This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
We like the Cannondale Synapse. A lot. Our Bike of the Year is serving as a long-term test rig and is our endurance bike benchmark. Your extra five grand will get you the top-of-the-range high-modulus carbon frame, which weighs just 7.36kg overall – very impressive with full hydraulic braking. But just how does the premium machine compare with its much cheaper sibling?
Highs: Light weight, superb handling at speed and superb hydraulic braking
Lows: A little stiffer than the standard Synapse
Buy if: You want precision handling, top-notch equipment and great high-speed performance
The frame is constructed from Cannondale's own carbon. It features curved and slender seatstays, sculpted chainstays and carbon dropouts – forming what Cannondale calls a 'Micro-Suspension' rear triangle. The carbon lay-up is designed to reduce road noise and the frame is topped off by a 25.4mm carbon seatpost for even more vibration-damping flex and comfort.
It's not purely about plushness, though. Cannondale stops the rear end from becoming overly soft by splitting the seat tube in two just below the front derailleur mount. This 'Power Pyramid' adds stiffness to the bottom bracket, making the Synapse a superbly efficient bike to pedal.
Handling is laser-precise, but your hands perhaps get a little too much information from the front end
As you'd expect from all these design features, the Hi-Mod is a very smooth operator, and it beats virtually every other machine out there in both the comfort and performance stakes – but it's still not quite as silky as our bike of the year. Some of that difference is down to the exceptional Enve Smart 3.4 Disc wheels. These wide-rimmed carbon wheels have different depth rims for the front and rear. And though the back wheel benefits from the Synapse's well-designed rear end, the rigid front wheel creates more vibration that you can feel through your hands.
This only stands out because we're so familiar with the standard bike – and the Synapse is still phenomenally composed over rough road surfaces. It's just that we expected a little more from the range-topper of our current all-time favourite.
Cannondale's unique and lightweight SpiderRing chainset
Every other element of the Synapse Hi-Mod Disc is pretty much flawless. Fizik's Aliante is as good as ever and Schwalbe's fat, supple 25mm Ultremo rubber gives limpet-like grip whatever the conditions. Shifting and braking is handled by the Shimano R785 levers paired with Dura-Ace and Cannondale's lightweight SiSL2 chainset.
This keeps the weight down and contributes to a bike that climbs with ease thanks to light rims and great gearing. Crest a hill and the Hi-Mod descends wonderfully. It stays resolutely planted through turns and the total sense of control from Shimano's hydraulics keeps your power up. When riding on the limit it feels infallible, bullet-quick and totally assured – it's just that when we were spent and trundling home on poorer surfaces after a long ride it did let us know what we were riding over.