It’s almost Tour de France time, which means it’s launch season! Looking very much like the SLICE Tri bike, the new Cannondale SystemSix was designed to be the fastest road bike ever made. They claim they pulled it off using six unique elements – Frame, Fork, Seat post, Stem, Handlebar, Wheels – in unison. I thought that was how all bikes work… Anyway.
Cannondale began by studying the six forces that resist your movement – Rolling Resistance, Wheel bearing friction, Drivetrain friction, Aero drag, Potential energy to climb, Kintetic energy to accelerate. Of course, they also created an equation to put that all together, you can check it out in the white paper. Yes, there’s a white paper. The goal was to build a bike that lowered all of these forces as much as possible.
Most of the study focused on weight vs. aero and where the tipping point existed. The result was a six percent grade, that’s where aero and mass are both equal in resistive force. What’s with this number six? Below six percent, the aero is more important, above it’s weight. The frame itself is pretty light for an aero bike, 981grams for a 56cm. Not groundbreaking lightness, but definitely an impressive effort.
It’s clear Cannondale, like most aero bike manufacturers, looked to bring drag down first. They claim they were very successful, in wind tunnel testing they claim to be faster than everyone else. According to their study, a Trek Madone is 10 watts slower at 30 mph, as is the Venge VIAS. At a more reasonable speed of 18 mph the SystemSix will save a rider 17 watts compared to a SuperSix, which is about a 10% reduction in power. That’s big, but it’s on the order of what other aero bike pull off.
So how does the Cannondale SystemSix do it? The same way most aero bike do. Deep carbon wheels, a one piece cockpit, truncated airfoils, etc… What stands out in the mix is the claim that Cannondale KNOT64 wheels are faster than Zipp 454s and ENVE 4.5s.
So is it the fastest road bike ever? Sure, in a wind tunnel, without a rider on it, with a simulated speed of 30 mph. In the real world? We’ll have to wait to find out, that is if it isn’t eclipsed by another big announcement in the coming days.