Fast and smooth performance with all the benefits of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes with mechanical shifters makes the Cannondale Synapse Ultegra Disc a very attractive bike for the cyclist who likes to ride fast, but doesn't want to race and demands comfort and the option to run wider tyres; it comes with 28mm tyres as standard.
The redesigned Cannondale Synapse was one of the most well received new endurance road bikes last year, so good was it that it scooped road.cc's Sportive Bike of the Year award at the end of last year. For 2015 though the change is the adoption of disc brakes with seven models in the Synapse range coming with disc brakes.
Ride: Buttery smoothness and plenty of speed on tap
When I rode the Synapse last year I found a "super smooth and comfortable distance bike with rewarding handling and fast performance". The good news with the disc version of the Synapse is that those findings still ring true, but it offers all the advantages of hydraulic disc brakes, making it an even more compelling package as a year-round bike.
The Shimano RS685 hydraulic disc brakes with mechanical shift levers could just well be the Japanese company's best combination to date, and allow Cannondale to hit a really competitive price point that simply would not be possible with a Di2 groupset. And the disc brakes are wonderful in use, with fantastic power from the 140mm front and rear rotors and all the modulation you need to make full use of the available power in all situations. The lever feel is firm and is always the same, no matter the conditions, speed or steepness of the descent.
Disc brakes are increasingly widespread on endurance and sportive bikes like the Synapse simply because they are free of the UCI's rules, and because the manufacturers reckon the type of people buying and riding these bikes will appreciate disc brakes for real world riding and the variety of conditions such a bike will be used in. In the UK that means plenty of gritty winter riding and it's at this time of year that the disc brakes are a boon, with virtually no maintenance or servicing required, long lasting brake pads and much less cleaning required of dirty rims. This doesn't simply make the Synapse a winter bike, far from it, it's just riding at this time of year more acutely highlights the disc benefits.
In adding disc brakes to the Synapse, Cannondale have lost none of the keen handling of the previous model. There's no hint of an increase in stiffness with the new fork and rear stays, but then the plush 28mm tyres, flexy Fabric saddle and gel bar tape provide so much cushioning that the ride is wonderfully comfortable. Underneath those components the frame offers the same rangy wheelbase that provides great stability, making the Synapse unflustered on even the roughest roads and a really calm place to be.
Key to the Synapse is the geometry changes compared to a race bike like the SuperSix Evo, the longer wheelbase (100.5cm) for the aforementioned stability, plus a taller 18.6cm head tube and slacker head (72.5) and seat (73.5) tube angles. That taller head tube places less strain on your neck and back and there is a wide range of further height adjustment possible.
There are loads of spacers for a start, though the tall conical headset top cap can be removed. Underneath it is a zero rise headset cap, so you can run the stem much lower than standard. If you do decide to do that you'll need to get the bike shop to trim the steerer tube for you. It's a nice touch by Cannondale and keeps most potential customers for the Synapse happy.
Where the Synapse really succeeds is in balancing the frame and fork stiffness demanded by a cyclist who likes to ride everywhere as fast as possible and stomp up hills, with the comfort and compliance that ensures it is a bike that will satisfy those cyclists wanting a comfortable bike for any adventure you might have planned.
You could ride this bike to work everyday and use it on the Etape next summer, with no changes required. You can slam the stem and get racey on it and ride everywhere as fast as you can. You can do everything on this bike that you can do on a race bike, short of actually lining up for a race (unless you can find one that doesn't apply the UCI rule book). It's an extremely capable bike.
Frame: Cleanly integrated disc brakes
The frame is essentially identical to the regular non-disc Synapse, but there's a brand new fork with the brake hose routed inside the left leg and the brake caliper attached via a post mount. It's very neat, and so it is at the back too, where the rear hose is internally routed until exiting halfway along the chainstay, where the rear brake caliper is fixed into place.
Elsewhere, the frame has all the same styling cues as the regular non-disc version of the frame, and the same SAVE+ (Synapse Active Vibration Elimination) technology. The rear stays and fork legs are sculpted and profiled to provide as much compliance as possible, the seatpost is 25.4mm diameter - to provide more deflection - with the clamp integrated into the top tube to provide exposed seatpost for deflection. And Cannondale have worked their engineering magic in the carbon fibre layup to provide damping qualities in the carbon itself.
