Head to Head: Specialized vs Cannondale Road Bikes

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :

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Specialized and Cannondale are renowned bike brands with a well-deserved reputation for their commitment to innovation, quality craftsmanship, and superior ride experiences. 

Each brand brings its own distinctive approach to road bike design to a wide range of cyclists, from professionals seeking top-tier performance to amateurs looking for excellent value.

In this article, I’ll compare the latest road bike lineups from Specialized and Cannondale, discussing their frame materials, features, and technologies that make them stand out.

Type of bikeSpecializedCannondale
All-rounderSpecialized Tarmac SL7Cannondale SuperSix EVO
LightweightSpecialized Aethos
AeroCannondale SystemSix
EnduranceSpecialized RoubaixCannondale Synapse
Overview of Specialized and Cannondale road bikes

Specialized road bike models

Specialized Tarmac SL7

S-Works Tarmac SL7
S-Works Tarmac SL7. Photo : Specialized

The Specialized Tarmac SL7 is the complete race bike. It’s without a doubt the most popular model among all Specialized bikes.

Now in its seventh iteration (SL7), the Specialized Tarmac combines an aerodynamic, lightweight, and disc-only road bike for all terrains. Light enough to climb the steepest mountain passes in Tour de France, fast and aero for the sprints on Champs Elysees.

The S-Works frame uses the lighter and stiffer FACT 12r carbon, while all other Specialized frame uses the FACT 10r carbon. The difference lies in the choice of groupset, wheels, and components.

There are five models in the Specialized Tarmac SL7 lineup based on its groupset setup. All models are electronic shifting only. It’s also available in frameset only for Specialized and S-Works editions.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
S-Works Tarmac SL7FACT 12r carbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)Roval Alpinist CLX$14,250
S-Works Tarmac SL7FACT 12r carbonSRAM Red eTap AXSRoval Alpinist CLX$14,000
Specialized Tarmac SL7 ProFACT 10r carbonSRAM Force eTap AXSRoval Rapide CL$9,000
Specialized Tarmac SL7 ExpertFACT 10r carbonShimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)Roval C38$8,300
Specialized Tarmac SL7 CompFACT 10r carbonSRAM Rival eTap AXSDT Swiss R470$5,500
Specialized Tarmac SL7 models lineup

Specialized Aethos

S-Works Aethos
S-Works Aethos. Photo : Specialized

The Specialized Aethos is a lightweight road bike designed for hardcore weight weenies. Featuring a more traditional shape with rounded tubes and non-dropped seat stay, the Aethos weighs only 5.9kg for a complete bike.

Pronounced as Ay-thoss, the naming is based on the Greek word Ethos, meaning character.

With its weight below the minimum of 6.8kg mandated by the UCI, the Aethos will not feature in professional cycling. Like the Tarmac, the S-Works frames use the FACT 12r carbon, and non S-Works frame use the FACT 10r carbon.

There are five models in the Aethos lineup based on its groupset setup. It’s also available in frameset only for Specialized and S-Works editions.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
S-Works AethosFACT 12r carbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)Roval Alpinist CLX$14,250
S-Works AethosFACT 12r carbonSRAM Red eTap AXSRoval Alpinist CLX$13,750
Specialized Aethos ProFACT 10r carbonSRAM Force eTap AXSRoval Alpinist CL$8,700
Specialized Aethos ExpertFACT 10r carbonShimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)Roval C38$8,000
Specialized Aethos CompFACT 10r carbonSRAM Rival eTap AXSDT Swiss R470$5,200
Specialized Aethos models lineup

Specialized Roubaix

S-Works Roubaix
S-Works Roubaix. Photo : Specialized

The Specialized Roubaix is an endurance bike that got its name from the hardest one-day bike race; the Paris Roubaix. It has a slightly relaxed frame geometry ad wider tire clearance compared to the Tarmac.

Specialized sponsored teams will ride this model for the race instead of their usual Tarmac for its Future Shock suspension system. This technology helps make riding more comfortable when the pros ride across rough cobblestones at 30mph.

