Grand fondos, dirt riding, the Strade Bianche, Battenkill, Rouge Roubaix, – as these styles of riding have risen to prominence the endurance category has gone from something designed for the old century riders to an integral part of any companies line and Cannondales launch of the all-new Synapse shows just how much importance they place on the category.
While the Synapse debuted back in 2006 and has been essentially unchanged since then, Cannondale actually began looking at performance endurance riding back in 2002 with their aluminum RoadWarrior. The 2006 Synapse saw their first all carbon bike and a further refinement of performance endurance existing in a space between touring a racing.
The all-new 2014 Synapse refines this further to what they call endurance race. They envision a rider that is very fit, likes to ride very fast and isnt afraid to take a turn down the path less traveled in search of an extra hour or two of adventure. This rider isnt busy uploading their ride or staring at a power meter, its about enjoying riding, not enjoying racing. The bikes philosophy comes from a simple but subtle distinction, racers and endurance riders want the same thing, just in a different order. Where a racer prizes power transfer and razor sharp handling over comfort or compliance they still need the later two. An aggressive endurance rider wants comfort and compliance first, but wants a big helping of power transfer and precise handling as well.
A ground up redesign of the Synapse with this philosophy in mind began three years ago. SAVE, Cannnodales vibration dampening concept is again a key feature of the bike, called SAVE Plus Micro-Suspension. Instead of simply flattened cross-sections, the seat stays and chain stays are actually twisted. This delivers the controlled vertical compliance they wanted but has an added benefit-A fiber is more compliant the longer it gets, by twisting the stays the fibers are actually slightly longer than the stay itself. The twisted stays also wind up on themselves under compression, acting like a coil spring.
Tough to discern in a photo, the twist is quite pronounced in person.
SAVE Plus Micro Suspension up close…
During the discussion we were introduced to a concept called Inter Laminar Shear Dissipation. This describes how the individual layers of carbon work together to dampen impact and cancel out vibration. A stiff lay-up can be achieved many ways, but some of them will deliver better compliance than others. Cannondale engineers spent a lot of time finding stiffness with compliance in their lay up.
The forks benefit from SAVE technology as well, but ask for some compliance out of the 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 tapered carbon steer tube. The drop outs are kicked back to shorten the front center for snappy handling but also to give the axle a mechanical advantage as it works with the blades to create vertical compliance but limit lateral deflection.
The kicked back drop outs and SAVE features of the new Synapse fork.
As much of the in the saddle comfort comes from the seat post and cluster deflection, Cannondale worked with FSA to create a 25.4mm seat post standard. With the sloped top tube and replacement of the seat collar to an integrated binder the Synapse exposes roughly 6.5cm more seat post than a comparatively sized competitors bike according to Cannondale. All these things combine to create 113% more deflection than a typical seat cluster set up.
The narrower seat post diameter, 25.4mm, is immediately noticeable.
Cannondales BallisTech carbon also makes its debut on the Synapse. Used in other road and mountain platforms, it is very tough carbon initially designed for military applications. Cannondale adds a network of very hi-mod carbon to the frame tuning the ride, creating a stiff and lively feel with the durability and compliance, all while keeping the frame under 1000grams, very light in the endurance world.
The seat tube, typically the least sexy or engineered part of any frame posses perhaps the most talked about design element, a forked design as it hits the bottom bracket. Cannondale engineers found that an oval large enough to deliver the stiffness they wanted at the bottom bracket, yet light enough to achieve their weight goals, was actually crimping into a peanut shape under big loads. By using the exact same material, but in two narrower, wide-set tubes they achieved better stiffness at no extra weight. It looks pretty cool too. The seat post is also heavily scalloped at the rear wheel to help with more seat tube vertical deflection. Borrowing a term from other models they call it the Power Pyramid.
The split seat tube, new 73mm BB and asymmetric SAVE non-drive side chain stay.
The bottom bracket is a new 73mm BB-standard. Dont worry all the same cranks work, they just took away 5mm of spacers for an asymmetric non-drive side, yet retained 10mm of ankle/crank clearance on both sides, something they feel is non-negotiable.
The bikes geometry is designed to thread the needle between the laid back, tall head tube, all your weight in the saddle feel of typical endurance and the slammed bars and aggressive full forward position associated with pure race bikes. Including womens bikes, Cannondale has 11 total sizes of the Synapse, all optimized for appropriate stack and reach and to deliver the same ride feel. Cannondale even uses two different fork rakes, one for 54cm and smaller and one for 56cm and larger, to preserve the correct feel at the bars.
Availability and Builds
This first new Synapse bikes should be hitting show room floors in the US in late May and early June. Look for the top of the line Hi-Mod bikes to arrive first. Like the new EVE a Hi Mod BLACK INC. Synapse is the top model with Dura Ace 9000, new Vision Metron 40 wheels, the exceptional 484gram Hollowgram SiSl2 cranks with OPI spider and FSA carbon cockpit with matching black finishes. The Synapse Hi-Mod 2 uses the new SRAM True 22 red build with mechanical calipers, Hollowgram SiSl2 cranks with OPI spider and Mavic Krysium Elite wheels using an all new 27mm tire co-developed with Mavic. Hi-Mod 3 Ultegra bikes with Mavic Aksiom wheels will be heading to shops in early August. Pricing is to be determined.
Currently no SRAM road hydraulic is available, which is a shame. A bike like the Synapse, with bad conditions and dirt roads in its future could benefit mightily form hydraulic braking. Even a hydro rim option would be welcome addition. Cannondale engineers assured us they are working on the disc question but arent ready to jump in with both feet yet. Stay tuned.
As always, Cannondale took care of women riders with three womens specific builds and womens specific geometry versions. They also added a new 56cm size to the womens line up to expand the size range for larger female riders. The top of the line will be a SRAM Red True 22 build with both mechanical and Di2 Ultegra versions available.
Race Tested, Pro Approved
The Synapse has already seen major success under Cannondales Pro team. The riders actually liked the bike so much it created a bit of a dilemma for the marketing team. They had initially planned for the bike to be seen for the first time at Flanders but some riders, deep into testing the bike, asked to race it as soon as Strade Bianche. The cat was out of the bag, at least as far as spy shots go, but Cannondale was so thrilled the team liked the bike they were happy to adjust their plans. The bike has since seen massive classics success, including victory in Gent Wevelgem and a podium at the Tour of Flanders. Yes, that podium. Both Ted King and Peter Sagan, on the eve of his Fleche Wallonne campaign, were present at the launch to give the bike their stamp of approval. Ted King fell in love with the bike immediately and easily found his preferred position despite the new geometry. Peter Sagan actually has his very own mold and runs non-stock Synapse geometry, but you can do that when you are the defending green jersey at the Tour de France at the ripe age of 23.
Cannondale’s road product manager may well have coined a new term during the presentation. When telling the story of his first ride on the bike, an impromptu 86-mile jaunt with some singletrack through Harlem, he spoke of the bikes ‘adventure-ness’. It’s a great concept that describes how many roadies are now attacking the sport – looking to connect new roads, heading out with no real route in mind, prepping for an epic ride at one of the many new fondos or gravel races. A nice touch that seems to sum up this impulse is the addition of a new Cannondale patented light built into the 30mm spacer. If your ride goes a bit longer than anticipated, the dirt road you explored was a bit steeper and more fun than you thought, don’t worry about riding home in the dark. Cannondale, and the new Synapses’ sense of ‘adventure-ness’ has you covered.
We will be heading out for a first 2014 Synapse ride on the white roads of Strade Bianche shortly. Check back for a first ride report tomorrow.