Creating a bike from A - Z | CANNONDALE SuperSix EVO
With all the new bikes at the Tour de France, what is the process to make them?
The new bikes you’ve seen released in the past few weeks are often the culmination of years work. The two-year-long process at Cannondale for the new SuperSixEVO begins with a mission statement that needs to answer several questions.
What exactly is the bike that’s being developed? How does this fit in with consumer trends? How does it push forward previous iterations of the bike? What technology is available to improve the bike?
Frist, the Brief
Jonathan Shutler is a design engineer at Cannondale, and detailed the thought pattern for the new SuperSixEVO.
For the new SuperSix Evo, David [Devine, product manager] gave a target, "The same, or lighter, than the last one. But it has to be faster, give more comfort, have thru-axles, and have internal cable routing… go!”
The ultimate weight-weenies’ bike, the SuperSix has as strong an identity as any bike on the market, something that Cannondale knows and wants it’s a new bike to fit in with.
Then engineer it… somehow
Shutler continues, “I start looking at the shopping cart of features that we want to put into this, what weight is going to be added onto that product, what can we do to reduce the weight of that.”
How do you continue to cut the fat off a bike that doesn’t have much more to lose? It forces a rethink through the entire manufacturing process, one that zeroes in on every step of the process.
All these little features, we had to go into the manufacturing of them and ask, what can we do to remove weight from those. Let’s look at the design, can we take a different approach to pull weight out of them while keeping them functional?
Shultler and the rest of the team applied that same hypercritical thought to the bike as those weight-weenies, finding places to cut weight where they hadn’t thought it could be taken out.
Dennis Kuerner is the Design Engineer for the componentry on the SuperSixEVO, and was involved in the bike’s custom wheelset. With a custom hub shell and new rim shape, the wheelset was designed for this bike. He also detailed the process for the new internal seat post that cut 35 grams.
“We really looked at every single part of the bike. We made custom hardware for the seat post, custom top clamp, custom lower clamp, custom bolts,” says Kurner.
Any SuperSixEVO also needs to stay true to the classic styling of the original. Intended to feature a timeless silhouette, the engineers don’t have the free license to include oval tubes that they do when designing an aero bike. Nathan Barry is a design engineer that focused on the tube styling, and for him, this balancing act is key.
“I did a lot of research on “how do we go about making a bike that is lightweight, has balanced stiffness, and keeps a classic aesthetic; in profile view, it needs to look like a bike without deep tubes,” he says. “I developed a family of shapes that we could pick from and then transplant that into the morphology of a bike.”
Build a prototype and give it to the pros
Even once prototypes are made, small adjustments are part and parcel of the process, to make sure that the bike stands up to the real world.
“Once the first frame comes out of the mould, we do stiffness testing, we do a strength test, to see where we are. We’re always creating laminates, making new pre-form moulds. We start riding it to make sure the ride feel is what we want,” says Shutler. “A lot of those things probably aren’t even going to be felt by most people, we just want to make the bike perfect”
Part of the value in sponsoring the team is having an expert cyclist ready to test your new product. Last year in Girona, Cannondale gave the new SuperSixEVO to their some EF Education First Pro Cycling riders to test, but with a twist.
“We ran a control bike which was similar to what they race + three different variations; playing around with bottom bracket stiffness, headtube stiffness, fork-side stiffness. We brought that to them and went through blind testing,” says Shutler.
“That directly helped us decide what we wanted to press play on in production. People like Hugh Carthy and Matti Breschel were directly responsible for feedback like ‘Yeah, this one turns in better’, or ‘I like the responsiveness of this one’.”
Last but not least, get it out there!
By the time the pro’s are racing them for real, or you’re looking at them in the shop, it’s often been a long, long journey of trial and error, minute improvements and countless prototypes, all to save you 30W.
It’s a trend likely to continue as well, as technology continues to improve, allowing manufacturers to edge closer and closer to the perfect bike. A common theme amongst the engineers at Cannondale is where those improvements are going to continue to come from.
“Lightweight is always going to be important. But aerodynamics, combined with computational fluid dynamics, more FEA, more numerical analysis, and we are going to be really fine-tuning some superbikes” says Shutler.
If you’d like to hear more check out our podcast from the full day at the Cannondale Launch.