There are six models in the Specialized Roubaix lineup based on its groupset setup. It’s also available in S-Works frameset only.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
S-Works RoubaixFACT 11r carbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)Roval Alpinist CLX$14,250
Specialized Roubaix ProFACT 10r carbonSRAM Force eTap AXSRoval Alpinist CL$8,700
Specialized Roubaix ExpertFACT 10r carbonShimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)Roval C38$8,000
Specialized Roubaix CompFACT 10r carbonSRAM Rival eTap AXSDT Swiss R470$5,200
Specialized Roubaix models lineup

Specialized Allez

Specialized Allez Sprint 2023
Specialized Allez. Photo : Specialized

Over the years, many cyclists have used the Specialized Allez to race criteriums. Eventually, Specialized made a model specifically for that; the Allez Sprint.

The Specialized Allez is an aluminum, entry-level road bike since 1981. Unlike the aggressive geometry of the Specialized Tarmac and Venge, the Specialized Allez geometry is more relaxed to cater to a wider range of cyclists.

There are two models in the Specialized Allez lineup based on its groupset setup. It’s also available in a frameset only. The Sprint model is welded using the D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology, which offers greater acceleration and handling for crit racing.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
Specialized Allez Sprint LTDAluminum (D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology)SRAM Force eTap AXS 1XRoval Rapide CL$6,800
Specialized Allez Sprint CompAluminum (D’Aluisio Smartweld Technology)Shimano 105 (R7000)DT Swiss R470$3,000
Specialized Allez models lineup
More reading : Shimano 105 Di2 (R7100) vs SRAM Rival eTap AXS Groupsets

Cannondale road bike models

Cannondale SuperSix EVO

Cannondale SuperSix EVO LAB71
Cannondale SuperSix EVO LAB71. Photo : Cannondale

The Cannondale SuperSix EVO is an all-rounder race bike.

For years, the Cannondale SuperSix EVO been known for being light, fast, and stiff on the climbs. At one point, many weight weenies were building sub-6kg bikes with the Cannondale SuperSix EVO.

In 2023, Cannondale launched the ultra-premium LAB71 version featuring their latest Series 0 carbon, taking over from the Hi-MOD version as the top-of-the-line offering. Three carbon grades are now used for the SuperSix EVO; LAB71, Hi-MOD, and standard.

All Cannondale SuperSix EVO models are now electronic shifting and disc brake only. The flagship LAB71 models are equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 only.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
Cannondale SuperSix EVO LAB71LAB71 (Series 0) carbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)HollowGram R-SL 50$15,000
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD 1Hi-MOD carbonSRAM Red eTap AXSHollowGram R-SL 50$13,050
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD 2Hi-MOD carbonShimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)HollowGram R-SL 50$8,300
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 1CarbonSRAM Force eTap AXSHollowGram R-S 50$6,500
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 2CarbonShimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)HollowGram R 45$5,500
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 3CarbonShimano 105 Di2 (R7100)DT Swiss R470$4,500
Cannondale SuperSix EVO models lineup

Cannondale SystemSix

Cannondale SystemSix Hi-MOD
Cannondale SystemSix Hi-MOD. Photo : Cannondale

The Cannondale SystemSix is the latest addition to the road bike lineup. It’s designed as an all-out aero bike with a 100% focus on speed.

The engineers designed the Cannondale SystemSix based on a six-part system (hence the name); the integration of frame, fork, seat post, handlebar, stem, and wheels in a package to maximize aerodynamic advantages. All cables are routed internally via the two-piece carbon Cannondale Knot SystemBar for all Cannondale SystemSix models.

In 2023, Cannondale streamlined its SystemSix offerings from five to only one model with the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200).

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
Cannondale SystemSix Hi-MODHi-MOD carbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)HollowGram 64 SL KNØT$13,050
Cannondale SystemSix retail prices in USD

Cannondale Synapse

Cannondale Synapse Carbon
Cannondale Synapse Carbon. Photo : Cannondale

The Cannondale Synapse is for those looking for endurance bike geometry.

Compared to its elder sibling, the Cannondale SuperSix EVO, the Cannondale Synapse hasn’t had any major design changes in recent years. It still features a traditional frame design with the non dropped seat stays with a maximum tire size of 32c, and disc only.

As an endurance bike, the Cannondale Synapse doesn’t use top-of-the-line Hi-MOD framesets. In 2023, Cannondale streamlined the Synapse model from five to three, all with disc brakes and electronic shifting only.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 1 RLECarbonShimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)HollowGram 45 SL KNØT$9,050
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ltd RLECarbonShimano GRX Di2 (11s)HollowGram 45 SL KNØT$7,050
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 LECarbonShimano 105 Di2 (R7100)DT Swiss R470$4,500
Cannondale Synapse models lineup

Cannondale CAAD13

Cannondale CAAD13
Cannondale CAAD13. Photo : Cannondale

The Cannondale CAAD13 is an aluminum race bike.

