Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 (2020) - 1 month review...

carsonjones

Member
I live in a very hilly area and ride mainly quiet country roads and light gravel trails. I also ride with some relatively fast riders (28 - 32 km/hr avg speed) occasionally and so I went searching for an ebike that fit both my budget and riding style. The Synapse Neo 1 is what I ended up choosing and it's been one of the best decisions I've made. I'll go over my list of pros and cons below. Also, my experience with Cannondale hasn't been great and I'll describe and explain that experience as well. I've ridden almost 1000 km so far on my new Synapse Neo 1.


Pros...


- The battery range is great. I'm about 6'4" / 230 lb and ride with a bike packing saddle bag that carries a multi-tool, first aid kit, two spare tubes, one spare tire, light cycling jacket, and snacks. I also have a top tube bag for my phone, wallet, and keys. Add to this two water bottles and an attached mini pump and that's typically my kit. The range I'm seeing on a full charge is about 100 km with 1000 m of climbing when riding primarily in eco / tour mode with a kick up to Sport mode on some steep climbs. I'm very happy with that.

- The ride quality is good. The bike feels like a typical road bike when you're riding it which I'm pleased to report. When combined with the bike's Bosch Activeline Plus motor, the bike feels nimble and handles well. The weight of the bike also makes it feel very stable when cornering and going down hills. A little tip is to shift into your preferred hill climbing assist setting (i.e. mine is Sport) before you go into the bottom of the climb. Much the same way as you would drop into smaller gears before going into a bigger climb. Doing this makes for a very smooth climb up the hills. It's an amazing experience.

- The components are great overall except for a manufacturing issue with my rear wheel which I'll get to in the Cons section below. The Ultegra / 105 group set is perfect for me and matches up well with the bike's price point. The wheels and tire choice are great for typical road riding. I appreciate having the 32 mm tires on the rougher roads. The frame attachment points are suited to bike packing which is a big plus in my book. Overall I'm pleased with how the Neo 1 is set up. That said, there are areas to improve upon that shouldn't increase the cost too much (see below).

- I like the overall look of the Synapse Neo 1. It's hard to go wrong with black and I really like the blue accents on the inner forks. Not much more to say about that really. I think it's a good looking bike 👍👍.



Cons...


- I like longer rides and plan to do a fair amount of bike packing with the Neo 1. I expect to do some trips that approach the 200 km range in a single day. While the battery range is excellent, if you want to hot-swap an extra battery in for longer rides then the process is decidedly painful, given how Cannondale have engineered the frame's battery cover. If you want to swap out your battery then you have to remove the battery and attached cover, then unscrew and remove your bottle cage, loosen the screws under the bottle cage, then unscrew two inner screws on the top of the battery, and finally slide the battery out. Reverse this process for connecting up your extra battery. Brutal. To get around this incredibly ridiculous process I've had to purchase a second battery cover from Cannondale (approx. $50 CDN). This adds an additional cost and added weight to your Neo 1 if you plan on carrying a second battery for longer trips and want a much better way of switching out your batteries while on the road / trail. In my opinion, Cannondale need to revise their battery setup so that users don't need to unscrew anything in order to quickly swap out their battery. If you won't be doing longer rides or bike packing then I don't think this is an issue for you at all and you'll love the range you'll be getting from a single battery setup.

Link to video showing battery removal process...


- A complaint I do have with ride quality is that Cannondale seem to have incorrectly configured my bike to cut the ebike assist at about 26 km/hr when the bike is rated for 30 km/hr assist. I've been able to confirm this in several ways. I have attached my Wahoo Speed sensor to the bike and the assist is consistently cutting out at approximately 26 km/hr. When I compare my Wahoo speed readings with others on group rides it's very accurate and matches up with what they have. I've also ridden by traffic speed signs and it's matching up with my Wahoo Speed Sensor readings as well. All of this tells me that the Cannondale is performing under spec and I should be experiencing assistance from the Bosch Activeline Plus motor up to the 30 km/hr marker. While I expect that the manufacturers cut assist support slightly before 30 km/hr I think my bike has been configured to cut out well before that at 26 km/hr. I'm working with my local bike shop (also a Cannondale dealer) to resolve the issue. Be warned that you'll likely experience a typical consumer complaint when dealing with Bosch and Cannondale. Bosch will ask that you deal with Cannondale regarding this particular issue and Cannondale have been inclined to push you towards dealing with Bosch. Very frustrating.

