Bikeboard.en Logo
Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Dura-Ace Di2 Disc

No matter what you want to call this new type of road bike any road, gravel bike, comfort road bike, endurance bicycle, or - as in here - Gran Fondo road bike: by now, almost every larger manufacturer offers a more comfortable alternative to its super lightweight and partly rigid carbon race bikes.

With a Gran Fondo road bike, both the shorter top tube and the taller head tube make for a more comfortable upright position. The longer wheelbase and a slacker head tube angle ensure cornering stability. Racers benefit from built-in damping characteristics (i.e. joints, elastomere, special frame shapes or adapted carbon layup), which absorb vibrations and road shock, and will reduce your physical exhaustion. Not only do modern, lightweight, and stiff Gran Fondo road bikes offer increased comfort, they also expand the bike's field of use: gravel roads, dry forest paths, plowed snowy roads, roads which are peppered with loose gravel or potholed can be conquered just the same as Gran Fondos or brutal races on cobblestone.

Cannondale's first Synapse from 2006 paved the way for this comfort trend.
Now, the American developers decided to take their new innovations and apply them to develop the next generation of the Synapse. Luckily for us Bikeboard.cc got the chance to test the progressive Synapse Hi-Mod including Shimano's new hydraulic disc brakes throughout three seasons.

Power meets comfort

After three years of development, the new Synapse's appearance only vaguely reminds of its predecessor. Since its inner values are completely different as well, it's safe to speak of it as an entirely new bicycle with a familiar model name.

The Synapse Hi-Mod Carbon combines light weight, perfectly balanced vertical compliance, high stiffness, optimized geometry depending on the rider's gender and body height, modern design and field-tested performance. Thus, Cannondale sets a new standard in the endurance segment.


Synapse BallisTec carbon frame construction

The Synapse's BallisTec Hi-Mod frame combines high and ultra high modulus fibers to a stiff network to form a most strong and resilient base structure - a perfect stiffness to weight ratio is guaranteed.

The Disc carbon frame (995 g) basically equals its rim brakes counterpart; however, the carbon layup has been radically changed to withstand the asymmetric brake loads.


S.E.R.G. stands for Synapse Endurance Race Geometry

The entirely revised and slightly taller head tube, longer wheelbase and marginally slacker head angle allow for a perfect balance between aggressive race positioning and comfortable long distance positioning - perfect for long days in the saddle and confident handling regardless of driving conditions. Furthermore the frame grants sufficient clearance for 28 mm tires for more grip and increased flat protection.


Save Plus Micro-Suspension System

The Save Plus micro suspension is a three-part system consisting of the carbon layup, rear chainstays and fork, and seatstays and seat tube. Special carbon layers optimize stability when faced with vibrations and increased shock absorption. The dynamic tube shapes plus levelled profiles are harmonically synchronized to improve handling as well as comfort and will give you a powerful thrust.


Save Plus seat tube and seatpost

Thanks to their high vertical flex, the elegant, scalloped seat tube, the narrow seatpost (only 25.4 mm in diameter) and an entirely integrated seatpost clamp grant maximal comfort even in seated position, and even when dealing with the most relentless surfaces.


The Power Pyramid / BB30A

In the lower area, the seat tube splits asymmetrically and makes room for a wide 73 mm BB30A bottom bracket as well as wider wheels and tires and provides maximum stiffness with minimal weight.

Equipment & geometry

Synapse Hi-Mod Disc

FrameSynapse Disc, BallisTec Hi-MOD Carbon, Di2 ready, SAVE PLUSCrankset*Cannondale HollowGram SiSL2, OPI Spider, 50/34
Sizes48, 51, 54, 56,58, 61Bottom BracketBB30A, FSA BB30
Headset*Synapse Si, 1-1/8" to 1-1/4" tapered, 30mm topcap w/ LED lightCog SetShimano Dura Ace 9000, 11-28, 11s
ForkSynapse SAVE PLUS Disc, BallisTec Hi-MOD CarbonChainShimano Dura Ace 9000, 11s
Stem*FSA SLK, 31.8, 6°ShiftersShimano RS785 Road Hydraulic Di2
HandlebarCannondale Escape Carbon CompactRear DerailleurShimano Dura Ace Di2 9070
BartapeCannondale Grip Bar Tape w/Gel, 3.5 mmFront DerailleurShimano Dura Ace Di2 9070
SeatpostFSA SL-K Carbon, 25.4x350mmBrakesShimano BR785 Road Hydraulic Disc
Saddle*Fi'zi:k Aliante Monocover, K:ium railsTires*Schwalbe Ultremo ZX, 700x25c
WheelsEnve Smart 3.4 Disc, 24/28 Speichen vo/hi,
DT Swiss 350 Centerlock, DT Swiss Aerolite
Pedalsno
Weight7,34 kgRetail Price7.499,-
* in this Testwithout LED-Spacer
3T ahead stem ARX Pro 120 mm, -6°
Bontrager Serano RXL saddle 138 mm
* in this TestSRM Cannondale
Rotor Q-Rings 53/39 OCP3
Vredestein Senso 25 mm