In the past 10 to 15 years, aluminum bikes are slowly fading off the radar with the wider availability of carbon bikes. However, this is not the case for the CAAD, as it continues to be the go-to bike for many, especially criterium racers.

Now in its 13th iteration, it has the same dropped seat stay design as the Cannondale SuperSix EVO, although their frame geometry differs. The Cannondale CAAD geometry is focused on smooth and responsive handling through corners and performs its best on flat criteriums.

From 2023, the Cannondale CAAD13 will be available in electronic shifting only.

ModelFrame materialGroupsetWheelsetRetail price (USD)
Cannondale CAAD13SmartForm C1 aluminumShimano 105 Di2 (R7100)DT Swiss R470$3,700
Cannondale CAAD13SmartForm C1 aluminumSRAM Rival eTap AXSDT Swiss R470$3,325
Cannondale CAAD13 models lineup

Specialized vs Cannondale carbon fiber

Specialized FACT Carbon

Specialized FACT 12r Carbon

FACT (Functional Advanced Composite Technology) Carbon is Specialized’s proprietary carbon fiber technology. 

FACT facilitates the production of impressively lightweight frames yet exhibits a robust strength profile, thanks to the precise engineering of carbon fiber layers. The result is an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and an enhanced riding experience.

The FACT carbon technology is offered in three grades; FACT 12r, 11r, and 10r. Each grade has unique characteristics and suitability, catering to different bike models, rider preferences, styles, and budget considerations.

  • FACT 12r carbon is the epitome of performance, characterized by an incredibly lightweight frame and uncompromising performance metrics. It’s the ideal choice for riders seeking the absolute best in cycling technology. 
  • FACT 11r carbon is slightly below the 12r in performance but still boasts exceptional performance qualities. It was used on the previous generation S-Works Tarmac models and the S-Works Roubaix today.
  • FACT 10r carbon provides an optimal balance between performance, weight, and cost. If you’re in pursuit of a high-quality cycling experience but don’t wish to pay a premium

Cannondale BallisTec Carbon

Cannondale BallisTec is a proprietary carbon fiber construction technique used to manufacture Cannondale bicycle frames. The BallisTec carbon technology utilizes advanced engineering and construction methods to create frames that balance strength, stiffness, and weight. It involves the precise layering and placement of carbon fiber sheets, which are impregnated with epoxy resin and then molded under high pressure and temperature.

The BallisTec carbon is available in three grades.

  • BallisTec LAB71 is Cannondale’s latest advancement in carbon construction. Also known as the Series 0 carbon, LAB71 is designed to be the lightest and most advanced, taking over from the Hi-MOD carbon. LAB71 frameset delivers exceptional performance, weight reduction, and overall ride quality.
  • BallisTec Hi-MOD stands for High-Modulus, which refers to using high-modulus carbon fibers in the frame. This results in a stiffer and lighter structure, providing enhanced power transfer and a more responsive ride feel. Hi-MOD carbon frames are designed for riders who prioritize performance, stiffness, and weight savings.
  • BallisTec carbon is the standard carbon in Cannondale’s frames, which offers a balance of weight, stiffness, and durability at more affordable prices.
More reading : What is the Difference Between Carbon and Titanium Bikes?

Frameset technologies and innovations

Specialized

NameDescriptionBike models
FACT carbonFunctional Advanced Composite Technology
A carbon fiber construction method that balances lightweight, stiffness, and compliance in Specialized bike frames. 

Available in different carbon grades; FACT 12r, 11r, 10. A higher number indicates a higher grade carbon.
Specialized Tarmac SL7

Specialized Aethos

Specialized Roubaix
SmartWeldAn advanced welding technique used in the construction of their aluminum frames. It involves a precise and strategic welding process that allows for the creation of smooth and seamless joints, resulting in a stronger, more durable, and lighter frame.Specialized Allez
Future ShockA suspension system designed for the Roubaix road bike to improve rider comfort and control by absorbing road shocks and vibrations, resulting in a smoother and more efficient ride.