Down at the bottom of the seat tube is the unique 'Power Pyramid', a split tube which aims to increase the stiffness at the bottom bracket without the weight penalty of a larger diameter seat tube. Plus it looks pretty cool and is a good talking point on the club ride. There's the same tapered head tube up front and the down tube and top tube are the same as the regular bike. All the gear cables on this Ultegra mechanical shod bike are routed inside the frame, and the result is a very clean, unfettered frame.
The area around the seatstays is clean and uncluttered, and arguably prettier looking than the rim brake version of the same frame. The combination of those different frame features is a bike that is wonderfully smooth and compliant and leaves you feeling a lot fresher after a hard ride on hard roads than a comparable race bike.
The only thing missing from the frame is mudguard mounts. Some manufacturers have managed to squeeze concealed mudguard eyelets onto their disc-equipped endurance bikes (such as the Specialized Roubaix Disc) so it's a shame to see Cannondale not do the same. They're not the only ones to blame, Giant didn't add any to their new Defy either. That limits your options in the winter to a muddy bum or clip-on mudguards.
Build: Hydraulic discs and mechanical gears and competitive price
Certainly £2,500 is a lot of money but this Synapse offers excellent value for money. There are Shimano's brand new RS685 mechanical shifters and hydraulic brake levers, combining hydro disc brakes with mechanical gears, Ultegra 11-speed derailleurs and a Cannondale Hollowgram Si BB30A chainset with FSA 50/34 compact rings partnered to a wide range 11-32 cassette. It's a reliable transmission: the Shimano parts provide smooth gear shifts and the Cannondale chainset shows no lack of stiffness.
Mavic have come to the disc brake party with two new wheels, the Ksyrium Disc and these Aksium One Disc wheels. The Aksium wheels aren't that light at a claimed 1,965g and that does blunt the performance of the Synapse a little, but they proved very durable during the test, and certainly bombproof when I accidentally clattered into a crater of a pothole the other day. The hubs feature Shimano's Centerlock mount to secure the 140mm IceTech rotors in place.
Like the Giant Defy Advanced, the Cannondale uses regular quick release axles which seems to be the choice for most manufacturers at the moment, at least until there has been more development and discussion of a thru-axles standards for road bikes. The quick release skewers did a fine job of keeping the wheels securely in the dropouts, with no brake rub detected at all and wheel changes as easy as any non-disc bike.
One of the big appeals of the Synapse, and most bikes of this breed, is the capacity for wider tyres. Cannondale have fitted 28mm Mavic Aksion WTS tyres and they're supremely smooth and fast-rolling with plenty of traction, a bonus on wet and mud covered country lanes. Just out of interest, and to offer some comparison to the Giant Defy and last year's Synapse, I fitted some 25mm tyres and there was only the smallest drop in smoothness, but the lower rotational weight seemed to make an impact on momentum at higher speeds.
The Synapse is well finished with own-brand aluminium handlebars, with a comfortable compact shape, stem and carbon fibre seatpost. The gel bar tape provides good cushioning for the hands and the Fabric Spoon Shallow saddle is extremely comfortable and a high degree of flex in the base contributes to the plushness of the bike.
On the scales the Synapse, for this 56cm size, weighs in at 8.43kg (18.58lb). That's about on the money for a disc-equipped carbon-framed road bike at present, unless you throw some serious cash at some carbon wheels and finishing kit. There is a weight penalty though, and it's in the region of 700g when compared to the very similarly specced Synapse Ultegra without disc brakes we tested last year.
To put that weight difference into context, because I know some people will be fretting about it, it's roughly the same weight as a full 750ml water bottle. That's all, it's not much really is it? Unless you ride both bikes back-to-back, it's nigh-on impossible to really say you can notice the weight all of the time, but it's when it comes to stopping and slowing that the disc brakes more than justify the slight extra weight. Disc bikes will get lighter with time and development, and those Mavic wheels are one area where weight could be saved, as the Aksium Discs are heavier than the regular Aksium wheels.
The Cannondale Synapse Ultegra Disc retains the same classic ride performance and handling of last year's bike but adds the superb braking ability of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes coupled to an 11-speed mechanical transmission. It's a brilliant combination and makes the Synapse more fun to ride and more appealing for year-round riding.
The Synapse offers a classy ride, loads of smoothness with enough performance for cyclists who aren't interested in racing but still like to ride fast and challenge themselves, with more than enough speed easily accessible to keep ever die hard racers happy.
It's smooth enough for the harshest roads and comfortable for the longest rides, yet never holds you back when you want to get a shift on. With the disc brakes it's easier to manage that speed, in the dry and in the wet.