Shimano BR-R785 Disc Brakes

Our long-term test of Cannondale's Synapse was also my first contact with hydraulic disc brakes on a road bike. The Shimano BR-R785 bear some resemblance to the XT/XTR calipers and can only operate with electronic Di2 STI shifters (ST-R785). Like the MTB version, the rotors (SM-RT99) consist of a sandwich construction of stainless steel on the outside and an aluminum core on the inside. A new design featuring cooling fins on the rotors and on the brake pads allow heat to effectively dissipate. Thanks to this increased heat dissipation it is possible to mount smaller rotors than usual - in case of the Synapse, we used 140mm front and rear.

Shimano's electronic Di2 shifting and brake levers allow for individual tuning of reach and pressure point. To do this, you have to open the bracket's cover and remove the STI name plate using a very small slot screwdriver. The vent screw is also located under this name plate.
While it absolutely makes sense for someone with small hands or short fingers to adjust the reach, there's little sense in adjusting the pressure point as it is factory-set on the lowest possible value. Thus, it can only be raised (brought closer to handlebar).

After a short break-in of the ex factory built-in metal brake pads (F03C), their full power became accessible: high brake efficiency, lowest possible manual force and very good modulation. Apart from the loud squealing under wet conditions there's nothing about this combination that would justify complaints.

With fall approaching fast, and with it the wet and cold weather, I decided to switch to resin pads (F01A). Since the organic pads were insufficiently pre-treated (or not at all), outgassing is recommended as well as the aforementioned break-in to avoid the dreaded green fade in emergency situations.

By this time I have covered around 400 kilometers with the organic pads, and can highly recommend them to road cyclist who like to ride regardless of weather conditions with: high brake efficiency, perfect dosage, very quiet-running (after break-in/outgas). On the other hand, they wear out significantly faster than the metal pads - a fact that we can let slide considering the generally low usage of brakes on a roadbike.

Throughout the entire test duration, with a rider weight of 80 kilograms and normal use on flat to hilly terrain, the disc brakes were never at their limit.

In regard to the TOUR magazine's big disc brake test (issue 6/2014), I do agree with the author, that no general judgment should be made concerning their function and safety margin. What turned out to be a success with my body weight and normal use might end as an involuntary trip into the greenery under other circumstances. Special care should be taken when your body weight is notably higher, when riding at a faster pace, or during alpine use with long, steep downhills, especially in wet weather and/or poor road conditions.

 If you buy a roadbike with disc brakes, you expect a carefree brake system with a security margin in all situations and - most of all - an improvement compared to conventional rim brakes. In the matter of steadfastness, the IceTec disc didn't grant this. 

Test leader Robert Kühnen (Tour 6/2014)

Brake pads characteristics

BR-R785 brake pads

metallic/sintered pads with cooling fin organic/resin pads with cooling fin
LabelF03C F01A
Compoundsmetal
resin
Cooling finsyes yes
TechnologyIce-Tech Ice-Tech
Features- remarkable brake performance
- no fading during normal use
- low fading in extreme conditions
- high durability
- almost no wear after 2.500 kilometers
- brutal squealing in presence of moisture
- remarkable brake performance
- no fading during normal use
- fading in extreme conditions
- sufficient durability
- perfect dosage, low manual force required
- absolutely no sounds

On & off the road


Cannondale designed the new Synapse to be a sporty Gran Fondo road bike. Its organic design, special carbon lamination, the parted seat tube above the bottom bracket, slim seat post, and the distinctly high vertical flex at the rear triangle ensure high levels of comfort. Especially remarkable: the high comfort value of the disc-fork, on which radical changes have been made to the carbon layup to resist the disc brake's asymmetric load.

