The Cannondale SystemSix avoids the teething problems many brand's first aero bikes suffered from
The Cannondale SystemSix neatly fills an aero-sized hole in the American brand’s bike range and, like many other brand’s first aero bikes, you might forgive Cannondale for missing the mark first time around but there’s no need. The SystemSix comes out swinging, holding its own with the best of the rest, earning itself a spot on our Editor’s Choice list.
Seamlessly integrated and very aggressive
If you were to imagine an aero bike, there’s every chance it would look just like the Cannondale SystemSix – completely angular and very aggressive. Starting with the integrated fork and head tube, each part of the frame leads into the next. The front is a smooth sweep, seamlessly helped by the chine, something which Cannondale says helps make the bike aerodynamically fast by re-attaching air from the wheels to the down tube.
The seat tube is exactly what you’d expect on an aero bike – a wide kamm-tail design. It has proven to be one of the fastest shapes, as have the dropped seatstays which are particularly exaggerated on the Cannondale SystemSix.
The angular design turned a lot of heads on my rides, and more than one person commented on the bike’s looks, and all of them mentioned how aggressive it looks and that it’s definitely a super bike.
More comfortable than its looks suggest
Given the stark angular shapes of the Cannondale SystemSix, you might think the SystemSix would be uncomfortable to ride but the frame possesses a comfort that belies its chunky nature. The frame is dampened and riding this bike both on the potholed roads of London and South Wales, the bike felt calm despite the choppy surface beneath the tyres. Similar roads have shaken me down on competing aero bikes.
The smooth ride quality goes hand-in-hand with the bike’s geometry, resulting in a confidence inspiring ride. It is similar to an equivalent sized 56cm Cannondale SuperSix Evo, and its stack and reach are pretty much bang on the same. However, the head tube length is a bit shorter on the SystemSix, making it a touch more aggressive.
The result is a bike that’s comfortable on the descents and fast to handle despite its chunky shapes and overbuilt design. There’s no sluggishness on the corners and the bike stays true to its line – again something that can’t be said for most brand’s first aero bikes. It’s also very stable, probably due to it’s 57-degree trail, the same as the expert handling Cervélo R5.
At 7.8kg on our scales, the SystemSix isn’t as svelte as the other aero bikes launched this year. For example, the Specialized S-Works Venge weighs a slim 6.9kg. However, Cannondale says that the bike’s aero prowess makes it as fast as lighter climbing bikes on gradients up to six per cent. I’ve not been able to wind tunnel test it so I can’t prove that true or not, but on the gentle climbs of Girona as well as the shallow rises back at home, it wasn’t a chore to ride but I’d probably give that credit to the new wheels.
Wheels that do all the work
These are the Knot 64 wheels, which are very stiff and once you wind them up to speed they don’t want to stop rolling. On more than one ride I had friends remark on my rolling speed, and how much faster I was than them because of it.
The rim comes up wider than the Vittoria Rubino tyre specced as stock on the bike, which does look a little strange when riding along, almost like the rim will make contact with the ground before the tyre. Obviously this would only happen if you were leaning in like a Moto GP rider but it’s a little unusual.
Contrary to the belief that a flush tyre/rim interface is the most aerodynamic, Cannondale explained that the wider rim and narrow tyre allows the air to re-attach itself to the tyre, creating less drag. What’s more, the wide rim actually blows the 23mm tyres up to an exaggerated 26mm width, so you do get a bit more width out of your tyres which is worth bearing in mind before you spec 25 or 28mm tyres.
The Vittoria Rubino tyres wouldn’t be my first choice of tyre and I would swap them for a more racy set to better match the wheels and the frame. I’ve seen riders using Schwalbe One tubeless tyres blown up wide on the rim.
This particular SystemSix sits fourth tier in the SystemSix range, costing £4,999 and sitting below the Hi-Mod carbon options. For the price, you get Shimano’s Dura-Ace drivetrain with a Cannondale Si crank and Spidering chainring. The bar and stem aren’t the new Knot models as found on the top tier options but a carbon Vision selection. The top tier models also come with a Power2Max power meter.
Thanks to lessons learned from it’s Slice time trial bike, Cannondale obviously knows how to make an aerodynamic bike. But what’s impressive is that it managed to create a whole package that works very well first time around, when many bike brands historically have taken two or three attempts to get it correct.
Cannondale's SystemSix is an impressive all-round package for a brand's first aero bike attempt.