Fast, smooth performance with all the benefits of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes
CANNONDALE SLICE 105 2015
Triathlon is a sport of balance. Triathletes have to be good at three radically different events; if they focus too heavily on one discipline, the other two inevitably suffer. Victory goes to the one who can push each portion to the fullest, without upsetting that crucial balance.
We believe that designing the ideal Tri bike is no different.
It requires looking at the big picture, going above and beyond the simple calculus of wind tunnel aerodynamics and creating a machine that address all the challenges faced by real-world triathletes on the roads of real-world triathlons: the hills, the bumps, the travel, the broken pavement and vicious crosswinds, and the harsh reality of a run looming at the end of the ride. The important focus on aerodynamics must be balanced with other factors like weight, comfort, fit, handling and ease of use. We call this Real-Tri Tech. Real-world advantages for real-world triathletes.
For the ultimate balanced athletes, we proudly present the ultimately balanced bike, the all-new Slice -the lightest, most comfortable, best fitting, best handling aero triathlon machine ever made. It’s Real-Tri Tech for Real Triathletes. It’s a Better Way to Tri.
CANNONDALE SYNAPSE DISC
The perfect balance between raw power and all-day ridability, the all-new Synapse combines remarkably light weight, race-proven performance and dialed vertical compliance in a bicycle that redefines "Endurance." The ultimate partner for the epic ride.
An ideal blend of compliance, rigidity, and weight for the perfect balance of race-day aggression and all-day ridability.
Revolutionary. BallisTec Carbon, Power Pyramid and the SAVE PLUS system provide the ideal blend of crush meets plush.
Last year, Germany’s prestigious Tour Magazin named the S5 VWD the fastest aero road bike the publication has ever tested. This year, Cervélo engineers have created an entirely new version that combines all the aero benefit of the classic S5 with improved stiffness and ride quality, while delivering an additional 21.3 Watts of pure speed.
The new version features a unique Cervélo All-Carbon, Aero handlebar and HED Jet 6 Plus SCT wheelset, making it aerodynamically faster than ever.
Compared to the S5 VWD, the new S5 is 35% stiffer torsionally, and 6% stiffer at the bottom bracket. As a result, ride quality of the new S5 is exceptional—both handling and rider interaction with the road are noticeably improved.
The new S5 has the same proven steering geometry as the classic version plus a shorter stack for lower riding position, and adds Future-Proof Cable Management so the frame is fully compatible with mechanical, electronic, or hydraulic systems. Storage for internal batteries is integrated into the down tube.
Bottom line: An aero road bike with all the stiffness of a modern road bike, even better out-of-the-box aerodynamics and no weight gain.
In Stock: October 2014 in sizes 48, 51, 54, 56, 58 and 61. Models Available:
S5 Dura-Ace Di2, S5 Dura-Ace, S5 Ultegra, S5 Frameset
CATEYE VOLT 300
The 300-lumen Cateye Volt is well-focused, reducing dazzle for other road users. It provides even light coverage with a graduation from bright centre to reasonable edge illumination – and though the area directly ahead of the front wheel is noticeably dimmer than the centre, the beam has great reach for faster riders.
Side visibility is excellent, and the power button has a positive feel. HyperConstant mode adds a pulsing flash on top of a steady beam for total visibility. The Volt 300 also uses Cateye’s robust FlexTight bracket, which can be fitted above or below the bar in moments and allows some rotation.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine
The New Cateye Rapid X Rear USB Rechargeable LED Light uses the very latest in battery and LED technology to amazing effect. The Rapid X may look like a normal Cateye light but this neat compact rear light offers a level of light intensity like no other Cateye. It is visible from nearly 360 degrees and using a neat band fitting system it can be placed in several different positions on the bike, from seat post to seat stays. It uses a Li-Polymer Battery that is USB rechargeable to power the Ultra Bright Strip LED Technology. With 5 modes, Constant, Flashing, Rapid, Pulse and Vibration there is a mode for every occasion.
Bike Radar's review of the
Bianchi’s flagship sportive bike, the Infinito, had a major redesign for 2014. The new CV technology within that frame's composite construction is an expensive process, meaning that sadly the Infinito has shot upwards in price.
But a brand like Bianchi doesn’t survive for 128 years by making poor business decisions. In recognition of the need for a high-performance bike at the Infinito's old level that has meant the introduction of the Intenso. It's based on the outgoing bike's design, including the clever infusion of vibration damping sections of Kevlar on the fork ends and chainstays, and took the 'best debut' accolade in Cycling Plus magazine's Bike of the Year Awards 2014