Balance. Its a funny thing, implying a singularity that strikes the perfect compromise or optimum division. In cycling, other than staying upright on two wheels, it is a much more complicated thing than that. A bike one rider may call perfectly balanced, another may consider all wrong. When designing the all new 2014 Synapse Cannondale engineers kept this thinking front and center. The Synapse is their long mile endurance bike and Cannondale knew riders reaching for this bike prize comfort and stability above pure power transfer or nimble handling. Still, Cannondale was determined to keep the bike lively and racey, striking a balance between all day comfort and pure power transfer, between a relaxed position and razor sharp handling. In short, they wanted the new bike to do all the things the original Synapse did, only better.
The parcours Cannondale chose to present the bike to the world was evidence of just how successful they believe they have been – the white gravel roads of Tuscany. The Strade Bianche and LEroica have made these roads famous. Imagine hard pack, pot-holed, washboard dirt with a scattering of gravel across the top half an inch thick – in a word, treacherous, in three words, treacherous beyond belief. Drifting, completely sideways, around a corner is not uncommon. Changing lines takes planning and a careful touch at the bars. Combine these road surfaces with punchy climbs requiring a generous application of power and you have the perfect test ground for endurance meets race. Consider this, during 60miles of riding we logged almost 7000 of climbing, despite the fact that there is not a mountain to be found. Flat road simply does not exist along the white gravel of Tuscany.
Cannondale Pro Cycling Team rider, Ted King, fresh off the classics was an effective chaperone as 30 journalists descended treacherous gravel.
Unfamiliar roads, a foreign peloton, different wheels and a new bike add up to first impressions only. To truly understand what a new bike can do requires roads and components a rider knows well. Despite this, one feature stood about above and beyond the original Synapse a very lively feel. The bike is quick and responsive under power with a direct and instant acceleration we do not associate with endurance bikes. A truly lively bike gives you the sensation of fresh legs, and the 2014 Synapse has this ability. As the gravel climbs reared up, one after another, the Synapse was a faithful companion, always ready to spring to life. After our first ride it came as no surprise that the riders of the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team are such fans of the bike.
Of big hit compliance, the Synapse has plenty, remaining composed and stable while soaking up the worst Tuscany had to offer. This was another of the bikes defining characteristics. It appears to have very well balanced compliance, from fork to rear axle, designed for performance as much as comfort. When the road is nasty the Synapse lets you stay on the power, keeping both front and rear wheel in contact with the road surface. When climbing on loose and bumpy gravel this ability is key. Some pure race bikes have such short and stiff rear ends that the wheel can hop and break loose on even smooth pavement. The Synapse allows you to really lay down the watts, even handling quite a bit of out of the saddle climbing, while keeping the rear wheel firmly planted in the gravel.
While the fit is endurance leaning, the geometry is not inconsistent with what a racer needs. Riding low and long may require a bit of a negative drop to the stem, while an endurance rider will want to use the trick 30mm spacer with the built in light, but neither rider will feel they are very compromised when it comes to handling or laying down power. Cannondale calls it S.E.R.G – Synapse Endurance Race Geometry.
King told us, while the EVO is his preferred bike, he would happily race the Synapse all season if asked.
We will be putting our order in for a long term 2104 Synapse test bike from Cannondale. Once we get it on our home turf and spend the necessary time getting the fit just right, well let you know how it performs in the pages of peloton. Based on this first ride, we expect to be impressed and find a bike we would be happy to make an everyday rider, something we couldnt say about the previous Synapse.