The Synapse is Cannondale’s endurance bike and features disc brakes, though given the speed at which discs and rotors are appearing on road bikes, it may only be a matter of time before rim brakes are the outlier rather than the norm.
With its 28mm tyres, super-skinny seatpost, comfort-boosting SAVE (‘micro suspension’ in Cannondale-speak) frame and fork, this bike is not aimed at the wannabe Mark Cavendish, but those of us looking to rack up the miles without numbing our nether regions.
This model is new for 2018. The frame features what Cannondale calls "SAVE Plus" and delivers "even more vertical compliance than Speed SAVE." This comprises Cannondale’s unique 25.4mm seatpost and a seat tube that narrows up its length, which is designed to take the sting out of medium to large bumps; and the SAVE fork and rear triangle, with its slim flattened seatstays that combine to soften the blow from small to medium bumps.
The seatstays are designed to bend and compress like a spring, while the curved fork’s offset dropouts "enable it to offer balanced vertical compliance with excellent steering precision." Yes, really.
Shimano Sora levers
The kit is based around 9-speed Shimano Sora levers and derailleurs, with an FSA chainset and Promax cable-actuated disc brakes. Sora works very well, even if it doesn’t have the slick shifting of 105, and I'm a huge fan of the cassette’s 34-tooth sprocket, offering a granny gear that laughs in the face of hills.
If anything lets down the componentry it’s the disc brakes rather than the drivetrain. Hydraulic discs are the bees’ knees for power and control, but the Cannondale has less expensive and less effective mechanical discs.
Yes, they brake on both sides of the large 160mm rotors, but there’s little performance benefit over the better rim brakes here. The main advantage is that they’ll offer improved rim life and the ability to run the wheels when they’re kinked.
Where the Cannondale does score is in its comfort. That SAVE technology, aided by 28mm tyres, means you are never going to feel beaten up. At nearly 11kg you’re not going to fly, but you'll cruise at a very decent lick, hour after hour, coming back for more the next day.
The geometry isn’t massively upright, with a longish top tube and only a slightly tall head tube. The shallowish head angle and over-a-metre wheelbase serve to relax the ride, though the handling from the tapered fork is as accurate as Cannondale claims.
Other positives are the rear rack mounts and bags of clearance for mudguards with 28mm rubber, or 32mm tyres without ’guards. You could easily go knobbly to take on less challenging non-tarmac surfaces, and even with the Zaffiro tyres it was fine on far-from-perfect cycle routes.
I really enjoyed this Synapse, but can’t help but feel it’s carrying a little excess weight, and I’d love hydraulic discs to make it come alive on tarmac and track. And though the bailout gear does help on climbs, even that can’t disguise the bike’s weight entirely.