Every brand likes to claim that they have a bicycle that blends a myriad of seeming at-odds attributes. Stiff yet compliant, upright positioning yet still fast, race-worthy yet comfortable. Very rarely do bicycle companies ever get the formula correct, as there’s usually some sort of compromise in how the bike functions. With the 2020 Cannondale Synapse Hi-MOD Disc RED eTap AXS, Cannondale has made a bike that cleanly blends the attributes of an endurance road bike smooth enough to tackle some gravel, while maintaining road race-readiness.
The key to the Synapse magic is a next-generation Synapse Active Vibration Elimination (SAVE) micro-suspension system. SAVE consists of a series of flex-zones engineered into the frame and fork, designed to soak up vibrations when possible. Cannondale then added a 25.4 mm seatpost with an integrated seat clamp. Doing this alone improved saddle deflection by 36%, meaning the Synapse translates less road vibration than ever before. The new Synapse also introduces size-specific tubing profiles, head tubes, and steer tube diameters, to make sure the Synapse protects the rider from vibration-induced fatigue, without isolating them from the riding fun. They’ve also added tire clearance, thanks to the inclusion of disc brakes: the bike can now fit up to a 32c tire with clearance to spare, further allowing riders to ride further than they ever have before.
Despite all of the concessions to comfort and vibration deflection, Cannondale have pushed the Synapse to new limits to make it worthy of the all-arounder name. A Hi-Mod frame weighs in at just 950 g, 220 g lighter than the previous Hi-Mod. Doing so, Cannondale was still able to increase headtube stiffness by nearly 10%, while increasing bottom bracket stiffness as well. While the previous Synapse was no slouch in performance compared to other endurance road bikes, this new model provides Tour-levels of stiffness out of the saddle. While nobody will confuse it for a Pinarello Dogma F10 frame, it can easily be described as urgent when standing on the pedals. This is thanks to the asymmetric Power Pyramid seat tube, which forks by the bottom bracket for lower weight and improved stiffness, as well as asymmetric chainstays. Cornering is much more direct and confidence-inspiring, and feels much more akin to the Cannondale Supersix Evo than before. Very rarely do bicycles successfully earn the do-it-all frame, but the Synapse Hi-Mod does it without compromise.
The 2020 Cannondale Synapse Hi-MOD Disc RED eTap AXS features the very best from SRAM, a SRAM RED eTap AXS wireless group, using compact (46/33T) gearing and an 1033T cassette. It uses a HollowGram KNOT carbon fiber wheelset, Vittoria Corsa 700 x 28c tires, and a Cannondale SAVE carbon seatpost. It is available in six sizes (48-61 cm).
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