Cannondale says cyclocross bikes can be gravel bikes, too
Or, at least, the disciplines can share the same frame. Enter: SuperSix Evo SE and CX builds
We know the SuperSix as Cannondale’s top-end lightweight climbing bike, but now that platform is being broadened out to include models designed for use off-road.
Significantly, although there are going to be both gravel bike and cyclocross bike builds of the SuperSix (called the SuperSix EVO SE and SuperSix EVO CX, respectively) – these bikes actually share the same frame.
There’s been a lot of ink split over the nuances between gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes and how they are optimised in various specific ways to best perform at their respective tasks. So it’s very interesting that Cannondale has decided to roll both types of bike into one here.
A lazy characterisation is that gravel and CX bikes are to each other essentially what an endurance bike is to an aero bike. In both cases the former is a bit more comfort focused than the latter, typically having a more relaxed geometry and wider tyres.
But with that said, we are starting to see a growing number of race-focused gravel bikes, such as the Cervélo Áspero and the Bianchi Impulso Pro. Perhaps there is enough common ground between this style of gravel bike and a cyclocross bike, that one frame can be built to do both.
So let’s now take a look at the specs and see how these builds stack up.
SuperSix EVO SE gravel bike
Cannondale claims the SuperSix EVO SE gravel bike has "proven aerodynamic tube profiles" although this isn’t backed up with any specific stats. However, the tubing does share a similar profile with the road-faring SuperSix EVO and that bike does at least have some wind tunnel data to its name.
With the slower speeds of gravel riding, aerodynamic performance is less of a priority, but if the gains are there to be had, they may as well be taken advantage of them.
Tyre clearance goes up to 700x45c, which is reasonably wide, although not boundary pushing. No word is mentioned on 650b compatibility, though. The rubber specced is the Vittoria Terreno Dry TNT in a 40mm width.
These wrap a set of DT Swiss CR1600 wheels, which benefit from the star ratchet freehub system, which is arguably a more robust design than a typical pawl system. In a bizarre twist for this gravel bike, these hoops are actually DT Swiss’ CX specific model – there is the gravel specific GR1600, which have a slightly wider internal rim width of 24mm, compared to the 22mm here.
In terms of the geometry, Cannondale makes much of just how short the chainstays are, and at 422mm, they are indeed pretty tight. Most gravel bikes come with 435mm chainstays, with only relatively few going down to even 425mm, so Cannondale has been quite progressive here. The head angle is also reasonably slack, at 71 degrees in sizes 51cm through to 61cm.
Stack is 555mm in a size medium, which is on the lower side – but pretty much what you would expect from a more speed-focused gravel bike. The reach, on the other hand, is 378mm, which is a little shorter than you might expect. But that said, with the cockpit featuring a good old-fashioned two-piece bar and stem, swapping in something longer, should you desire, shouldn’t prove a problem.
The groupset is SRAM’s recently released Rival AXS 2x12, which is its third tier electronic groupset with hydraulic disc brakes. In another shock move, the crankset specced is a 46/33 which, together with a 10-36 cassette, provides you with a bigger top gear than you’d get a standard endurance bike (assuming a largest combination of 50x11). Gears this large just aren't really necessary on a gravel bike.
SRAM does offer a 43/30 gravel specific crankset, which would allow you to stay in the big ring for longer and would also have provided a nice sized bottom gear for tackling off-road climbs while heavily laden.
Likely, the choice to spec the road sized rings is down to the wider Q-factor and chainline of the 43/30 gravel crankset. But it should be possible able to mount the 94 BCD spider for those chainrings on a set of standard width SRAM AXS cranks, providing that lower range without any issues with wider spacing.
You can find Cannondale's website here and pricing for this build stands at $5,000 in the USA and £4,600 in the UK.
SuperSix EVO CX bike
Now, in sharing a frame, quite a few of the points do cross over. There are those aero tube shapes – which arguably have more of a justification when you are literally counting the split seconds, as in CX race.
Also, as a side effect of being able to slot in 45mm tyres, there is capacious clearance if you're running the UCI maximum of 33mm. With 13mm of space on each side, it would take a lot of mud to clog these wheels.
And onto the wheels, these are a bit of a mix. The rims are DT Swiss R470 28-hole items and are laced to Formula hubs, with the CL-712 on the front and the RXC-400 on the rear. Tyres are the Vittoria Terreno Mix TNT, naturally in a 33mm width.
The groupset is SRAM Force 1, with hydraulic disc brakes and 1x11 gearing. A 40t chainring is specced up front and the cassette goes from 11 to 36t, providing an ample range for most CX racers.
Coming now to the geometry, the chainstays, at 422mm, are even fairly short for a CX bike, which tend to be around 425mm. Head angle is 71 degrees, while CX bikes tend to have around 72, so the SuperSix EVO CX is a little slacker.
Generally, a slacker head angle is good for stability and making the bike less twitchy, but it can slow down the steering a little bit which might not be ideal for CX.
The BB drop is also a fair bit lower than a typical CX bike, at 69mm of drop – although this still places the BB higher than on most gravel bikes, which tend to be in the 70s.
A greater bottom bracket drop – and therefore a lower bottom bracket – can help you rail around corners, giving more of a feel of being “in” the bike, rather than “on” the bike, but as a consequence there is less ground clearance which can make getting over the obstacles of a CX course a little more tricky.
So it does look like there have been a few tweaks to the geometry which you wouldn’t typically see on a CX bike, but just what a difference these make to the ride can only be told by actually riding it. Watch this space for a future review.
You can find Cannondale's website here and pricing for this build stands at $4,000 in the USA and £3,800 in the UK.
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