Over the past year, we have seen a new type of bike enter the triathlon market – bikes that buck the system. We’re talking about a bike that seeks to be the most triathlete-friendly, rather than simply the fastest bike possible. The Quintana Roo PR6 was the first super bike to really follow this philosophy. With its easy-to-fit design combined with the ability to build the bike using only two Allen wrenches and simple-to-adjust brakes, the PR6 was one of the most triathlete-friendly bikes on the market. But at the entry- to mid-level end of the market, where the majority of bikes are purchased, we had yet to see a bike company stand up and say that, more than anything, the needs of the triathlete defined their bike. And that while aerodynamics is a fundamental piece of any bike, it would be balanced equally with fit, weight, comfort, and handling. Cannondale, with the benefit of their Guru Fit Systems partner, set out to build a bike with this philosophy. And the new Slice is the result.
The Cannondale Slice
One of the first things to be noticed about this new Slice is that it’s the successor to the original Sliced—not the Slice RS. The original Slice was one of the most successful tri bikes created, with four wins at Kona—three under Chrissie Wellington, and one with Mirinda Carfrae before she moved to Felt. Therefore Cannondale knew they had some big shoes to fill with this bike.
First and foremost, it wasn’t going to be a superbike. That’s not what the Slice was, and not what it would be (for now, Cannondale will continue to offer the Slice RS as a frameset for those looking for their superbike option). So at the beginning of the design process, the Cannondale engineers had the choice to build the fastest entry- to mid-level frame around, or to do something very different. Instead, they opted for balance.
“We were designing for real triathletes, competing in the real world, so we called this balanced approach to performance RealTri Technology. It’s designed to help real triathletes go faster, stay fresher and rider easier,” said David Devine, Cannondale Project Manager.
But that does not mean that the Slice completely ignored aerodynamics either. As stated in their press conference, all things being equal, the most aero bike wins. However, Cannondale quickly clarified by reminding us that the only place all things are really equal is in the tunnel. In the chart below, you can see that the new Slice beats the previous frame in the tunnel. And considering that Heather Jackson has been winning consistently on the previous frame, that still says quite a bit. The new Slice features Cannondale’s Truncated Aero Profile tube shapes, which are designed to deliver the same aero benefits in a lighter and stiffer package.
Being that this is not a superbike (and not coming with a superbike price), the lack of an integrated fork is not surprising. Instead, you get a fork which cleanly fits into the frame. All cabling is internal, with the wires entering through the top tube—a big improvement from the original Slice. The front brake is a Shimano Direct mount located in front of the fork. The rear brake is also a Shimano direct mount located below the chainstays.
The new Slice is light. The standard frame and fork is 60g lighter than the previous Slice, and if you upgrade to the Hi-Mod carbon version it is 320g lighter. When compared to the P3, you get a savings of 230g vs the standard Slice and the Shiv (with its deep downtube) is 470g heavier.*
Cannondale is quick to tell you how comfortable this bike is to ride, but it wasn’t until they said that the Slice is “more compliant than most endurance road frames” that we understood what their original goal had been. The new AERO SAVE micro-suspension system is built around the ultra-thin (non-UCI-legal) seat stays, AeroPlane chainstays, and fork. Our concern with this suspension was whether it would translate to lost power, but Cannondale was quick to assure us that while they could have gone much more compliant, they tuned the suspension to its final production level based on a balance between power transfer and comfort.
Cannondale has chosen to go with vertical dropouts on the new Slice. The downside is a lack of adjustability on how close you can set your wheel\tire to the seat tube. But the upside is much faster wheel changes either in your garage or, more importantly, out on the course. The Slice also features enough clearance behind the seat tube to fit 28c tires.
Guru Fit Systems were a part of the Slice design process from the beginning and played a big part in the developmental process. Cannondale built the Slice around a 79° seat angle (with an effective range of 77° to 81°) and moved the fork and wheel forward to allow an athlete to maintain that angle, while creating a more stable bike. The Slice also features a lower bottom bracket to further enhance bike stability. Cannondale has chosen to spec shorter cranks than the previous iteration. With 44-54cm Slices receiving 165mm cranks, and the 57-60mm getting 170mm.
