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Cannondale Synapse goes all-in on practicality with 35mm tyre clearance, integrated lights and a threaded bottom bracket

Cannondale's genre-defining endurance bike gets an integrated SmartSense light and sensor system, more tyre clearance and a simpler design

2022 Cannondale Synapse endurance bike against a city backdrop

Cannondale has updated its Synapse endurance road platform for 2022, introducing an integrated SmartSense light and sensor system, and clearance for up to 35mm nominal-width tyres.

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Cannondale partnered with Lezyne for the lights and uses an adapted version of Garmin’s Varia radars. The electronics run off a down tube-mounted battery with a claimed maximum run time of 20 hours.

There are six sizes available and the new Synapse’s geometry has been kept as close as possible to its predecessors, but comfort is said to have been improved.

Cannondale says the frame has been given subtle aero touches too, taking cues from the brand’s SuperSix EVO race bike and SystemSix aero road bike.

Cannondale says it has achieved the same frame weight (minus the SmartSense system) as the previous version of the Synapse. However, with the SmartSense system included, a size 58cm Synapse Carbon RL 2 weighs 9.89kg.

Aside from the added electronics, the brand says simplicity was a key aim. The new bike has tube-in-tube cable routing, a BSA threaded BB and a standard seatpost clamp.

There is no top-tier Hi-Mod carbon version just yet, but the market is well catered for. Prices range from £2,400 / $2,400 / €3,499 up to £9,000 / $9,000 / €8,999.

Want to know how it rides? You can read my Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RL review (£4,000 / €4,499). Otherwise, let’s get stuck into the tech story behind the new Synapse.

Cannondale Synapse 2022: Nine things you need to know

  • Designed to accommodate a SmartSense light and sensor system
  • Tyre clearance goes up 35mm
  • 30mm tyres fitted as standard
  • Electronics aside, the design is said to prioritise mechanical simplicity
  • Drops Cannondale’s BB30 standard in favour of a threaded bottom bracket
  • Same frame weight as predecessor
  • More comfort than before, according to Cannondale
  • Aero styling added to the frame
  • Prices range from £2,400 / $2,400 / €3,499 up to £9,000 / $9,000 / €8,999

15 years in the making

Cannondale has put practicality at the heart of the Synapse, with integrated lights, 35mm tyre clearance and a threaded bottom bracket.
Cannondale

Cannondale’s Synapse is one of the most successful designs in the endurance bike genre. It is a winner of multiple awards (including our own Bike of the Year back in 2014) and even seen success at the highest level (a young Peter Sagan rode the Synapse to sixth at the Paris-Roubaix and won Gent-Wevelgem the same year).

It would have been easy for Cannondale to further evolve the Synapse by applying lessons learned in the development of its SuperSix EVO and SystemSix race bikes. However, it seems that Cannondale has a different agenda for the 2022 model.

Whereas previous incarnations of the Synapse were built with one eye on racing, with this new version the brand has shifted the Synapse far more toward the real-world rider.

However, the frame’s geometry has stayed much the same, save for a slightly longer wheelbase to accommodate larger tyre clearances. It now ships with 30mm tyres as standard and has clearance for 35mm tyres (with 6mm of clearance either side). It can also run the standard 30mm tyres with full-length road mudguards without issue, too.

Cannondale Synapse 2022 geometry

485154565861
Seat angle (degrees)737373737373
Head angle (degrees)71.371.473.173.273.373.4
Chainstay (mm)415415415415415415
Seat tube (mm)407443480520550590
Top tube (mm)533544555567579598
Head tube (mm)109130143164187218
Fork offset (mm)555545454545
Trail (mm)595858575656
Bottom bracket drop (mm)757573737070
Bottom bracket height (mm)270270272272276276
Wheelbase (mm)9911,0009879981,0111,028
Standover (mm)712742773787833868
Stack (mm)53055057059610640
Reach (mm)371376381387393402

Elsewhere on the bike, Cannondale says changes are all about making the bike easy to live with.