- When I purchased the Synapse Neo 1 and picked it up from my bike shop, I took it home and took it for an initial test run around the block. After only a lap or two, the rear wheel began to wobble badly. I returned the bike to the bike shop the next day and they immediately gave me a temporary replacement while they looked into what was happening. It turns out that the spokes used in Cannondale's manufacturing of the bike were the wrong size and the spokes weren't threading into the rim correctly. Not a good indication of Cannondale's quality control in their manufacturing process. That said, the bike shop submitted the wheel for a warranty replacement which I received yesterday. I'll report back on the new rear wheel replacement if there are any further issues with it.

- Cannondale should be including a better Bosch head unit on their bikes. The Purion unit feels like something out of the 1990's and is as basic as it gets. I think the Bosch Kiox head unit should be included with this bike.



My overall impression of the bike and changes / additions I've made or will be making...

The Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 (2020) is a great bike and has made my riding experience so much better. It's been a real game-changer in terms of where I ride, how far I ride, and who I can ride with. If you're thinking about buying an ebike I'd be first in line to say that if you can afford one and you want to ride further and typically faster, then I highly recommend buying one. I definitely recommend the Synapse Neo 1. While not inexpensive, its certainly not the most expensive and components and configuration are ideal for road riding and light gravel.

I've already purchased a second battery (Bosch Powertube 500) that I'll be carrying in a Topeak midloader (L). I've also purchased a second battery cover which I resent a little. The very unfriendly design of the bike's battery cover needs to be improved upon. I think Cannondale need to redesign the battery setup so that users can easily and quickly swap out batteries without the need for tools. For greater versatility I've also purchased a second set of 650b wheels (Shimano 570 GRX) and WTB 47 mm Byway tires for a mix of road / rough gravel / light single track.

The Synapse Neo 1 is a pleasure to ride and has opened up a world of cycling possibilities for me. It's comfortable to ride and versatile. I'd recommend this bike to anyone looking to purchase a road ebike.
 
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Captain Slow

Well-Known Member
A very well written and informative write-up, thanks for sharing. I have a friend who's looking at the Synapse Neo as a potential choice so I'll forward this to him.

Given your comment about the battery cover I'll guess you're Canadian. Any chance you're in the Lower Mainland of BC? I am, and always looking for new ride partners.
 

carsonjones

Member
A very well written and informative write-up, thanks for sharing. I have a friend who's looking at the Synapse Neo as a potential choice so I'll forward this to him.

Given your comment about the battery cover I'll guess you're Canadian. Any chance you're in the Lower Mainland of BC? I am, and always looking for new ride partners.

Hope the review helps your friend in the decision making process. I'm in southern Ontario in Northumberland Hills. Would love to be able to ride out in BC. You're very lucky!
 

Deacon Blues

Well-Known Member
I have a Topstone Neo Lefty 3, but my bike has some of the same parts as your bike. Mine also has the Purion display, which is indiscreet, but very basic.

My old $35 bike computer has way more functions.

My display is out 1.5km at 30kph, so when the display shows 30kph I'm actually doing 28.5kph. On top of that the power cuts out at the display speed of

31.7kph, so I lose an additional 0.3kph. That's not much, but when it's added to the 1.5kph it means my motor cuts out almost 2 kph early.

I'd be really annoyed if my motor cut out at 26kph. It almost seems like you have a EU specked motor limiter.

I may consider upgrading to the Nyon display, when it becomes available early next year, but I'm not sure how that bulky mount would look on a drop bar

bike.

I have the same wheels on my bike and so far (700km) they haven't given me any trouble, though I am considering (dreaming) purchasing as set of carbon

wheels.

