Cannondale’s Synapse has long been an endurance bike favourite. One of the first bikes to offer features that now define a modern endurance machine, the Synapse expands the versatility and potential of a road bike with little difference in speed.
Here we have the £999.99 / $1,399 Synapse AL Disc, with its price mildly elevated by some classic SKS mudguards (£35). It’s quite the bargain on paper.
Apart from the round seat tube, all of its SmartForm C2 alloy frame tubes are specifically shaped to counteract stress, add stiffness or increase comfort. The extensive SAVE flattened portions of the seat and chainstays provide the latter, while still allowing easy clearance for the 28mm tyres, and the SAVE fork is all carbon, which is impressive at the price.
It’s neatly finished with a prominent white reflective stripe skipping across the frame and fork, although only the left seatstay is reflective, which is a little less practical for UK riders.
As well as mudguard mounts there’s provision for a rear rack. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The front brake hose is internally routed through the fork leg, while the rear brake hose and gear cables enter each side of the down tube and travel internally to their destination. This is uncommon on metal frames with a 68mm threaded bottom bracket because there isn’t usually space within the shell, but somehow Cannondale has managed it, keeping things very tidy.
As well as the mudguard mounts, there’s provision for a rear rack, plus two bottle cages.
One quirk of the frame is combining the fork’s 12mm thru-axle with a quick-release rear wheel fixing. The dropouts are vertical, so with correct installation there shouldn’t be any brake rotor alignment issues, but a little care is needed.
The Shimano Tiagra 10-speed drivetrain is supplemented by an FSA Omega compact chainset and Promax Decoder R mechanical disc brakes, keeping costs down. The alloy finishing kit is Cannondale’s own, as is the saddle.
Known for its ride-smoothing ability, the Synapse, even in this bargain form, instantly feels comfortable. There are several factors at work, of course, not least the 28mm Vittoria Zaffiro tyres, which measure 30mm wide on these rims and were inflated to 70psi.
Quick-release rear wheel fixing with vertical dropouts. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The rims are Maddux RD 3.0 spinning on Formula hubs. They’re aluminium, 25mm tall and 24mm wide externally. They’re robust and spin well, but they aren’t particularly responsive, accelerating with more wheeze than whoosh.
If you worry that Tiagra’s 10 sprockets and 20 gears is too few, you’d be wrong. Sharing the ergonomics of Shimano’s loftier levers, the Tiagra controls feel great. Shifting is functionally excellent, with positive actions and good feedback.
The gear ratios of 50/34 up front and 11-34 at the back are ideal, too, with a 1:1 bail-out gear that’ll climb a wall.
The Promax mechanical brakes feel reasonable and give decent feedback, but their initial bite is tentative and the braking power is considerably less than the hydraulic equivalent, needing a little more distance and lever force to get the job done.
At 10.72kg complete it’s not featherlight, but the bike’s weight is only really noticeable when climbing, otherwise it covers ground with a pleasant briskness. As a training or commuting bike, this Synapse offers a good blend of practicality, durability and performance, unless you’re heading to the mountains.
I did notice some front wheel deflection when riding out of the saddle. Even after checking for sufficient clearance it still contacted the tail of the mudguard lightly.
Cannondale’s Synapse AL Disc Tiagra is a good blend of practicality, durability and performance Russell Burton
There’s a lot of comfort from the tyre volume, 25.4mm seatpost, saddle and frameset combined, but the handlebar doesn’t damp all vibration, and a carbon seatpost would help further.
The handling is neat, precise and confident at all speeds, and even in this budget-friendly form, the Synapse DNA ensures that it’s a reassuringly stable, comfortably quick and stylish-looking way to separate yourself from winter’s worst.
Cannondale Synapse AL Disc Tiagra geometry
Seat angle: 74 degrees
Head angle: 72 degrees
Seat tube: 48cm
Top tube: 56cm
Fork offset: 5.05cm
Bottom bracket height: 27.2cm