Even without the split seat tube design of the loftier carbon Synapse frames, this model once again showcases how much a refined aluminium frame has to offer in terms of comfort, feel and performance.
- HIGHS: Excellent frame and superb spread of gears from the new Ultegra
- LOWS: Bulky brake callipers and weighty wheels sap effort on the hills
- BUY IF... You want an all-weather sportive or commuter machine
The Synapse has the Cannondale-created BB30 bottom bracket, SAVE Plus stays and a carbon fork, and offers a ride that impressively fulfills the all-rounder brief, managing to be tough, stiff, lively and comfortable.
Add in the practicality of mudguard mounts frand it could serve as a high-quality winter trainer, with the added advantage that the brakes won't eat through your rims in a single season. Even the paintwork is tough, with a hard powder coat finish that should survive plenty of knocks.
It's not especially light, at 9.22kg, but it does have a really plush ride. This is due in part to a very comfy Cannondale saddle, and the 25.4mm carbon seatpost, on top of the SAVE stays that help with impressive shock absorption.
A 25.4mm carbon seatpost enhances comfort
The Synapse has a great calming ride quality, which isn't to say it's not quick, because when hustled it can be, but it has a habit of making you feel more involved with the ride, and to relax and enjoy the journey more. And even when we were happily cruising the lanes, our speed exceeded our perceived effort, which can only be a good thing.
The 28-spoke Maddux/Formula wheels are on the heavy side, and can feel quite lethargic when the road rises, but are reasonable performers on the flat and shrug off rough surfaces with disdain. The 25mm Schwalbe Lugano tyres with their generous all-over file tread are an excellent match with the Synapse, their rounded profile always seeming to grip on even the sketchiest country lanes, while still able to hold sufficient speed on the flat. The extra volume of air that they provide over 23mm tyres adds further cushioning to the ride too.
Handling is neutral and predictable, with refined cornering and no vices when pushed to the limit on descents. The brake callipers are chunky and not the most sleek-looking units, but they work well, scrubbing excess speed with minimal lever pressure, and they have plenty of power on tap.
A compact chainset is matched with an 11-speed 11-32 cassette
Shimano's latest Ultegra 11-speed groupset makes the most of the compact chainset with an extra sprocket that allows smaller jumps between the high and very low ratios of the 11-32 cassette, and should have a gear to see you through every eventuality.
From winter trainer to plush if not lightweight sportive ride, there's no reason why the Synapse shouldn't provide great service all year round.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.