If you’ve watched or read our review on the Orbea Gain pedal assist road bike, surely you’ve noticed how excited we are about the potential of e-road bikes. Their potential to help everyone enjoy the beauty of road bike riding is as powerful as their assist motors. The Gain impressed us with how rewarding to ride it is, as well as it’s overall smoothness and motor integration. But with brands like Focus, Pinarello, and Cannondale entering the e-road market, there are more options than ever.
We were able to get a sneak peek at the 2019 Cannondale line of bicycles in New Jersey, where we got in a quick ride on the new for 2019 Cannondale Synapse NEO 1 e-road bike. The Synapse NEO takes an approach different to the Gain: more power, more assist range, and a focused aim toward an all-inclusive riding experience.
All Cannondale Synapse NEO models share the same alloy frame and full-carbon fork. This frame, Cannondale claims, fits up to a 700c x 37 mm tire with room to spare, as well as a 650b x 47 mm tire. Geometry is said to be as close as it can be to the Synapse road bike, but it’s wheelbase is certainly longer, and it even receives their SAVE seatstays, which creates an engineered area of flex to take the edge off of bumps. Every Synapse NEO is pre-wired for lights front and rear, a neat extra that potentially shows the bike’s focus.
The new Cannondale Synapse NEO is based around the new Bosch Generation 3 Active Line Plus motor. Bosch claims that the new Active Line motor is the perfect drive motor for a road bike, thanks to silent motor operation, compact design, and near drag-free performance when the motor cuts out. Like most other e-road drive motors, Bosch’s system offers 250 W of power, 50 N/m torque, a 20 mph assist cutoff, and a pairing to a 500 Wh battery. Here, Cannondale uses the removable Bosch PowerTube battery; at 6.2 lb, it’s one of the lightest on the market and helps keep the weight down. All in, Cannondale claims a 140 mile range in Eco mode, and a 55 mile range in Turbo model.
On the business end, the 2019 Synapse NEO gets one of two Bosch display interfaces: the Purion (black and white), and the Kiox (color, more compact). The Purion display is much more akin to what one would find on an e-bike, with a black-and-white display and assist buttons located on the display. The Kiox color display found on our Synapse NEO 1 is more of a training companion, as it displays speed, heart rate, and power. Further, the assist button is separate of the display, and is placed on the stem. Small and compact, the Kiox looks and feels truly high-quality. Both displays sit prominently in the middle of the bars where a traditional computer like a Garmin or Wahoo would reside.
Cannondale is really proud of the fact that Synapse NEO is the only Bosch e-road bike with 2x gearing. This is thanks to their AI offset drivetrain, which moves the rear wheel to the drive side 6 mm. The lightest model, the Synapse NEO 1, weighs in at 37 lb, while the heaviest model, the Synapse NEO SE is still relatively light at 39 lb.
Out of the gate, the third-gen Bosch motor is much more refined than any other Bosch motor we’ve tried, meaning it avoids the gearbox-like feeling that lesser drive motors have. It also doesn’t share the feeling of relentlessly pushing you forward that lesser motors might have, it’s power tapers off as it reaches 20 mph, and outside of the assist the motor is virtually drag-free and certainly unnoticeable. Above that limit, or if you ride without assist, the only thing you’ll feel holding you back is the bike’s weight.
You’ll want to be in that assist band though, because there’s loads of it. Or rather, there’s lots of torque. Eco mode provides just enough power to overcome it’s weight, and everything else is just a bonus. The drive motor pulls strongly until it gets closer to the assist cutoff, but at low speeds it doesn’t overwhelm, either with power or as a sensory experience.
The 700c x 32 mm WTB Exposure tires are a smart spec choice and match the overall demeanor of the bike. The wide road tire provides plenty of grip and vibration and shock absorption without feeling overly stiff or uncomfortable. The wheels get up to speed quickly, though that might be less important on a bike that offers some sort of assist like this does. All models are tubeless-ready out of the box.
Overall handling is pretty standard fare for a road bike. Positioning is upright and firmly rooted as an endurance road bike. Cannondale uses their OutFront geometry for this frame, which again places the bike as an endurance machine; it’s a machine meant to eat up miles in comfort, not be the razor-sharp race bike that the SuperSix EVO or SystemSix models are. Again, it points toward the general mission of the Synapse NEO as a bike that is user-friendly and easy to ride. Mission accomplished.
There are a few caveats, albeit small ones, and they all relate to the motor. If you’re used to a road bike, you’ll immediately notice that the pedals are further apart (called q-factor) than on a traditional road bike. It’s not a huge issue, but it means that I can’t just jump off an assist-free road bike and get on this and feel immediately comfortable.
The other caveat is coasting. Switch from pedaling to coasting at a low speed, and you’ll notice what feels like a slight lurch. Whether it’s the motor removing torque from the chain, or it’s some sort of gear in the drive motor that slows down just after going from coasting to pedaling and vice versa, there is a notchiness that is noticeable for a slight second. It’s not a big deal, but it’s not the most seamless feeling, and in that regard, the Ebikemotion X35 on the Gain has the Synapse NEO beat.
If you’re looking for user friendliness, big power, and a battery that’ll never run out, it’s hard to beat the Cannondale Synapse NEO e-road bike line. The bike is well-thought out and overall achieves it’s goal of making road bikes more inclusive. With this bike, riders don’t necessarily have to have razor-sharp handling skills, nor do they need to maintain a truly pure riding experience; they just need to want to ride their bike and enjoy the riding experience.
In that sense, the Synapse NEO has created it’s own niche. The Orbea Gain focuses on making the bike as much like a traditional road bike as possible, but the Synapse NEO focuses on ensuring that the experiences one might get from riding road bikes are open to a much wider range of people. For the future of road cycling, that might be the smarter play.
Prices start at $4200 for the Cannodnale Synapse NEO SE. Have any questions about the 2019 Cannondale Synapse NEO pedal assist road bike? Give us a call during business hours, or send us an email anytime to firstname.lastname@example.org.