Do you consider yourself a “cross activity enthusiast”? This is where Cannondale pitches its new Synapse 2018 model. Invited to put it to the test around the bumpy and lumpy and somewhat frenetic Italian roads around Lake Como, here is our first ride review on Cannondale’s take of the comfort, but still stiff combo that is currently de rigueur within the bike industry.

“Endurance race, not endurance cruise” is a strapline used in the Cannondale presentation. The Holy Grail of bike design at the moment is carbon designed to flex just enough to provide comfort to the rider but without compromising stiffness. It’s a fine line to walk, make a frame too stiff, only a pro will appreciate it. Make it too soft and instantly you have a bike that lacks confidence giving, and for some negates the feeling of exhilaration and fun.

The winding, narrow roads of Lake Como
Will Clarke lent us his wheel down to the ferry
Worth stopping to have a look at

The first 40 minutes of the test ride was a controlled cruise down to catch a ferry, around twisting slightly undulating roads, nothing too strenuous. But instantly you notice how much road noise this bike absorbs. There’s that moment when you hit a pothole and grit your teeth waiting for that uncomfortable thud, but there’s nothing. It seems to be almost mocking the road surface with how smoothly it takes it. We arrive at the ferry crossing, it’s already sweltering but the ride has felt calm, so calm it’s hard to tell how fast we’ve even been going–it’s confirmed an average of 28 kph, so not snail pace, yet you’re not sure of your speed due to the level of comfort you receive from the bike, or maybe it’s drafting Cannondale Drapac pro-rider Will Clarke.

Getting into the groove and feeling how the Cannondale Synapse deals with any road noise that gets thrown its way

So what’s new with the Cannondale Synapse 2018?

As is most of the industry, Cannondale is refining its frame to provide increased comfort for rider experience and this can be seen in the expansion of their SAVE system. This micro-suspension system can be found in the chainstays, seatstays and fork legs. With a noticeable curvature in the carbon which allows flex, meaning the bike handles different terrain and does the hard work of taking all the impact so you don’t have to.

Details showing where the curvature and flex are designed into the carbon structure for the SAVE micro-suspension system

Repositioned seat clamp meaning easier accessibility with tools for adjustment

The curvature that has been designed into the seatpost has great balance between flex and stiffness. This is where Cannondale seem to have got it right, the compliance between the rear stays and seatpost mean there is still a high level of comfort and softening of the surface you’re riding over without that feeling of the seatpost swaying. With a re-position of the seatpost clamp too, you are now able to fit a torque wrench and other tools for easier access when adjusting, which was a little problematic on the previous model.

The new SAVE system cockpit is looking aero and slick with the ergonomic design that is popular on the professional race bikes. But Cannondale have opted for a slim fit design they say mimics the circumference of a traditional round bar. The thought behind this being improved comfort for when you’re riding with your hands on top of the bars instead of the hoods.

Integrated Garmin / Fabric light mount

The bar also has the aesthetic of a one piece structure but does in fact function as a two piece, with interchangeable bar and stem lengths. This gives back the level of flexibility in setup that we are used to with the traditional two piece system but still giving the Synapse that aero look. Cannondale have also helpfully designed in 8 degrees of pitch adjustment, so you are able to rotate the bar to accommodate the best fit to your grip…handy! As is the Garmin and Fabric Lumaray light mount integrated into the stem–it’s all about keeping those lines clean.

Different sized head tubes to ensure an optimised riding feel no matter the size of the rider

Rider Optimised Head Tubes and Frame

To ensure that every rider, no matter how tall or small, experiences the same ride feel there are three fork offsets and separate head tube sizes. This ensures that taller riders still feel the benefit of flex in the frame but through larger tubing there’s still the stiffness to support additional weight when pushing the bike to its limits on descents and cornering.

Climbing feels relaxed even in a sweltering 35 degrees thanks to the geometry of the new Synapse

Cannondale Synapse 2018: Weight

When we wander into the realm of endurance, so often this is synonymous with an increase in weight. At 950 g for the medium frame this proves that endurance doesn’t have to be heavy. With a 220 g weight saving from their previous frame and 116 g saving on the forks this is not to be sniffed at. You feel a lightness to the bike, especially when tackling climbs.

Cannondale Synapse 2018: Geometry

When it comes to the geometry of the bike Cannondale’s line is: “Low enough to go hard. Upright enough to encourage you to ride longer.” With the flexibility around the cockpit for interchangeable stems, bars and spacers even if the factory setup isn’t to your liking then it’s possible to change.

It gives you a relaxed position that facilitates sitting into the climb and spinning up and avoiding fatigue over long rides. Even in 35 degree heat there’s a calmness that the geometry gifts you.

