Cannondale Synapse Review
Cannondale’s UK distributor, CSG (Cycling Sports Group), have gavin us the chance to check out the Cannondale Synapse in the flesh, as well as it being revamped, it’s also a more affordable alloy sibling.
We also saw the models that are slowly becoming available to the public as part of the American firm’s model year range, with twelve carbon fibre Synapse bikes across a range of price points, starting at £1,399.99, and an alloy fleet which includes a disc-equipped machine with a Shimano Ultegra groupset.
The original Cannondale Synapse was Cannondale’s first carbon fibre bike, introduced in 2006 with a focus on sportive riders, and while not a lot has changed between then and now, it was long overdue an overhaul. The all-new 2018 Cannondale Synapse is the significantly new model in Cannondale’s 2018 road range, even if it was first unveiled back in April, at the end of the Classics campaign.
Jonathan Geran, Cannondale’s global marketing manager says “The endurance category moved on a long way from 2006 to 2018”, “It came from bikes for riders who want a comfortable, upright riding position, to those who are perhaps riding big sportives and Gran Fondos and while they may not be strapping on a race number every week, they want a bike which provides performance, comfort, low weight and stiffness in an equal balance.”
The new Synapse is the result of a three-year engineering project and the frame borrows features from the existing SuperSix Evo, and also introduces a number of key technologies.
The Classics season has become one of cycling’s most important shops windows such as the new Trek Domane which is a machine released over the past two years to service both WorldTour riders in some of the toughest races on the calendar and, crucially for manufacturers, the ‘endurance’ market of club and sportive riders.
First up, the Synapse Hi-Mod borrows the Ballistec carbon construction of the SuperSix Evo, which uses high-strength, high-elongation carbon fibres to create a base structure which Cannondale say is strong, light and stiff. The result is a claimed frame weight of 950g for the high-modulus version, which is very competitive for an ‘endurance’ frame, where comfort is more important than weight.
Cannondale’s SAVE micro-suspension system was introduced with the original Synapse but it’s now been updated and is known as SAVE Plus, made up of three key components, all designed to improve compliance.
First, the carbon layup has been designed to increase what Cannondale call ‘inter-laminar shear dissipation’, which is designed to absorb vibrations before they reach the rider.
Second, Cannondale have used a series of complex tube profiles, including helixed seatstays, designed to increase the length of the carbon fibres in relation to the stays themselves, and a curved fork with offset dropouts, which is said to compress and flex without compromising stiffness or handling.
Finally, Cannondale have switched to a super-skinny 25.4mm seatpost which in itself offers more compliance than a larger diameter post. The Synapse also features an integrated seatclamp which is not there to improve aerodynamics, but to leave more seatpost exposed, thus increasing the amount of material which is able to flex and absorb vibrations when you hit big bumps in the road while riding in the saddle. It does limit seatpost choice, though Cannondale provide a range of options, as do FSA and Thomson.
“The big things about SAVE Plus technology is that it’s not just about comfort, but handling as well,” said Geran. “Instead of the wheel chattering down the road, it’s designed to roll over those rougher sections, thereby improving handling and performance for the rider while not sapping energy and making the rider more fatigued.”
While Cannondale’s SAVE Plus technology is perhaps the most important feature of a bike designed for comfort, the Power Pyramid seattube cutout is the most visually striking aspect of the bike.
It’s not a feature designed to improve comfort, instead to save weight while allowing Cannondale to user a new, wider bottom bracket called BB30A. Cannondale revolutionised bottom bracket technology when they introduced the BB30 standard in 2000 and BB30A is the latest evolution of that.
‘A’ stands for asymmetric as BB30A adds 5mm to the non-driveside of the bottom bracket shell (widening it from 68mm to 73mm) to create a more stable platform while maintaining an ideal chain line on both sides. All the internal parts of BB30A are the same, according to Geran, there’s just a smaller internal spacer to accommodate that extra 5mm. Power Pyramid allows Cannondale to, in effect, create a wide junction between the seattube and bottom bracket, thereby improving torsional rigidity, while reducing weight.
The Synapse is also based around a slightly more relaxed geometry – dubbed S.E.R.G, or Synapse Endurance Road Geometry by Cannondale – with a slightly taller headtube, slightly longer wheelbase and slightly slacker head angle, which Cannondale say results in the right balance between a pure race positioning and upright comfort.
“The new Synapse is lighter than the previous version, about ten per cent stiffer, and somewhere in the region of 30 per cent more compliant,” said Geran.
“The team – Cannondale Pro Cycling – weren’t the driving force behind this project but they provided valuable feedback throughout the design process.
“This bike can definitely handled being raced at the Tour de France, and it’s designed to be raced at your local weekend crit or a road race, but if you’re looking at a long charity ride or a Gran Fondo, that’s where it will come in to its own.