A quarter way up the hill, the Hi-Mod Evo starts speaking to you. “Gear up”, it taunts. “Gear up.” And so, since a piece of carbon can’t outmatch your legs, you do, and then the bike springs forward faster than it did the moment before. On the Cannonade Supersix Evo Hi-Mod Dura Ace 2 ($5,420), your efforts are always rewarded, however hard earned they are.
Cannondale hasn’t overhauled the Supersix in a while, but sticking by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage hasn’t hurt its performance. And, with the introduction a few years back of the Hi-Mod Evo, they took a superior bike and made a racer that’s lighter, stiffer, and stronger than most everything else on the tarmac. For an out-of-the box performance road bike, it’s a top-shelf ride.
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We brought the Evo up and down the coast, from the canyons of Orange County to the hilltops of San Francisco. The most distinctive route, and perhaps the best hours in the saddle were on the Alpine Lake Loop, a segment that pitches high, drops low on curvy, wooded roads, climbs back out from the lake, then flattens out for a casual finish. It highlights the Evo’s forte: a light, stiff frame for alpine climbs.
Bikes that beg you to go faster have a good mojo going on: the right balance of stiffness and feel, lightness and stability. The Evo matches a featherweight frame (which jockeys for the crown of “the lightest frame in the world”) with top-rated stiffness. By layering high-modulus fibers over high-strength fibers, the Hi-Mod keeps weights low while increasing rigidity. Flex zones engineered into the chainstays, seat stays and seat tube do good work to absorb bumpy roads, and the Evo’s ride is smooth. The frame is designed more for lightness and stiffness than aero capabilities — though while it may not win awards in the wind tunnel, it never felt sluggish on the flats. And with its stiffness, that same instinct that hits on the hills — to take it up a gear — also resonated on level ground.
Bikes that beg you to go faster have a good mojo going on: the right balance of stiffness and feel, lightness and stability.
As for geometry, the frame sets you directly over the cockpit of the bike. When rising out of the saddle on climbs or sprints, you’re positioned right on the head tube and front fork, leveraging the maximum forward propulsion. The positioning allows for quick acceleration even while ascending steep gradients, giving a jolt of quickness even on leaden-legged late-ride climbs.
On descents, the bike’s handling remains tight, but the snappiness that got you up the hill also must be reigned on a descent. The forward geometry works for an aggressive downhill approach, but at times felt too far centered over the bars. In certain tight hairpins and fast, decreasing radius turns, the bike positioning felt too front heavy, a touch too aggressive.
Visually, the bike capitalizes on a full matte black finish, which looks good and keeps paint weight down (the darker the color, the lighter the paint, for those who are counting). The externally routed gear cables seem a little outdated, but the design fits with the lightness-over-aero quality of the frame. The Fizik Arione seat is designed for flexible riders; it was a tad aggressive for my ass. That’s a small point, but it further reinforces the idea that the overall anatomy of this bike is designed for the serious rider who seeks out the hors catégorie climbs. And with Shimano RS81 wheels — light and trusty climbers — and a Dura Ace groupset, the Dura Ace 2 setup capitalizes on the frame’s quick-twitch reflexes and keeps the bike springy and sharp but doesn’t force you to tap into a trust fund at the checkout counter.
It’s said that the best bike is the one that you forget about — the one that feels like nothing under your feet. Even — nay, especially at a 10 percent grade, the Hi-Mod Evo does that until, quietly, that inner whisper creeps into your conscience as the bike hints at you: if you’re ready, it’s ready to gear up.