Cannondale SuperX Force 1 Review | Best Cyclocross Bikes 2019 – Bicycling

The Takeaway: The SuperX Force 1 has been and continues to be a great cyclocross bike, and Cannondale has wisely chosen not to mess with a good thing.

  • Lightweight carbon frame
  • Slack front end provides crisp steering and stability on technical descents
  • SRAM Force 1x drivetrain offers great performance without driving up cost

    Price: $4,000
    Weight: 18.1 lb. (58cm)


    If you’re having trouble identifying what’s new with the SuperX Force 1, the short answer is: nothing. The core of this bike has been so good for so long that it’s actually forced Cannondale into a tight spot: It could keep making the same great bike and risk looking like its line of ’cross bikes is stagnant or it could make a change just for the sake of change and risk losing a part of what has kept the SuperX platform a frequent flyer amongst the best cyclocross bikes. Sure, there have been some tweaks and modifications along the way, most notably the change over to disc brakes and thru-axles, but the bones are the same.

    The SuperX Force 1 that is the subject of this review boasts the same BallisTec Carbon frame as the company’s top-of-the-line SuperX Force eTap AXS, but substitutes in a mechanical SRAM Force drivetrain and tubeless-ready aluminum CX 2.0 wheels to save money.

    Cannondale SuperX Force 1 Details

    Style: ’Cross
    Material: Carbon
    Tire clearance: 700 x 40mm
    Drivetrain: SRAM Force 1x
    Brakes: SRAM Force HRD, 160mm rotors
    Wheels: Aluminum CX 2.0
    Tires: 700 x 33mm Vittoria Terreno Mix TNT, tubeless-ready
    Cranks: Hollowgram
    Cassette: 11-36t
    Chainring: 40t
    Handlebar: Aluminum Cannondale 2, compact drop
    Stem: Aluminum Cannondale 2
    Seatpost: 25.4mm Carbon Cannondale 2
    Saddle: Fabric Scoop Flat Elite

    Short chainstays, a slack front end, and massive mud clearance make this bike great in the mud and allow it to excel on technical courses, handling the rowdiest descents a ’cross course can throw at it with astonishing ease. It’s not new and it’s not flashy (although this new paint job is certainly eye-catching), but when you have something this good, you don’t mess with it just for the sake of presenting something “new.”

    Courtesy of Cannondale

    Excels on the Most Technical Courses

    A standout feature on this latest SuperX is the slack front end—so relaxed compared to other bikes that it’s visibly different. All sizes, except the 46cm, have a 71-degree head angle and 55mm of fork offset. If you haven’t been paying attention to the trend in off-road geometry, you may find this surprising. You might even think that’s silly for a bike that needs to both track tightly through hairpin turns and execute quick changes in direction at high speed. Rest assured, if you can’t turn this bike hard enough, it’s not because the bike lacks ability or agility.

    The ancillary benefit to such a slack front end is a bike that’s more stable on rough and rowdy descents, which is becoming increasingly important because, just like with mountain bike courses, the trend in cyclocross is favoring more technically demanding circuits.

    5 Things We Love About
    the Cannondale SuperX Force 1

    Another standout feature is the magical pairing of short chainstays (422mm) and massive tire clearance. While the longer front end allows for stability over rough terrain, the short rear center keeps more weight over the back wheel for better traction and helps the bike feel very maneuverable. Normally short chainstays have a slight drawback in the form of decreased tire clearance. In this case, Cannondale gives you the best of both worlds—generous tire clearance for up to 40mm rubber and the tight handling of short stays.

    If you’re stuck under the thumb of the UCI, you’ll have oodles of mud clearance when you run your scrawny 32mm tires, and if you refuse to let the Man keep you down, you’re free to use some pretty fat tires to make your ’cross riding experience as plush as possible.

    SRAM Force 1x

    SRAM’s mechanical Force 1x groupset is a tried-and-true performer, offering performance that’s nearly indistinguishable from the more expensive RED drivetrain. SRAM Force HRD 1 hydraulic disc brakes, with 160m rotors on the front and rear, round out the nearly complete Force groupset. The only deviation from a complete groupset is the Hollowgram crankset, with a 40t chainring. While some riders may prefer a larger ring, a 40t ring is a versatile choice, especially when paired with an 11-36 cassette.