The Slice is going to be offered in a complete range of builds—from their entry level $2,710 105 option to the top of the line Slice Hi-Mod Black Inc., which will set you back a cool $10,830.
The Slice Carbon 105 is available in both a men’s and women’s model. The Women’s model is available with 650 wheels on the size 44. The groupset is Shimano 105 (11 speed), except for the crank (FSA Gossamer Pro), shifters (Microshift), and brake levers (Tektro RX 4.1 alloy). The wheels are Shimano RS1. We appreciate that Cannondale has avoided the trend of despec’ing the groupset, and has used both a Shiimano chain and rear cassette. As we said above, the 105 is available for $2,710.
Next up is the Slice Carbon Ultegra 6800 model. Like the 105 build, the Ultegra build is available as a women’s model with an available 650 option. The crank is a Cannondale Hollogram, and the rest of the groupset is all Shimano Ultegra, though the brake levers are Tektro RX 5.0 carbon. The men’s model gets Mavic Aksiums, while the women’s get Vision Team 30s (for both the 650 and 600). The Ultegra will retail for $3,790.
The Slice Ultegra Di2 is the last build available in both a men’s and women’s version. Similar to the Ultegra 6800 model, the groupset is full Shimano with a Cannondale Holloram crank. Unfortunately, there are alloy aero brake levers instead of Shimano’s Di2 specific levers. Both versions come with Vision Team 30 wheels. Ultegra Di2 runs $5,200.
There are two Dura Ace Di2 versions. Both versions are built with Cannondale Hi-Mod Ballistic carbon and are equipped with Dura Ace 9070 electronic groupsets, including the brake lever shifters. Instead of the Cannondale C3 basebar equipped on the lower spec’d models, the Dura Ace models get a Vision carbon base bar. The vision bar combined with the Vision Trimax rings equate to a noticeable aero improvement (check out the chart below). The $8,120 Dura Ace Di2 version gets an Ultegra 6800 rear cassette and Vision Cosmic Elite wheels. For those looking to go big, the $10,830 gets a Dura Ace cassette and Vision Metron 81 wheels (a wheelset we reviewed here).
All men’s versions, except for the 105, get a Fizik TriTone saddle. Women’s versions get the Fizik Vitesse Tri MG Rail. Both 105 versions get a Cannondale Ergo Tri.
Being that we are the Aerogeeks, this bike is a bit of a conundrum. While we are always in the pursuit of aero, we completely understand the philosophy behind this bike – a more comfortable rider will be able to get into a more aero position and be fresher for the run. Bikes that force athletes into a position they cannot hold for 112 miles, end up costing as much time as they save. Look at photos of your competitors from your most recent race – how many of them are riding on the pursuits instead of the aerobars? Every second out of the bars is costing you time and energy, and if the Slice helps you stay in the bars longer, then it is worth consideration.
We do have two issues with the bike. First is the complete lack of integrated frame storage or hydration. Being that the Slice is built to be a true triathlete’s bike, this is a major oversight in our book. The Slice even lacks the now almost-standard top tube bolts for a bento box. And looking at the frame, we cannot stop imagining a rear storage solution similar to the Trek Speed Concept. But the good news is that these are the kind of options that could be delivered later in the product cycle, so our fingers are crossed that we see something in a year or so.
Secondly is the price. The Slice’s low-end price just seems a touch too high, especially considering how many 1-2 year-old frames are now available for $2,000 – $2,500. However, this is something we believe will be corrected in a year. This is a new frame, and one that Cannondale spent quite a bit of time developing. However, like all frames, it will drop in price eventually (similar to what we saw the Cervelo P2 do this year when it dropped to $2,500). Although, to be honest, if this frame fits and works for you, the extra few hundred may be well worth it this year if you are in the market.
Finally, this is a bike that needs to be ridden to truly understand it. When a bike is sold on its ability to let you be comfortable and stay aero longer, the only way to get a true picture is to spend time with it. Luckily Cannondale is already working with us to get a Slice for long-term review. Stay tuned for news on the review bike and our thoughts!
*All weights were computed on a size 54 or equivalent.