The EF Education team's bright pink colors are pretty bold, but EF decided to one-up itself in 2020 by collaborating with Palace, a skateboard clothing company, to design special kits and bikes for the 2020 Giro d’Italia. This EF x Palace collab was unlike anything we’d ever seen in pro cycling.
This Cannondale SystemSix is Lachlan Morton's actual bike from the 2020 Giro, and we are raffling it off (details below). Before we do though, I decided to bring it into the photo studio to take a closer look at this rare piece of cycling history.
[button]Shop Road Bikes[/button]
The EF x Palace Collab for the 2020 Giro d’Italia
The Maglia Rosa, which is the leader’s jersey at the Giro d’Italia, is pink. Teams like EF Education, which use pink as a primary color, need what's known as a “switchout” or "changeout" kit when they compete in the Giro so their riders don’t get mistaken for the race leader. (The same thing happens at the Tour de France. Teams with yellow kits need to bring special kits for the Tour.)
Photo: S J Hockett
Usually, these switchout kits aren’t massively different from the team’s standard kit. It could be as simple as a color change. But for the 2020 Giro, EF decided to do things differently by having Palace Skateboards design kits, helmets, and bikes.
Palace is a London-based skateboard clothing company. Its designs feature heavy 90s and pop culture influences, and over the last 10 years, it has become one of the biggest names in streetwear. It’s gained popularity among celebrities and athletes, including musicians/fashion influencers like Drake, Kanye West, Jay Z, A$AP Rocky, Rihanna, Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Angelique Kerber in Adidas x Palace.
Despite its skateboarding origins, Palace hasn’t shied away from other sport-specific collaborations. It has worked with Adidas since 2014, creating football (soccer), tennis, and golf collections. When Adidas sponsored Juventus F.C., players like Cristiano Ronaldo took to the field wearing kits with Palace branding. In 2018, Angelique Kerber won Wimbledon wearing a Palace x Adidas tennis dress.
For the EF team, Palace collaborated with Rapha to design kits, POC to design helmets and eyewear, and Cannondale to design frames. Even the team cars got wrapped in Palace graphics. While its football and tennis designs were fairly restrained, here, Palace was let off the leash and allowed to go wild.
The best way to describe the results would be “edgy,” and it created a bit of a stir in the cycling community. Haters, unsurprisingly, called it ugly. The EF team even got fined for the kits. But others found it fun and exciting. Cycling has a bit of a reputation for being old, stuffy, and stuck in its ways. While Palace designs might not be to everyone’s taste, it gave the sport a much-needed injection of personality.
Lachlan Morton Goes to the 2020 Giro
Photo: S J Hockett
Lachlan Morton is one of EF’s star riders who mainly pursues off-road races and records in an “alternative calendar.” In late 2020, however, he was called up to join the team at the Giro. Three weeks earlier, he had just dominated the Badlands gravel race, an unsupported 700 km epic through the Sierra Nevada of southern Spain.
Despite his off-road exploits, there were plenty of questions as to whether Lachlan, who has famously eschewed the pressures of the World Tour racing, would have the speed or freshness needed to handle a tough 3 week Grand Tour like the Giro. Whatever happened though (he finished a respectable 111th), the bike wouldn’t be to blame because he received a brand new EF x Palace edition Cannondale SystemSix aero road bike.
The EF x Palace Cannondale SystemSix
When the SystemSix was released in 2018, it was one of the most aerodynamic bikes ever tested in a wind tunnel. Cannondale tested its bike in the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LSWT) against top aero bikes from competing brands, and the aero data was compelling enough for it to claim that the SystemSix was the “fastest bike in the world.”
Cannondale's aero testing results. Of course, they should be taken with a grain of salt.
The name “SystemSix” comes from the six key components — frame, fork, wheels, seatpost, bar, and stem — that Cannondale focused on optimizing. These six optimized components work together as a complete system (get it?) to create the fastest bike possible.
For example, there is a “chine” molded onto the downtube. The lower fork legs create a pocket of airflow that runs up the back of the fork legs toward the fork crown. The chine redirects this flow backwards to prevent it from interfering with the air passing over the continuous airfoil shape created by the fork crown, head tube and down tube. This ensures clean airflow over the entire fork crown region. Everything is designed to work together, rather than alone, to reduce drag at every yaw angle.
This super high-tech carbon frame was then given to the designers at Palace to… sticker bomb. That’s right, instead of getting a bespoke paint job for the second biggest bike race in the world, the EF x Palace frame got a basic white basecoat and a smattering of stickers.
Some of the standout stickers on the frame include the Palace “Tri-Ferg” logo, named for Palace’s graphic designer, Fergus “Fergadelic” Purcell, and the brand’s ever-present duck mascot. Even the Cannondale logos are stickers instead of paint. To make them permanent, the stickers are all put under a solid layer of clear coat.
Some critics were incredulous that a World Tour-level bike received essentially the same treatment as an old toolbox, garage refrigerator, or a teenager’s laptop. To me, that’s exactly why it was brilliant. If the establishment says sticker bombing is immature or not refined enough, then you MUST sticker bomb.
Palace, however, was restrained enough to leave plenty of white space on the frame, allowing the main stickers on the aero seat tube to really pop. Like jazz, a composition’s beauty is all about the notes you don’t play.
Lachlan's 54t aero big chainring with a Power2Max NG powermeter.
This SystemSix still has the same build Lachlan used at the 2020 Giro. It has a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed group with 54/38t chainrings and an 11-30t Ultegra cassette, Vision Metron 55 SL tubular wheels with 28mm Vittoria Corsa Pros glued on, and Vision’s one-piece Metron 5D bar and stem.
The complete build weighs an impressive 15 lbs 13 oz, which is quite light for an aero road bike. While this was one of Lachlan’s bikes at the 2020 Giro, riders will go to the race with multiple bikes. Based on the amount of wear on the drivetrain, This was likely a spare kept on the team car.
Interestingly, because the EF team is sponsored by Vision, it runs Vision wheels and cockpits instead of the Cannondale KNØT wheels and cockpit the SystemSix was designed around, turning it into more of a “SystemThree.” Do these changes affect the aerodynamic performance of the bike? Maybe. But without a windtunnel we have know way of knowing!
Win This Bike: The Giving Tuesday Raffle
We'll be raffling it off Lachlan's SystemSix to help support Bicycles for Humanity a non-profit organization that provides bicycles for development and healthcare needs in rural Africa. This means YOU could own Lachlan’s bike (unless you’re reading this far in the future).Lachlan has signed the top tube of the bike as well as a stage card from stage 17 of the 2020 Giro, which will be included along with a wheel bag for the Vision wheels.
The raffle begins on Giving Tuesday (November 28th, 2023) and will run for one week. You can purchase as many raffle tickets as you like to increase your odds of winning. Whoever does win will be very lucky (I would enter but I’m not allowed), because they will own one of the coolest bikes ever .
Congratulations to our lucky winner, Rob Holt from Richmond, VA! Rob thought we were punking him when we first contacted him, but he's super excited and says he's actually going to ride Lachlan's bike. Enjoy it!
This raffle successfully raised just over $12,000 for Bikes for Humanity. We're proud to support such a worthy and generous cause. Thank you to all who entered!
[button]Shop Road Bikes[/button]