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From the pages of Velo: Stiff & Stones

  • By Nick Legan and Caley Fretz
  • Published Jun. 27, 2012
  • Updated Jul. 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM EST
VeloNews June 2011. Photos by Brad Kaminski and Casey B. Gibson

Cannondale Synapse Carbon 3 Ultegra

By Nick Legan

For me, “Cannondale” conjures images of Mario Cipollini winning Tour de France stages, and Tim Johnson sliding around cyclocross courses. I don’t instantly think of epic gran fondo rides aboard a bike from the Bethel, Pennsylvania company. But it’s time to adjust that thinking. The Synapse is an exceptionally good bike.

Scientific Testing: 22 of 30 Points
The Cannondale was third in the torsional stiffness test, but interestingly it was stiffer than the Cervélo S3 we tested in our last round of bikes (April). The Synapse loses points here, like the Lapierre, because the Specialized Roubaix is the stiffest bike we’ve ever tested. (We have only tested nine bikes thus far, so it’s not a huge sample size.)

Cannondale gained ground in the vibration test, excelling over smaller bumps and coming out second overall.

Subjective Ride Quality: 21 of 30 Points
The bike’s SAVE micro suspension seems to do as Cannondale claims, soaking up irregularities in the road.

Although it is raced by the Liquigas-Cannondale team, the Synapse is better over the long haul than it is sprinting out corners.

The BB30 bottom bracket seems plenty stiff, but the longer wheelbase and more upright position lends itself to taking it nice and steady. The Synapse is not a flexy bike, but its easy handling characteristics bled over into its perceived acceleration.

One tester, three hours into the Tour of Flanders cyclosportif said, “we’re halfway through this ride and I forgot that I have never ridden this bike before.” That’s a good thing. The Synapse disappeared beneath him, even on a long ride with tough cobbled climbs.

User Friendliness: 11 of 15 Points
The Synapse was the only bike in our test with externally routed shift cables. I’m not sure why the industry seems to be heading towards internal cables, but I prefer the easy install and serviceability of external cables.

The SAVE seat post was a real pain to adjust. It uses a U.S.E. clamp and making small adjustments was nearly impossible. Because you can’t substitute a different post on the Synapse, a buyer is stuck with it. Once it was set up though, it never slipped even over some seriously rough roads in Belgium. It is also offered in both five and twenty millimeters of setback. (A seatpost change is in the works, though, as we saw in Europe under some Liquigas-Cannondale riders.)

Value: 17 of 20 Points
You get a lot for $3,200. The Ultegra group works well, with especially fantastic brakes. The full carbon frame and fork are light. FSA bars and stem and fi ’zi:k saddle (not shown) are all name brand and their quality is assured.

However, the DT Swiss R-1700 wheels were a bit of a disappointment. The rear wheel had a very noticeable seam in the brake track that was disconcerting under hard braking and just plain annoying at slow speeds. But the DT Swiss wheels did handle the cobbles with aplomb, never coming out of true.

While one tester wasn’t a fan of the triple chainring, the shifting always worked well. The triple also helps avoid big gaps in gear developments that a compact crank and large cassette have.

Weight: 3 of 5 Points
The Synapse weighs 17.16 pounds, placing third in our test. Bear in mind that it’s only 150 grams heavier than the Specialized yet costs $500 less.

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