Cannondale’s SuperSix carbon race bikes have proved almost universally popular since they were introduced in 2008, and this year sees the technology filter down to a lower price point than ever before. At £1,800, the new SuperSix 105 is the entry-level model in the range. That’s still a big wedge, of course, but fitted with a mostly Shimano 105 groupset and rolling on Mavic Aksium wheels, it looks like a whole lot of bike for your cash.
Frame and forks
The frame is carbon fibre throughout, but unlike some of the more expensive SuperSixes that are made from high modulus carbon, the 105 version is standard modulus. In practical terms, the different flavour means this frame is heavier: 1050g against 900g for a 56cm frame, according to Cannondale's own figures. That’s still light for this price point, though, and it also means the frame is a lot cheaper to produce – hence the tempting price tag.
The standard modulus frame shares all the design features of its pricier sibling, and that means there’s a big emphasis on rigidity. Cannondale had a reputation for producing stiff, solid frames back in the days when the whole range was aluminium, and they’ve carried that over into these carbon-obsessed times.
Take the head tube, for instance. The majority of big players have moved towards a tapered design now, increasing the diameter at the bottom end of the tube for extra front-end stiffness. But whereas most have moved to a 1 1/4in lower headset bearing, Cannondale have gone for 1 1/2in. The head tube looks squat but that’s actually an illusion caused by the width. It’s 15.5cm (on our 56cm frame) and a high headset cap means the front end is a fairly typical height for a race bike.
Typical of Cannondale, the down tube is another monster, measuring a mighty 64mm across – it’s more of a pole than a tube – and this connects to an equally outsized bottom bracket area. Cannondale call this their Beat Box design and it’s massive to provide a ton of torsional rigidity. The bottom bracket itself is an FSA model built to Cannondale’s own BB30 spec for – you guessed it – extra stiffness.
In complete contrast to the rest of the frame, the seatstays are skinny to provide some give at the back end. After leaving the seat tube they meander about all over the place before arriving at the dropouts, while the chainstays are asymmetric to account for the differing forces on either side.
The SuperSix fork comes with a carbon steerer to match the blades and the finish is excellent throughout. The cables run externally using cable stops that are simply slotted ports without any adjusters, by the way. You have to rely on in-line adjuster barrels on the cable outers for fine-tuning the tension.
Predictably enough, this version of the SuperSix comes with a spec sheet that’s dominated by Shimano 105 components – the clue’s in the name, see. The STI dual controls, mechs and brake callipers are all from the mid-level groupset, and so are the cassette and chain.
Shimano have upgraded the 105 range for 2011 and it’s now a touch better than before. We’d say it’s the best-value group out there from any of the big manufacturers, and the performance isn’t far off that of Ultegra, the next tier up, especially considering the price difference.
There are several changes from before, the most obvious from a visual point of view being that the gear cables are now routed underneath the bar tape for a tidier-looking front end. The downside to that is a minor increase in friction but... puh! It really is minor.
The hoods are a slightly different shape too, and the brake lever pivot has been moved. Along with a new brake arch pivot, this is designed to provide “a greater level of modulation and power… from the tops of the brake hoods, where most people ride a majority of the time.” Don’t tell a soul but, just between us, we could barely tell the difference. The new brake block compound provides extra bite though, the new front mech design provides strong, clean shifting, and the asymmetric chain works great however much you try to confuse it.
The only thing that’s not 105 is the chainset – Shimano don’t make it in BB30. Instead, you get an FSA Gossamer design, as found on a zillion other bikes around this price. It’s a compact (with 50/34 tooth chainrings) so you get a lower range of gears than standard, and this bike is available with a triple (52/39/30 tooth chainrings) too.
The wheels are Mavic’s entry-level Aksiums but, as we’ve doubtless said before, there’s entry level and there’s entry level. These are a reasonable weight for the money, the bearings are good and, as a rule, they’re durable. We’ve used one or two sets that have gone out of shape early on, but these stayed perfectly true throughout testing.
Okay, so that’s the background info; how does the SuperSix ride? Well, this is one energetic bike. It’s sparky and full of life, and the ride quality is high. If you’re after something below the two-grand mark that can really shift, the Cannondale demands your attention.
We’ve mentioned frame rigidity a lot already but when you get on board the SuperSix that’s something you really can’t ignore. The thickset head tube won’t back down in a battle of strength. Neither will the chunky down tube, come to that. Or the bottom bracket. You get the picture; the chassis stands firm even if you’re a large, powerful rider.
All this stiffness makes for an immediate delivery of speed when you get the power on or you try to sprint away from your ride-mates. The SuperSix really takes off. Weighing in at a highly respectable 7.9kg (17.4lb), it’ll put in a surge on the climbs when you ask it to as well. Get up on the pedals and rock the bike from side to side and there’s just a touch of flex in the Aksium wheels, but not a lot – not enough for any rubbing on the brake blocks. It’s a good climber that doesn’t dragging its heels.
There’s no twitchiness when you’re riding in a group and that gives you plenty of assurance, while that strong front end makes for excellent tracking. That means you can lean the bike over hard without the steering falling apart, and ping through the tight stuff with a flick of the bars.
Speaking of the bars, there’s plenty of rearward extension on the drops of the aluminium FSA Wing Pros. In other words, there’s lots of space for you to get a comfortable hand position. And they’re a compact design so you can spend a lot of time down before your back decides it’s had enough.
We’re not convinced that the chainstays’ hourglass shape makes a whole heap of difference to the good old vertical compliance but we’ve no complaints about the Cannondale’s level of comfort. We did short rides, medium rides and long rides and we found this to be comfy throughout. The Prologo Scratch saddle looks a bit plasticky for our taste but we got on well with the shape. No problems to report on that front.
Downsides? You might crave a couple of higher gears if you want to keep the power on during fast descents. That’s the flipside to the advantage of having compact gearing for the climbs. But that’s not really a moan – that’s what compact gearing is. Aside from that, the Schwalbe Lugano tyres aren’t the fastest rolling ever. They’re entry level and we’d upgrade them when they wear out.
We’ve really not got many negative comments, though. The excellent frame and strong spec make for a lively bike and in terms of value for money, it’s a great buy. If you’re after a stiff setup for riding fast, the SuperSix 105 has loads to offer.
Very good frame and strong spec make for a fast and lively ride; impressive value for money
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cannondale SuperSix 105
Size tested: 56cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Cannondale say, "The Cannondale SuperSix 105 Team 2011 Road Bike is, very literally, one of the best Road bikes in the world. With many wins under its belt it has a race pedigree to back up this statement. It achieves this by being developed with 100% racing in mind. It uses unidirectional carbon rather than woven carbon fibre as it flexes less, and every tube is designed to eliminate flex and transfer every bit of pedal power into forward momentum. Features of the frame include, co-cured joints, Beatbox BB area, Asymmetric chain stays, hourglass seat stays, deep radius head tube and many others all designed to make this the ultimate race bike. Couple it with the top of the line parts from brands like Shimano and Sram it truly comes alive steaming down hills and sprinting up them eating up mile after mile will lightning fast speed."
It's for anyone who wants to ride fast on the road, whether that's racers, sportive riders, or anyone else with a need for speed.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, very much
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.