Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105 Review
  • Overall score
4

Summary

The Cannondale Synapse Carbon 105 is an endurance bike with workhorse capabilities and quality specs at an affordable price point.

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Pros

  • Comfy full carbon frameset
  • Hydraulic brakes
  • Complete Shimano 105 groupset
  • Nimble handling for an endurance bike

Cons

  • Heavy wheelset
  • Relatively traditional frame shape
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User Review
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The Synapse 105 is an endurance bike that enables you to train longer and harder with its upright geometry and dependable componentry. The model is different enough from a pure road model to offer extra comfort while still delivering on race pace. This mid-tier model has all the touches carbon lovers and budget-conscious riders want, and forgoes the blingy touches you don’t need on extended training rides.

To get the most out of the carbon frame and Shimano 105 groupset, though, you might want to upgrade the wheels to a lighter pair.

Part of the popular Synapse range

Since its debut in 2005, Cannondale’s Synapse range has proven itself a dependable and quality option for high-mileage riders and adventurous roadies. The innovative brand introduced the Synapse line long before ‘endurance bikes’ was a well-defined category. Receiving upgrades every few years, the Synapse models have stood the test of time and are now some of the most popular endurance bikes.

Endurance specs

The 2021 Synapse 105 is built around a full carbon frameset with upright geometry designed for comfort on long rides without sacrificing performance. The carbon fork and frame are made from Cannondale’s proprietary BallisTec lightweight carbon construction.

Cannondale also utilizes their SAVE micro-suspension technology with advanced tube shapes to add a bit of comfort over the bumps and road buzz. This clever tech can save your butt (literally) and back when out on extended training rides and need a smoother ride on less-than-perfect road surfaces.

Traditional frame shape

Source: rei.com

This model achieves a more relaxed rider position by having a relatively tall stack height and high front end. The setup can feel odd for riders that want a more aggressive position but does well to avoid straining your back on longer rides. Cannondale decided not to extend the wheelbase on this endurance model, a change that adds stability but removes some responsiveness.

Therefore, with the wheelbase the same as Cannondale’s Supersix road model, the Synapse is plenty confident on speedy descents and preserves its playful handling.

The carbon frame offers more relaxed road bike geometry but isn’t anything special, receiving its last update in 2017. This year, the Synapse range got its long-overdue redesign and included a frame change and SmartSense radar system. The reimagined models are enticing but come with a significant price jump compared to this era of  Synapse.

Impressive componentry

As the name suggests, this Synapse is outfitted with a complete Shimano 105 groupset, equipped with an 11-speed 11-34t cassette and 50/34t front chainring. I’ve always been a huge proponent of the 105 groupset since it has virtually identical performance as the fancier Ultegra option but costs significantly less. Cannondale is smart to run the full-spec 105 groupset to keep costs affordable while still satisfying the endurance riders and commuters with high expectations.

The hydraulic disc brakes and 32mm tire clearance allow you to transform this endurance model into more of a gravel bike. When you want to scratch that off-road itch, these features work well on long descents or tackling tougher terrain. This Synapse also comes with hidden fender mounts to attach mudguards when riding in wet or muddy conditions— a clever idea to stay dry during a training session or morning commute.

Wheels and tires… could use an upgrade

Source: rei.com

The Synapse Carbon 105 rolls on a set of Cannondale RD 2.0 aluminum wheels matched to Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 30mm tires. The stock wheels are nothing to write home about, but they are a durable option that makes sense for riders looking to put in some serious mileage rather than win races.

The wheelset is a smart way to keep the bike’s price competitive and leave room for an upgrade down the road— I reckon you can save around half a kilogram by investing in some lighter wheels and tires.

That said, I’m happy to see Cannondale double down on endurance touches like 30mm tires to achieve that extra bit of comfort compared to the more common 28mm size.

Value

Priced at $2,600, this mid-tier bike sits at the lower end of Cannondale’s Synapse range. There are cheaper full carbon models out there equipped with Shimano 105, but the quality frame and impressive handling help to justify the Synapse’s higher price. I’m glad to see Cannondale offer an affordable version of their popular Synapse bike, but it seems that they’ve bucked that trend with the 2022 range’s higher price tags.

More than an endurance bike?

While it’s labeled as an endurance bike, this model can be ideal for commuters willing to spend a bit more for a top-notch daily rider. The frame is compatible with fenders, and the wide tires help absorb the urban jungle imperfections.

You could convert the bike to a gravel setup with wider tires and take advantage of the disc brakes, but you’ll reach its limits fairly quickly. This bike can definitely handle some dirt paths or uneven pavement but isn’t designed for much more than that.

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