I just picked up this wickedly cool, ultra-advanced, pedal-rocket and have only spent 24 hours with it. The 2017 Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod (for high modulus carbon - ballistic quality carbon fiber weave) Ultegra Di2 Disc is Cannondale's top of the line carbon framed road endurance bicycle.
My first ride was down through Santa Barbara, CA - to the Pacific Ocean and back. About 20 miles on dedicated cycling paths. Santa Barbara is riddled with dedicated cycling paths which criss cross the city allowing cyclists to safely traverse the many busy roads and the 101 Freeway (which cuts through the middle of the city). Nestled between a tall mountain range and the Pacific Ocean with only a mile or so between the two - there's not a lot of room for streets so traffic is often congested and from a cyclist's point of view - very dangerous.
There are many trails and courses that allow cyclists to move across the city from the mountains to the ocean with safety and ease. It's a great place to live if you love cycling. Team Cannondale/Garmin train here in the spring before the Tour of California - which Stage 3 traditionally ends in downtown Santa Barbara but last year for the first time in the history of the tour ended at the top of Gibralter Road, a punishing 5,000 ft climb.
The Synapse is the perfect bicycle for this part of California. It's hybrid geometry - a mix between racing performance and long touring comfort are well suited to the climbs, flats, and curving paths all throughout the region.
Designed for long rides or for rides over rough roads (such as cobblestones - ala Tour de France type riding) the Hi-Mod "BallisTec" carbon frame is specially designed to absorb road vibrations while remaining rigid enough to transfer the majority of your pedalling efforts effectively to the drivetrain and the road.
Equipped with Shimano's Ultegra Di2 drivetrain - powered by what Cannondale claims is the lightest and most effective crank and chainring system in the World - the aluminum Hollogram SI and Spidering crank system, this model Synapse is an effecient and powerful machine.
I rode Cervelo TT bikes (most notably the P2 and P3) for years that were equipped with Shimano's Dura Ace top end line of shifters and derailleurs. The Ultegra line is designed identically to Dura Ace but made of sturdier - more durable - and heavier materials (Dura Ace's Carbon Fiber to Ultegra's Aluminum/Steel). What I've discovered is that the added price (almost 75% more for Dura Ace) and the weight savings are not really worth the added cost unless you are a serious compeditor or you just want bragging rights.
I opted for Ultegra shifters and derailleurs on my last Cannondale (which I now have as a backup ride) and I've been perfectly happy with their durability and performance. Accidentially whack your rear Ultegra derailleur against a curb and you may have to adjust it - whack your Dura Ace derailleur against a curb and you'll snap it and your ride is over. I know... been there done that.
Di2 is the future of cycling transmissions. It's been around for a decade and until a couple of years ago with Shimano's introduction of the Ultegra Di2 line - was only affortable by the pros.
It's a revelation. Instantly fast - smooth - precise - with the effort you'd use to press a button on your X-Box or Playstation's joystick... it's simply amazing and makes shifting so much more intuitive and natural.
The difference between the Synapse I purchased and the top of the line "Team" model is the paint job, the cockpit (bars and stem) and Dura Ace vs Ultegra Di2. The price difference (retail) is $2,000 US. The rest of the specs are identical. For $2,000 you can save a few hundred grams in weight and that's about all you get.
Other notable features of this bicycle are the Shimano hydraulic Di2 Disc Brakes - which are smooth, powerful, and light-weight. My Cannondale Quick Carbon 1 came with much heavier and larger (the rotors are 160 on the Quick as opposed to 140 on the Synapse) Magura hydraulic brakes.
The weight difference between the Quick Carbon 1 and the Synapse Hi-Mod is nearly 7lbs. The majority of this weight is the rims and the heavy/thick stainless steel brake rotors and hubs. Disc brakes have come a long way in the past 3 years.
The Hollowgram deep aero carbon fiber rims which are clinchers which can also be used with tubeless. I love the feel of tubeless tires but unless you are seriously fastidious regarding their upkeep I strongly recommend you stick with the safer clinchers.