Like you, I really like my bike. I've put over 700km on the bike in one month, but unfortunately I won't be riding my Lefty for awhile. I've noticed a clicking

sound coming from the motor (but could be the rear hub) and the bike is going back to the bike shop on Tuesday (240km round trip :().
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
If your Synapse is set to the Euro 25 km/h assistance limit, it is the duty of the Cannondale LBS to modify the speed limiter setting...
 

carsonjones

Member
If your Synapse is set to the Euro 25 km/h assistance limit, it is the duty of the Cannondale LBS to modify the speed limiter setting...
I absolutely agree. My bike shop was asked to run a diagnostic, which they have done. The report has been sent out to Cannondale (Canada) and we're waiting to hear back. Cannondale seem focused on adjusting the cosmetic speed reading on the Purion unit, which does nothing to help me, and they are very reluctant to even acknowledge that there could be an issue with the actual speed at which the ebike assist kicks out. Hoping they work hard to do the right thing here. I'll report back.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Things happen. Carson, please tell me one thing because I'm not sure I have understood you correctly. If you have bought the spare battery and the cover, is the process of replacing the battery still so cumbersome as you had described it?
 

carsonjones

Member
Purchasing the second battery cover and installing it on the second battery permanently makes the process very simple indeed. Insert the key, turn, click the release button, and remove the drained battery. Stow away and replace with the fully charged second battery. No screws to toy with and very quick to do on a snack break or water stop. The battery cover itself doesn't add a lot of bulk to the battery and the Topeak Midloader bag should do the trick of carrying the extra battery just fine. It's a $50 solution and in my opinion, Cannondale should redesign things so that swapping out batteries is tool-free and quick and doesn't add additional cost to the bike.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
Oh, they should redesign nothing :) Two mid-motor e-bikes I own (Vado 5.0 and Trance E+) follow a similar concept. You need to buy a US$25 cover when you're buying the second battery for the Vado. Then the battery swapping is as easy as you described for the Synapse. I carry the second battery with me on all my long Vado rides. With Giant Trance E+, which is e-MTB, the battery is bottom-inserted. You need a skid-plate but the process of swapping the battery is even easier, as the Giant battery just snaps in the chamber. But the point is, the Giant skid-plates are unavailable right at the moment. So I need to insert the bare battery into the frame, and then protect it by wrapping the frame with a neoprene mat...

The dedicated cover is the price we're paying for the fully integrated battery.

It might be interesting for you to know that:
  • To remove the 700 Wh battery in the highly acclaimed Specialized Turbo Levo e-MTB, you need to put the e-bike upside down and use a hex wrench to remove the battery...
  • All Specialized Super Light (SL) bikes (Creo SL the road e-bike, Levo SL the e-MTB, and Vado SL the commuter one) have a non-removable main battery, and the only way to extend the range is to carry water-bottle shaped range extenders. On the other hand, the Creo SL users say the super lightweight road bike has improbably great range...
In my eyes, Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 is a very good road e-bike, and I would treat the battery/cover as a feature, not a con.

Your report has been very useful though!
 

carsonjones

Member
Fair enough observation re. the Cannondale battery cover situation, given how difficult some of the other manufacturers have made the process (i.e. upside down bike). I'll consider myself lucky then since finding a $50 solution solves all of the battery issues I've had in this particular case. Appreciate you pointing that out since I had no idea about how other manufacturers / bikes were handling the battery swap scenario.

I'll say this also... in my opinion the manufacturers should work to improve the battery swapping process by making things tool-free and easy to do quickly. Let's hope that future design innovations include this approach to battery compartment design.
 
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tolovan

Member
@carsonjones Do you get correct speed readout from the built in Cannondale/Garmin wheel sensor via the Cannondale app? Or is that off as well? Just curious. If that sensor is giving correct speed it might be a slight leverage to convince Cannondale that something is off.
 

Stefan Mikes

Well-Known Member
I'll say this also... in my opinion the manufacturers should work to improve the battery swapping process by making things tool-free and easy to do quickly. Let's hope that future design innovations include this approach to battery compartment design.
I might understand the manufacturers' approach in many cases. For Vado/Como, at least in theory, you might be able to select a colour-matching cover. In case of Giant, the same battery can be used, for instance, on a road bike, on a MTB or an-all rounder: In each case, covers are totally different; one battery, different applications. In case of Specialized SL e-bikes, the non-removable battery is stealthily hidden in a slim, lightweight frame. So I don't think Cannondale is any worse. You were simply not informed you needed the extra cover. I was, fortunately, told about the Specialized battery cover by the Forum users prior to the battery purchase...
 