Located above the head tube, it offers up to 20mm of vertical travel to absorb road bumps and vibrations, enhancing rider comfort and reducing fatigue on rough terrains.
Specialized Roubaix
Rider-First Engineered™A technology that tailors each frame size with specific tube sizes and carbon layups to deliver optimal performance and ride characteristics for riders of different sizes, ensuring a consistent and enjoyable riding experience.Specialized Tarmac SL7

Specialized Aethos

Specialized Roubaix
Win TunnelSpecialized utilizes advanced tools and technologies to pursue aerodynamic excellence, such as the Win Tunnel, FreeFoil Shape Library, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and Data Acquisition (DAQ) system.

The goal is to optimize aerodynamic performance by conducting wind tunnel tests, developing new airfoil shapes, simulating fluid flow, and collecting real-world data to improve rider position and overall performance.
Specialized Tarmac SL7

Specialized Aethos

Specialized Roubaix
Specialized’s frameset features and technologies

Cannondale

NameDescriptionBike models
BallisTec carbon constructionA proprietary manufacturing technology that uses meticulously woven carbon fiber material to create strong and lightweight bike frames.

The goal is to maximize the stiffness-to-weight ratio, providing riders with a responsive and efficient ride experience.

Available in three grades; LAB71, Hi-MOD, and Standard
Cannondale SuperSix EVO

Cannondale SystemSix 

Cannondale Synapse
SmartForm alloy constructionA meticulous process that involves shaping and manipulating high-quality aluminum alloy tubing to create bike frames with exceptional performance characteristics. 

The goal is to achieve a perfect balance between weight reduction, stiffness, and comfort, resulting in lightweight, durable, and responsive frames. 

Available in two grades; SmartForm C1 and C2
Cannondale CAAD13
Delta steererA unique steerer tube design for seamless cable integration to, reduce frontal area and drag.Cannondale SuperSix EVO
Bottle integrationIntegrated bottle cages and bottles designed for improved aerodynamics and streamlining.Cannondale SuperSix EVO 
Speed of SixA comprehensive system consisting of frame, fork, seatpost, handlebar, stem, and wheels to minimize drag.Cannondale SystemSix
Customized airfoilsTailored airfoil shapes for each frame section to reduce drag across various wind angles and increase aerodynamic efficiency.Cannondale SystemSix
SAVE technologySAVE stands for Synapse Active Vibration Elimination, and it is implemented in various bike components, including the frame, fork, seatpost, and handlebar.

The primary goal of SAVE technology is to absorb and dampen road vibrations, which can lead to rider fatigue and discomfort, especially during long rides on rough or uneven surfaces. 
Cannondale Synapse
Cannondale’s frameset features and technologies

Handlebars and stem integration

Specialized and Cannondale use similar design principles for the front-end design of their road bikes.

The race-focused bikes, Specialized Tarmac SL7, Cannondale SuperSix EVO, and SystemSix, have a clean front end with internal cabling. On the other hand, more endurance and beginner models have external cabling.

The top-of-the-line models of Specialized Tarmac SL7, Cannondale SuperSix EVO, and SystemSix have carbon fiber bars and stems. In contrast, the rest have a combination of carbon and alloy, or just alloy for the lower-tiered models.

Bike modelHandlebar and stem comboCabling routing
S-Works Tarmac SL7
Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro
Two-piece carbon fiberInternal
Specialized Tarmac SL7 Expert, CompTwo-piece, alloyInternal
S-Works Aethos
Specialized Aethos Pro
Specialized Allez Sprint Ltd
Two-piece, alloy stem, carbon barsExternal
Specialized Aethos Expert, Comp
Specialized Roubaix Expert, Comp
Specialized Allez Sprint Comp
Two-piece, alloyExternal
S-Works Roubaix
Specialized Roubaix Pro
Two-piece carbon fiberExternal
Specialized Tarmac SL7, Aethos, Roubaix, and Allez front-end design
Bike modelHandlebar and stem comboCabling routing
Cannondale SuperSix EVO LAB71, Hi-MOD 1, Hi-MOD 2
Cannondale SystemSix Hi-MOD
One-piece carbon fiberInternal
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 1, EVO 2Two-piece, alloy stem, carbon barsInternal
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ltd, 1Two-piece, alloy stem, carbon barsExternal
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 LE
Cannondale CAAD13
Two-piece, alloyExternal
Specialized SuperSix EVO, SystemSix, Synapse, and CAAD13 front-end design

Wheelsets

Specialized and Cannondale use their in-house wheelset brands for their road bikes.

