Time and again we have asked where is a Cannondale aero road bike? With the proliferation of aero road bikes over the past few years, it was always surprising that Cannondale hadn’t gotten into the game yet. And then when they hired Damon Rinard, one had to assume that a new bike would be on the way soon. And yet, silence. And then the whispers started up again – caused mostly by a few Cannondale branded (but names hidden) aero road bikes being ridden at races this spring. But we have seen this before from Cannondale. Most noticeably the Super Slice that we saw under Andy Potts but never made it to our local bike shop. So we waited. But we haven’t exactly held our breaths. But sometimes where there is smoke, there is fire. Meet the SystemSix – a bike that Cannondale tells us is the fastest and most efficient UCI legal road bike today.
The Cannondale SystemSix
Normally we start these First Looks with all the details on the new bike and then get to the aero charts we know most of you are looking for. Today, we are going to switch that up a little. Cannondale went to the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LSWT), set the tunnel speed to 30mph, and got testing. Along with their SystemSix, they brought a collection of bikes that any of us would be pretty excited to see in our garage.
The results they shared are pretty compelling.
Now, with all aero data shared as part of a product launch, we’re taking it with a grain of salt, knowing that different criteria can affect the final results. So we will await some independent analysis. But at first glance, it appears to be a seriously interesting bike. One thing we really like is how it excels at low yaw. If you have never read Flo Cycling’s study on real-world yaw angles (https://flocycling.com/aero.php), it is definitely worth a look. But for the TLDR; version it is much more normal to see low yaw angles than high in real world racing conditions. So a road bike optimized with low yaw angles in mind is one that the majority of us will find more benefits from.
So how did they get there – ok now we are going to dive into the details. Cannondale tells us they took a six-point approach to building a complete System(Six)… see what they did there? Cannondale treated the major components of a bike – frame, fork, wheels, seatpost, bar, and stem as individual components for optimization towards the complete picture.
The frame features tailored aero profiles throughout. As well as a chine to control airflow. The chine on the downtube is a unique characteristic of the SystemSix that serves a specific aerodynamic purpose. Due to the rake of the fork leg there is a pocket of flow that runs up the back of the fork leg towards the fork crown. The chine redirects this flow and channels it downstream, preventing it from continuing upwards and interfering with the clear flow over the fork crown and headtube above. Above the chine there is one continuous airfoil profile that encompasses the fork crown, head tube and down tube. This ensures clean flow over the whole fork crown region.Looking at the images we see many of the features that we have come to expect from aero road bikes – kammtail shaping throughout, dropped seat stays, and an enlarged downtube to hide water bottles.
The fork is disc brake only – something that Cannondale decided from the get go with the SystemSix. There is room for larger diameter tires. And the individual fork legs are asymmetric to better handle the needs of disc brakes. From the outset Cannondale decreed that the brake lines would not pass through the head set bearings and that it mshould be possible to adjust stack without disconnecting any cables or hoses. The result is a design that routes cables through an enclosed channel in front of the head tube, bypassing headset bearings and the fork steerer. The head tube incorporates a separate carbon liner sleeve that protects the cables from contacting the steerer. The trade off to the ease-of-use design is that the steering angle needs to be limited so that excess steering angle cannot be applied and damage the brake hoses. Therefore, the steering on SystemSix is limited to ± 50°.
The KNØT SystemBar and Stem is a unique setup designed specifically for SystemSix. It provides the integration of a one-piece bar and stem but retains the fit and adjustability of a two-piece system. The KNØT SystemBar comes in four widths: 38, 40, 42 and 44cm. Every size bar has a 30mm flair from the hoods to the end of the drops. A size 42cm bar measures 40cm at the hoods and widens 30mm at the end of the drops (center-to-center). The bar a stem interface permits 8° of pitch adjustment in the handlebar. The KNØT stem comes in a range of lengths to allow riders to dial in their fit: 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120mm. The stem is an open c-section design that cradles the handlebar and permits easy assembly. The lower cover then snaps into place once all the cables are in place.
The HollowGram KNØT64 wheel was the starting point for the entire SystemSix project. Since the front wheel is the leading edge of the whole bicycle it sees the cleanest airflow. Therefore, it was is an important starting point for aerodynamic optimization. The objective with the KNØT64 wheel was to design a wheel that would achieve low drag even when fitted with a minimum 26mm tire.
The result is a Cannondale specific rim profile with an outer width of 32mm. This was only possible by committing to a disc brake only platform for both the SystemSix and the KNØT64 wheel. As well as being wide on the outside, it is also wide on the inside at 21mm. To optimize performance of the wheel system (rim + tire) Cannondale licensed technology from HED to spec the fastest possible tire. HED Cycling Products, Inc. Patent US8888195 B1 allows a wheel designer to predict and design in a particular stall angle to a wheel based on the tangent angle between the rim edge and tire, and having a fast wheel at the desired yaw angle(s). The KNØT64 wheelset also includes a bespoke front hub with a smaller hub shell to minimize frontal area. At only 23mm diameter the hub is significantly smaller than many contemporary disc brake wheelsets.
The SystemSix seat post features a unique cross section matched to its local flow conditions to ensure flow attachment and to minimize drag. This follows the design of the rest of the bike, utilizing an airfoil section with a truncated tail.
Cannondale wanted its higher spec models to be race ready from the dealer. As such Power2Max crank based power meters will be preinstalled on their upper level builds. On all models of the SystemSix you will find an interchangeable plate (SwitchPlate) to house either the junction box or mechanical routing.
For anyone looking for more details you can check out their complete whitepaper here.
There will be five models available at launch – three featuring their Hi-MOD carbon fiber. At the entry level you have the SystemSix Ultegra mechanical feature mechanical Ultegra, a Vision cockpit, and Fulcrum racing wheels. MSRP is set at $4,000.
Next up is the mechanical Dura-Ace at $6,000. Stepping up to the Dura-Ace mechanical not only gets you an improved groupset but also a set of the KNØT64 wheels.
At $7,500 is the mechanical Dura-Ace equipped Hi-MOD womens bike. This steps you up to Cannondale’s higher end carbon with a women’s specific design. You get the KNØT64 wheels of the standard Dura-Ace equipped bike plus a Power2Max cockpit. Like the previous bikes you get a Vision Cockpit.
For $7,500 you also have the option for an Ultegra Di2 Hi-MOD equipped bike. You get the KNØT64 wheels and Power2Max cockpit of the previous model plus the KNØT cockpit.
Finally there is the Hi-MOD Dura-Ace Di2 bike. At $11,000 this is the most expensive option and includes everything in the Ultegra Di2 Hi-MOD with Dura-Ace Di2 components.
And for those looking for fit…
Cannondale is not the first company to treat the complete bike as a system and not just a collection of components but based on everything we see they truly took this down to the most minute details. With every launch of a new product we will keep our final determinations until we get some real ride time – but as First Looks go this is a pretty exciting one! We definitely are looking forward to some ride time on the SystemSix. Stay tuned for a complete review later on this year.