Cannondale have given their Synapse endurance road bike a disc brake makeover for 2015 and we’ve just received the £2,499 Ultegra Disc model in for test, equipped with Shimano’s brand new hydraulic disc brakes with mechanical groupset.
For 2015 Cannondale have really indicated their interest in disc brakes with seven disc-equipped Synapse models in the range, priced from £850 up to £6,500. That's a lot of choice. This Ultegra Disc model with Shimano’s new hydro disc brakes and mechanical groupset looks to us like the pick of the carbon-framed bunch with a really competitive specification for the money.
Aside from the addition of the disc brakes, the bike has pretty much the same specification as the Synapse that won the Sportive Bike of the Year in the road.cc Bike of the Year 2013/14 awards, the price is the same and the carbon frame and geometry are identical. As such, this is a bike we've been very much looking forward to riding this year to see if it benefits from the disc brakes.
Since those awards, we've seen the release of many new disc-equipped road bikes into the market and the 2015 model year is packed with choice. Looking at the new bikes, it's clear most manufacturers have decided disc brakes are ideally suited to customers buying endurance/sportive/gran fondo road bikes. There's also no sign that the UCI is going to mandate discs in the pro peloton anytime soon, so there's little point releasing pure race bikes with disc brakes yet.
The Synapse was developed in part with a view to conquering the cobbled races such as Paris-Roubaix, and also to appeal to non-racing cyclists who favour a bit more comfort from their bicycle when they're going the distance on long rides and sportives.
Cannondale built in a number of features aimed at creating a smooth ride. From the shape of the frame tubes and fork blades, to the carbon fibre layup, skinny 25.4mm seatpost and capacity for up to 28mm tyres, the Synapse offers a more comfortable ride than their race-ready SuperSix Evo.
While the frame shares all those features with the top-end Synapse, it does use a slightly lower grade of carbon fibre to keep the cost a bit lower, but the frame comes out of the same mould so all the frame profiles are identical.
Cannondale have stuck with conventional quick release wheel axles; no thru-axles here. The rear disc is mounted to the chainstay and the hydraulic hoses are routed internally, including inside the fork, which gives the bike very clean lines. In fact, it’s a very good looking bike and some might say it looks better than the rim brake version.
The Synapse is the first bike we’ve managed to get our hands on with Shimano’s latest RS685 hydraulic disc brakes for mechanical groupsets. Previously Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes have only been available on their Di2 groupsets, but now they’re available with mechanical dual-control levers, and looks like being a very popular choice with manufacturers in 2015, as it's a fair bit cheaper than a Di2 groupset, and there are still many fans of mechanical shifters, myself included.
The new levers house 11-speed shifting internals and somehow Shimano have managed to squeeze a hydraulic reservoir inside there too. The brake levers and disc calipers are non-series, so they can be used with 105, Dura-Ace or as in this case, Ultegra.
The brakes retain the same look caliper as Shimano’s Di2-only BR785 disc brakes, with the same finned IceTech rotors. Cannondale follows Shimano’s advice and sticks a pair of 140mm rotors on.
The rest of the bike comprises a Cannondale Hollowgram Si BB30A chainset with FSA 50/34 compact rings mated to a wide range 11-32t cassette. Mavic’s new Aksium One Disc wheels are fitted with 28mm Mavic Aksion WTS tyres. Mavic have adopted Shimano’s Centrelock disc rotor mounting system, dispensing with the more common 6-bolt standard.
Finishing kit consists of a Cannondale C2 compact aluminium handlebar and stem, gel bar tape and a Fabric Spoon Shallow saddle with titanium rails atop a C2 carbon fibre seatpost. And yes, there are a lot of spacers sitting above the stem providing you with the option to run the handlebars higher if you want. If you want to slam the stem you can simply ask your bike shop to trim the steerer for you.
On the scales our Synapse 56cm weighs 8.57kg (18.89lb).
We’ve had a few interesting disc-equipped road bikes pass through the office recently that fall into the same category. There’s the recently reviewed Bianchi Infinito CV Disc, of course, and there’s the Giant Defy (review is coming very soon). There are plenty more coming from other manufacturers, such as these six of the best.
So we'll be hitting the road very soon and we'll let you know how we get on with the new Synapse. We'll also bring you a first ride of the new hydraulic brakes and mechanical shifters.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.