Deacon Blues

Well-Known Member
@carsonjones Do you get correct speed readout from the built in Cannondale/Garmin wheel sensor via the Cannondale app? Or is that off as well? Just curious. If that sensor is giving correct speed it might be a slight leverage to convince Cannondale that something is off.

There's a Cannondale app that works with a Bosch motor?
 

tolovan

Member
Some models come with an additional wheel sensor installed at the front hub that was designed by Garmin. It syncs with the Cannondale App (and supposedly with Garmin Connect). I'm not sure if Bosch uses this sensor at all (I think it relies on spoke mounted sensor on the back wheel instead). Cannondale advertises this sensor as "hyper-accurate" :) So if this sensor gives the correct speed and Bosch doesn't I think it would be fair to tell Cannondale that Bosch needs to be adjusted.
 

NH-Senior-Gal

New Member
I also have the Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 e-bike (2020 version bought in November 2019). I live in the US and have MPH readings, not KPH. My motor very unobtrusively and gently cuts out at 20 mph. I can feel it continuing to assist at lower speeds, say 18 and 19 mph. You may have the European version which limits assist at a lower threshold. I don't normally ride at 20 mph, but on a gentle downhill, I often get into that range.
 

timacn

Member
I also have the Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 e-bike (2020 version bought in November 2019). I live in the US and have MPH readings, not KPH. My motor very unobtrusively and gently cuts out at 20 mph. I can feel it continuing to assist at lower speeds, say 18 and 19 mph. You may have the European version which limits assist at a lower threshold. I don't normally ride at 20 mph, but on a gentle downhill, I often get into that range.
Hi NH-Senior-Gal Three questions: what kind of mileage per charge do you get? Do you ever take it on gravel or dirt roads? Do you use both chain rings or could you get by with just one? (I'm trying to decide between the Synapse Neo 1 and the Synapse Neo SE) Thanks!
 

NH-Senior-Gal

New Member
Hello timacn, Welcome to the e-bike world!
To answer your questions...
Q1: I have done one 100 mile ride with 3500 ft of climbing on one charge. I think I could have gone another 20 miles or so. I used mostly eco mode with a little bit of tour mode. I didn't set any speed records since I was riding behind my husband on his e-trike which is not very efficient. He used 2 batteries. I normally do 20 to 30 mile rides with an occasional 40-ish mile ride. I usually recharge when I have ridden about 70 miles (two or three rides). If you regularly use the higher power modes, you will have to recharge more often. For the riding we do, we aren't normally trying to keep up with faster riders, so we're happy putzing along enjoying the scenery while having the advantage of not being exhausted at the top of hills.
Q2: Yes, I do gravel and dirt roads, but mostly pavement (noting that here in NH 'pavement' can be pretty rough...) I am thinking about getting larger tires, but the 32s work pretty well. One note - the bike is stiff like many Cannondales. I have learned not to have a death grip on the handlebars on rough dirt roads which really helps me 'flow' over the bumps.
Q3: Yes, I use both chain rings! Having 2 chain rings with a 1:1 ratio low gear was my deciding factor in getting the Neo 1. In the one year since I've had the bike, other bike manufacturers (Trek, for instance) have gone to 2 rings on some of their bikes. I am used to a really low gear (20 inches) on my regular bike and I wanted to be able to get home under my own power on an e-bike if I ran out of battery. I have an out and back ride 11 miles each way with 500 ft of climbing each way. As an experiment, I used my power assist on the way out, but turned off the assist on the way back. I crept up the steepest hill at about 4 mph, but I made it all the way home with no added power.
Other notes -- in the year that I have had the bike, I have ridden 2100 miles and the bike has worked very well. I had one flat which was an interesting experience (you can check my other posts for details) because the bike has 'tubeless ready' tires and rims which means that even though you have tubes, the tire/rim interface is really tight! I am prepared now for another flat when I get one.
I am guessing that you will really enjoy your e-bike whichever one you decide on!
Brenda