Cannondale Synapse Carbon 2 RL review with SmartSense technology, more comfort but…

By William ROBERT
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at 8:42 a.m. – Hardware test

– Article read 8989 times. Comments: 0 . Average reading time: 7 minutes


As much to say it right away, this Cannondale Synapse Carbon, in its color Beetle Green (beetle green) leaves no one indifferent. This color is a real success and does not go unnoticed. In the sun, there are magnificent reflections.

For those who want less “showy”, this bike is available in black.

Whatever the color chosen, it should be noted that Cannondale is committed to the safety of its customers, since in addition to the rear radar (which also acts as a headlight), the seatstays and the upper part of the seat tube are equipped with reflective paint.

The black model is on its side painted in fluorescent yellow on this part.

As we can see in the photos, the frame adopts a very pronounced slopping and a very compact frame. The top tube is quite short, with a virtual length (as if the tube was horizontal) of 55.5cm for a 54cm frame. The Stack is quite large, with 57cm and a reach of 38cm.

No doubt, the geometry of this Synapse has been designed to be relatively comfortable and will not allow for a huge difference between the saddle and the handlebar. Not surprising for a rather endurance bike. The position is in fact much more upright.

If Cannondale’s goal with this new generation was to offer increased performance, it was above all necessary to further increase comfort. This includes the tires in particular. The new frame and fork accept tires up to 35 mm in section.

But it comes with more versatile 30mm “only” tires. You can see it in the photo opposite, despite an actual width measured at 33 mm, there is still room.

Using lessons learned from the Cannondale SystemSix, Cannondale was able to make this Synapse faster than its predecessor. The overall aerodynamics are improved, even if at first glance, we may regret the choice to have a fairly prominent routing of cables and hoses between the handlebars and the diagonal tube. Without looking at all costs for fully integrated cables, the routing comes out very wide here.

Cannondale even provided two mounting screws for a pannier on the top tube.

Saddle tightening is done via a simple collar. A proven system. I weighed this model at 9.35 kg in size 54. Not surprising for an endurance type bike fitted with an 11-speed mechanical Ultegra groupset, Fulcrum Rapid Red 900 wheels at 1950 g per pair and 30 mm Vittoria Rubino Pro tires at 310 grams each.

But to be completely precise, let’s not forget that this weight also includes the headlight, the rear radar and the battery!

SmartSense ecosystem

SmartSense is a light and radar system that communicates with the cyclist, the bike and the environment, powered by a single battery.

Even before the first pedal stroke, users can interact with SmartSense via the Cannondale app where they will have a wide selection of settings to customize their experience. The settings are designed to provide better awareness while creating increased visibility so the rider can see and be seen more effectively.

Once the desired customizations have been applied, a rotation of the front wheel, equipped with a Cannondale wheel sensor, initiates a continuous chain of communication between all available SmartSense touch points.

Garmin Varia Radar : the rear radar associated with powerful lighting is well known to many cyclists now. It constantly analyzes traffic behind and can report speed, distance and number of cars via audible and visual alerts on the bike’s display unit. The Garmin radar is also compatible with your GPS.

The radar is ideally placed here, just under the saddle, a very high point. And the fixing, solid, prevents the headlight from being aligned.

A nice integration, but be careful, not all saddle bags will fit easily. I was able to fix mine, but with more difficulty than on a saddle without this system.

Lezyne daytime running light front : Front lighting improves visibility of oncoming traffic to help the cyclist be seen. It is paired to the rear light and both light up at the same time. But you can of course choose to turn off the front light thanks to a button located on the rear part.

SmartSense Battery : a single power source eliminates the need to charge several batteries and avoids the risk of riding poorly equipped. The battery can also be used as a USB-C charging source when disconnected from the bike mount. It is placed under the bottle cages, at the lowest point of the bike.

Cannondale wheel sensor : Pairs your Synapse with the Cannondale app and automatically activates SmartSense by spinning the front wheel.


On this Synapse Carbon 2 RL model, the mechanical Shimano Ultegra 11-speed group is at work. A well-known transmission. Even if it seems a little “outdated” today with the arrival of 12-speed transmissions, it has the merit of still existing for those who do not want an electronic group, which makes it possible to limit the price of the bike.

For this endurance bike, Cannondale opted for 50/34 chainrings and an 11-34 cassette. If this cassette makes it possible to have a 1:1 ratio on the smallest development, perfect for climbing a pass when fatigue has set in, this is of course done to the detriment of the progressiveness of the teeth: 11-13-15- 17-19-21-23-25-27-30-34

For such a cassette, I remain convinced that a departure on a 12 teeth would be much more useful, but there, it is not the fault of Cannondale.