Cannondale Synapse 2018: Geometry

Size 44 48 51 54 56 58 61
Seat tube 370 mm 400 mm 443 mm 480 mm 520 mm 550 mm 590 mm
Top tube 505 mm 517 mm 531 mm 547 mm 561 mm 579 mm 604 mm
Head tube 103 mm 122 mm 137 mm 161 mm 173 mm 197 mm 229 mm
Head angle 70,2 ° 70,8 ° 71,7 ° 71,7 ° 73,0 ° 73,0 ° 73,0 °
Seat angle 74,7 ° 74,6 ° 74,3 ° 73,9 ° 73,5 ° 73,0 ° 72,5 °
Chainstays 410 mm 410 mm 410 mm 410 mm 410 mm 410 mm 410 mm
BB Drop 75 mm 75 mm 75 mm 73 mm 73 mm 70 mm 70 mm
Reach 365 mm 371 mm 377 mm 382 mm 386 mm 393 mm 402 mm
Stack 510 mm 530 mm 550 mm 570 mm 590 mm 610 mm 640 mm

Cannondale Shifting it up a Notch

When it comes to integrating electronic shifting junction boxes onto a bike, as roadies, we all know aesthetics need to be respected. If you’re going to take away cables to provide cleaner lines, having a junction box just slapped on haphazardly can make you want to weep. Cannondale have taken note and the junction box has been slipped into the downtube. Looking smooth! Not only Shimano Di2 and SRAM eTap compatible, mechanical shift wiring can also be fed through. With what they claim to be an improved internal routing system reducing any cable rattle – as we all know how annoying and tiring a noisy bike can be.

Routing for cabling for mechanical shifting can also be routed through the same position on the frame as the electronic shifting junction box
Electronic Shifting that speaks to the heart of the roadie that appreciates smooth lines

Cannondale Synapse 2018: More Technical Details

The model we rode was equipped with a direct mount SRAM disc system on the Cannondale HollowGram SL carbon wheels, which was well and truly put to the test on the winding, quite chaotic roads around Lake Como. Let’s just say, at one point without disc brakes a situation that arose could have been a lot worse.

Direct mount disc brakes

Which leads us nicely onto tires; we had the Vittoria Corsa mounted on our bikes, and they seem to be the tire du jour, at GRAN FONDO we’ve put these to the test on numerous occasions and each time can’t recommend them highly enough. The confidence they give when pushing it into hairpins on descents is remarkable. The Cannondale Synapse 2018 can accommodate up to 32 mm tires, so this bike gives you options, if you’re one of those “cross activity enthusiasts”. We rode 28 mm on roughly 85-90 psi, another trend we’re seeing now. Long gone are the days of inflating to 120 psi!

Fortunately around the roads of Lake Como mudguards weren’t needed, but if riding in wetter conditions with the direct mounts these mudguards look pretty sleek

Cannondale Synapse 2018: Models, Prices

CannondaleSynapse Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2

Drivetrain Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed
Wheels Cannondale HollowGram SL Carbon Clincher Disc
Brakes Shimano Dura Ace Hydro Disc
Cranks HollowGram SiSl2 w/ SpideRing SL
Price € 10,999

CannondaleSynapse Hi-Mod SRAM Red eTap

Drivetrain SRAM Red eTap HRD
Wheels Cannondale HollowGram Si Carbon Clincher Disc
Brakes SRAM Red Disc
Cranks SRAM Red, BB30a
Price € 8,799

CannondaleSynapse Hi-Mod Dura-Ace

Drivetrain Shimano Dura Ace
Wheels Cannondale HollowGram Carbon Clincher Disc
Brakes Shimano Hydro Disc
Cranks HollowGram Si w/ SpideRing
Price € 7,199

CannondaleSynapse Hi-Mod Women’s Red eTap

Drivetrain SRAM Red eTap HRD
Wheels Cannondale HollowGram Si Carbon Clincher Disc
Brakes SRAM Red Disc
Cranks SRAM Red, BB30a
Price € 8,799

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Dura-Ace

Drivetrain Shimano Dura-Ace 9120
Wheels Fulcrum Racing 500 DB
Brakes Shimano Dura Ace Disc
Cranks HollowGram Si w/ SpideRing
Price € 5,499

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Red eTap

Drivetrain SRAM RED eTap HRD
Wheels Fulcrum Racing 500 DB
Brakes SRAM Red Disc
Cranks Quarq Prime Carbon, BB30a
Price € 6,599

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Ultegra Di2

Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra Di2
Wheels Mavic Aksium Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Disc
Cranks Cannondale Si w/ FSA Rings
Price € 4,999

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Ultegra SE

Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra
Wheels W TB KOM i23 TCS / Formula Hubs
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Disc
Cranks HollowGram Si w/ OPI SpideRing
Price € 3,299

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Ultegra

Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra
Wheels Mavic Aksium Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Disc
Cranks Cannondale Si w/ FSA Ring
Price € 3,299

CannondaleSynapse Carbon 105

Drivetrain Shimano 105
Wheels D 2.0 Disc / Formula Disc Hubs
Brakes Shimano 105 disc
Cranks Cannondale Si w/ FSA ring
Price € 2,599

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Women’s Ultegra Di2

Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra Di2
Wheels Mavic Aksium Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Disc
Cranks Cannondale Si, BB30a, w/ FSA ring
Price € 4,899

CannondaleSynapse Carbon Women’s Ultegra

Drivetrain Shimano Ultegra
Wheels Mavic Aksium Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Disc
Cranks Cannondale Si, BB30a, w/ FSA ring
Price € 3,299


For levels of comfort the new Cannondale Synapse 2018 has it nailed, a pure pleasure to ride all day long. The SAVE system along with the tire and wheel choice work perfectly together, but maybe at some expense of the agility and direct feeling on the bike. Although this bike instantly gives confidence on descents and corners, for acceleration and the feeling of speed this feels dampened. Overall the bike is a great partner on long rides, giving trust in all situations and leaving a smile on your face, it’s one built for the explorers amongst you. And no worries, you don’t need to consider yourself a “cross activity enthusiast”.

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Words: Photos: Gruber Images / Hannah Troop / Cannondale