How Cannondale Designed its Smooth, New Street Bikes
From early experiments with huge aluminum frames within the ’80s to newer ventures in carbon fiber, Cannondale has labored to construct a repute as a motorcycle innovator. That makes the corporate’s newest high-performance releases for 2019—the Topstone Carbon, CAAD13, and SuperSix EVO—each stunning and, nicely, not so stunning. Even a fast look at these beasts proves that they signify a brand new evolution of Cannondale’s design philosophy. The overall thought? Make bikes which are quicker on the highway and extra succesful off of it, because of some elegant technical tweaks.
There are many options value exploring on these new rides, however two key improvements stand out: The truncated airfoil design discovered on the CAAD13 and SuperSix EVO highway bikes, and the Kingpin suspension on the Topstone Carbon gravel bike. Aesthetically, the tube shapes and dropped seatstays on these bikes are a departure from earlier Cannondale frames. They’re design highlights you’d count on to see rolling out the door of an indie bike producer. However these options aren’t simply fashion gimmicks.
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“The dropped seatstays and the airfoil tube cross-sections are actually a results of the pace and luxury objectives of those platforms,” industrial designer Ian Surra informed Males’s Journal in an e mail.
The brand new CAAD13 and SuperSix EVO are the most recent in Cannondale’s steady of race-oriented highway bikes. Though constructed from completely different supplies, they each share the brand new truncated airfoil tube design. When considered from the entrance, the body tubes are formed like the vanguard of an airplane wing, however as a substitute of flowing again to a tapered edge like a wing does, the again aspect is squared off—therefore being “truncated.” Cannondale pioneered this form on its SystemSix elite racing bike. However determining the best specs for the CAAD13 and SuperSix took three years of trial and error, Damon Rinard, engineering supervisor for Cannondale highway bikes, mentioned by way of e mail.
“A truncated airfoil, within the common sense as we’ve utilized it, doesn’t describe a particular form however an virtually infinite array of shapes,” he defined. “The best way these profiles are outlined can have a drastic impression on efficiency.”
Courtesy of Cannondale
After experimenting with completely different airfoil-based tube shapes, Rinard and his staff landed on the present model, which yields a hefty 30 % discount in aerodynamic drag. In wind tunnel exams, the SuperSix EVO created much less drag than top-tier competitor bikes just like the S-Works Tarmac, a $10,000 steed (the bottom mannequin SuperSix, by comparability, retails for $2,200).
However does a sleeker body truly translate to higher on-road efficiency? Wind resistance will increase with velocity, and I used to be curious to know if riders would solely really feel the profit once they’re actually cranking. In response, Rinard gave me a physics lesson that additionally doubles as sound life recommendation.
“Some necessary issues aren’t noticeable; some noticeable issues aren’t necessary,” he mentioned. “Noticeable or not, aero drag is at work every time the rider is shifting, even when drafting and even at low speeds.”
He identified that at 30 miles per hour, the SuperSix EVO’s body saves about 30 watts of energy in comparison with the earlier model of the bike. However even when pedaling on flat floor at round 9 miles per hour, aerodynamic drag makes up roughly half the resistance a rider should overcome.
“That distinction in drag remains to be sufficient to make a efficiency distinction even at comparatively sluggish climbing speeds,” he mentioned.
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Apart from aerodynamics, the Cannondale design staff has additionally obsessed over suspension, particularly the brand new Kingpin system on the Topstone Carbon. It, too, is the results of years of experimentation—on this case, beginning again in 2015.
Courtesy of Cannondale
Suspension on a motorcycle calls to thoughts shock absorbers, linkages, and the wonky mountain bike frames constructed to accommodate them. However the Topstone Carbon is a gravel bike; it doesn’t want all that. As an alternative, Cannondale hooked up the dropped seatstays to the seat tube with an axle that enables the stays to pivot. They usually engineered the seat tube, seatstays, and rear portion of the highest tube to flex beneath stress. The consequence is a straightforward, light-weight suspension that amplifies the body’s potential to soak up bumps (it delivers 30mm of journey on the saddle) with out heavy, sophisticated shock absorbers. It’s the centerpiece of the bike, making it succesful off-road and cozy on the pavement.
“The Topstone Carbon was actually developed across the Kingpin system,” mentioned Surra.
The Kingpin has additionally been tuned to ship the identical really feel for various body sizes utilizing a development method known as Proportional Response. The positioning of the pivot connection on the seat tube, the cross-sections of the tubes, and the laminate design are all tweaked for every body measurement. Meaning a shorter, lighter rider will get the identical response as a heavier, taller rider. And since there are not any shocks to pump up and the suspension received’t backside out, the Topstone requires minimal upkeep and no adjustment.
“Possession is extra like a highway bike than a full-suspension mountain bike,” mentioned design engineer Darius Shekari in an e mail. “You simply hop on and trip.”
Courtesy of Cannondale
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Collectively, the three new bikes present the place Cannondale is headed. In line with the designers I spoke to, each the Kingpin suspension and the truncated airfoil design will probably migrate to different fashions within the firm’s lineup. The designs are a transparent indicator of the corporate’s dedication to analysis and top-tier efficiency. Extra importantly, they result in bikes that look nice and may actually haul, too.
”A phrase we throw across the studio lots is ‘timeless design,’” mentioned Surra. “We get rid of quite a lot of the ornamental detailing and concentrate on creating lovely proportions and kinds which are indicative of the operate of the bike.”