Images by Jay Prasuhn
It was just a few days ago that American pro triathlete Jordan Rapp announced his sponsorship change, from Specialized to Dimond. On his blog, he spoke about finding a bike that may well be suited to his needs. He didn’t need the internal frame bladder or a few other features that may well be well suited to many age groupers, but he didn’t find a need for.
What does that have to do with the launch of the new Cannondale Slice? Heck, just a few days ago, the company announced its biggest undertaking in titling the Cannondale-Garmin Cycling Team, trusting in Tom Danielson and Co. in earning the brand some ProTour accolade. Well, Rapp’s pretty cerebral, and his announcement has everything to do with just what a tri bike is—and isn’t.
And that is: no bike can be everything to everyone. It can’t be fastest and climb like a Billy goat and steer with X-Acto precision. And store two saddlebags full of race fuel. And… and… you get the picture. Imagine a claim from Lamborghini that the new Murcialago not only goes 0-60 in a nanosecond, but it also cruises over rutted roads with aplomb and has a massive payload and tow capacity.
That in mind, it’s clear to see Cannondale took this tack when re-designing the new 2015 Slice; why try to be one of the many brands chasing the claim of being fastest bike, where there are so many other variables that have as much weight in ride performance and experience? Don’t chase one feature at the detriment of five others.
One look, and you can see it’s different. It’s the anti-Shiv; lean in tubeset depth, with wispy stays that look like those found on Cervelo’s R5… the company’s road bike. It looks almost frail.
While it was somewhat accidentally debuted at Eurobike last fall, the Hawaii Ironman in October marked the official debut of the completely redesigned Cannondale Slice. And in a market chasing the almighty drag coefficient, Cannondale steps back and looks at the bike beyond just aero. And actually made aero secondary. Or even tertiary.
“We’ll go ahead and say it; we’re not the most aerodynamic bike. We are very aerodynamic, close to what the rest of the companies are doing, but its not all this bike is supposed to be,â€ said Cannondale marketing director Murray Washburn. “The industry looks hard at aerodynamics, but we wanted to look at weight, stiffness comfort and handling. Aerodynamics are an important part—but not the only part.â€
As Washburn notes, it’s a total departure from the aero-at-all-costs bent the industry has been focused on. But if we start seeing wins based on a bike that has greater focus on elements beyond aerodynamics, we may have an industry rethinking it’s focus.
“How much is sacrificed to make those games to say ‘hey, we’re the best in the tunnel?’â€ Washburn says. “In the real world, you have hills, corners, crosswinds, chip pavement. And you also have to run.â€
In name, the Slice has a long history, with four Hawaii Ironman world titles under Chrissie Wellington. But this revamped version saw its true pro debut at 70.3 Lanzarote under Spanish star Victor del Corral last fall, in its brilliant green prototype livery.
Washburn used a spider chart to illustrate the gains other brands had against the Slice aerodynamically. It accounted for anywhere from a half a percent to two percent of deficit. But across the rest of the spider chart were other categories: weight. Stiffness. Comfort. And in each of those, Cannondale said it was best, but a landslide.
And Cannondale’s position was when completing the circle, it ‘s the sum of all parts—not just the aero part—that makes a bike.
The Slice uses a truncated Kamm-style design through the frame’s leading edge tubesets (downtube, fork blades, seatstays, headtube) to keep the sheer materials weight down. That trailing edge has shown to retain an artificial trailing edge airfoil effect, but bends at high yaws, making for a bike that is less affected by high yaw wind angles.
Cannondale openly concedes there are faster bikes. But it also says it’s close enough to keep things competitive. So what of these areas apart from aero?
This is an easy one; less tube depth equals less materials usage, means less weight. It looks light, and it is. At 1,220 grams it’s a pound and a half difference. It’s easily among the lightest if not the lightest current mass production tri bikes on the market. While aero trumps weight, “this is weight savings you can feel,â€ Washburn says. “It’s lighter than most elite road framesets.
