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First ride review: Cannondale Synapse + video

Cannondale’s endurance bike has always focused on comfort and now takes this to the next level. Here’s what we think after around 100 kilometres of riding

Cannondale’s Synapse line-up has always focused on comfort first, and this latest edition takes that ride quality to the next level.

Now, this is only a first ride report, those all important early impressions, and while I’ve only covered around 100 kilometres so far, it’s been long enough to leave me very impressed.

If you're looking for more on the tech deets of the Synapse and Cannondale's new SmartSense system that comes with it, you can find those over here. 

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - riding 10.jpg

The geometry is unchanged from the previous version, which is a good thing, as I found the Synapse to fit me like a glove. Its endurance styled set up gives a slightly more upright front end than Cannondale’s race bikes, but I found with a decent saddle to bar drop I can still get into a racy position when in the drops or stretched out onto the hoods.

The new Synapse has a performance feel to it. Its weight means it is no slouch off the line and the oversized tube profiles and compact rear triangle offer all of the stiffness you are likely to need.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - riding 2.jpg

On some of the quicker sections of the first ride I was loving how responsive the Synapse felt, and it’s the same on the hills, especially when climbing out of the saddle.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - bars 3.jpg

Saying that, though this mid-range model deserves some lighter wheels than the Fulcrums fitted as standard, something I will be trying over the test period to really see just how good this frameset is.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL.jpg

As I mentioned in my opening sentence though, it is the comfort that really blows me away.

For such a stiff and firm bike, the ride quality is sublime, and that’s even with the tyres pumped up hard.

The Cannondale always feels tight. It feels like it shouldn’t be comfortable, or at least not to this level, but as soon as I started to hit some of the rougher road sections it showed an unexpected absorption of high frequency road buzz for a bike of this ilk.

Over the next few weeks of testing, I’m looking forward to exploiting the increased tyre clearance of up to 35mm to push the comfort levels even further, and its versatility.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - clearance.jpg

The fact that the new Synapse can still run 30mm tyres with fully fitted mudguards opens it up to year-round riding, commuting or audaxing.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - fork.jpg

The geometry is well suited for all of those riding styles. Aggressive enough to feel fun in the bends or at speed but stepped back just enough that it isn’t too quick for riding on wet roads, or on those longer rides where fatigue can become an issue.

However you are riding though the front end feels well planted, and the whole bike gives plenty of feedback so that you can really let it fly.

So, those are my first thoughts which overall, are very positive.

There are plenty more hours in the saddle to come though which will let me really get to know the Synapse from top to bottom, and play with the SmartSense system, the integrated electronics set up and app.

2022 Cannondale Synapse 2 RL - rear light and smart sense sensor.jpg

I’ll be back soon with a full review of the Synapse.  For now, you can scroll through the photos we have of this stunning bike.  

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for road.cc, off-road.cc and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

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18 comments

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Surreyrider | 2 years ago
2 likes

First impressions review: this is a commuter bike (dressed up as an endurance bike) - with aero touches. It's a bike that doesn't make sense.

Disappointed - don't think I'll be replacing my Synapse with this.

There are cables/hoses all over the place, there is no space for a saddle bag, the lights are a permanent fixture, as is the small brick attached to the downtube which makes this bike super heavy - no idea how the reviewer reaches the conclusion that "its weight means it is no slouch off the line". It's 9.8kg. My £750 winter Allez 11 years ago weighed less.  

I don't want Varia. But don't get a choice. 

That doesn't help value which is not great anyway. Very poor - not just bog standard - alloy wheels on a £4,000 bike, alloy seatpost and rather old school seat clamp aren't selling it to me.

And I'm not really a threaded bottom bracket fan - quite happy with my press fit one - and Synapse - thank you very much. But maybe first-time bike buyers with money to burn will like it (is that who Cannondale are aiming this model at?).

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Gossa replied to Surreyrider | 2 years ago
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Cheers for the comments and glad you are happy with your current bike.

