Before we get onto its enlarged tyres, smart radar, or integrated lights, let’s take a moment to appreciate the recently updated Cannondale Synapse’s marketing materials. Spanning a short film/fancy advert and a suite of lovely studio photography, it’s almost as if the American firm has hired a proper agency rather than someone’s cousin who used to race E1/2 and had an early cracked version of Adobe Premiere Pro.
Starring a woman who wears regular clothes and a pair of Ray-Bans while riding, you don’t need a postgrad understanding of semiotics to realise this signifies something of a pivot for the Synapse. So, say goodbye to the sportive-crushing version of Cannondale’s endurance road bike of old, wave hello to the much hipper, slightly all-road, newly adventure-ready Synapse.Proceeding alongside the current zeitgeist, this version goes big on practicality with 35mm tyre clearance, integrated lights, a threaded bottom bracket, plus fittings for mudguards. Add in snack box mounts and satin-finish paint, and you’ve basically got a 2022 cycling trend report made flesh.
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However, for people that don’t permanently ride in cut-off t-shirts, the latest Synapse still employs a similar geometry to its award-winning predecessors. In fact, look closely, and beneath the simulated grain effects, you might even spot some aerodynamic features pinched from the firm’s SuperSix and SystemSix racing bikes. Frame weight is also claimed to be the same, so, all considered, it’s not so dissimilar to previous versions as to jettison the 15 years of development that’s gone into the range.
Simple standards and intelligent tech
Now shipping with 30c tyres as standard, Cannondale is the latest brand to make a concerted effort to create a bike that’s easier to live with. This sees Cannondale’s BB30 oversized threadless bottom bracket swapped for the ever-practical threaded BSA standard. Cabling is now only semi-internal, with the brake lines running outside of the bar and stem before entering into the frame via an easy to work with tube-in-tube routing.
Now, these are both developments we can get behind. However, if such things seem retrograde to your particular sensibilities, you can always console yourself with the Synapse’s SmartSense system. This is very clever.
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Amalgamating Garmin’s Varia radar with a set of custom Lezyne lights, both are powered by a battery pack that snaps onto the downtube above the bottom bracket. Keeping an eye out behind you, the system’s most ingenious feature is its ability to alert you to approaching cars from up to 140 metres away. It does this via a Varia display mounted ahead of the bars featuring a series of LEDs that progress from green to red as any vehicle closes in behind you. Alternatively, the bike’s radar will also pair directly with your computer, allowing you to use that instead. Happily, although designed by Garmin, other units are compatible, including those produced by Wahoo.
Beeping to get your attention, the system will also automatically adjust your lights relative to ambient light levels, while the rear lamp features a brake alert, so others know when you’re slowing down.
With the inevitable companion app offering customisation and oversight of the bike’s various features, battery life is claimed to be between 2 hours, 45 minutes and 20 hours, depending on the mode selected. Popping instantly from the frame, recharging should take just under three hours.
Scrolling through the Synapse’s various iterations, you can find SmartSense denoted by either the L, RL, or RLE. Of these, L stands for lights only, RL for radar and lights, and RLE means you get lights, radar, and electronic gearing.
Priced between £2,400 and £9,000, the entire range is available now.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 1RLE
The £9,000 halo model includes all the intelligent electronics, plus deep-section HollowGram 45 KNOT carbon wheels, a Shimano Dura-Ace Disc Di2 groupset, plus a SAVE Systembar carbon handlebar. Finished with a silver-grey satin paint job and tan-wall Vittoria tyres, it’s the Synapse concept taken to the nth degree.
Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3L
Sitting above the entry-level carbon model, this version is the first to feature the SmartSense system. However, at this level, you’ll be looking at lighting control only, rather than radar protection. Paired with a mechanical Shimano 105 groupset, it’s a value-focused model with almost the full complement of Synapse technology.