    The aluminum cockpit is courtesy of Cannondale, with a 7-degree stem and a compact drop handlebar. The seatpost, however, is carbon—a 25.4mm Cannondale 2 UD Carbon post with a Fabric Scoop Flat Elite saddle. Aluminum CX 2.0 tubeless-ready wheels are very utilitarian, and 33mm Vittoria Terreno Mix tires, also tubeless ready, are good for both casual racing and cyclocross practice sessions alike.

    SuperX Family

    Including our Force 1 test bike, there are four bikes in the SuperX family ranging in price from the $3,150 SuperX GRX up to the SuperX Force eTap AXS for $7,050. For the vertically challenged, the SuperX Women’s Force 1 ($4,000) has the same build as the bike that’s the subject of this review but comes only in sizes 46, 51, and 54cm and features a shorter stem and narrower handlebar per size when compared to the SuperX Force 1.

    Short Reach, Slack Front End

    Next to the short chainstays and slack front end, the SuperX stands out for its short reach and low bottom bracket—a stark contrast to a bike like the Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie, which sits at the opposite end of the cyclocross design spectrum relative to the SuperX. The Van Dessel has steep angles (73-degree head angle, 74-degree seat angle), a short front center (624mm), a long reach (408mm), and a high bottom bracket (65mm drop), whereas the SuperX has a shallow head angle (71 degrees) paired with a steeper seat angle (73.5-degrees), a long front center (635mm), a short reach (392mm), and a low bottom bracket (68mm drop).

    The short reach allows you to keep the handlebar close for better maneuvering, while the long front end adds stability over rough terrain, especially when going downhill. The low bottom bracket adds to that feeling of stability, although it comes at the cost of slightly decreased pedal clearance. For the most part that’s not a big deal, although if you’re coming off a bike with a high bottom bracket, you’ll experience a short learning curve as you figure out what kind of turns and off-cambers you can and can’t pedal through without clipping a pedal. That said, planting a pedal in a grassy turn of a ’cross course is far less problematic than smacking a rock while on a mountain bike ride, or clipping a pedal on the pavement in a criterium.

    Smooth, Crisp, and Reliable

    When you first set out on the SuperX, there isn’t anything that immediately jumps out at you. That’s not a bad thing. Whether rolling along the pavement on your way to the trails or cruising through a benign section of grass or gravel, the bike feels unremarkable. To this tester, that’s a welcome sensation in those situations. It’s not until you really get after it that you begin to understand why this bike is such a standout. When sprinting for the hole shot, you’ll notice that it feels stiffer and more responsive than what you’d expect from a bike with wide tires run at low pressure. And when diving into high-speed turns, you’ll be struck by how smoothly the bike tracks over rough grass as you lean hard into the corner. At race speed, the steering is smooth, precise, and reliable, not so twitchy that it’s easy to oversteer as you flip quickly from corner to corner with a very fluid and natural feeling.

    This isn’t the first bike that shares the aforementioned handling characteristics, but where the SuperX really shines is on steep, gnarly descents—the rougher and steeper the better. That’s where you really feel the benefit of that slack front end. The aggressive nature of a typical position on a cyclocross bike has a lot of weight on the front wheel and somewhat limits the rider’s ability to shift weight back and lower, relative to the handlebar. For that reason, steep descents can feel unnerving, and it can be very easy to get off balance, setting yourself up for an unplanned trip over the front of the bike. The SuperX doesn’t save you from that entirely, but if you’re accustomed to that feeling, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as you encounter it less often aboard the SuperX.

    The beauty in this bike is that it’s a good bike for any rider at any skill level. Some bikes are good for beginners but fall short as a rider’s skill and strength progress. Others are designed for highly skilled riders and are too much bike for the beginner ’cross rider. The SuperX crosses over to all skill levels. Both forgiving enough for beginners and finely tuned enough for the best professional riders, The SuperX is one cyclocross bike for everyone.