Cannondale Synapse NEO SE e-road bike review

Get off the road with a little assistance

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £3,300.00 RRP | USD $4,400.00
grey e-bike, electric road bike

Our review

If you're clambering up a slope the bike assists by driving itself. It's a great option
Pros: Off-road ability, monster power, balance and handling too
Cons: It’s a weighty bike
Skip to view product specifications

Cannondale’s take on electric road bikes is far removed from the ebikemotion-equipped minimal-assist designs of the Wilier Cento1 Hybrid and Orbea Gain M20, or Bianchi’s road-biased Impulso E-Road. Instead it’s opted to equip the Synapse NEO with 650b wheels, fat tyres and Bosch’s latest Active Line Plus.

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This drive unit, which replaces the bottom bracket, weighs in at 3.2kg (plus battery) so you can’t think of the NEO SE as a traditional road machine – not when my complete test bike weighs 18.6kg.

But don’t be too quick to consign the NEO SE to the hefty bike bin for slow, non-sporty commuters. It packs a serious punch and offers huge amounts of fun into the bargain.

Turn it on and the LCD Purion display reveals an expected range of 88 miles in ECO mode. As you shift up from ECO through TOUR, SPORT and TURBO that range drops to 28 miles, which is all very promising.

Motor on e-road bike
This drive unit, which replaces the bottom bracket, weighs in at 3.2kg (plus battery)
Robert Smith

Even in the minimal-assist ECO mode, the torque-y, powerful Bosch system dumps very generous amounts of assistance in your path. The assistance is also generous when it comes to the (legally prescribed) cut-off, which should be around 15.5mph, but was closer to 17mph on my test bike.

The on/off switch is on the top of the Purion head unit. You can move up or down through the modes using the plus and minus buttons, and on the underside you’ll find a WALK+ function, so if you’re clambering up a slope, the bike assists by driving itself. I rarely used it, but it’s a neat function.

The NEO SE is equipped with decent kit. The 650b WTB wheelset and matching massive 47c WTB Byway tyres are solid choices. The Byways offer a decent balance of on-road roll and off-road grip and, despite putting the wheelset through some pretty testing terrain, it stayed true and the hubs roll smooth.

The SRAM Apex gearing works well, and the single-ring, wide range is perfect for off-road duties. The Apex rear mech can get a little sluggish when it’s caked in mud, though, and I can’t help feeling a little short-changed with Apex on a £3k/$4k bike, even with the top-notch power plant that’s built into the SE.

LCD Purion display on grey e-road bike
Turn it on and the LCD Purion display reveals an expected range of 88 miles in ECO mode
Robert Smith

The contact points are spot on, the compact drop bars are well suited to the Synapse’s geometry and I always welcome a Fabric Scoop saddle at the back.

My first outing on the SE was in the midst of a storm and its maiden ride was predominantly off-road – around 85 percent of the total ride was on dirt.

Mixing road and byway, I eked out the range to between 101km / 62.7miles and 103km / 64 miles

The NEO SE reached an impressive 58.12 miles / 93.5km before the head unit warned me of the battery’s imminent demise and the system reverted to ECO mode – although I still managed to ride another three miles home, giving an impressive 61.5 miles / 98.97km total, and that’s with 1,182.5m / 3,879.6ft of ascent and an average speed of 15.7mph.

While on numbers alone the NEO SE’s range doesn’t look as impressive when compared to the Wilier or Orbea, which were also on test, it’s worth noting that as you tend to ride slower off-road, it spends more time in the parameters of assistance.

A super-wide 47c tyre isn’t ever going to be as quick on road either. On further rides, mixing road and byway, I eked out the range to between 101km / 62.7miles and 103km / 64 miles.

Cyclist riding grey e-road bike
It packs a serious punch and offers huge amounts of fun into the bargain
Robert Smith

The NEO SE’s off-road performance is a revelation. Yes, it’s weighty but the weight distribution (low and central) means it feels much more agile off road than an 18kg bike has any right to be.

That weight combined with plenty of torque means the NEO SE holds its line brilliantly in low-grip situations, such as the chalk and mud on my test ride that can be treacherous in the wet. The SE sailed through with no stalls or wheel spins thanks to the power of that Bosch drive unit.

On sections that in the past have had me running alongside my similarly battleship grey Cannondale Slate the NEO SE just kept on going. It’s like Cannondale’s designers have combined a very capable gravel bike, a powerful e-bike and a monster truck. It’s a very different experience to the low-level assistance afforded by Fazua and ebikemotion systems.

E-gravel isn’t yet a thing, but this fun-filled machine is seriously addictive.

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Cannondale Synapse NEO SE geometry (L)

  • Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 71 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43.8cm
  • Seat tube: 53.5cm
  • Top tube: 57.6
  • Head tube: 19.1cm
  • Fork offset: 5.5cm
  • Trail: 6.2cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 6.7cm
  • Wheelbase: 1,073mm
  • Stack: 60.9cm
  • Reach: 39.6cm

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £3300.00USD $4400.00
Weight 18.6kg (L)
Brand Cannondale

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL
Brakes SRAM Apex
Cassette SRAM 11-42
Cranks FSA/Bosch custom Ai chainset with 50/34 FSA rings
Fork Ballistec carbon
Frame SmartForm C1 alloy
Handlebar Cannondale C3 Alloy
Motor Bosch Active line Plus 250w, with Bosch Purion display and Bosch PowerTube 500Wh battery
Rear derailleur SRAM Apex 1
Saddle Fabric Scoop
Seatpost Cannondale C3 Alloy
Shifter SRAM Apex 1
Stem Cannondale C3 Alloy
Tyres WTB Byway 650b 47c
Wheels 650b WTB STi29 TCS2.0 rims on Formula hubs, DT Swiss spokes