To stop the bike, 160 mm disc brakes both front and rear.

The cockpit is simple, with a Cannondale 2 aluminum handlebar and an aluminum stem also from Cannondale. A cockpit already quite occupied by the headlight and the Garmin Varia indicator. To install the counter, it will be necessary to do with a fixing on the stem. Similarly, the presence of the front headlight prevents, for example, attaching a handlebar bag.

The wheels on their side, as mentioned above, are Rapid Red 900 from Fulcrum at 1950 g per pair and the tires are 30 mm Vittoria Rubino Pro at 310 grams each, which actually measures almost 33 mm. Cannondale therefore played on reliability and comfort.

On the road

With actual 33mm tires, I settle for 4 bar in the rear and 3.8 in the front. More than enough. And inevitably, with such a mount, what surprises from the first laps is the comfort. The bike literally seems to float on the asphalt, something even more significant when you approach a very grainy surface.

The road feel of the 33 mm tires is quite impressive at low speeds and this, up to 30 km/h where you really have the impression of moving forward easily, without knowing if this is due to an erroneous perception of the brain at because of the absence of vibrations as the tires filter well. On the other hand, at high speed, past 35/40 km/h, their width inevitably brakes the bike more than a 25 mm envelope due to this higher frontal surface. But the target of this bike is not couriers.

The position is relatively straight, even by lowering the stem to the lowest, we do not find a very pronounced aero position. But this will only bother the most athletic, those looking for an extreme position. For those who want to clock up the miles, this Synapse Carbon offers a good compromise with a more suitable position over the distance.

With those heavy wheels and consequent wraps, dynamism isn’t the quality that comes to mind. On the raises, this Synapse lacks incisiveness and will require to be a little more abrupt if you want to play the signs. No, clearly, Cannondale has changed its objective with this Synapse which invites you to ride at a steady pace more than to place attacks, it’s a big change compared to previous generations.

But once launched on the dish, it is rather pleasant, with this very appreciable comfort and filtration. When the road rises, it does the job, but rather there too with a steady cadence. The 11-34 cassette allows you to play on almost all slopes, but at the expense of progressiveness, especially on the last 3 sprockets. We sometimes find ourselves going from too big to too flexible and we have to adapt our rhythm to have the right pace. But it’s inherent to gear jumps on this type of cassette.

In dancer, the bike offers healthy behavior with tires that do not pump too much at 4 bars. On the other hand, we come up against THE thing that annoys on this bike, namely the routing of the cables.

If, aesthetically, this is hardly pleasant, it could still have happened. The concern is that it’s even downright embarrassing as soon as you start dancing. Yes, the knees touch the sheaths on both sides – more on the left than on the right – as soon as you stand on the pedals.

Of course, a bicycle dealer can always shorten all this for you (as far as possible), but you will probably have to go back to the checkout. For me, this is clearly a problem on a bike, regardless of price. But even more surprising from a big brand like Cannondale and on a bike billed at €4,500!

Once in the descent, the bike is healthy, without surprise. The rubbers offer good grip and the bike is placed quite easily. Insecure riders on the descents will appreciate these 30mm+ casings which suppress a lot of the bumps at high speeds, making the bike more stable.

Especially since the brakes are powerful and allow you to stop quickly in all situations.

A quick note on the Garmin radar display. A good tool for those who do not have a speedometer compatible with the Varia radar.

As on a compatible counter, this indicator allows you to be warned, both visually and audibly, of the arrival of one or more vehicles behind you. A real plus for safety. For my part, after having tasted the Varia radar, I can no longer do without it on the road.

Compact, the indicator clearly displays the number of vehicles arriving and their distance using 15 segments. As the vehicle(s) approach, a white light advances towards you. Depending on the speed of the vehicle behind you, the LED placed at the top turns orange or red.

The sound signal is powerful enough to be heard perfectly even if there is a lot of noise around you or the wind whistling in your ears.

Balance sheet

A bike that is both comfortable and technological, with SmartSense which allows you to benefit from lighting in all circumstances and perfectly integrated into the bike.

The position is quite upright and is above all geared towards long distances more than the aero positions, but that does not prevent it from rolling fast, even with 30 mm section tires.

My only complaint about this bike is its cabling at the cockpit, which is very annoying as soon as you get into a dancer’s position. A problem to be solved by your dealer before taking possession of it because it is unsightly or even annoying.

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