Review: Cannandale Synapse (She’s Like the Wind)

By | February 24, 2013

How do I describe my time with Swayze…  It was awesome, passed far too quickly and left me wanting more.  You could say it was like the wind.  Warning to properly experience this blog post, one must listen to this song as you read it.  It will all make sense in the end…  Trust me.

So how did I meet Swayze?  Lets start at the beginning.  Thanks to an interesting turn of luck and some fabulous friends, I ended up on the Big Isle of Hawaii near Kona with very little planning or forethought in early February.  I knew I wanted to rent a bike, but did not know where to get one or where I would ride.  I did not even know if I would have time to ride.  Well after a couple days, the bright sunny days began to take their toll.  The regular, bright sun and days close to 12 hours in length did wonders for my circadian rhythms.  I found myself drowsy at around 10 or 11 and I was up and ready to go at seven in the morn.  This was not the case with the rest of the crew who failed to stir until much later.  It is not like me to lie around when I have new lands to explore.  I now had my time to ride.  Now I only needed a bike to ride a bike to ride like the wind.  
After a little research on the smart phone.  I went to Bike Works in Kona to rent my new steed.  The rental process was pretty painless after some discussion we decided I would take a Cannondale Synapse with Shimano 105 shifters, derailleurs and wheels.  I will spare you the details of the entire group, but needless to say she was mine for 4 days for $100 and was reasonably well equipped.  I was a little surprised when I was told that the rental bikes each had their own name.  I would be riding Swayze for the next four days.  It had a  photo of Patrich Swayze on the seat tube and the name Swayze taped to the non-drive-side chain stay.  From that moment until I returned Swayze, I had ‘She’s Like the Wind‘ stuck in my head.  It is stuck in my head as I write this blog post.  Thanks Bike Works.  
Over the next four days, I covered around 80 miles with Swayze.  I rode at least a few miles every day.  My longest rides were around 30 miles.  Here is a link to one of them.  Living in the great damp northwest, I am sad to admit that I had not ridden since October.  Needless to say this many miles in 4 days was a bit of a shock, but not enough to wipe me out for the rest of the day.  I had vacationing to do!  

This was my first time on an unfamiliar road bike since I purchased my Giant OCR1 in 2004, so here are my impressions.    First the negatives:  I wore mountain shoes with  SPD cleats.  I have been using these cleats since 2000.  Their day may have passed.  I was unable to clip in as securely as I would have liked with the pedals.  I tried tightening them, but to no avail.  I suspect that the pedals could stand to be cleaned up and lubed.  My pedals at home hold the cleats securely.  The shifting of the 105 derailleurs was not as crisp as I would have liked.  I think the shifting needed to be gone through.   I am a big boy, somewhere around 235 lbs.  Every bike I have ever owned has made periodic popping, clunking sounds at the bottom bracket.  I have to replace my bottom bracket every 1-1.5 years.  I was hoping for better from the latest bottom bracket design but, I was disappointed to find the same old clunking from Swayze.   The Synapse had a compact gearing with two chain rings in the front.  The triple seems to be going the way of the dinosaur.  However, at my weight and with the 18% grades I experienced on the Big Island, a triple may be mandatory.  Lastly, the geometry of the Synapse is more aggressive than my Giant.  Some may call it responsive.  I would describe it as twitchy.  This was especially true at high speed.  I never really felt comfortable on descents.  The fact that I was riding without a computer only compounded the problem.  
So you may think that I hated Patrick, but you would be oh so wrong.  My negatives are mostly nit-picky.  The positives are much more substantial.  They are as follows:  Swayze is a bigger bike than I am used to at 62 cm.  My giant is an XL roughly equal to a 58 cm frame.  The reach to the hoods and drops was much easier for me with Swayze.  I typically ride too upright on my Giant.  If I had more time in the saddle with Swayze, I could assume a much more aero position than I do on my Giant.  This is great, because it is damn windy on the Big Island.  I am glad that I avoided most of the wind on my rides 🙂  I often say that carbon is overrated.  I have an old carbon mountain bike, which I love.  However, I never really noticed any real improvement in ride quality due to the carbon.  I am also constantly live with the fear that I will break it.  (I have broken a steel and aluminum frame already.)  Swayze was a very smooth ride.  The carbon really took a lot of the bite out of the road.  Finally, I have to mention that I was overall very pleased with Bike Works.  They were friendly, offered me good advice and the rental process was quick and easy.  They also have a nice selection of rental rides with what I assume are interesting names.  
Well there you have it, my first bike review.  I hope to have the opportunity to write more.