What bike to use for such a climb? Something light to help on
the steeper slopes, good stiffness for attacking the flatter
grades, a wide range of gears for when the talent runs out, and
reliable brakes for the white knuckle descent that is the reward
for scaling the climb. My bike of choice was the brand new 2018
Cannondale Synapse, not through choice; I was at the world wide
launch for the new bike and was among the first people to put the
new bike through its paces.
Endurance bikes might not get everyone fired up like a low and
sleek race bike, but Cannondale has managed to inject the new
Synapse with a bit more vigour, and the result of the stiffer and
lighter frame is a bike that handles and responds in a way that
closely echoes the SuperSix Evo. Hence why Cannondale markets the
new Synapse as an 'endurance race' bike.
The geometry, though adapted for the wider tyres and comfort
focused ride it needs to deliver, isn't the most upright endurance
bike on the market right now, and the new Synapse has a slightly
shorter head tube and steeper head angle. A reach to stack ratio of
1.53x reveals that the Synapse is more aggressive than the Trek
Domane and Specialized Roubaix, and not far off the Madone and
They've really managed to narrow the gap to the SuperSix Evo.
It's stiffer in the head tube and much lighter than the old bike,
yet they've eked out more comfort to ensure it delivers the smooth
ride that many cyclists these days crave. And given the poor state
of our roads, that's no bad thing at all.
Wider tyres obviously help in the comfort stakes and with
clearance for up to 32mm tyres, there's plenty of scope to
customise the bike to your needs. The 28mm wide Vittoria tyres I
rode provided a silky smooth and fast ride on the Italian
But the revised frame tube shapes and the expansion of its SAVE
concept to a new 25.4mm seatpost and two-piece handlebar - the
former flexes by as much as 13mm and the latter as much as 6mm -
contribute significantly to the smooth ride the Synapse delivers on
the occasional very rough and potholed Italian roads.
There's markedly more stiffness compared to the old Synapse. It
snaps forward with more authority and less lag when you stamp in
the pedals. The increased front-end stiffness is detectable
especially when you drop into corners at any speed, it feels
altogether more precise and willing to follow your exact commands.
It descends with the sort of capability the SuperSix Evo is
The brand new Systembar, the company's own two-piece handlebar
and stem that offers aero and comfort benefits, feels nice to ride
on the tops and it somehow manages to filter out a lot of the
harshness that the 28mm tyres can't quite dissipate. Be interesting
to try this out on UK roads.
Lower weight obviously helps on the climb and the new Synapse is
some 200g claimed lighter than the old model, resulting in a 950g
frame weight - that's some way heavier than an out-and-out race
bike admittedly but is light for an endurance bike with disc
All of these changes certainly helped on the tough and
challenging climb, especially in the ridiculous heat that we
experienced. While any bike would have been ideal for tackling the
Madonna del Ghisallo, the new Synapse was remarkably well suited.
Light enough to flatter my finer efforts against the gradient,
stiff enough to attack the easier sections, comfortable when the
road surface got choppy, a pretty aggressive riding position, and
disc brakes for the equally testing descent that awaits anyone that
pedals past the small chapel.
First Ride Verdict
On first impressions - and the brevity of the test ride prevents
me from really going into too much detail - the Synapse impresses.
It retains the comfort focused ride it has always offered but much
improved, thanks to wider tyres and a new SAVE seatpost and
handlebar, while the stiffer and lighter frame makes it more
It's a tricky balance to get right, but in ramping up the frame
stiffness to provide an exciting and fast ride to satisfy those
customers who would naturally lean towards the SuperSix Evo, yet
delivering more comfort for soaking up vibrations from rough roads,
I reckon Cannondale has got it just right. It sure has put the race
into endurance. I think the Synapse is going to appeal to a much
broader audience than before.