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Pro tips: How to pick your next frame

What to look for when picking out a new gravel, road, or mountain bike frame

November 18, 2022

Need help picking out a new frame? Whether you’ve been thinking about trying gravel, upgrading your old mountain bike, or treating yourself to a new road frame, we’ve got you covered.

To navigate the ins and outs of what to look for when selecting a new Cannondale frame, we asked Lauren Stephens for her expertise. On top of her 11 seasons as a road pro and a long history of riding mountain bike and gravel, she also raced the marathon mountain bike world championships, the gravel world championships, and the road race world championships this year.

You have a solid collection of bikes at home. When you’re not training, how do you decide which bike to ride?

When it’s time to hit the pavement, go on a fast group ride, or do a road race, I reach for my SuperSix Evo. The Cannondale SuperSix SE is my go to bike. It’s a gravel bike that you can ride on the road or jump off the pavement to explore. I like to connect roads by riding grass, gravel, and whatever comes my way. I go for my Scalpel when I want to hit the mountain bike trails. Sometimes I’ll go for single track or some fire roads, but for sure a lot of dirt!

What does a comfortable body position on these different frames look like?

If you think of going from a road bike to a gravel bike to a mountain bike, your torso slowly gets more vertical from one frame to the next. You are getting closer to being upright with the mountain bike. Your exact angle and position will vary depending on your experience, age, and so on.

How important is weight?

Weight is always important. You want it as light as possible no matter if you’re riding a gravel or a road or mountain bike. It depends on how many hills there are, how flat the course is, but lighter is usually better if you can afford it.

How about fit? How do I know what the right size frame is?

On their website, Cannondale has a chart and they give you a range for which size you should run. That’s the best place for that information because your size may vary from one frame to the next. Check out the website and they have a calculator where you put your height in and it tells you what size frame will probably be right for you. It varies a little with your leg and torso length.

What else should I look for in a new frame?

Cannondale does things that are special to increase performance but when it comes to the frame, there’s nothing crazy about it which makes it good. They don’t get too cute with it. The bike does the job you want it to do. I’ve had Cannondales for a long time. I don't feel like they go out of date. I can keep my Cannondales for years and years and years. Early on, I was on Cannondale before I was on this team even. We’ve been racing on Cannondale now for a few years and I’m really happy to be back with them.

So what bike should I get?

There is no right answer. But here are my three suggestions for you.

Cannondale SuperSix EVO

The road frame is going to have a more aggressive geometry. It’s designed for racing road races. Usually your handlebars will be lower and aerodynamics are really taken into consideration. Cannondale always does that on all of their frames but more so on the road frame. We ride the SuperSix Evo which is not necessarily an aero-specific frame but it definitely has aero characteristics that were considered when they were designing the frame. The tube shapes on the road frame are going to be a lot more aerodynamic too. On the road you have higher speeds so aerodynamics play a higher role in overall performance.

Explore the SuperSix Evo

Cannondale SuperSix SE

On the gravel frame, the steering geometry is going to be a bit slower because you’re not riding at such high speeds. You’re maneuvering through tight areas so the steering is a bit slower. You’re going to have your bars a bit higher which the frame allows for. Riding at slower speeds and keeping an eye out means you have to hold yourself up more so being in a somewhat more upright position is going to be easier. It’ll also have a bit wider tire clearance for those wider gravel tires.

Explore the SuperSix SE

Cannondale SuperSix Scalpel HT

I have the new hardtail mountain bike. It’s called the Scalpel HT. I rode that at the marathon mountain bike world championships and I was really happy with it. They’ve designed the frame so that you still get a rigid frame in the rear which means there’s no shock back there but it flexes quite a bit so you get some natural suspension. It has the lefty fork which is unique to Cannondale. The lefty is lighter than a traditional fork. It also uses bearings instead of bushings so that helps make it lighter and smoother. More responsive. Cannondale definitely put in some qualities that make it stand out next to traditional forks. On the mountain bike, you have a pretty short stem and flat, wide handlebars. It’s completely different from what you’d have on a gravel or road bike. It definitely helps you move the bike quicker. You have more leverage with a mountain bike when you have that wider handlebar. Getting up steep hills and things like that, you’re able to pull on the bars more than you can on a road bike.

Explore the Scalpel HT

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