Cannondale has officially launched the SuperSix Evo Disc - and we got to ride it in Austria.
Last year saw the launch of the updated SuperSix Evo - a truly stunning performance road bike, and almost exactly a year later the US outfit has followed that up with the launch of the SuperSix Evo Disc.
It's a bike that aims to deliver the same superb ride as its rim braked brother, but with the benefit of discs. Not only that, but Cannondale has also taken advantage of the fact that they needed to come up with a new rim design to give it that added benefit of being tubeless as standard. Cool.
So, does it deliver on all those benefits? Well, our initial first ride suggests it does - more detail on the ride down below but for now I can say that it in the few hours I spent on it - including going well into the red zone climbing the 1,670m, 7Km long Kitzbüheler Horn. and not getting an ice cream at the top.
At last year’s SuperSix Evo launch, Cannondale was fairly open about their intention to follow up with a disc brake version. The wisdom of that plan was immediately confirmed by the sales of the CAAD 12 Disc launched at the same times as the SuperSix.
The aluminium CAAD 12 Disc followed the CAAD 10 Disc, Cannondale’s first foray into producing a disc braked race bike. The CAAD12 already accounts for 20 percent of the company’s performance bike sales - that’s some feat, but when you consider that none of these bikes are (currently) race legal it’s even more impressive.
Given the lead times involved in designing, speccing and building a bike, we’d guess they were well down the road with the SuperSix Evo Disc when they launched the rim brake version. But designing a disc braked version of an existing bike demands a lot more than simply slapping on a new fork and a rear disc mount.
The forces the frame has to deal with and where it has to deal with them are markedly different. So the Evo Disc (as I’ll be calling it from here on in to save valuable pixels) is a complete redesign requiring all new moulding for the production process - most of the actual differences between the two models are actually on the inside with different internal tube profiles to cope with the demands placed on the frame by disc brakes.
Enough chitter chat! Let’s cut to the vital statistics
Frame weight for the Hi Mod Disc is 829g with a 360g fork. That compares to 777g and 280g for the rim braked SuperSix Evo. So the overall weight penalty is a mere 132g (all weights are for a 56cm frame).
More impressive still, is the fact that Cannondale has also tweaked the rim brake model so what Cannondale call the System Weight for the new Disc Evo (frame, fork, headset, and seatpost) is actually 57g lighter than the bike they launched to general acclaim last year. In case you’re wondering, the new Evo rim version is a whopping 67g lighter - this is where we insert the phrase ‘marginal gains’ - with most of that weight being shed by the fork.
I know we often bang on about weight not being everything - however on a bike that at some point is likely to be ridden by the pros (UCI permitting) it is pretty important. Yep, even if it means they’ve got to bung lead weights down the seat tube. Cannondale says the top-end models will comfortably get below the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit.
How far below? Well, Cannondale is claiming an all up weight of 5.9Kg for the Hi Mod Dura Ace model - and that isn’t even the range topper, there are two models above that, the SuperSix Evo Disc Black Inc and the SuperSix Evo Disc Team.
Every rim braked version has a disc equivalent - except, for the time being at least the SRAM eTap model, but SRAM has released a disc version of eTap so that'll surely change soon. As with the rim braked bike the Evo Disc will be available as both Hi Mod carbon and Evo Carbon models. The base model in the UK comes equipped with Shimano 105 - in other territories it goes down to Tiagra.
Let’s talks some more about weight
One of the bonus spin-offs in redesigning the Evo for disc brake is that the weight has been redistributed. Put simply, while the brakes have got heavier, the wheels have got lighter - something the Cannondale pros in attendance at the bike’s launch were very much in favour of.
Okay, maybe you sceptical types would expect them to say how much they liked their employer’s new bike, but in our experience it takes a fair amount to impress a pro so if they volunteer their opinions unprompted we tend to believe ‘em.
Thru-axles I hear you say. Yes, up until now Cannondale has been thought of as thru-axle sceptics. The disc braked Synapse models don’t have ‘em (not yet anyway). Cannondale’s position was always that their boffins had done the tests and reckoned the forks were plenty stiff enough not to need them. That’s changed with the Evo Disc which does feature a thru-axle (singular) on the front fork - it’s a 12mm Maxle design.
We spoke to some Colnago engineers a couple of years back at Eurobike who were researching thru-axles on road bikes. Their conclusion was that they were a good idea for the front but not really necessary on the rear. Cannondale has come to the same conclusion, we’d also guess that like a lot of manufacturers they’ve been waiting for a road thru-axle standard to emerge before committing themselves - that’s now happened with 12mm being the preferred size. Still, a lot of brands releasing disc road bikes are going down the front and rear thru-axle route.
There’s also another reason not to bother with a rear thru-axle - staying with a quick release skewer for the rear wheel helps save weight - not in the wheel itself but in the much larger bearing required to run a thru-axle. Every little helps - especially if it’s in the right places.
Speaking of the wheels, the Hi-Mod Disc Ultegra Di2 I got to ride comes with Cannondale’s new 35mm deep tubeless clincher rim - which licences technology from Stan's latest tubeless road wheels. In the few hours that I rode the wheels they took all the abuse that I and the Kitzbüheler Horn could throw at them. How durable they are only time will tell but in combination with the Schwalbe One Pro tyres they felt light, fast, and strong.
