evo showed its face, it’s been acclaimed as one of the best carbon bikes on the road, not only by me, but a variety of foreign titles as well. The bike I rode was the Hi-Mod Team version (claimed weight 14 pounds) that was equipped with a Shimano Di2 drivetrain, Mavic Cosmic Carbon Pro WTS wheels and the scintillatingly cool looking and lightweight Cannondale Hollowgram SiSL2 crankset.

On both paper and on the road, Cannondale’s new Evo remains one of the best all-around road bikes I’ve ridden. Compliant (which I care about), yes. Stiff (which I care less about), yes! The handling, which is the most important attribute of all, is still solid and dependable. In the end, and you’ve heard this a million times, we need to get the Evo back on our home roads and pass it around for a true test.

Team Cannondale-Garmin riders Ted King (l) and Joe Dombrowski found themselves with a few days to spare from their racing calendar and came to Austria to put it to the pack of wannabe journos.

THE TED & JOE SHOW
As exciting as it always is to be around new bikes, it always gets better still when pro team riders show up to lend some credence to all we do and believe in. In the case of Cannondale, it was Cannondale-Garmin teammates Ted King and Joe Dombrowski, a couple of lanky Americans who were kind enough to shame us on the climbs, but entertain us at dinner.

Here it is, the fried suckling calf cheeks with Merlot jus, Gnocchi all Romana and asparagus points.

THE COW DIALOGUE
Following the Tyrolean bacon sushi with horseradish cream, next up was a plate of “suckling calf cheeks,” which initiated the following conversation between Ted and Joe…

Joe: “Well, that looks interesting!”
Ted: “I love glands. Wow, I could use a whole steak of this meat!”
Joe: “When you think about it, cows are pretty amazing. I mean, they’re all fat, covered with flies all over their face, but how good is this cheek?”
Ted: “Thank you, cow.”

The new bikes will be rolled-out for the team later this week at the team presentation at the Tour de France. For more info: Cannondale SuperSix Evo

CannondaleMavicJOe DombrowskiTed KingSuper SixAustria