Roval (Specialized)

Roval Components is a high-performance wheel brand owned by Specialized. The brand has been around since the 1970s, but it was acquired by Specialized in 2005, and since then, it has served as their in-house wheel brand.

  • Roval Rapide series is built for speed. The Rapide CLX is the premium offering within the series, boasting the highest performance levels and utilizing advanced technologies to optimize aerodynamics and weight savings. On the other hand, the Rapide CL balances cost and performance, ensuring that high-quality wheel technology is accessible to a broader range of riders.
  • Roval Alpinist series prioritizes lightweight performance, specifically tailored for climbing. The Alpinist CLX offers exceptional lightweight construction and performance characteristics, ideal for riders seeking the ultimate edge in climbing scenarios. The Alpinist CL delivers a harmonious balance between cost-effectiveness and weight savings for those seeking a blend of affordability and performance.
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
S-Works Tarmac SL7Roval Rapide CLX51mmYesS-Works Turbo Rapidair, 700x26c
Specialized Tarmac SL7 ProRoval Rapide CL51mmNoS-Works Turbo, 700x26c
Specialized Tarmac SL7 ExpertRoval C3838mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x30c
Specialized Tarmac SL7 CompDT Swiss R47023mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x30c
Specialized Tarmac SL7 wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
S-Works AethosRoval Alpinist CLX33mmNoS-Works Turbo Cotton, 700x26c
Specialized Aethos ProRoval Alpinist CL33mmNoS-Works Turbo, 700x26c
Specialized Aethos ExpertRoval C3838mmNoS-Works Turbo, 700x26c
Specialized Aethos CompDT Swiss R47023mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x26c
Specialized Aethos wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
S-Works RoubaixRoval Alpinist CLX33mmNoS-Works Turbo Cotton, 700x28c
Specialized Roubaix ProRoval Alpinist CL33mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x30c
Specialized Roubaix ExpertRoval C3838mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x30c
Specialized Roubaix CompDT Swiss R47023mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x30c
Specialized Roubaix wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
Specialized Allez Sprint LTDRoval Rapide CL51mmNoS-Works Turbo, 700x26c
Specialized Allez Sprint CompDT Swiss R47023mmNoSpecialized Turbo Pro, 700x26c
Specialized Allez wheelsets and tires configurations

Cannondale (HollowGram)

HollowGram is Cannondale’s in-house bike components brand. In recent years, HollowGram wheels are used in mid to top-of-the-line Cannondale models. 

  • All-rounder wheelsets. The HollowGram R-SL (premium), R-S (mid-range), and R (budget) are versatile, all-rounder wheelsets used on the Cannondale SuperSix EVO.
  • Aero wheelsets. All Cannondale SystemSix comes with the HollowGram 64 SL KNØT wheelset.
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
Cannondale SuperSix EVO LAB71HollowGram R-SL 5050mmYesContinental GP5000, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD 1HollowGram R-SL 5050mmYesContinental GP5000, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD 2HollowGram R-SL 5050mmYesContinental GP5000, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 1HollowGram R-S 5050mmYesVittoria Rubino Pro, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 2HollowGram R 4545mmYesVittoria Rubino Pro, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO 3DT Swiss R47023mmNoVittoria Rubino Pro, 700x25c
Cannondale SuperSix EVO wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
Cannondale SystemSix Hi-MODHollowGram 64 SL KNØT64mmNoVittoria Rubino Pro Speed, 700x25c
Cannondale SystemSix wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 1 RLEHollowGram 45 SL KNØT45mmYesVittoria Corsa, 700x30c
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Ltd RLEHollowGram 45 SL KNØT45mmYesWTB Exposure TCS, 700x30c
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 LEDT Swiss R47023mmNoVittoria Zaffiro Pro, 700x30c
Cannondale Synapse wheelsets and tires configurations
Bike modelWheelsetRim depthTubeless-readyTires
Cannondale CAAD13DT Swiss R47023mmNoVittoria Rubino Pro, 700x25c
Cannondale CAAD13 wheelsets and tires configurations

Where to buy

Specialized shops

  • Specialized online shops. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brasil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States
  • Specialized retailers. Use this tool to find your nearest Specialized retailers.

Cannondale shops

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