Cannondale Synapse Disc Ultegra
By Felix Smith

Cannondale Bike

Cannondale Bike: The Synapse is available in three different frame versions ranging from the cheaper aluminium model to a standard carbon frame, and then a Hi-Mod version which has a higher strength to weight ratio. I’m testing the mid-range Carbon Synapse Disc Ultegra model. It would be fair to say that I’ve got a keen interest in gravel riding, which is lucky because, arguably, bikes designed for endurance have started merging with their gravel counterparts. 

The Synapse is no exception, and with tyre clearance up to 32mm and its shock-absorbing SAVE tech, it’s clearly been designed to take on gravel roads, such as those found in ultra-endurance races such as the Transcontinental. I plan to test it out on mixed surfaces and some big miles on tarmac over the course of the year to see how it handles the different terrain.

Cannondale Synapse Disc Ultegra long-term review update two

I’ve not made any significant changes to the Synapse for this update because the last few weeks have been all about managing my on-going left and right knee troubles.

I have lowered the bar height a touch, replaced the Fabric Scoop saddle with a Specialized Mimic and made a slight change in saddle angle, though.

However, what remains the same is the Synapse’s amazing handling and comfort that’s impressed me since I began testing it in February. But I do have some pretty exciting upgrades planned for my next update, so stay tuned for that.

I found the stock Fabric Scoop lacking in comfort and a little harsh over bumps, I always struggled to get truly comfortable. So, after searching for some time for a saddle better suited to my needs, I settled on Specialized’s Mimic, which is an evolution of the well-known Power saddle.

Bear in mind, saddle comfort is extremely personal, but after around 800km on the Scoop it won’t be a saddle I go back to using.

Aero gains

Since the rides haven’t been particularly long or far from home during the global pandemic, the extra comfort I’ve had from the relatively tall front-end hasn’t been worth the, albeit probably small, aerodynamic disadvantage.

As a result, I have dropped the bar height by another 10mm since the last update and feel the bars are now in a more natural position. The ride feels considerably more sporty when compared to the initial setup.

In the future, should I want to add aero extensions for longer, multi-day rides, I’d set these a minimum of 20mm higher than the current position of the handlebars. Although hard to say without setting up, I believe this could give me a good compromise between comfort and aero advantage.

After making the bar height change, I felt myself ending up on the nose of the saddle, especially during harder efforts. So I’ve tilted the saddle nose up by a few degrees to help me find a more sustainable position, not forgetting to lower the seatpost by a few millimetres to compensate.

Cannondale Bike

Pain-free riding

Cannondale Bike

Reversing long-term knee damage is a notoriously difficult job and, having had a great spell of rehabilitation with a period of pain-free riding, I fell back to the knee niggles that had previously dominated my rides. It came at the peak of my latest build up in fitness, when presumably I overcooked it. That brief experience of pain-free riding felt so good and I’m determined to not push too hard too early again, so here goes a chilled-out summer of riding where my knee rehab comes before my fitness. I’ve been combining my rides with a dedicated stretching plan since January 2020 and focusing on areas of chronic tightness, with some strengthening exercises too.

Metering my imbalance

For a while now, I’ve noticed my right leg is working much harder than the left. Over time this has resulted in quite a big imbalance in my body and although I can’t quantify the difference yet, I believe it must be having an impact on my knees.

So, for now, I will continue the strengthening exercises to try and address the balance issue and see how they help my rehab.

Of course, a double-sided power meter, such as on a set of Garmin Vector pedals, would allow me to quantify how much of an imbalance is present and track the difference in power between my legs over time. Perhaps this is a test for a future update.