First Look: Cannondale Synapse 2018

Words by Aaron Scott

on 14/07/2017 12:14:54


When Cannondale first launched the updated Synapse a few years ago it was lauded for combining a smooth ride with the stiffness and performance of a race bike. Much of this was achieved through a more relaxed geometry than the racier SuperSix Evo and a frame designed to absorb vibrations and deflect impacts, with very impressive results, as the Synapse was named Bike of the Year by a number of publications and websites.

For 2018, Cannondale have taken all of those positive characteristics and, quite simply, tried to make them much, much better, claiming that the new model is lighter, stiffer, smoother and faster. This new bike, they claim, is true endurance machinery.


Stiffer, size-specific and slimmed down

At first glance, the new Synapse looks similar to its previous iterations but dig a little deeper and the frame and forks have had a complete overhaul.

One of the main goals for Cannondale with the new bike was to create a faster and higher performance bike for those riders that don't want to sacrifice speed for comfort. The first stage in achieving this was to cut a huge 252g from the frame, bringing it down to a claimed 918g for an unpainted 56cm frame, and making it one of the lightest frames in the hotly contested endurance race category. The fork has gone on a similar diet to cut 116g and now weighs in at 365g, only bested by the Canyon Endurance CF SLX.

Next on the agenda for Cannondale was increasing stiffness without sacrificing comfort, and the new Synapse receives Cannondale's biggest commitment yet to size-specific construction with every frame size getting its own rider-appropriate carbon layup and tube dimensions to ensure that whatever size you are, you can enjoy the same ride feel and handling. Headtube stiffness on the Synapse is market-leading, and the forks get proportionally stiffer as size increases with the larger headtubes allowing for larger, stiffer downtubes. This stiffness is balanced with different fork rakes by size to ensure that the steering feel remains consistent across all sizes.

The 2018 range comes specified exclusively with disc brakes - a major consideration for the updated frame - with the resulting design distinctly asymmetric to increase stiffness and handle the additional forces from discs, while still retaining the potential for deflection to maintain comfort. This isn't just a minor consideration either, with the non-drive side chain stay 18% bigger in key areas compared to the drive side, and both the down tube and seat tube asymmetrically offset to meet the BB30a bottom bracket shell. This trend continues in the fork, with a larger left leg shape and differing carbon layup to fight twist and flex under disc brake loads.


In addition to the lower weight and increased stiffness, the Synapse has had a tweak to its geometry for 2018. Cannondale's Endurance Race geometry continues the theme of 'fast comfort' and offers a balance between a pure race position and upright comfort with frame sizes progressing in both stack and reach from smallest to tallest. For this new frame, the stack is slightly lower overall with the bottom bracket also dropped and reach is marginally reduced, along with the wheelbase. The result is a sharper-responding bike than the previous models.

Enhanced comfort and practicality

As with previous models, the new Synapse continues to use Cannondale's SAVE Micro-Suspension technology where specific areas of the frame, fork and seatpost are engineered to allow flex which absorbs vibration and shocks. The challenge for the 2018 range, however, was matching the comfort of previous models with the improved stiffness which Cannondale craved for the new frame - this has been done by revisiting the SAVE technology, and the statistics suggest that this has been achieved, with frame compliance comparable to competitor models.

The seatpost is also overhauled with the inclusion of SAVE technology. At 25.4mm, the skinny post affords some flex anyway, but Cannondale claim the new version features up to a huge 36% of deflection with no weight penalty.For 2018 Cannondale have also addressed the growth in more versatile road bikes, and the new Synapse comes with extra clearance to accommodate up to 32mm tyres and hidden mudguards mounts.