The seating position is relatively upright, but can be altered to that of a sportive road bike by excluding the 30mm high LED (or carbon) spacer paired with the use of a longer stem. The stiff frame, the bent fork, and a generous wheelbase give the Synapse a smooth confident ride and a lot of reliability at high speed. Therefore, it's even more astonishing that it can be accelerated quickly and is able to grant direct handling at the same time.

Specific details such as the 25mm wide tires, a handlebar with a top section that is comfortable to grasp, the gel-padded handle bar tape, a compact gear ratio with an 11-28 cassette increase the positive impression. Points of criticism are the disc brake dimensions, which are too small for alpine use and heavyweight riders, and the delicate and lightweight quick release of the otherwise good Enve carbon wheels.

  • The 2011 SRM powermeter fits perfectly onto the current SiSl2 spindle. Plug & play - without any adaptation of the spindle, dust covers or spacers.The 2011 SRM powermeter fits perfectly onto the current SiSl2 spindle. Plug & play - without any adaptation of the spindle, dust covers or spacers.
    The 2011 SRM powermeter fits perfectly onto the current SiSl2 spindle. Plug & play - without any adaptation of the spindle, dust covers or spacers.
    The 2011 SRM powermeter fits perfectly onto the current SiSl2 spindle. Plug & play - without any adaptation of the spindle, dust covers or spacers.
  • To carry on the tradition we ride SRM only with the box.To carry on the tradition we ride SRM only with the box.
    To carry on the tradition we ride SRM only with the box.
    To carry on the tradition we ride SRM only with the box.
  • Bluff package: despite the Enve's wide rims, the Schwalbe 25 tires grow only to 24 millimeters.Bluff package: despite the Enve's wide rims, the Schwalbe 25 tires grow only to 24 millimeters.
    Bluff package: despite the Enve's wide rims, the Schwalbe 25 tires grow only to 24 millimeters.
    Bluff package: despite the Enve's wide rims, the Schwalbe 25 tires grow only to 24 millimeters.
  • On the other hand the Vredestein Senso 25 result in a width of 25.34 millimeters.On the other hand the Vredestein Senso 25 result in a width of 25.34 millimeters.
    On the other hand the Vredestein Senso 25 result in a width of 25.34 millimeters.
    On the other hand the Vredestein Senso 25 result in a width of 25.34 millimeters.

Conclusions

Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Disc
Model year:2014
Test duration:8 months, 2.900 km
Retail price:€ 7.499,-
+comfortable frame/fork
+stiffness of frame/fork
+driving qualities
+wheels
+high quality components
+flexible geometry for marathon riders and hardcore racers
+lifelong warranty for the frameset
otires are only 24mm wide
-small 140 discs
-delicate, lightweight quick release
-high price
BB rating:sporty long distance fun bike for all four seasons

The futuristic Synapse Hi-Mod Disc is a delight due to its high comfort features, Shimano's RS785 hydraulic disc brakes, Enve Smart 3.4 high profile wheels, Dura-Ace Di2 and the classy paint job.

Besides the 30 mm high spacer (available in two versions - carbon or plastic with LED), the seat tube - which is parted above the bottom bracket - and the bent fork, it seems that it's primarily the slim seatpost (only 25.4 millimeters in diameter) and the wide tires that are responsible for comfort. The Synapse Disc is standard-equipped with wide Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tires; however, there is room for tires with up to 28 millimeters in width.

High quality components such as the Escape Carbon Compact handlebar or the SiSI2 Hollowgram crank with OPI Spiderrings round off the classy overall package.

At a total system weight of 80 kilograms and paired with intensive use, Shimano's hydraulic discs were very convincing during the testing period. By switching to resin pads it was possible to completely eliminate the annoying squeaks that would occur in wet conditions.

NOTE: In spite of all the praise, it must be said that the brakes with their small 140 millimeter discs may reach their limits - i.e. when the rider has a notably higher body weight, when you're crossing the Alps, or your riding technique sucks big time, and/or in extreme weather conditions - which could lead to overheating, fading, and loss of brake power right up to total failure of the brakes.