It forgoes the complex internal routing through the bar and stem – a feature that has become commonplace on many of the latest road bikes, for better or worse – in favour of a simpler internal routing through a large port in the down tube, which itself has full internal channels for easier cable maintenance and replacement.

Cannondale has also moved away from an integrated seat clamp in favour of a standard alloy ring binder and slotted seat tube.

There has been a similar revision at the bottom bracket. Cannondale’s original innovation – the BB30 oversized threadless bottom bracket shell – has gone. It has been replaced with a threaded BSA standard bottom bracket.

The new Synapse also brings Cannondale’s proportional response construction to the platform for the first time.

Cannondale says this method (first seen on the SystemSix) means each individual frame size has its own construction, down to the tube diameters, to ensure that the biggest frame size and the smallest share the self-same ride characteristics.

Smarter than the average bike

Cannondale started bringing tech to its bikes a few years ago with the smart wheel sensor (designed in conjunction with Garmin) and app included on plenty of its range. That allowed riders to automatically track speed, distance and time.

The new Synapse takes this idea into a whole new realm. It still has the app, with tips on servicing, part identification and ride recording, but the new Synapse also features integrated lights designed in conjunction with Lezyne, and even a new Synapse-specific version of Garmin’s Varia radar system.

The new Synapse bikes all share the same chassis. Each model, except for the most affordable build, comes with a suffix on its name to denote the level of tech incorporated (only that cheapest model, the £2,400 / $2,400 Cannondale Synapse Carbon 4, comes without any of the tech bells and whistles).

A singular “L” specifies that the light system is included, “RL” means the radar system is included too, while “RLE” includes both plus electronic gearing.

Cannondale’s SmartSense system is controlled and customisable through the brand’s own app.
Cannondale

The heart of the SmartSense system is a down tube power pack with a claimed five-hour run time on standard mode (down to a claimed 2 hours, 45 minutes on its highest setting, or up to 20 hours on battery save mode).

The power pack charges fully from empty in just shy of three hours according to Cannondale (with any USB-C charger) and will stay charged on standby for 150 days, just in case you ever spend that much time away from the bike.

The battery can also be used as a USB-C charging source when it’s disconnected from the bike’s down tube mounting point.

The battery runs both front and rear lights and the Varia radar, but there is no possible way to integrate it with electronic gearing at present.

Light it up

The front light, which Cannondale calls “Foresight”, sits under the bar on a dedicated mount on the lower-spec bikes, while it is integrated into the SAVE bar on the top-end models, alongside a Garmin/Varia display/phone mount.

The aluminium-bodied light offers a 350-lumen output and comes with a StVZO (Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung – translation: Road Traffic Licensing Regulations) compliant beam.

The stVZO standard is a new set of German rules governing bicycle lights. This new standard outlines a shape that must feature a horizontal beam pattern with a cut-off so as not to dazzle other road users (like the dipped beam on your car).

The front light was designed in conjunction with Lezyne.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

The standard also outlaws blinking/flashing modes. Some claim that flashing lights are more of a distraction than a safety feature for other road users.

International versions of the bike will come with a standard 350-lumen light with no cut-off and flashing modes, modified and set up through the app. The StVZO version limits the adjustability to power levels only.

The rear light – “Hindsight” – has a maximum output of 85 lumens (with the EU/StVZO version limited to 25 lumens) and it wraps around the radar unit (on bikes with that feature included) in a neat horseshoe shape under the saddle.

Its saddle rail mounting is neat, but it also means you can’t fit a saddlebag. That said, the Synapse’s new bento box mounts on the top tube should mean storage isn’t an issue.

The rear light has a motion sensor so that when you brake it brightens to alert those following that you are braking. It also rather cleverly works with the Varia rear-facing radar.

