We’ve ridden many of Cannondale’s Synapse range over the past couple of years and they’ve all combined excellent comfort and remarkable stiffness at a good weight. This Shimano 105-specced incarnation is no exception.
Ride: smooth and efficient
You can sit on the Synapse Carbon 105 Compact and pedal in comfort all day. Although Cannondale makes much of the relaxed ride position, let’s not overstate that. The bars are exactly the same height as they are on other bikes in its class and although it has a shorter reach, much of that is simply down to stem length. The relaxed ride has more to do with the frame’s character than its dimensions. Both ends of the Synapse take the edge off poor road surfaces, eliminating all but the very worst chatter, to produce a super-smooth ride.
Its other key quality is that even big, powerful riders will find it hard to wrestle the bottom bracket off-centre so all your effort gets efficiently converted into speed on the road. And that lateral stiffness comes into play when you hit the twists and turns too, particularly on the downslopes when the predictable handling means you can have some fun while your ride mates are nervously scrubbing off the speed.
Frame: higher postion and curvy seatstays = all day comfort
The geometry is slightly different from Cannondale’s standard road bike set-up with a touch of extra length in the head-tube and a shorter top-tube producing a more upright, back-friendly position that’s particularly welcome on longer rides. You can always remove a headset spacer or two if you want to get more aggressive.
Cannondale makes much of the vibration damping qualities of the ultra-curvy Triaxial Hourglass seatstays, and the radial butted top-tubes and down-tubes that have more material on the sides for lateral rigidity and less on the top and bottom for increased vertical compliance. Marketing spiel? The ride quality says not.
It’s also worth noting that the Synapse is available in seven different sizes from 47cm right through to 63cm which means that nearly all riders will be able to get a good fit.
Equipment: mix of own brand and Shimano, wheels are the star item
The spec is based around Shimano 105 and that extends to the front mech and the brake callipers. We can’t really say there’s much difference in the shifting but you do feel confident enough to lay off the anchors for that much longer on the Synapse knowing that, if needed, they’ll provide the muscle to get you out of trouble.
Cannondale eschews the idea that it’s no good unless it’s carbon, or at least looks carbon, with a Shimano R600 compact crankset that’s out and proud as alloy. It’s a tidy, good quality unit that provides a broad enough range of gears for most terrain when hooked up to the 12-27 cassette. That 27-tooth sprocket provides the lowest gear on any of our four test bikes; if you struggle on steep climbs you might be glad to have it as your Get Out of Jail Free card. A triple chainring (50/39/30) model is also available at the same price.
Cannondale’s own bars, stem and seatpost offer reliability if not beauty, while we found the Fizik Pavé Sport saddle way more comfortable than its Aliante stablemate found elsewhere. That comes down to a matter of taste… but we’re right.
The Cannondale’s RS10s come from a little higher up the Shimano hierarchy than often found on bikes at this price and feature straight pull aero spokes (16 front, 20 rear) with red nipples… Mmm! The smooth-lined hubs look cooler than the R500s’ although they run on similar cup and cone bearings and the all-up wheel weight is very slightly lower. On the downside, we got more flex from our set of RS10s, perhaps because of the reduced spoke count.
The entry-level Vittoria Zaffiro tyres have quite a high rolling resistance and the grip is average at best. We’d give ’em hell until they wear out and then upgrade to something more sporty.
Providing such a plush ride without compromising performance is a difficult trick to pull off but that?s what distinguishes the Synapse. If you find yourself feeling battered at the end of long rides, it might be just what you're after.