Bike Test: Cannondale Synapse 105

Performance that toes the budget line

Cannondale has updated their Synapse line with a redesigned frame, offering a more neutral riding position compared to the latest version. Though not near the race geometry of their Evo frame, don’t let that fact fool you, as this same frame was tested and raced in last year’s Paris-Roubaix courtesy of the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team and stood up to the brutal cobblestone test.

THE FRAME

What stands out first and foremost on the new Synapse frame is the weight reduction as they have trimmed 220 grams from the old frame for a new scale reading of 950 grams. The new Synapse utilizes a size-specific design, which gives every frame size its own rider-appropriate carbon layup and tube sizes. Impressively, there are also three different fork offsets for riders of all sizes to benefit the same ride and feel of the Synapse.

The frame and fork have an asymmetric design to offer increased stiffness to accommodate the disc brakes. As an example, Cannondale said the non-drive chainstay is now 18 percent larger in certain areas compared to the latest version.

With the adoption of disc brakes, the rear seatstay bridge has been removed, but there is an optional crossmember for mounting fenders.

There are three size-specific forks to work across the size range of the Synapse, with a straight 1 1/8 60mm offset for 44 and 48 frames. Sizes 51 and 54 receive a tapered 1-1/4 55mm offset, and last, the larger 56, 58 and 61 frames have a tapered 1 3/8 45mm offset. Cannondale has learned that more lateral stiffness in the front end results in better handling.

From the day the bike was first launched, the Synapse has boasted its use of Cannondale’s own SAVE technology. Although Cannondale refers to SAVE as a micro-suspension system, it can more appropriately be considered a maxi-compliance system. At least how the term “suspension” is widely defined, real suspension has to move (like a shock) and not just absorb or damp vibration. The frame, fork and seatpost are all designed to flex and absorb under rough riding conditions. The SAVE carbon 25.4mm seatpost allows up to 36 percent more deflection than non-SAVE seatposts.

The Shimano 105 hydraulic brake hoods are on the long side but comfortable.

THE PARTS

With a close-to-entry-level price, what stands out on this Synapse is the Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes. Though they do boast a fairly large hood, the hydraulic brakes are a major plus. The Shimano 105 drivetrain offers a wide-ratio, 11-speed (11-32)  cassette mated to a (50/34) compact Cannondale crank with FSA chainrings.

The cockpit is made up of an alloy Cannondale C3 stem with 6 degrees of tilt and a compact handlebar. The Maddux 28-spoke, alloy RD 2.0 wheels use 12mm thru-axles with levers for easy removal. A Selle Royal Seta S1 saddle sits on top of the undersized 25.4mm seatpost.

THE RIDE

Coming from the previous Synapse model, the new Synapse does feel like a completely new bike. It’s been a frequent occurrence to hear bike brands use the word “new” when in fact there were very subtle changes actually made to it. With their previous generation having a much more laid-back position, this new geometry offers a more neutral position, which lies in between their previous geometry and the race-style Evo frame that you see being used on the ProTour.

The stiffness in the new frame is instantly noticeable since this bike is in the endurance category. Test riders with a racing background felt this new geometry was closer to race geometry bikes, which they have ridden in the past, compared to many endurance-style road bikes available on the market today. Though stiff, wide 28mm Schwalbe tires provided a smooth ride with the SAVE technology in the seatpost being a noticeable benefit.

While out climbing longer ascents, the position was comfortable and you’re not too far over the front minimizing lower back pain. When out of the saddle the response was there, but the RD 2.0 wheels were noticeably heavy. Jumping in our local group we could feel the slight lull from the weight of them as we started an effort. The compact front chainrings with the addition of a 32t rear cassette offered plenty of gears for the steeper climbs. We took the Synapse out on some dirt roads and found those climbs to be no challenge even while sitting.

The Shimano 105 hydraulic hoods are a bit on the bulky side, but you have plenty of hood to grab onto. For its close-to-entry-level price, the hydraulic brakes are always a plus. You’ll be happy to have these brakes with a little extra hood size over most of the rim brakes on the market. What you sacrifice in aesthetics, you gain in performance and safety.

THE VERDICT

For a hydro disc-braked carbon bike, the new Synapse is a good option at this price point. Whether you’re an avid racer or just a weekend warrior looking to have a comfortable ride, the new frame geometry opens the door for a larger pool of riders. The wheels are on the heavy side, but a quick upgrade in that department could drastically change the ride quality. Despite it being their entry-level, performance gruppo, they’re still Shimano and they still work great.

PUNCH LINES

  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • Updated geometry
  • Wheels are on the heavy side

STATS

Price: $2499.99
Weight: 19.12 pounds
Sizes: 44, 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

www.cannondale.com 

THE GEAR

Helmet: Smith Overtake
Jersey: Castex Team
Bib: Castex Team
Shoes: Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader V4
Glasses: Oakley RadarLock

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