There is only one extra cable at the front that is really visible so not sure what you mean by 'cables/hoses all over the place'. Shop mechanics and end users are saying not to integrate them into the cockpit on bikes in this category

The SmartSense battery weighs 179grams but there is a weight saving if you compare the whole system to smilar parts of around 35grams. The battery is a lot smaller than it looks at 140x40x20 and once you've got your bottles on there you cant really see it. 

A Carbon 2RL in a 54 weighes 9.4kilos on our scales, that includes the whole SmartSense system (462 grams). A 2022 Trek Domane SL6 is the equivelent bike from another brand at a similar price (£99 less but no lights/radar) and that is 9.2kilos. The Synapse 2RL has a gravel wheelset fitted which is around 2kg so plenty of scope to save weight with different wheels.

Glad you love Garmin Varia, that's why we're offering it to more people as most people don't already have it and incorporating it into the SmartSense digital ecosystems means one less thing to charge.

As outlined above, i dont think any bike in the current craziness of rising prices can be described as good value but this holds its own. The 'old school' seatclamp is because people are fed up with losing a fiddly internal wedge in their frame.

Lastly, I am with you 100% on the BB,  I love press fit but we are the minority i'm afraid and most people want threaded bb's.

Thanks, Clive@cannondale

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Rendel Harris replied to Gossa | 2 years ago
1 like
Gossa wrote:

Glad you love Garmin Varia, that's why we're offering it to more people as most people don't already have it and incorporating it into the SmartSense digital ecosystems means one less thing to charge.

Ummm...

Surreyrider wrote:

I don't want Varia. But don't get a choice. 

Avatar
Gossa replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:
Gossa wrote:

Glad you love Garmin Varia, that's why we're offering it to more people as most people don't already have it and incorporating it into the SmartSense digital ecosystems means one less thing to charge.

Ummm...

Surreyrider wrote:

I don't want Varia. But don't get a choice. 

Ah my bad! Most people that have tried it would never go back.

 

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Surreyrider replied to Gossa | 2 years ago
1 like

Err...you're totally failing to convince me about:

* The Smart (non) Sense system - the lights aren't even bright enough for anything approaching night riding.

* The integration - doesn't meet my definition of integrated (why isn't the battery inside the frame, why can't the lights be changed for others etc)

* The 'it's so practical' spin about parts being easy to replace - Cannondale has replaced one set of proprietry parts with another - this new 'integrated' system with a brick of a battery that isn't even very powerful..

* The idea that most people wanted threaded BBs - that's just pushed by journalists. I don't know anyone that desperate to get rid of press fit or anyone moaning about wedge seatposts (or indeed other brands turning the clock back).

* The front end - looks like a dog's dinner of cables and hoses all over the place. They're more hidden on my 2014 Synapse and it's perfectly possible to hide them while having stem/bar that allows easy maintenance.

* The price. You're having a laugh! £4,000 for that bike with mechanical Ultegra that will be obsolete shortly doesn't represent decent value in anyone's books.

* The weight - 9.8kg or 9.5kg is an obsene weight for a bike at that price - it's morbidly obese.

* The endurance bike tag - the lights last 3hrs and that ain't exactly an endurance ride. They would even die long before the end of a 100-mile sportive.

So I'll stick by my summary - it's a commuter bike with aero touches. I'm really disappointed as I've been waiting for this release but I definitely won't be buying the Synapse. I'll also be very interested in sales - I don't think they'll be quite what Cannondale hope for.

Oh and as Rendell pointed out I don't want Varia and your cost defence is therefore weird to say the least. Why are people being forced to use kit by Cannondale?

 

Avatar
Gossa replied to Surreyrider | 2 years ago
0 likes
Surreyrider wrote:

Err...you're totally failing to convince me about:

* The Smart (non) Sense system - the lights aren't even bright enough for anything approaching night riding.

* The integration - doesn't meet my definition of integrated (why isn't the battery inside the frame, why can't the lights be changed for others etc)

* The 'it's so practical' spin about parts being easy to replace - Cannondale has replaced one set of proprietry parts with another).

