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Future flash: Cannondale builds safety (and battery) integration into new Synapse

Interactive lights, radar, and display make up new SmartSense package that runs off a single rechargeable battery.

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Cannondale’s new Synapse endurance road bike features a rear-facing radar, front and rear lights that can blink with increasing intensity as a car approaches, and a handlebar-mounted monitor that shows approaching cars. All these Garmin and Lezyne products already exist on the market, but Cannondale has incorporated them into a single package — with a single battery — that it calls SmartSense.

Cannondale also fine-tuned the frameset itself, with claimed improvements in compliance and aerodynamics. The bike comes in multiple models with 30mm tires, but can handle up to 35mm widths. Prices range from $5,500 to $9,000 for the three Synapse models with SmartSense.

“SmartSense is designed to make road riding more enjoyable for experienced riders, more inviting for new riders, and more convenient for everyone,” said Cannondale global senior director of product David Devine. “To complement SmartSense, we redesigned the highly celebrated Cannondale Synapse to be even more versatile than its predecessors.”

Riders can set up how the lights function through a Cannondale app. One last piece of SmartSense is a speed sensor on the front wheel, which activates the system once rolling.

The pieces of SmartSense

You may be familiar with the components of SmartSense.

The Garmin Varia Radar points rearward on a bike to monitor approaching traffic. It works with a range of head units, including those from Wahoo and Stages as well as Garmin’s own Edge models. On the Synapse, the approaching-vehicle information is shown on the Radar Display Unit. As the name implies, this Garmin product isn’t a full-fledged bike computer but instead just alerts the rider to approaching vehicles with graphics and auditory prompts.

The integrated but adjustable cockpit of the Synapse Carbon 1 RLE.

SmartSense also includes Lezyne front and rear Daytime Running Lights, which can adjust brightness to accommodate limited or changing daylight. The lights can be programmed to increase in intensity of blinking speed as vehicles approach, working in tandem with the radar. The rear can also be set to indicate rider braking, working in tandem with the speed sensor.

The whole system is powered by a Garmin Varia Core Battery, which clips onto the down tube and can be removed for charing. The battery also has a USB-C charging port and can be used as a power source when off the bike.

One battery to power (most of) them all. The Garmin battery connects to the lights, radar, and display, but not to the electronic drivetrain.

The battery does not power the electronic drivetrains on the Shimano Di2 versions of the bike, nor does it power a standard head unit like a Garmin Edge, Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, or Stages Dash. The Radar Display Unit plugs into the front Lezyne light for power with a circular plug.

The three Synapse SmartSense models

Cannondale made its name with American-made aluminum. Then, 15 years ago, it jumped into carbon road bikes with the Synapse. While Cannondale doesn’t specify exactly how, the brand says it used lessons from the aero SystemSix to shave some drag off the Synapse. And, it claims, the frameset is eight percent more vertically compliant than the previous version.

Each of the bike’s six sizes (48-61cm) are tuned with size-appropriate frame stiffness and geometry.

The bikes come with 30mm tires, but can handle up to 35mm rubber. In a nod to adventure riding, the bike has a top tube bag mount in addition to the standard two bottle mounts.

There are five Synapse bikes in total. In addition to the three SmartSense bikes  — which are denoted as RLE for Radar, Lights, Electronic shifting — there is also a Shimano 105 bike with lights for $3,300 and a Shimano Tiagra model for $2,400.

In terms of geometry, the Synapse features a progressive design with a longer top tube but shorter stem for stability, while steep keeping a relatively quick 73-degree head angle (in the larger sizes).  The bike isn’t as aggressively low on the front end as Cannondale’s SuperSix race bike, however.

Normally, when riders use a rear light or radar, they strap it to their seatpost. Here, SmartSense is tidy, with the radar and light bolt onto the saddle rails. However, this may mean reconfiguring a saddle bag for some riders, or simply moving the flat-fixing contents to another place on the bike.

Here are the specifics of the three SmartSense models.

Synapse Carbon 1 RLE $9,000

  • Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-speed group
  • HollowGram 45 SL KNOT carbon wheels
  • HollowGram SAVE SystemBar

Synapse Carbon LTD RLE $7,000

  • Shimano GRX Di2 12-speed group
  • HollowGram 45 SL KNOT carbon wheels
  • HollowGram SAVE SystemBar

Synapse Carbon 2 RLE $5,500

  • Shimano Ultegra Di2 12-speed group
  • Fulcrum Rapid Red 500 wheels
  • Cannondale 2 carbon seatpost


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