My initial interest in trying out the Cannondale Synapse HM Black was to test the Shimano di2 electronic gears to check if it was a gimmick or as good as the reviews say.
Well, I can confirm that the electronic Dura Ace shifting set up was even silkier smooth than most of the write ups suggest.
But that's only the beginning of the story on a bike that could have been made with tough Scottish road conditions in mind.
I took the Synapse out from Sprockets Cycles in Kilmarnock round some of my regular roads in and around the villages of Craigie and Tarbolton. The council have recently resurfaced some stretches of new Tarmac on some of my favourite climbs in this area. But most of them still have surfaces that could challenge Paris-Roubaix - without a cobble in sight.
The Synapse made light work of even the roughest of surfaces, thanks I'm guessing to the combination of frame & fork cleverly designed to absorb those shocks and made out of Cannondale's highest spec carbon. The chunky 28mm Schwalbe One tyres also played a starring role in that pot hole busting comfort too. It's no surprise that a number of pros use this machine on some of the European cobbled classics.
I have to admit to being a wee bit nervous taking out a machine costing more than £6k out on a howling gale on the back roads of Ayrshire. Think about Ferris Bueller's pal taking his dad's classic Ferrari out in the movie of the same name and you'll understand my trepidation. But the Synapse is the most sure footed bike I've ridden. Ever.
Ok, I only hung up my running shoes a couple of years ago to concentrate on two wheels. But I've tried out a fair few super bikes in that time. And spent a few quid living up to the n+1 stereotype of the new breed of riders!
I started my ride with the rough surfaced and steep climb of Craigie Hill. Just outside of Kilmarnock this is a coveted Strava segment. I pointed the Synapse into a howling headwind and hit the broken surface of the climb. I'm not saying I took the KOM, but even into a severe wind the uphill felt effortless and the bumps that test my own good road bike seemed to disappear. Parts of the climb that I'm usually trying to muscle my bikes up were shrugged off and I was up and over in good time.
Then there is the Synapse's performance on fast descents. I've never felt more confident as I watched the Garmin tip 40mph coming down "Scoots" out of Tarbolton, and didn't feel the Vision carbon rims were being impacted negatively by the buffeting cross winds. With a steady rain beginning to fall the roads were beginning to look treacherous. But again I felt confident leaning into fast corners on the descents.
That confidence is boosted by the stopping power of the hydraulic disc brakes. I'm used to discs on my cross and mountain bikes. I challenge the most anti-disc roadie to not fall in love with the Synapse's braking power on a wet and windy Ayrshire day. It's definitely the sensible way ahead for the vast majority of road riders. The Synapse with discs is still feather light, so there goes that argument against discs.
There's no doubt that the Synapse's geometry is more relaxed than racy. But it felt plenty fast and responsive to me. In fact the slightly higher head tube made me think I might have made a mistake by slamming the stem on my own bikes.
I was only out on the Cannondale for 20 miles or so. But on tough bumpy roads, with a fair few berg type short sharp climbs and in a punishing wind it was a pleasure to ride even against that triple whammy. In fact I'd go as far as saying it is the perfect high end bike for our infamous British roads. I'd love to get it out for a 100 miler or a testing sportive. To me that's where it'll really come into its own.
The ride comfort of the Synapse is superb thanks to the shock absorbing design, top end carbon and those Tarmac crunching tyres. But a special mention has to go to the Fabric saddle - a carbon railed thing of beauty and comfort. Did I mention the paint job? The stealth black of the HM is subtle, but beautiful. Looking down on the stardust effect top tube makes you feel you're at the helm of a true thoroughbred.
If I could only have one road bike, I'd be saving up the pennies and beating a path to Sprockets for this one.