Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod first ride review

Simplicity, comfort and speed

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

My first major excursion on the Cannondale Synapse was around Lake Como in Italy. It took me up the challenging Madonna del Ghisallo climb, which gave me a great opportunity to get to grips with the bike.

Sadly this bike isn't an off-peg model as it used the Dura-Ace Di2's colourway, priced at £7,499, and was built with SRAM's new Red eTap Disc, priced at £6,499, so the price of this model would fall somewhere in between the two.

My test bike was a mash up between the Dura-Ace Di2 model and the eTap

Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod spec overview

  • Weight: 8.05kg (58cm including Shimano 105 pedals, Garmin Edge 1000, 2 x bottle cages)
  • Frame: Ballistec Hi-Mod carbon
  • Fork: Synapse Disc asymmetric Ballistec Hi-Mod carbon
  • Gears: SRAM eTap WiFli (50/34, 11-32)
  • Brakes: SRAM Red eTap Hydro disc 160/160mm
  • Wheels: Cannondale Hollowgram Si Disc
  • Tyres: Vittoria Corsa G+ 28c
  • Post: Cannondale SAVE
  • Saddle: Fabric Scoop shallow pro carbon
  • Bar: Cannondale SAVE Systembar
  • Chainset: Cannondale SiSL2

The integrated out front mount takes a Garmin on top and a Fabric Lumaray light below

Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod ride impression

On the road the bike felt instantly familiar. I've been riding the previous Synapse for three years now and the new Synapse feels significantly smoother, which is in no small portion down to the excellent 28c Vittoria tyres sitting pretty on Cannondale's own Hollowgram Si carbon rims.

The rims measure 35mm deep with a blunt aero shape and a wide 19.5mm internal measurement, which do an excellent job of shaping the tyre for maximum grip and comfort — I ran them at 70psi.

The new back-end offers increased tyre clearance over the old model

The hubs are Cannondale's own design but are built on the internals of the highly regarded DT Swiss 240 pairing. The smoothness is just one part of the equation, where the Synapse really scores is just how punchy it feels.

The drivetrain response through the wide and stiff BB30a bottom bracket makes this a bike that you really want under you when launching into a climb, especially on the long draggy sections of the Ghisallo where it was easy to maintain a decent cadence.

The eTap WiFli with its 11-32 range was a hill climbing godsend, but on the sections where the gradient rose to 15 percent, getting out of the saddle, dropping a cog and launching into a gritted teeth effort is met with resolute stiffness and rapid response — so none of your (considerable) effort feels wasted.

The rear mech hanger is a burly CNC'd aluminium unit borrowed from Cannondale's Beast of the East mountain bike

If you want a bike that's simply at its best on big mile adventures, and will still put a grin on your face when you want to get seriously busy in a sprint, then I'd suggest that the new Synapse should be top of your list.

Once the climbing is done and the descending starts, my renewed love of the Synapse was cemented. The Synapse rolls well over rougher roads, but as good as it is when the road starts to rise it's when pointed downhill that all hell breaks loose. This thing is one of the best rides to point downhill that I've tried, in all honesty I thought for a moment I had been riding a SuperSix Evo by mistake.

It's razor sharp steering responses and stability through fast corners is simply brilliant, and the larger tyres offer grip beyond your expectations. The Red discs with their big 160mm rotors offer wonderful brake feel too and a lack of noisy protestations under hard braking.

Rolls like a Synapse, descends like an Evo

In the busy world of bike launches, it's interesting that Cannondale is the one to launch an endurance machine when its racing rivals, Trek (Emonda) and Specialized (Tarmac), are both moving their race-bred machines to more comfort orientated design goals, and Cérvelo has put a rider comfort spin on the R5.

What Cannondale has done is make its already top-of-the-endurance-tree Synapse a racier proposition and far from compromise the comfort — in fact, on the Hi-Mod its most certainly enhanced.

Cannondale seems to have compressed these seemingly disparate categories and blurred the lines between what's race and what's endurance to the point where choosing either option won't mean compromising on the benefits of the other.

The Synapse is a very capable climber with an impressive level of stiffness through the drivetrain

For a confidence boosting machine designed for seriously fast downhill runs, the new Synapse is right up there with our Bike of the Year winner the Specialized Roubaix and Superbike of the Year Trek Domane.

When you're getting into the higher and steeper slopes of Alpine climbs then SRAM's Red eTap WiFli 11-32 cassette starts to make a lot of sense

That the Synapse is doing this with simplicity of design, and without the mechanical suspension aids of its two big endurance rivals, is impressive stuff — but the Roubaix and Domane may have the edge on the Synapse when it comes to the cobbles and sub-par surfaces. However, that in no way diminishes what is another truly exciting and very, very clever ride from the very, very clever people at Cannnodale. 

Full Specifications

Name: Synapse Hi-Mod
Built by: Cannondale
Price: N/A
Brakes: Sram Red eTap Hydro disc 160/160mm
Fork: Synapse Disc asymmetric Ballistec Hi-Mod carbon
Frame Material: Ballistec Hi-Mod carbon
Wheelset: Cannondale Hollowgram Si Disc 

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