Before we talk about the ride we should probably answer the ‘why’ question. Why have Cannondale, Giant and Ridley and others all launched disc braked race bikes this month? On one level we’d guess because they hoped they’d be ridden in the Tour de France that starts this week. That’s not to be, though for Cannondale clearly, the sales of the CAAD 12 Disc demonstrated there is a demand for such a bike - and our best guess is that they are coming to the peloton sooner or later. Probably sooner.
The concerns of the two Cannondale pros in attendance at the launch was that the performance advantages offered when dropping down a mountain shouldn’t be offset by added weight going up it - and Cannondale seems to have cracked that one.
From Cannondale’s perspective - aside from the fact that they hope to sell a lot of bikes - road disc brakes are a technology they are committed to. Discs have two big things going for them on a performance bike. First, they offer a massive performance descending an alpine climb - don’t believe me? Check out Toms Skujinš descent of the Kitzbüheler Horn on Strava - and he wasn’t even trying, as you can see from his heart rate. And second, consistency of performance disc brakes deliver a lot more stopping power for a lot longer than rim brakes - they just do.
Okay, finally the ride
Not so long ago a riding a race bike was like riding a thoroughbred horse (not that I’ve ridden the latter) fast, thrilling, not necessarily comfortable and with a high potential for being exciting in a bad way. That is not the case here. The SuperSix Evo is a bike that would be fun to ride even if you were just pootling along - like driving a Ferrari in second gear (I imagine).
Stamp on the pedals though and off it goes - acceleration is rapid (even with me on it) thanks to a very stiff frame. Once that stiffness would have come at the expense of a jittery, harsh ride. Those days are now long gone and the SuperSix Evo already pretty much sets the benchmark when it comes to a smooth ride.
And all that still applies to the Evo Disc. If anything this year's model is even smoother than its already very smooth predecessor – Cannondale has tweaked the design of the rear triangle – or as they call it the Speed Save micro suspension system – to increase its shock absorbing properties to boost comfort.
Those tweaks do more than just comfort though they also help keep the wheels firmly planted even on fast bends on crappy roads it also mean that this is a bike that will forgive the odd mistake. Corrections off the line, even last minute ones are handled in an unflustered way as are rough and broken road surfaces. Basically, the new Evo Disc handles in the same superb way that the rim braked version I rode last year does, but with the added benefit of disc brakes.
Believe me, if you’ve got to descend the 7km of switchbacks, obscured sight lines and steep, steep, and then even steeper bits with the odd truck, tractor and German tourist coming the other way that the Kitzbüheler Horn has to offer - this is the bike to do it on. The highest tribute I can pay to the Shimano Ultegra discs on the test bike I had to ride is that they were so good that I didn’t feel the need to drag them the whole way down the mountain. In fact, I didn’t really need to drag them at all.
The combination of the perfectly balanced frame, those Schwalbe One Pro tubeless tyres and those disc brakes meant a welcome absence of heart in the mouth moments even when encountering the unexpected - a lorry over-taking a rider combing up - a slight dab on the brakes a tweak to my line and I was through the gap no fuss, no scares. In fact, the squeakiest moment of the whole descent came going though the 20m long single file underpass right at the bottom when a 4x4 decided to squeeze through with mis already 10m in - even that was nonchalantly dealt with.
Basically, if you’re a pro you’re going to be able to descend a lot faster, and if you’re a normal person your’e going to be able to descend a lot faster and enjoy it - because you’re not fighting the bike you can concentrate on picking your lines and enjoying the ride. Me, I like to go fast but I also like to be able to enjoy going fast. On that score, the Evo Disc delivers in spades.
Synapse or SuperSix Evo?
Such is the level of comfort and control on offer here, that it has reignited a long-running topic of debate in the road.cc office – would you be better off with Cannondale’s multi-award winning endurance Synapse, or its very comfy and controlled race bike, the SuperSix Evo?
Don't say I told you but some in these parts have even questioned why you’d need a Synapse at all when the Evo is pretty much as comfortable and in most respects no less versatile – if you wanted to fit mudguards to either bike they’d have to be the clip-on variety, and if you wanted a slightly more upright position on the Evo - just fit more spacers under the stem, it comes with plenty.
The SuperSix Evo Disc narrows what gap there is between the two bikes even more. The 25mm tubeless tyres contribute to an even smoother ride with bags of grip - and there’s ample clearance to go up to 28mm should you want to. If you were going to buy a Synapse and slam the stem because that was your only option for a performance oriented carbon Cannondale with disc brakes then you should probably be looking at the SuperSix Evo Disc. It's a topic we'll no doubt return to when we get an Evo Disc in for a full review.
Availability and prices? Word at the launch was that the first models should be hitting the shops in Setember though if you're after any of the Dura Ace version you might have to wait until next spring. UK pricing hasn't been firmed up yet - but the inital prices quoted at the launch suggest they shouldn't be too badly Brexited*. The Hi Mod Ultegra Di2 Disc model I rode should come in at around £4,700, with the non-Di2 Ultegra version at £3,500 and the standard Evo Carbon Ultegra model at £2,500.. Those prices do come with a caveat and are subject to change but they were set yesterday so in the wake of the pound's post Brexit fall against the dollar.
*Bonus new word that had its own launch last Friday morning.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.