synaptic response

Synaptic response?! What kind of weird title is that? Well, they seem to say that a lot in Star Trek, which I have been watching a bit of on Amazon Prime lately. But actually this post is in response to riding my new bike, a Cannondale Synapse.

IMG_20130317_145157The new bike. A Cannondale Synapse. When it comes to bikes, I really don’t have any brand loyalty. I’ve owned 2 Bianchi’s, one Specialized, one Trek, and now a Cannondale. I just happen to buy whatever bike happens to be the best value I can find at the time. (Although if money weren’t a problem, I’d probably buy another Bianchi, so I guess I’m somewhat of a Bianchi fan…) It’s not like cars, where if my car died or was stolen, I’d almost certainly buy another Subaru. Anyways, this Cannondale happened to be the cheapest full carbon frame I could find with Sram Apex.

IMG_20130317_144622For my test ride I decided to take the bike up Cantelow, which is the hill that I usually do my hill training on. After all, Sram Apex was made for climbing hills. According to Sram’s marketing video, Apex was developed for Alberto Contador to ride a 24% grade gravel and dirt road time trail stage during the Giro d’ Italia. It has a really low gear ratio for a compact double, so I could finally ditch the triple ring and still be able to climb hills.

IMG_20130317_155158The road from Lake Solano, where I parked, to Cantelow is called Pleasants Valley Road. It really is a pleasant valley, with smooth pavement and long curves and a few small rollers. It’s a great place to test a bike.

First impressions– Holy crap I’m out of shape. And were these shorts and jersey always this tight?

First impressions about the bike– carbon fiber is nice. It’s everything they said it would be. The bike is much lighter than my previous bike, and the carbon frame seems to soak up some of the bumps on the road. The ride feels smooth and the bike feels nice and stable on curves. However acceleration feels slower than my old bike. It could be the crappy wheels and tires, but most likely it’s just that I  haven’t ridden in a while and I’m out of shape. (But we’ll say it’s the wheels and tires so I have an excuse to buy nice ones…)

IMG_20130317_151829The bottom of the backside of Cantelow. I haven’t been here in a while. The hill looks bigger than I remember.

The reason why I chose the backside is that it’s steeper. I figure if I could ride the backside of Cantelow seated the bike would be good for any century ride. The only century ride climb that I’ve done that seems to come close to this in steepness is the Tour of Napa’s Ink Grade.

IMG_20130317_153131The view from the top of Cantelow. It actually wasn’t too bad getting up there. My strategy on hills is always to conserve energy, sitting and spinning the lower gears, rather than standing and mashing on the pedals. The gears on this bike seem low enough to be able to spin up any hill I’d encounter. It’s pretty cool that you can get those low gears on a double crank nowadays.

So yeah, I like the bike. I will probably swap out the tires before my first century ride (which is already only two months away), and maybe upgrade the wheels at some point. But other than that I’m really happy with the bike. I want to eventually push myself into longer rides (Davis bike club has a 200k/300k/600k randonneur series), and this seems like a bike that will grow into that role.

This new bike is nice, but it loses out on versatility. There’s no dropouts for a rack. My previous bikes were able to handle some bike camping. This bike cannot. So I guess if I get the urge to do another two week long bike ride, I’ll have to look for a touring bike.

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