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Cannondale’s Overhauled Synapse Introduces a Next-Level Safety System

More safety and speed, fewer things to charge and better looks to boot.

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For 15 years, the Synapse has been Cannondale’s endurance carbon road bike, focused on a comfortable ride first and foremost. For 2022, it’s getting a major upgrade, improving the qualities that attracted riders to it in the first place, while also interesting even more riders with improved aerodynamics, enhanced aesthetics and increased tire clearance. The new Synapse marks not just a redesigned bike, however; it’s also debuting SmartSense technology, an integrated system of lights and radar that react as cars approach, enhancing rider safety. 

Improvements All Around 

Improving comfort was the original charge of the Synapse. All these years later, Cannondale is still keeping that as a core aspect of the Synapse, and has managed to build in even more compliance—8 percent more to be exact. Couple that with a geometry that puts riders more upright than race-focused bikes like the SystemSix and the Synapse is ready for all-day adventures.

But just because a bike is comfortable doesn’t mean it has to be boring. The new Synapse is a complete redesign, getting a more modern profile that doesn’t scream “endurance bike” like the previous one did. Even seasoned roadies with strong opinions on what bikes should look like will agree that the new Synapse looks good, full stop. 

The new Synapse has a look that will appeal to more riders than before.

Part of the enhanced looks no doubt has to do with the aero considerations put into this bike. Cannondale has drawn on aero breakthroughs from its SystemSix bike to make the Synapse even more aerodynamic. Some obvious aero features like dropped seat stays make their way into the redesign, while other frame shaping techniques are more subtle. 

The Synapse is now more aerodynamic.

Cyclists increasingly want their bikes to be able to do more and go more places. The new Synapse responds in kind with increased tire clearance of 35mm, pushing it well into all-road territory and the ability to do some light off-pavement riding. There’s a secondary benefit to the increased tire clearance as well. Higher volume tires are an easy way to add more comfort to a bike, giving this comfort-oriented bike even more ways to deliver a plush ride. 

The Synapse has been redesigned and improved in just about every way. But none of these features are the most interesting, at least in our opinion. That award goes to SmartSense.

SmartSense 

Look at the bottom of the downtube of the Synapse, just below the water bottle cage, and you’ll notice a small battery integrated into the bike. No, this isn’t an e-bike. It is a safer bicycle, though. That battery, made by Garmin, powers integrated front and rear lights made by Lezyne, as well as a radar system also made by Garmin that detects cars and reacts to them, changing the light pattern as well as alerting the rider’s cycling computer of traffic. Called SmartSense, the system is debuting on the new Synapse.

The SmartSense battery is made by Garmin.

We see SmartSense as an important step towards solving a problem that has slowly crept up on most of us: keeping all of our electronic bike gadgets conveniently charged. Between lights, computers and electronic drivetrains, there are a lot of things to remember to charge. At best, forgetting to charge something means your GPS putters out a few miles from home. At worst it means you get stuck out after dark with no juice in your lights. The Synapse simplifies some of that so that you only need to charge the main battery on the bike, and not individual lights and a radar. As an added bonus, the battery can also be used to charge your phone and other devices via USB-C. Now we have to wait until third party GPS computers and drivetrains can tap into a single, central on-board battery like SmartSense, reducing what we need to charge to ultimately one thing. That’s the dream, at least.

The SmartSense battery can also charge external devices. We hope to see more devices able to connect to it in the future.

SmartSense is designed to make riding safely as simple as possible. When you start riding, a wheel sensor registers movement and turns the system on, so you don’t have to fiddle with any buttons. Once you stop riding, the system also turns itself off. The system can be configured through the Cannondale app for different light settings, but once it is set up all you need to do is charge the main battery and SmartSense takes care of the rest.

SmartSense makes ride safety simpler.

One drawback of the SmartSense system we see so far is that it’s not available on the entry level spec models, and isn’t fully included until the $5,500 model (The $3,300 build features lights and the battery, but no radar system). We want to see more riders feeling safe and comfortable on bikes, so we hope this tech can find its way in some form or another into entry level price points.

Available Builds

There will be four models of Synapse: 1, 2, 3 and 4. The higher tier builds, 1 and 2, will feature SmartSense. The model level 4 with a Shimano Tiagra groupset costs $2,400, with prices topping out at $9,000 for the model 1 with a Dura-Ace Di2 build and carbon wheels. The Synapse Carbon 3L with a 105 group costs $3,300. The Carbon 2 RLE with Ultegra Di2 costs $5,500. And the Carbon LTD RLE model built with GRX gravel components, highlighting the bike’s all-road capability, costs $7,000.

The Synapse Carbon 1 RLE
The Synapse Carbon 2 RLE
The Synapse Carbon 3 L
The Synapse Carbon 4
The Synapse Carbon LTD RLE

Each model comes in sizes 48, 51, 54, 56, 58 and 61.

Look for a review from Peloton soon. More info: cannondale.com