The Hollowgram SI aluminum crank and Spidering (chain ring) are supposedly the most rigid, lightest crank/chainring combo in the World. This same crank and chainring set is found on all of the top-end Cannondales including their SuperSix Evo - their pure-bred racing platform. I've been riding carbon cranks by FSA and 3T for the past 10 years and they've never failed to impress me with how strong and light they are. Moving back to aluminum felt like a step backwards until you feel how light this crank/chainring really is. And there's no escaping that when you put the torque into the pedals the bicycle responds immediately.
The Fabric saddle (Fabric is a company that is partly owned by and partnered to Cannondale) is truly a great "stock" option. It has titanium rails and a carbon frame. It's shaped perfectly and is simplistic in it's design. Which is good.
The 25.5mm carbon seat post is specifically designed to flex during your ride - absorbing a majority of the vibration and shock felt from bumps, etc... you hit while riding.
The only critiques I have - and the only parts of the bicycle I may consider changing - have to do with the cockpit. The threadless stem is a Cannondale brand C2 aluminum 110mm stem looks and feels like an afterthought - but in reality Cannondale has always believed in the strength and weight of aluminum... their first bicycles were the first aluminum framed bicycles in the world. Aluminum is in their blood.
The non-aero aluminum bars are another point of question for me. These bars are a great width and shape for controlling the bike and are lightweight butted aluminum but I can't help but feel that if they had only made them a little more aerodynamic the final result would be more impressive. This part of your bike - the cockpit - is the part you see the most.
I do love the integrated Garmin computer mount - the end cap of the stem has an adjustable Garmin computer mount built into it. This is nice because it avoids you having to add a clip on mount to the bars. It does help keep the appearance of the cockpit clean and neat.
Truthfully, if I upgrade these components it'll be to a pure aero system like the 3T Integra LTD stem and Aeronova bars - which together are around $500 US. That's a lot of money for dropping a little weight and reducing wind resistence by a fraction.
A WARNING ABOUT GARMIN VECTOR POWER METER PEDALS AND THIS BICYCLE - I have ridden with Garmin Vector Pedal-based Power Meters for the past 2 years and I find them to be wonderful because I can move them from bicycle to bicycle with ease; the crank based systems are fixed obviously.
The Garmin Vector Pedals have a pod which is connected to the pedal via a rear plug. This plug connects to the pedal and measures the data - then transfers it to your Garmin computer or your smartphone, etc...
There are two sizes for these pods - Small (12-15mm) and Large (15-18mm) - these sizes are designed to work with the thickness of your crank arms. Carbon cranks are thicker than aluminum and require a longer plug to properly connect to the pedal end.
As I mentioned above - I've ridden with carbon cranks for the past decade - so I purchased the larger 15-18mm pods for my Vector Pedal set.
The Hollowgram SI crank arm is aluminum and thinner than the FSA cranks I've been using the past few years. As a result the 3mm extra distance of the larger Garmin pod plugs will come into contact with your chain on the drivetrain side of your bicycle if you shift into your highest gears. The end result is a quick shearing of the pod end off - like a knife through butter.
This effectively destroys the pod and your power meter's ability to function. DO NOT USE LARGE GARMIN VECTOR PODS with the Cannondale Hollowgram SI crank. I've already ordered the small size replacement pod. This was a $100 lesson I don't want you to have to learn. On my first ride - ZIP - and $100 was simply gone.
I've already logged 25 miles on this bicycle - after spending an afternoon getting "plummed" in (adjusting the seat height and position for optimal comfort and riding effectiveness) - and I have to say that I'm in love.
I've ridden hard-core the majority of my life. My love affair with cycling is nearly 40 years old - and I am proud to say that not only has cycling kept me happy and strong but it has (literally) saved my life.
I ride an average of 150 miles a week. I ride 7 days a week (either on the road or bike paths around where I live - or on my stationary trainer indoors if the weather doesn't permit).
My love affair with this bicycle is just starting but I have to say that of all of the bikes I've owned through the years this one has impressed me more from my initial ride than any other before it.
The 2017 Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Ultegra Di2 Disc is certainly a winner - no question.