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Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Dura-Ace review

Cannondale debuts its carbon aero road machine

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You’d expect chatter with this much aero shaping, but it kills road noise

You’d expect chatter with this much aero shaping, but it kills road noise (Image credit: BikeRadar/Immediate Media)
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Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Dura-Ace

Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Dura-Ace (Image credit: BikeRadar/Immediate Media)
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The SystemSix is brutally fast when you need it but always nimble and sharp handling

The SystemSix is brutally fast when you need it but always nimble and sharp handling (Image credit: BikeRadar/Immediate Media)

This article first appeared on BikeRadar.

The original SystemSix was one of Cannondale’s first forays into carbon-fibre road bikes. Now, Cannondale has entered the highly competitive aero-road bike genre with the revival of its historic race bike name.

The main goal was to create a bike that was more aerodynamic, more of the time. Cannondale discovered that for, say, a 75kg rider putting out 300 watts, the SystemSix will save a claimed 30 watts of effort over the company’s Evo.

In a 200m sprint at 60kph the SuperSix would be 0.4 seconds faster — in distance terms, four bike lengths. We’ve seen plenty of races won or lost by much less.

The carbon Cannondale range splits into two. Those like the one tested use a mix of high-grade fibres while a smaller, premium range of Hi-Mod bikes employ more high-modulus fibres to add stiffness and reduce weight. They’re aimed at elite riders or those with deep pockets.

My carbon model comes with the always-brilliant Shimano 9170 Dura-Ace groupset with a speed-orientated 52/36, 11-28 gearing combination. It’s one of the best mechanical groupsets ever made: slick, accurate and reliable with excellent brakes to match.

My bike receives a bar and stem from Vision. The Metron 4D Flat MAS bar would set you back close to £500 if bought separately, with a £100 Trimax OS stem, so it’s a pricey cockpit. The bar’s a great shape, its angled-forward flat-top sections offering a broad hold and enough width to rest your forearms on if you want to ease into an aero tuck.

The anatomic drop is the same as Vision’s other bars and one that I love. Its semi-compact shape offers a great in-the-drops feel and the flattened profile of the drop makes for a great hold.

Cannondale’s new wheels, the KNOT64s, are deep for a road wheel at 64mm, but weigh an impressive-for-the-size 1,600g a pair. The super-wide rim, in excess of 30mm externally and 21mm wide internally, wears a 23mm tyre.

When mounted to the KNOT64 rims they come up to 25.8mm and the bike can handle up to a 30mm tyre. The wheels are clamped in place via a new type of thru-axle that, rather than having to be removed completely, is retained in the wheel itself.

Within a few miles the overriding feeling on the SystemSix is familiar, like riding the Evo, one of the best-handling race bikes ever. As soon as I got chance to throw the SystemSix around it felt just as exciting as the Evo. There’s a bit of resistance from the deep wheels under acceleration but, once you’re up to speed, they hold on to it.

I expected a bit of chatter and vibration through a frame with this much aero shaping, and 23mm tyres, but the combination of the clever frame construction and Vittoria Rubino tyres does an admirable job of killing road noise.

The SystemSix is what an aero bike should be: brutally fast when you need it but always nimble and sharp handling, tempered with a quality of ride that won’t beat you up and sap your energy.

When a design can pull off all of these traits you’re getting close to the perfect all-rounder. It may be carrying a bit of extra weight over some of its rivals but it’s worth remembering that in this guise, although expensive, it’s half the cost of some of those rivals.

Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Dura-Ace specifications

  • Sizes: 51cm, 54, 56, 58*, 60 (*Tested)
  • Weight: 8.23kg
  • Frame: BallisTec Carbon
  • Fork: BallisTec Carbon
  • Chainset: Cannondale Si, 52/36
  • Bottom bracket: Cannondale press-fit
  • Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace 11-28
  • Chain: Shimano Ultegra
  • Mechs: Shimano Dura-Ace
  • Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace
  • Wheelset: Hollowgram KNOT64
  • Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro G+, 23mm
  • Wheel weight: 1.21kg (f), 1.56kg (r)
  • Stem: Vision Trimax OS
  • Bar: Vision Metron 4D MAS flat carbon bar
  • Headset: Tapered
  • Saddle: Prologo Dimension Tirox
  • Seatpost: KNOT Carbon
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace hydro disc, 160/ 140mm IceTech rotors

Cannondale SystemSix Carbon Dura-Ace geometry

  • Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 73 degrees
  • Fork offset: 4.5cm
  • Trail: 5.7cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 6.9cm
  • Chainstay: 40.5cm
  • Seat tube: 54cm
  • Top tube: 60cm
  • Head tube: 17.2cm
  • Stack: 58cm
  • Reach: 39.8cm
  • Wheelbase: 100cm

BikeRadar Score: 4 stars

BikeRadar Verdict: "A rapid-handling race bike with cutting-edge aerodynamics"

  • Highs: Sublime Evo-like handling, spellbinding speed and smooth with it
  • Lows: Deep-section wheels can be a bit ponderous on climbs
  • Buy if: You favour aero benefits over light weight but don’t want to compromise comfort or handling

Price: £4,999