What a bike the new Cannondale SystemSix is! It’s a responsive road bike that’s comfortable and, if Cannondale’s claims are correct, extremely aerodynamically efficient.
Cannondale took me out to the launch in Girona, Spain last week and I got the chance for two rides on the new SystemSix Hi-MOD Ultegra Di2 (£6,499.99) – one of 53 miles and the other of 47 miles, so 100 miles all in. The first was rolling and fairly stop-starty, the second was an out-and-back to the top of the Rocacorba climb (980m).
I can’t comment on the SystemSix’s aero efficiency, even though that has played a huge part in the development process. You’ll often hear people say that this or that bike feels fast but in reality you need to visit a wind tunnel to make a valid assessment. I can only pass on Cannondale’s claim that “SystemSix delivers more speed, to more riders, more of the time” as a result of a frame, fork, seatpost, bar, stem and wheels that are designed to work together as a system to reduce drag.
What I can tell you is that, not surprisingly, the SystemSix’s geometry allows you to ride in an aero position, and seeing as you make a far larger contribution to overall drag than your bike, that makes a big difference.
The SystemSix doesn’t have an identical geometry to the SuperSix Evo, but it isn’t a million miles away either. I’ll tell you about the 58cm model because that’s the one I rode. The seat tube is 55.3cm, the effective top tube is 57.6cm and the head tube is 17.2cm.
The stack on this one is 58cm (versus 58.4cm on the SuperSix Evo) and the reach is 39.8cm (versus 39.9cm). The wheelbase is identical at 100cm.
In other words, this is a fairly typical race geometry, putting you into a low and stretched riding position. I had quite a large stack of spacers underneath the stem that I’d have reduced given more time for a slightly more aggressive setup. That’s quite a simple job, by the way, despite the internal cable routing. The spacers are clam shell-type so you can remove and replace them without the need to detach the brake hoses.
You also get the choice of various different stem lengths and handlebar widths for further tuning the fit. As it was, I found the geometry spot on for the type of riding for which the SystemSix is designed – if not solely racing, certainly performance-focused.
In the past a lot of bikes designed with aerodynamics in mind have left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort, but I didn’t have any issues with the SystemSix in this department. Logic would suggest that having the seatstays join the seat tube low for aerodynamic reasons also allows a little more flex at the saddle, but I couldn’t tell you for certain whether that’s happening here or not.
Large tyres definitely allow for an improvement in comfort. Although the Vittoria Rubino Pro Speeds fitted across the SystemSix range are labelled 700 x 23, they actually measure 26mm across when fitted to Cannondale’s super-wide Knot64 wheels. If that’s not enough width for you, the bike has clearance for anything that measures up to 30mm when fitted.
The whole idea of the wheel design, with a rim that has an outer width of 32mm, is that it’s suitable for wider tyres. Air flowing over a wider tyre is intended to attach cleanly to the rim and minimise drag, rather than detaching and leaving a wide wake behind it.
The wheels are tubeless compatible although the tyres aren’t so you’d need to swap them for something else if you want to go down that route.
I did manage to get a flat coming down Rocacorba. The hedges and verges had just been cut leaving a whole load of leaves, twigs and stuff in the road. Hidden amongst that lot was evidently something large and jagged – a big stone, I think – which I hit at [checks GPS file] 37mph, and ended up with a pinch flat. You’d be more likely to survive something like that with a tubeless setup because there’s no inner tube to get punctured between the rim and whatever you whack into.
The various SystemSix models come with either a Cannondale Knot SystemBar handlebar or a Vision Metron 4D Flat UD carbon handlebar/stem. I’ve used the Vision Metron4D lots in the past having liked it so much that I bought one for myself. The SystemSix Hi-MOD Ultegra Di2 is fitted with Cannondale’s new bar and it’s also an excellent design.
The bar has truncated airfoil profiled tops that, rather than being pointed at the front and angular at the rear, are rounded and comfortable when you rest your hands up there on the climbs. You get 8° of angle adjustment on the handlebar so, again, you can fine-tune things for the exact fit that you want.
I won’t harp on about the disc brakes too much because you probably already know whether or not you want them. If you don’t then you need to look elsewhere because the SystemSix is a disc brake-only platform. My bike was fitted with Shimano Ultegra brakes and they performed superbly while descending Rocacorba, offering excellent power and lever feel. Mind you, it was bone dry so hardly the most testing of conditions, but when a corner turned out to be tighter or longer than I’d expected, I could easily adjust speed with the smallest of corrections. The brakes provided me with a whole lot of confidence.
The rest of the bike handled the fast descents well too. Chuck it into a corner and you end up exactly where you want to be rather than just in the general vicinity. The ride position helped there too. Down on the drops I felt poised, balanced and ready to attack the bends.
I was really, really impressed by the Cannondale SystemSix on my initial rides. It just felt… right. It fitted me well, and that always helps a lot, of course, but more than that it’s a bike that reacts quickly, handles beautifully and doesn’t make you feel like you’ve just taken a kicking. I’d really like to get to know the SystemSix better because the first couple of rides make me think that this is a seriously good proposition.
For more info go to Cannondale.com/SystemSix.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight 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 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.