Does the jack-of-all-trades bicycle finally exist?
Modern endurance bikes like Cannondale’s Synapse bridge the gap between lightweight all-around racers and comfortable endurance bikes. They do this by seamlessly blending attributes from each category, making them an exciting ride worthy of road racing while remaining smooth enough to explore the occasional dirt road.
First introduced in 2006, the Synapse capitalized on Cannondale’s proprietary SAVE (Synapse active vibration elimination) micro-suspension system. SAVE is a series of flex zones built into the carbon frame and fork that soak up vibrations before reaching the rider. The new, more aggressive Synapse maintains its SAVE features, but further refines the system in the chain stays, seat stays, and fork, in an effort to reduce overall weight.
The bike includes two additional SAVE components: the 25.4-millimeter seat post (originally designed for Cannondale’s Supersix EVO race bike) and a semi-integrated SystemBar. Both the post and handlebar flex slightly over bumpy roads — the SystemBar offers up to four millimeters of deflection thanks to its thin, elliptical shape. The sum of these SAVE features is a supremely smooth ride that takes the chatter out of neglected pavement.
The Synapse can fit up to 32-millimeter tires, with room to spare. We tested it with 28-millimeter Vittoria Corsa tires, which come stock on the Hi-Mod Disc Red eTap model. With 28-millimeter rubber, the bike floated over bumpy roads and dirt paths. Swap out the 28s with some 32-millimeter tires and you’d have a versatile race bike capable of tackling even gentle gravel courses.
The Synapse’s many compliance features make its endurance pedigree obvious. It’s the bike’s lightweight build and updated geometry that hem it closer to the all-around category. The frame, at just 950 grams, is 220 grams lighter than the previous model. It’s also 9.4 percent stiffer according to Germany’s Zedler Institute’s head tube stiffness rating.
It has a slightly steeper head tube angle (73 degrees for a size 56cm) and a smaller trail number (58 millimeters) than the previous model, which tightens up the steering considerably. It’s not ultra-responsive like the Supersix Evo, but it’s dramatically quicker than a typical endurance ride. A 173-millimeter head tube length provides a happy middle ground for riders who don’t want to sit straight upright but aren’t looking for that slammed race position either.
Cannondale left the Synapse’s wheelbase, chainstays, and bottom bracket height basically unchanged, which helps maintain its noteworthy stability. You’ll notice the predictable steering at high speeds and rough terrain. At 16.08 pounds, the Synapse Hi-Mod
Red eTap squashes the dubious notion of the lumbering endurance bike. (It is just slightly heavier than Canyon’s 15.87-pound Endurace.)
It excels as an all-day grinder and can moonlight as a racer. With this much compliance combined with updated geometry to keep racers happy, the Synapse makes a strong case for a one-bike garage.
But what fun would that be?
Update: Cannondale representatives reached out to inform VeloNews that the SAVE handlebars are no longer available on the Synapse platform. This bike will instead ship with the Cannondale Escape Hanger Carbon Handlebar and C1 Ultralight Alloy Stem with integrated Garmin mount.