For our very first Fast Bike Friday feature of 2022 we’re taking a look at an aero road bike that sits at the very pinnacle of what’s currently available to race on the road. This premium Cannondale SystemSix Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2 road bike boasts the sort of frame technology and aerodynamic properties that can be found at the highest levels of international professional road racing, along with an equipment specification that cannot be bettered. Featuring the very latest tech from Shimano this race-ready machine features the all-new Dura-Ace 12-speed semi-wireless electronic groupset and is finished off with Cannondale’s own propriety carbon aero components.
When a bike looks fast stood still you know the Cannondale designers are onto something.
Before we get into the details and break down all that’s good with the Systemsix Hi-Mod it’s worth us highlighting just how much we love this super-fast Cannondale here at Wheelbase. It’s a model that has been around for a few seasons already and which was way ahead of the curve at its launch in July 2018. Claimed to be the World’s fastest UCI-legal road bike at the time of launch the SystemSix has since proved itself within the highest level of professional road racing with countless wins and podium places. As long term sponsors of our Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli racing team Cannondale have very kindly supplied us with the SystemSix aero road bike to race on over the last few seasons. For some of our long-serving team racers the change from the more traditional Supersix which they previously raced on, to this aero machine was like comparing night and day; as race speeds continue to increase and aero-efficiency plays an ever more important role in the outcome of most races the SystemSix has proved to be exactly the race tool that our successful team needed.
We believed in the SystemSix so much that we choose it as the race bike for our Wheelbase Castelli Cabtech racing team.
The SystemSix is a true race weapon; it’s almost invisible from the front thanks to that aerodynamic profiling.
The headline with the SystemSix is most definitely ‘it’s fast’, but it’s not just straight line fast, there’s far more going on here; thanks to an in-depth design and manufacturing process that involved countless hours of deep scientific research and testing Cannondale can rightfully claim that the SystemSix Hi-Mod is faster in almost ALL riding and racing scenarios. This is one aero road bike that has plenty of ‘real world’ stats to back up Cannondale’s claims, so let’s break it down..
You’d typically expect an aero road bike like this to be slower on the climbs, however Cannondale state that the SystemSix is faster than a lightweight climbing bike on gradients of 6% or lower, pointing out that most Tour De France climbs average out at around 7-8%. I can remember riding with one of the Wheelbase Team riders in training shortly after they made the move over to the SystemSix from the older Supersix and they mentioned that it felt like they could hold their speed more effectively on longer, more gradual climbs.
Every surface, angle and bend has been carefully designed following extensive wind-tunnel and CFD testing.
Fast on Rolling Terrain
As average speeds in road races have increased, the need to remain aerodynamically efficient has increased too; scientifically, of all the forces you need to overcome to make speed aerodynamic drag has been proven to be the most significant. So cutting out unwanted drag in ALL racing scenarios will translate into more speed with less effort. On rolling terrain, over longer distances these small aero-improvements quickly multiply into a tangible advantage.
Cannondale rolled pretty deep on their research during the development of the SystemSix and can legitimately claim that this race bike is also faster on the downhills. Here’s an impressive stat – on a decent with a 5% gradient a conventional non-aero road bike would need to have an extra 300 watts of power input to keep up with a rider on a SystemSix; that means you’re spinning and recovering while they’re pedalling hard just to keep up!
The dropped seatstays enter the seat tube horizontally to further enhance the SystemSix’s aero efficiency.
Faster in the Sprint
Fancy your chances in the sprint? Maybe you’re always there or there abouts at the finish of your local weekly crit? Let’s face it, nine times out of ten the break gets caught and it comes down to a bunch sprint; according to the technical bods at Cannondale in a 200 metre sprint if you and your nearest rival were both putting out 1,000 watts and you were on a SystemSix you would be four bike lengths ahead at the finish line and there’d be no need to be checking the photo finish.
The carbon fiber aerodynamic seatpost blends seamlessly into the frame with a seat clamp neatly stowed away internally.
Faster on the flats
More science and more stats from Cannondale – as I’ve mentioned already, average speeds of road races at almost every level continue to increase as the bikes get even better and racers get more proficient at training, nutrition and racing to power; even at amateur level, speeds have gone up significantly. At 30mph the SystemSix reportedly saves you over 50 watts, that’s not an insignificant amount when you consider that an average Cat 1 amateur racer’s Functional Threshold Power is approximately 350 watts so you’ll definitely feel fresher deeper into your race when the race-winning action usually happens.
Airflow has been analysed on every surface of the SystemSix frame and fork, resulting in some unique configurations.
