Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Dura-Ace
Cannondale’s Synapse has evolved over the years, from being a fairly upright, long-distance bike to this latest iteration, which is based around a geometry that balances endurance and speed within a lightweight chassis.
The 610mm stack and 393mm reach (on my 58cm test bike) balances nicely with a wheelbase that’s 1,009mm long, while the fork’s 58mm trail adds snap to the steering without compromising stability.
A 70mm bottom-bracket drop, up from its previous incarnation, lends a nod to the modern trend towards bigger tyres (the chassis is optimised for 30c tyres).
Bike of the Year 2020
The Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Dura-Ace is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
There’s clearance for 30c tyres. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Synapse is the only bike in Cannondale’s premium stable that still adheres to the classic, two-triangle approach to frame design.
Outback, both the chainstays and seatstays transition from ovalised at the ends to a flattish shape through the centre. Add in Cannondale’s trademark SAVE carbon lay-up and you have a stiff and light frame (1,100g, claimed) that’s compliant enough to neutralise road buzz and vibrations.
The frame and fork feature mudguard mounts that are a boon for inclement riding.
SAVE carbon technology adds vibration damping to the frame and fork. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The SAVE carbon fork is slender, sucking up vibration but remaining flex-free and assured when leaning into corners and avoiding tell-tale brake rub when climbing or sprinting.
But it’s Cannondale’s Hollowgram bar and stem that are impressively transformative, the stem eschewing a standard round clamp in favour of a crescent-shaped cradle that the bar sits in.
The bar’s attached to the stem via bolts straight through the bar and into the stem. It gives the aero advantage of a one-piece yet with the adjustment of a standard bar.
The SAVE bar allows for nine degrees of pitch to tune hand position. Cannondale’s dealers should hold stock of different stem lengths and bar options, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all job.
Out on the road, it’s noticeably more compliant than the standard bars of the Trek Domane or Specialized Roubaix, also on test. Chapeau to a well-thought-out innovation.
The predominantly Shimano Dura-Ace groupset is mated to Cannondale’s own lightweight chainset.
On the Synapse it comes with the eight-arm spider, rather than the super-lightweight 12-arm found on top models, but the standard Hollowgram crankset’s still a light, quality component that shifts as smoothly as the Shimano it replaces.
Impressive to find Shimano’s Dura-Ace groupset on a bike at this price. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Dura-Ace hydraulics are spot on, and they were most welcome during an extended wet period during testing.
Cannondale has deviated from Dura-Ace with the brake rotors, but not at the cost of performance because, though it’s switched to Ultegra rotors, it’s in the optimal Ice Tech guise.
The result is smooth, controlled and quiet braking even on long descents in both wet and dry conditions.
A great ride feel, smooth shifting, fantastic handling and reliable braking mean that the Synapse has a hell of a lot going for it. This is not to say, however, that it’s not without issues, which brings me to the hoops…
The Vittoria Rubino tyres are a very welcome 30c and the textured tread offers reasonable grip, though I found that they slipped a little on damp road climbs. And it’s ascending where the Synapse starts to struggle.
The Fulcrum DB 500 wheels are built to their usual high standards and feature super-smooth-running hubs, but they are not particularly light at around 1,700g a pair.
They can be run tubeless – you’d need to add valves and tape – but cutting weight to add more spark to the ride isn’t going to be cheap.
The wheel-and-tyre package isn’t a deal breaker but it does cloud some of the brightness of the Synapse’s lush ride.
When I switched out the Fulcrums for a set of my own, lighter carbon/tubeless wheels, the Synapse morphed into a true dream machine. As it stands, it’s just very, very good.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Dura-Ace geometry
Size (* tested): 48, 51, 54, 56, 58*, 61cm
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 73 degrees
Seat tube: 55cm
Top tube: 57.9cm
Head tube: 19.7cm
Fork offset: 4.5cm
Bottom bracket drop: 7cm
Bottom bracket height: 27.5cm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.