Beyond using shallower tubesets throughout the frame, the fork blades, headtube, downtube and seattube feature a truncated aero profile (Cannondale calls it TAP… we call it a modified Kamm trailing edge) to cut the airfoil, thus cutting weight. Using that blunted trailing edge has proven in other bikes to create a better laterally stiff tubeset, and thus a stiffer frame.
Cannondale uses BallisTec carbon, which is the same carbon fiber and schedule orientation used in the bottom bracket of the SuperSix EVO, allowing similar weight and stiffness control at the BB.
Yes, you can have comfort in a tri bike, Cannondale says. The slice puts to use the SAVE technology in its chainstays, which turns the stays on a horizontal flattened axis for a bit of vertical flex and high frequency vibration damping.
The shallower tubesets also makes for a bike that has a bit better vertical compliance capability when it comes to absorbing high frequency road chatter.
Consider, too, that yesterday the team just showed off the bike to a cadre of road media in New York City. These guys ride 15k prologues, often on undulating, cobbled, technical courses through narrow European streets. This may play well into their hands as well.
Cannondale also selected 25mm tires as the spec, with the frame capable of receiving up to 28mm tires. “There’s so much data that bigger volume tire is faster and more comfortable,â€ Washburn says.
Despite serving as supplier for the new Garmin-Cannondale Cycling Team, fit was based around its consumer: triathletes, not its ProTour team. It has an effective seat angle range from 77 to 81 degrees. The front-center was moved forward for a solid aero position with a nice open hip angle, as well as predictable steering and tracking. A slightly slacker head angle increases the Slice’s trail, for that steering predictability. “It’s going to track straight, allowing you to relax and put power to the pedals,â€ Washburn says.
The bike was designed with shorter cranks as well to increase that hip angle, and a low bottom bracket, again for a lowered center of gravity for more stability and greater handling capability.
At its smallest, the 44cm frame goes to a 650c wheel option for decreased toe overlap and better fit for smaller athletes.
This one’s a big one: it packs easy. Normal stem, normal parts means less stress in packing for the races. A 1 1/8â€ steerer fork, standard. Full housing inside the frame (meaning no energy drink fouling up the housing/cable interface), standard. Direct mount Shimano brakes, standard. It’s mechanical and Di2 compatible. And no fear of losing or forgetting proprietary parts. “There’s just not enough benefit to those integrated aero designs to deal with the problems they cause,â€ Washburn said.
And with the company’s road team sponsorship comes a UCI version; as you can see in the below image of the Cannondale-Garmin team bike, the seatstays have a standard aero profile to appease UCI regulations.
The Slice will come in a range of versions. The top-shelf Hi-Mod Black Ink will come with Shimano Di2 electronic shifting, Vision Metron 81 wheels and will price at $10,830. The Hi Mod DA Di2 with Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels will be $8,120. The Slice Ultegra Di2 will price at $5,200, while the same bike with Ultegra mechanical will price at $3,790. Finally, the Slice 105 will come in at a super affordable $2,700. Size run includes 44, 48, 51, 54, 57 and 60cm sizing.
A women’s collection with its own colorways will be made available in 47, 51 and 54cm sizing.
The new Slice will see action this year under American middle-distance star Heather Jackson and Ironman pros Michelle Vesterby of Denmark and Spaniard Victor del Corral.
And why is it relevant to post this news just now, on the heels of the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team launch? Because the bike are just now shipping to retailers, in all spec options and size ranges. So get ’em before the roadies TT’ers do.
“We think it will set the new norm,â€ Washburn said. “This sport is about balance; you have to balance across three radically different sports, and this bike seeks to attain those same objectives.â€
In our opinion, it’s refreshing to see a company take a chance against the norm in the interest of the rider as opposed to the common push toward aero, aero, aero. It seems like it’ll be a damn good move; not every athlete will have the power or want to haul a heavier aero bike up and down big climbs on courses like Ironman Lanzarote, Ironman France, at Cannes International, or Escape from Alcatraz, or the bumpy, hilly roads at 70.3 St. Croix. Will it make a difference that can be felt? LAVA has a Slice Di2 in office for a coming ride review in LAVA Magazine. Between now and then, you can see more on the Slice at cannondale.com