Everyday Free Speed
We’re not all avid road racers, sometimes we’re just out riding at a more civilised speed on the weekly club run or taking on an all-day epic. Cannondale assure us that the SystemSix requires around 10% less power input to maintain speed, this means you’ll be ready to sprint for the town signs when all your mates are flagging.
A stunning silver & red paintjob along with simple graphics give the SystemSix Hi-Mod a stripped-back, stylish look.
‘Integration’ is a term that’s been used a lot recently by the bike trade, particularly when it comes to full-on aerodynamic road bikes. When Cannondale originally developed this bike they quickly realised that to be as aero-efficient as possible it had to be designed as one complete integrated system – hence the name ‘SystemSix’. Cannondale’s system consisted of a holistically designed six-point system with the frame, fork, seatpost, handlebar, stem and wheels all being engineered to work as one complete unit which significantly cheats the wind.
A fully-integrated cockpit means that the junction between the stem, headset and frame is almost seamless.
With the aim of minimising drag and being as aero-efficient as possible both the frame and fork heavily feature truncated airfoil profiles which have been developed to hold and maintain airflow across their surface, not just head-on but at angles of yaw too. While we’re talking about the frame and fork it’s worth pointing out this particular model of SystemSix is constructed from Cannondale’s lightest grade of carbon fibre ‘Hi-Mod’. Cannondale’s Hi-Mod carbon is not only lighter than their standard carbon, it’s stiffer too meaning that the SystemSix Hi-Mod Dura Ace Di2 is more responsive to pedaling input; when you jump out of the saddle and put in an attack the bike will jump ahead, while those aero properties we’ve already highlighted will take over as you settle in to the breakaway to help you hold your speed.
The SystemSix Hi-Mod’s headtube is profiled to cut through the air efficiently; the junction between the frame and fork is super-smooth.
Continuing their sophisticated approach to total integration and the creation of one complete aerodynamic system the designers and engineers at Cannondale developed their own handlebar, stem and headset configuration. The brief was clear – create a cockpit that efficiently cheats the wind but not at the expense of comfort or adjustability; while some other bike brands have gone down the route of producing a one-piece carbon bar and stem which can’t be adjusted to refine a rider’s personal fit, Cannondale have ensured that the HollowGram KNØT SystemBar and Stem can be adjusted independently despite their seamless appearance. The profile of the aero bar is as comfortable as it is ‘aero’ with an aerofoil profile that also feels good in your hands. User-friendly adjustability continues with the interchangeable stem which is available in a variety of lengths and rises; elsewhere the Knot seatpost features a truncated airfoil profile, reducing drag and even negating the effects of the high-speed airflow that’s accelerated between the rider’s legs.
Cannondale’s propriety HollowGram KNOT carbon SystemBar and HollowGram KNOT alloy stem keep the front of the SystemSix really aerodynamic.
Cannondale have managed to make the junction between the stem and handlebar really smooth while keeping plenty of adjustability.
The newest iteration of the Shimano Dura Ace Di2 groupset launched to the public in the Autumn of 2021 and there were two significant headlines – first off the Japanese brand had made the leap to a 12-speed drivetrain, catching up with their component-manufacturing equivalents SRAM and Campagnolo. Secondly their all-new electronic groupset had gone wireless, well, semi-wireless to be exact, with Shimano taking a ‘best of both worlds’ approach which sees all the benefits of having totally wireless shifter units on the handle bars so that the need to route wires from the bar through the stem and into the frame are eliminated, while keeping a wired portion which links the front and rear derailleur with an internal battery which powers them both. Shimano aren’t a brand to be rushed into developing sub-standard technology, taking the time to consider the best design solutions to achieve the greatest level of efficiency and usability; Shimano say that this new configuration guarantees longer run times thanks to a more efficient central source of power, compared say, to totally wireless front and rear derailleurs which require their own battery power source located on the mechs themselves (as seen on the SRAM system).
I recently put together an in-depth feature on Shimano’s 12-speed Dura Ace Di2 groupset, highlighting all of the key features of this super-hi-tech electronic semi-wireless groupset. You can check it out here.
The SystemSix boasts Shimano’s top-of-the-range 12-speed Dura-Ace Di2 electronic grouptest.
The 12-speed RD-R9250 rear derailleur is the brains of the Dura-Ace Di2 12-groupset.
The latest iteration of Shimano’s Di2 electronic gear system boasts a much more compact front derailleur.
Dura-Ace Di2 R2900 features 12-speed wireless shifters.
Shimano’s Dura-Ace BR-R9270 hydraulic brake calipers are more compact than their predecessors.