* The idea that most people wanted threaded BBs - that's just pushed by journalists. I don't know anyone that desperate to get rid of press fit or anyone moaning about wedge seatposts (or indeed other brands turning the clock back).

* The front end - looks like a dog's dinner of cables and hoses all over the place. They're more hidden on my 2014 Synapse and it's perfectly possible to hide them while having stem/bar that allows easy maintenance.

* The price. You're having a laugh! £4,000 for that bike with mechanical Ultegra that will be obsolete shortly doesn't represent decent value in anyone's books.

* The weight - 9.8kg or 9.5kg is an obsene weight for a bike at that price - it's morbidly obese.

* The endurance bike tag - the lights last 3hrs and that ain't exactly an endurance ride. They would even die long before the end of a 100-mile sportive.

So I'll stick by my summary - it's a commuter bike with aero touches. I'm really disappointed as I've been waiting for this release but I definitely won't be buying the Synapse. I'll also be very interested in sales - I don't think they'll be quite what Cannondale hope for.

Oh and as Rendell pointed out I don't want Varia and your cost defence is therefore weird to say the least. Why are people being forced to use kit by Cannondale?

 

The lights aren't bright enough for night for anything approaching night riding? What like this pic of riding down here on Dorsets unlit lanes? Have you ridden with it? How can you make your claim?

You want the battery inside the frame yet the design means you can remove it in two seconds to charge it?

Most people do want a threaded BB, if you haven't noticed that then you need to spend more time on here. 

The front end has one extra wire? A dogs dinner? Hmmm...putting everything inside the bars eases maintenance? I dont see a mechanic in the land agreeing with you there i'm afraid.

The 2RL with the gravel wheelset is 9.4kilos with smartsense vs a trek Domane at 9.2 without SmartSense and lighter wheels. The IRLE is just over 8kg. It's a competitive weight.

The lights lasts up to 20 hrs, 3hrs is a minimum with everything on full blast. You can easily ride it all day and even charge it mid ride.

Sorry to hear you wont be buying one but they will be in very short supply anyway so hey ho, not the bike for you. 

 

Avatar
Surreyrider replied to Gossa | 2 years ago
1 like

300 lumens is pretty weak. Why would anyone want to charge it mid-ride as it takes ages?

The design is pig ugly - I can assure you a lot of people will be put off buying this bike with a small brick attached to the down tube - some will even be put off because they won't want others to mistake it as  an e-bike.

You want to try going to a club and seeing if threaded bottom brackets are a really hot topic (hint - they're not).

The Trek Domane is renowned for being grossly overweight - and so is this Cannondale. 9.4/6/8 or whatever kilos is lardy in anyone's book. Especially for £4,000.

There are bars/stems that allow cables to be hidden neatly while also making maintenance pretty easy.

The cables/hoses are a total mess - like spaghetti. There is no getting away from the appallingly untidy front end.

If I were you, i wouldn't take a peek at the comments on GCN's video or Cycling Tips' story - it'll take you until the middle of next year to reply and they'll all still come right back at you.

The bottom line is I think Cannondale has taken a vaguely interesting idea and executed it appallingly.

As I said, I'm hugely disappointed as I had high hopes - I love my current Synapse. I would take any of the existing models over this new version - even if you paid me to ride it. 

And I rest my case...

 

Avatar
Gossa replied to Surreyrider | 2 years ago
0 likes
Surreyrider wrote:

300 lumens is pretty weak. Why would anyone want to charge it mid-ride as it takes ages?

The design is pig ugly - I can assure you a lot of people will be put off buying this bike with a small brick attached to the down tube - some will even be put off because they won't want others to mistake it as  an e-bike.

You want to try going to a club and seeing if threaded bottom brackets are a really hot topic (hint - they're not).

The Trek Domane is renowned for being grossly overweight - and so is this Cannondale. 9.4/6/8 or whatever kilos is lardy in anyone's book. Especially for £4,000.

There are bars/stems that allow cables to be hidden neatly while also making maintenance pretty easy.

