Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Dura-Ace road bike review
The Synapse has evolved from an upright riding-positioned, long-distance bike to this latest generation, which combines a lightweight chassis and sorted endurance-biased but speed-focused geometry.
The 610mm stack and 393mm reach on our 58cm test bike is combined with a wheelbase that’s just 9mm over a metre. It has a 58mm trail for the fork, which enables a nice snap to the steering without compromising stability. Cannondale also introduces a change in the bottom bracket drop to 70mm, reducing it to make the bike feel right with the trend for bigger tyres.
The Synapse frame is a very clean piece of design. At the back, both the chain and seatstays transition from ovalised at the ends to an almost flat-plate shape through the centre. This, combined with the specific layup used by Cannondale in its SAVE carbon, enables a stiff and light frame (1,100g) to comply enough to null road buzz and vibrations.
The Synapse still adheres to the classic two-triangle approach to frame design. Up front, the Synapse fork uses SAVE carbon in the layup, and the slender fork dimensions again aid in vibration damping. Yet, when leaning onto them into corners, there’s no hint of flex and no tell-tale brake rub front or rear when climbing or sprinting.
Aiding the ride feel up front is Cannondale’s SAVE Hollowgram carbon bar and stem, which eschews a standard round clamp in favour of a crescent-shaped cradle that the bar sits into. The bar (certainly not clip-on tri-bar friendly) is attached to the stem via bolts that go straight through it. It gives the aero advantage of a one-piece bar with the adjustment of a standard bar.
On the road the SAVE bar feels noticeably more compliant than the standard bar of the Simplon. The closest comparison is between the Hollowgram and the D-Fuse bar on the Giant. Hold the Synapse bar on the hoods or on the tops and its compliance adds comfort, but get down in the drops and there’s very little in the form of flex when sprinting. It’s a clever design and adds a lot of character. We’d opt for this model, with this cockpit, over the slightly cheaper Shimano Ultegra Di2 model with a standard alloy bar and stem.
The predominantly Shimano Dura-Ace groupset is mated to Cannondale’s own lightweight chainset. Here it’s with the eight-arm spider rather than the super-lightweight 12-arm found on the top models. The standard hollowgram crankset is still a light, quality item that shifts as smooth as the Shimano it replaces. Braking with the Dura-Ace hydraulics is spot on. Cannondale has deviated from Dura-Ace with the brake rotors, but without sacrificing performance as it’s switched to the more cost-effective Ultegra rotors but
in the optimal IceTech guise, which gave us smooth-controlled and quiet braking, even on long descents.
With a great ride feel, smooth shifting and fantastic braking, this Synapse has a hell of a lot going for it.
Add in handling that’s faster than most endurance bikes and a whip-quick ability to change direction or make corrections if you’ve over-cooked a corner. However,
it’s not without issues.
Climbing is where the Synapse lacks a spring in its step, the Fulcrum DB 500 wheels are competent, but they aren’t light at around 1,700g a pair. They can be run tubeless (though you’d need to add valves and tape) but the Vittoria tyres aren’t tubeless-compatible. When we switched out the Fulcrums for a set of our own lighter carbon/ tubeless wheels, the Synapse became a true dream machine. As it stands, it’s just very good.
Verdict: Cannondale’s Synapse takes more from racing than recreation and the superb chassis with its lively handling and vibration-nulling ride has the potential to be all the road bike you’d ever need. 82%
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More to spend?
The Synapse Hi-Mod Disc Ultegra Di2 (£5,799) boasts a lighter Hi-Mod version of the Synapse frame and fork. It’s not just a fancier chassis, the Hi-Mod also gains Hollowgram 45 SL Knot wheels into the bargain.
Less to spend
Pay a couple of hundred pounds less for the Synapse Carbon Disc Ultegra Di2 (£3,799) and get the brilliant Ultegra Di2 group with the same Fulcrum wheels and a non-spiderring-equipped Cannondale crank.
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