The Dura-Ace Di2 R2900 wireless shifter and hydraulic brake lever now features a slightly taller profile for a more secure hold on the hoods.
This latest Dura-Ace Di2 groupset features compact RT-MT900 disc rotors that have migrated over from Shimano’s mountain bike groupsets.
Going back to Cannondale’s completely ‘integrated system’ design approach to the SystemSix Hi-Mod the 64 KNØT SL carbon wheels that feature on the bike have been developed to be an intrinsic part of the complete aero-efficient race bike. The HollowGram 64 KNØT SL wheels were reportedly the first component of the SystemSix project to be developed and magically blend the speed benefits of a low-drag profile with the lightweight, fast-rolling properties required to gain a jump on the competition and the ability to hold your speed over longer distances. These disc-brake-specific wheels boast an extra wide rim to help give the tyre a wider footprint for more comfort and control. Taking aero-efficiency to the extremes Cannondale have even measured the airflow over the join between the tyre and the rim with this wider rim configuration also helping to make your tyre and wheel combination be more aerodynamic.
The SystemSix Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2 aero road bike is spec’d with some super-fast HollowGram 64 SL KNØT SL carbon wheels.
Another small but welcome addition to the SystemSix Hi-Mod aero road bike is Cannondale’s own wheel sensor fitted to the front HollowGram 64 KNØT SL wheel. Developed in partnership with Garmin this integrated sensor delivers accurate speed, route and distance information to Cannondale’s own Smartphone App and also allows you to register your bike and track exactly when your bike next needs to be serviced.
Cannondale include their own wheel sensor on the SystemSix Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2 road bike, ready to pair up with their own Smartphone App.
Super-light with deep 64mm carbon rims, the Knot SL wheelset is both aerodynamic and spritely on the climbs.
Cannondale have included a short-nosed Fizik Tempo Argo R3 saddle which will suit the sort of riding position you’ll find yourself in mid-race.
The Cannondale SystemSix Hi-Mod is a race-ready machine which is super-aero with tons of scientific data to back up those claims. Cannondale have engineered a super-aero road bike that will help you race more efficiently and more effectively so that you feel fresher and less fatigued longer into a race, leaving you in a position to either make the race-winning move or at least follow the attacks and hold your own in the breakaway. The SystemSix climbs surprisingly well, sprints brilliantly thanks to that extra-stiff Hi-Mod carbon chassis and holds your speed when you’ve got your head down and are time-trialing your way to the finish line. As I’ve highlighted in this feature, Cannondale’s fully integrated ‘system’ approach to the design and manufacture of the SystemSix, including all of the main components, even the wheels means that this aero bike is super-fast. Factor in Shimano’s 12-speed Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset and you’ve got a premium ‘race-ready’ road bike that you’ll struggle to out-spec.
The Cannondale SystemSix Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2 is a premium road racing bike at the very top of the aero-road-bike tree; there are NO compromises to this bike’s specification.
- Frame: SystemSix Hi-MOD Carbon, integrated cable routing w/ Switchplate, SAVE, PF30a, flat mount disc, 12×142 Speed Release thru-axle
- Fork: Hi-MOD Carbon, 1-1/8″ – 1-1/4″ steerer, 12x100mm Speed Release thru-axle, flat mount disc, 55mm offset (47-51cm) 45mm offset (54-62cm)
- Headset: Integrated, 1-1/8″ – 1-1/4
- Bottom Bracket: FSA PF30A to 24mm Reducer
- Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
- Crank: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200, 52/36T
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9250
- Rear Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200, 11-30, 12-speed
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9250, 12-speed
- Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9270, wireless, 2×12-speed
- Brake Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9270 hydraulic disc
- Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace R9270, 160/140mm MT900 rotors
- Front Hub: HollowGram KNØT, sealed bearing 12x100mm centerlock
- Rear Hub: HollowGram KNØT, 12x142mm centerlock w/ DT Swiss 240 internals
- Rims: HollowGram 64 SL KNØT, Carbon, 20h front, 24h rear, 64mm deep, 21mm IW, tubeless ready
- Spokes: DT Swiss Aerolite, straight-pull
- Wheel Sensor: Cannondale Wheel Sensor
- Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro Speed, 700 x 25c
- Bar Tape: Cannondale 3.5mm
- Handlebar: HollowGram KNØT SystemBar, Carbon, 8 deg. pitch adjust
- Saddle: Fizik Tempo Argo R3, 150mm width, K:ium rails
- Seatpost: HollowGram 60 KNØT Carbon, 330mm
- Stem: HollowGram KNØT, Alloy w/ cable cover, -17°
Written by Johnny Dodgin
Photos by James Vincent
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