On the radar

The Synapse’s rear light integrates with an adapted version of Garmin’s Varia radar system.
Cannondale

Garmin’s Varia system has been around for several years. It has always been appreciated for what it does but, somewhat ironically, it could be said that it has stayed under the radar.

Garmin has never really promoted the Varia system as heavily as it has its Edge computers.

Varia is, put simply, an on-bike radar system that detects approaching vehicles from up to 140 metres behind you.

Radar-equipped Synapse builds will come with a Varia display mounted on the bars with 15 LEDS that progress from green to red as whatever is trailing you gets closer. It has an audible warning too.

You can either use the display or connect the system to a Garmin head unit. A head unit replicates the approach signals by using its colour display.

Cannondale Synapse 2022 range overview

Not all models are available in all territories, but Cannondale has catered for a large swathe of the market with the Synapse’s build options.

The Synapse LTD RLE is notable for the fact it uses Shimano’s GRX Di2 gravel groupset, hinting at the bike’s all-road remit.

In the tier above, with the Synapse Carbon 1RLE, Cannondale shows the other side of that coin, with a racier road build using Shimano’s newest Dura-Ace R9200 groupset and Cannondale’s own HollowGram KNOT 45 carbon wheels.

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 4 (N/A in Europe)

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 4 is the entry point to the range and doesn’t feature the SmartSense system.
Cannondale
  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
  • Handlebar: Cannondale 3 alloy
  • Stem: Cannondale 3 alloy
  • Seatpost: Cannondale 3 SmartSense alloy
  • Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta
  • Wheels: RD/Formula
  • Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 30mm
  • Price: £2,400 / $2,400

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3L

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3L is the first model to include integrated lights.
Cannondale
  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano 105
  • Handlebar: Cannondale 3 alloy
  • Stem: Cannondale 3 alloy
  • Seatpost: Cannondale 3 SmartSense alloy
  • Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta
  • Wheels: RD/Formula
  • Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 30mm
  • Price: £3,200 / €3,499 / $3,300

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2RL (N/A in North America)

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RL has Shimano Ultegra for £4,000 / €4,499.
Cannondale
  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Disc
  • Handlebar: Cannondale 2 alloy
  • Stem: Cannondale 2 alloy
  • Seatpost: Cannondale 3 SmartSense alloy
  • Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta
  • Wheels: Fulcrum Rapid Red 900
  • Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro 30mm
  • Price: £4,000 / €4,499

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2RLE

The “E” in Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RLE references the electronic Ulegra Di2 groupset.
Cannondale
  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
  • Handlebar: FSA Gossamer Compact
  • Stem: Cannondale 2 alloy
  • Seatpost: Cannondale 2 SmartSense carbon
  • Saddle: Fizik Tempo Argo R5
  • Wheels: Fulcrum Rapid Red 500
  • Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro 30mm
  • Price: £5,800 / €5,999 / $5,500

Cannondale Synapse LTD RLE

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon LTD RLE shows off the platform’s all-road potential.
Cannondale
  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano GRX Di2
  • Handlebar: HollowGram SAVE Systembar carbon
  • Stem: HollowGram SAVE alloy
  • Seatpost: HollowGram SAVE SmartSense carbon
  • Saddle: Fizik Tempo Argo R5
  • Wheels: HollowGram 45 KNOT
  • Tyres: WTB Exposure TCS 30mm
  • Price: £6,750 / €6,999 / $7,000

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 1RLE

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 1 RLE has a racy edge to match its top-tier price tag.
Cannondale
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  • Frameset: Synapse Carbon
  • Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Disc Di2
  • Handlebar: HollowGram SAVE Systembar carbon
  • Stem: HollowGram SAVE alloy
  • Seatpost: HollowGram SAVE SmartSense carbon
  • Saddle: Fizik Tempo Argo R5
  • Wheels: HollowGram 45 KNOT:
  • Tyres: Vittoria Corsa 30mm
  • Price: £9,000 / €8,999 / $9,000