cannondale synapse with smartsense
(Photo/Cannondale)

Ride With Radar: Cannondale Debuts ‘SmartSense’ on New Synapse Road Bike

Cannondale built the latest Synapse to be faster, smoother, and safer for riders of virtually any level.

Phones are smart, watches are smart — heck, even refrigerators can multitask and communicate. Now Cannondale thinks bikes should be smart, too. Meet the redesigned Synapse, a stalwart of Cannondale’s road bike lineup. But unlike its predecessors, this Synapse has the capacity to think, see, and communicate with the rider — and motorists, too.

Launching today, Cannondale unveils SmartSense, a novel integration of the brand’s own tech with bicycle innovations from Garmin and Lezyne. In total, SmartSense offers a customizable suite of lighting and alerts.

And while the tech may steal the headlines, Cannondale engineers also dug in to improve the actual bike as well. This Synapse boasts 10% better aerodynamics, thanks to tricks learned from the SystemSix (aka “the fastest bike in the world’). Plus, the brand claims it has 8% better compliance — improving both comfort and handling to better manage the rigors of the road.

All in all, Cannondale believes this Synapse is faster, smoother, and smarter than ever.

Cannondale Synapse With SmartSense

What is SmartSense and how does it work? At its core, SmartSense is really the combined force of Garmin Varia radar (and battery), Lezyne front and rear lights, and Cannondale’s wheel sensor and app.

woman riding cannondale synapse with smartsense
(Photo/Cannondale)

Though disparate technologies, Cannondale claims they combine into a near-seamless synchronization of enhanced safety measures. Essentially, riders will be able to set up and customize their SmartSense system through the Cannondale app.

Once set, the system will engage when it senses a ride has begun, thanks to the wheel sensor. This will trigger the Garmin Varia, a rear-facing radar that can detect oncoming traffic. When it does, a cockpit-mounted display will alert the rider as a vehicle approaches, changing in color and intensity as the vehicle nears.

In concert with these rider alerts, SmartSense will automatically signal the oncoming drivers via the Lezyne lights, adjusting settings like pattern and intensity as they approach (customizable through the app).

“SmartSense is designed to make road riding more enjoyable for experienced riders, more inviting for new riders, and more convenient for everyone,” Cannondale’s global senior director of product David Devine said.

The whole system is powered through a Garmin battery at the base of the down tube, and it can also power peripherals — like your phone — via a USB-C interface. But make no mistake, this is no e-bike; the battery merely offers power to the SmartSense components.

2022 Synapse Lineup

Cannondale Synapse 1 RLE bike
(Photo/Cannondale)

While the Synapse lineup has a range of builds to accommodate riders of varying experience levels, only three carry SmartSense (signified by “RLE” for Radar, Light, and Electronic shifting). However, all models will be SmartSense-ready, meaning riders can upgrade when they’re ready — and when Cannondale launches SmartSense as an aftermarket add-on (timing TBD).

Leading the way is the top-tier Synapse 1 RLE ($9,000), with full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 12-speed, hydraulic brakes, and Cannondale’s carbon HollowGram 45 SL KNØT wheelset and SAVE SystemBar.

The LTD RLE ($7,000) swaps out the Dura-Ace system for the gravel-focused GRX 11-speed groupset, but otherwise remains the same. And the Synapse 2 RLE shaves the sticker price down to $5,500 with a 12-speed Ultegra Di2 system, Fulcrum Rapid Red 500 wheelset, and no SystemBar.

Rounding out the line are the SmartSense-ready (but not included) Synapse 3L ($3,300) — with Lezyne lights and 105 groupo — and the $2,400 base-model, Synapse 4. At the entry level, riders get a Tiagra 10-speed build and a pretty respectable road machine they can upgrade as they wish.

Keep an eye out as we’ll get our hands on a SmartSense-equipped Synapse to see how it performs.

Cannondale Synapse SmartSense app
(Photo/Cannondale)
Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.