Flying with Cannondale's Super V 1000|
Thursday, April 01, 1999
The name Super V brings back memories of me as fourteen-year-old brat jumping around my bedroom and seriously pissing off the neighbors with my first electric guitar. A flying V made by the now defunct company Hondo. Its name? The Super V. No kidding! She was bright orange and she blasted out big burly sounds. She wasn't the prettiest guitar. In fact, many of my long-haired-leather-jeacket-wearing-juvenile-delinquent friends harassed me about how ugly she was. The angles were too sharp and she looked bulky and difficult to play.
I let them laugh because once they put their hands on her neck they never wanted to take them off. The fret board was so smooth and the action so quick that the Super V almost played herself. So when Cannondale asked me to review an orange Super V 1000 I said, "Cool!" Then I ripped off a few notes on my air guitar. Yeah, it was total cheese. But what are the odds of me throwing a leg over an orange steed with the handle "Super V 1000" seventeen years later?
The 1000's roll off the show room floor with Shimano's Mega Nine Rapid Fire Plus shifters, a Fox Vanilla rear shock and a HeadShok Super Fatty SL fork. This sweet package is completed with Shimano XT/XTR derailleurs, Avid Arch Rival 50 Brakes and Mavic X221 eyeletted 32 hole rims with Coda Expert Disc Hubs. Sure sounds good on paper. But how does she handle?
The Fox Vanilla rear shock caught my attention immediately. The Vanilla, combined with a few tweaks from last year's suspension, now gives the rider
120 mm of travel instead of 100. Not to mention the Vanilla is designed to eliminate any pogoing effects. Even when out of the saddle and making power strokes the rear suspension of the Super V remains stiff enough to transfer energy directly to the rear wheel. In addition to being stiff the Super V's rear suspension is durable and easy to maintain. Rarely if ever do they require major maintenance. The Super V has a single pivot point and runs on two standard sized sealed bearings. Replace the bearings if it ever becomes necessary and the bike is as good as new.
On the front end, the Super V comes standard with the Headshok Super Fatty SL and 80 mm of travel. The Super Fatty gives you an extra 10 mm compared to last years' HeadShok. The HeadShok concept is that the patented telescoping steerer/rigid blade design eliminates the inconsistencies of typical dual telescoping forks. Huh?
With dual telescoping forks like a Judy or a Manitou, the shock absorbing movement occurs inside the forks. With the Fatty, it happens in the head tube. The Fatty forks and steering crown are extremely rigid. Which means the Fatty flexes far less than a dual telescoping fork does when put under stress. Less flexion side to side and front to back means more control of your front wheel.
The Fatty is also more durable and easier to maintain than dual telescoping forks. All HeadShocks require less maintenance than dual telescoping forks. Instead of two round legs made of aluminum sliding on steel bushings with only grease or oil allowing them to slide, the head shock slides on 88 replaceable needle bearings sandwiched between replaceable steel races. The entire system is sealed by a sealed bearings headset and a rubber boot. Even if the fork becomes contaminated and destroyed inside, you can replace everything for around $80 bucks and have a "new" fork again. Though dual telescoping forks can be overhauled as well, the legs usually have to be replaced as well. This can become cost prohibitive.
On the trail all of this translates into a smooth ride. The Super Fatty SL handled the small rapid bumps easily and sucked up the big hits as well. I have been a Rock Shox fan my entire career and I must admit I was skeptical about the Fatty. But I was pleasantly surprised at how it handled. The Fatty is responsive, precise and forgiving.
While the angles and aluminum of the Super V are not nearly as elegant and hip as its carbon fiber thermoplastic and magnesium sibling the Raven, the Super V felt just as lively. Its short turn radius makes negotiating tight switchbacks a breeze. Despite weighing around twenty-seven pounds the Super V feels nimble and quick. Sounds heavy doesn't it? But the weight is built around a beefy bottom bracket and rear suspension pivot point. This translates into a low center of gravity. As a result the bike handles much lighter than it is. The extra weight does have a benefit... stability at high speeds and down steep descents.
Conclusion? If I had to pick a bike based on looks and weight alone, the Super V 1000 wouldn't be my first choice. I wouldn't buy this bike for cross-country racing either. But if free riding is your jones than the Super V is a bike you should take for a test ride. Once I was in the saddle and out on the trail, I didn't want to climb off. The Super V 1000 practically rides by itself. And I would punctuate that with a little air guitar. Yeah I know, total cheese.
The Super V 1000 retails for around $2,400. Cannondale offers four other Super V models with different prices and component packages.