The cables/hoses are a total mess - like spaghetti. There is no getting away from the appallingly untidy front end.

If I were you, i wouldn't take a peek at the comments on GCN's video or Cycling Tips' story - it'll take you until the middle of next year to reply and they'll all still come right back at you.

The bottom line is I think Cannondale has taken a vaguely interesting idea and executed it appallingly.

As I said, I'm hugely disappointed as I had high hopes - I love my current Synapse. I would take any of the existing models over this new version - even if you paid me to ride it. 

And I rest my case...

 

Yeah, this is definately not the bike for you by the sounds of it, thanks you for the feedback though. 

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Surreyrider replied to Gossa | 2 years ago
0 likes

Nope. Might take a look at it when the 10th, more refined version comes out And I'm in my 70s. I think there will be a lot of current Synapse owners thinking the same and judging by forum comments across cycling sites this version isn't going to attract many new riders. I wouldn't suggest you read the comments - they'll give you a bad headache! 

Cannondale have just strengthened sales of the BMC Roadmachine, Canyon Endurace and Giant Defy with this very expensive commuter bike. 
 

I would look at the Supersix Evo - always wanted one - as it's become almost as comfortable as the current Synapse by all accounts but I have read plenty about the steerer design flaw that wrecks the bike so won't be going there until that isn't an issue. 

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wycombewheeler replied to Surreyrider | 2 years ago
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Surreyrider wrote:

* The idea that most people wanted threaded BBs - that's just pushed by journalists. I don't know anyone that desperate to get rid of press fit or anyone moaning about wedge seatposts (or indeed other brands turning the clock back).

I find that hard to believe, most people if offered the choise would prefer a solution where parts are made to be screwed together, and can be removed without use of a hammer. Complaints about press fit bottom brackets creaking are very common, and those that do their own maintenence don't really want to fork out for £60 of tools in order to replce bottom brackets.

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Surreyrider replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
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Not really something that I've heard from cyclists. But then I know a lot of cyclists who aren't keen amateur mechanics beyond the basics. Complaints about press fit BBs used to be very common, granted, but not now in my experience (although cycling journalists who also bring us these fluffy bike reviews love to perpetuate it). 

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sparrowlegs | 2 years ago
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Looks like the geometry has changed massively in sizes less than 56. Head angles have gone steeper than even the Supersix.

I must admit, I'm not a fan of the dropped seat tube design but changing to a threaded bottom bracket is a welcome move.

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Gossa replied to sparrowlegs | 2 years ago
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sparrowlegs wrote:

Looks like the geometry has changed massively in sizes less than 56. Head angles have gone steeper than even the Supersix.

I must admit, I'm not a fan of the dropped seat tube design but changing to a threaded bottom bracket is a welcome move.

Stack and reach are virtually identical across all sizes. It does look strange as i normally ride a 51 and when one came in it looked too small for me but i've measured it up and it's within a couple of mm the same as my last one.

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Oldfatgit | 2 years ago
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Would be nice if I could run this sort of stuff off my Synapse Neo battery.

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zero_trooper | 2 years ago
1 like

Nice vid Liam, I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to bikes, but the integrated electronics looks really interesting kiss

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Liam Cahill replied to zero_trooper | 2 years ago
0 likes

Fanks! It'll be interesting to see where Cannondale goes with it in terms of hooking up more things to that battery, battery upgrades, lights etc

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hawkinspeter replied to Liam Cahill | 2 years ago
1 like
Liam Cahill wrote:

Fanks! It'll be interesting to see where Cannondale goes with it in terms of hooking up more things to that battery, battery upgrades, lights etc

Something I've mentioned in the past that would be ideal is an integrated GPS tracker that's built into the frame. Crims could still knick them and strip components, but I bet it would catch out a lot of opportunistic thieves.

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Gossa replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
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Great idea, I know they are looking at stuff like that too as the app allows you to register the bike for the warranty and you can also log service history on it. Perhaps the app could alert a future owner if they try and register themselves that the bike is stolen etc. Cheers 

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