With Cannondale’s CAAD series bikes taking care of race business, the Synapse family is designed to deliver a smoother, more mileage-friendly ride; the 5 proves that doesn’t have to mean a dull and unresponsive experience.
Highs: Springy and comfortable frame, carbon fork, compact drop cockpit and upright position for long distance comfort, but still delivering decent power
Lows: Pedalling bounce can get intrusive when you’re really hammering, and handling is slightly twitchy
Buy if: You want a clean looking, comfortably sprung yet still usefully responsive and lively feeling bike for longer rides rather than head down hammering
The Synapse 5’s tall, integrated-headset head tube sets up a naturally high-rise position regardless of how many spacers are in the stack. It’s also a relatively short reach frame to emphasise sat up comfort rather than flat out aero speed; the shallow drop compact bar means you can still get your head down if you want, but it’s still naturally a lover not a fighter.
The extensive tube working is visually obvious in the lacquered raw alloy finish and it’s equally obvious in the ride too. The tapering top ube, hourglassed, curved and double tapered SAVE seatstays and centrally flattened chainstays add significant amounts of spring and cushioning to the rear end, and the blade-to-round-section carbon fork legs do a similar job up front.
Even though it’s only a carbon wrap over an alloy shaft, the fact that the seatpost is a skinny 27.2mm diameter also adds flex. The result is a genuinely floated and comfortable ride that skims over rough sections and sucks the sting out of potholes.
The 25mm Schwalbe tyres are both usefully surefooted for their price and increase comfort too, which helps confidence when cornering. Though the steering geometry is well balanced, the tall, non-tapered fork and ductile overall frame feel don’t produce pin sharp handling when you’re pushing it.
While it might feel softer than some through your gloves and shorts, the Synapse still feels usefully sharp and responsive through the pedals. An average chassis and wheel weight mean it doesn’t leap out of the blocks like a CAAD10, but the BB30 bottom bracket and chunky stays transmit power well enough to keep it enjoyably competitive on summits or village sign sprints.
The springy frame can create a pedal bounce effect if you’re really grunting a gear round, though, and we occasionally had to ‘break step’ to calm it down. Compact gears and a reasonably wide ratio cassette mean you’ll normally have a spinnable ratio to hand and the overall feel is lively, agile and encouraging.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.