Cannondale’s SuperX has a reputation as a winning cyclocross machine. It’s won us over in the past for its good manners and ride quality. The SuperX received an overhaul for this season and the majority of the Cannondale SuperX Ultegra's changes are for the better.
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The SuperX Ultegra uses the same high-end carbon frame as the top bike in the line, but comes in at a much more realistic price point.
In the redesign, the quick-release axles were replaced with thru-axles and the bolt-on seatpost collar was scrapped in favor of an integrated binder bolt tucked under the top tube.
Other significant improvements include a slimmed down fork that’s more comfortable over rough courses and improved tire clearance that make it more capable in the mud. This also gives the SuperX further versatility as a gravel bike in the off-season, since there’s room for tires to up to 40mm wide.
In addition to keeping the bike on track with tech, Cannondale also used this opportunity to revise angles on the SuperX.
“Outfront Steering Geometry” is used throughout the Cannondale’s mountain bike range. The company applied this philosophy and applied it to the redesigned SuperX as well.
Marketing-speak aside, it’s a concept that should be familiar to riders with a mountain bike background. A longer front center and slacker head angle allow the SuperX to handle better at speed. A fork with more offset, 55mm in the case of the SuperX, keeps the steering light.
This longer front end is accompanied by a shorter rear center. The relatively long 430mm chainstays of the previous design have been reduced to just 422mm, which is just slightly shorter than the category average of 425mm.
Smooth is fast
So what do these new numbers mean on the racecourse? The SuperX comes alive once you hit 12-15 miles an hour. I found myself diving harder into corners because I had more confidence in the front end.
This impressive high-speed handling does come with a trade off. At low speeds, the SuperX requires more rider input to swing the rangy front end around turns. Is this a downside? Not in my opinion. This is a race bike, after all.
The bike’s superb high-speed handling isn’t just a result of the reworked geometry. The carbon frame and fork do a brilliant job handling choppy courses.
Those slender chainstays along with Cannondale’s 25.4mm seatpost allowed me to sit and pedal through rough sections where I normally stand and mash, or hover over the saddle.
Cyclocross is often a matter of eking out every last watt in spite of the pain that comes with an hour-long, all-out effort. I’ll take any advantage I can get, and the ability to sit and pedal when other racers are getting jolted around is one of them.
Room for improvement
The SuperX Ultegra has a lot of potential. The Shimano Ultegra brakes and drivetrain are solid performers, but there are two parts of the build that hold it back.
First and foremost, the SuperX Ultegra lacks tubeless-ready wheels. This is standard equipment on most cyclocross bikes at this level, and a significant oversight that puts it behind its competitors.
Additionally, the SuperX uses front and rear thru-axles. Normally, I’d consider this a plus. Unfortunately, Cannondale opted to use thru-axles that require a 5mm Allen key for installation and removal.
While they’re light and sleek, bolt-on thru-axles are a pain for privateer racers who plan to swap wheels, rather than bikes, if they get a puncture. According to Cannondale, bolt-on thru-axles were a feature requested by Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team director Stu Thorne.
It makes sense to offer this on the top-end Team Replica SuperX, but not every weekend warrior has a spare cyclocross bike ready and waiting in the pits. It’s a pro touch that misses the mark with the rest of us.
If you’re willing to upgrade to a tubeless-ready wheelset, or plan to run tubulars with sealant, you probably won’t have to fumble for a multi-tool while trying to change a mid-race flat like I did.
The SuperX Ultegra isn’t race-ready out of the box, but it comes close. The handling and ride quality are outstanding — the faster you go, the harder you push, the the better the SuperX performs.
Despite my reservations about the stock wheelset, the SuperX Ultegra is a smooth operator and one of the best handling cyclocross bikes I’ve ridden to date.