Yes, a Cannondale again. Actually I had the preconception that a road bike is only a road bike if it is Italian, but after some trying, reading, more trying and more reading, I ended up with Cannondale again. The geometry of the Synapse (endurance-oriented) fitted perfectly.
I tried the new model (2014), but found the 2013-model to ride much nicer. I know that all the numbers, all the reviews and opinions say the newer model is a better bike, but I really didn't feel it. The 2013-model was a high modular carbon frame and had slightly better wheels, but the way it felt on the test rides was much better. It felt less sluggish. To be sure the difference wasn't just down to wheels and carbon-type I also tested a much more expensive 2014 high mod model, but it still didn't feel as 'fresh' as the older one.
My reasoning was, that the old model was a race-bike adapted for the grand fondo's and cobble classics: a little more give in the fork and rear triangle to take out road vibrations and clearance for a little wider tyres. The 2014 model was a brand new design. The focus was on a plush ride. This ment the whole frame was designed to absorb more vibrations from the start. Although according to the marketing it was stiffer, better, stronger, faster and more plush, I still didn't like it as much as the outgoing model.
I must add, that since then I have ridden a 2014 high mod with SRAM Red22, Super light and stiff Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, being about 800 grams lighter than my bike and yes: this one feels nimble, quick and direct and also - I've got to admit - stiffer with more plush.
It was a used set, but in very good condition. I don't know about the exact year since Mavic tends to change the color of the decals and call it a new model, but it must be something like 2012 or 2013.
I also added new skewers. These are the Tune DC14. They are quite light, weighing in at 34 grams for the set, saving a surprising 90 grams compared to the Mavic skewers.
I had tried a couple different bars, but didn't like the shape. Also I wanted to try carbon bars to mute out road vibrations even more. After doing some research I ended up with the offering of Thomson. The production process is slightly different to what is common with carbon drop bars making these a true one-piece construction. Also by using a special bladder to go inside the tubes while baking the carbon, the finishing of the inside is much cleaner, making the carbon less prone to wrinkling and delamination of the carbon resulting in a lighter and stronger handle bar.
Fitting a new handle bar looks something like this:
After a while I changed the bar tape to something slightly thinner.
First I wanted the sky blue frame because it was quite eye catching, but after looking at it a couple of times it started to loose its novelty and I figured I would be better off with a black frame. I like it for its understated looks. Not shouting "I am a fast bike!"
I am a fan of Jagwire cables. They are slick inner cables and the outer cables are nice and flexible but do not compress so shifting is precise and cables run smoothly.
I did those night-rides quite often over the next few weeks. It was a nice ending of the summer.
For lighting I use a Cateye Rapid X rear light and a Xeccon Geinea II front light with external battery pack.
The front light has the effect of daylight. It is extremely bright with its three cree XM-L LED's. It gives out 2500 Lumen. The only downside - for road use anyway - is that the light is spread out in three completely symmetrical cone shapes. The light beam therefore is very spread out. For night time mountain biking this is great: you see absolutely everything, also branches above you, which can be useful. For road use not so much. The light is spread in every direction, meaning that oncoming traffic can sometimes be slightly annoyed with you.
Fortunately at night there isn't that much traffic anyway, secondly I tend to use the less traveled roads and then, in the rare case of an oncoming car or cyclist, I would screen off part of the light beam with my hand.
It takes some adjusting and getting used to, but here is what I found:
By mounting the rings in different positions you can change the position of the largest diameter of the rings relative to the crank arm, meaning you can change at which position you have maximum leverage. Lining this up with the position where your legs have maximum power is basically what you want to do. You start in position 3, that's the middle. It runs from 1 to 5.
First you need to put some kilometers down to get used to it and during those km's you pay attention to your knees and cadence. Those are the main parameters to decide wether you need to rotate the rings forwards or backwards, going to either position 2 or 4. I tried both, but found 3 to be working best for me.
So what's the verdict? I like them. I must say that the difference is subtle but in accelerating or riding uphill I feel my pedal stroke is more efficient and feels lighter, being less straining to the knees. The EVO is my only bike I equipped with the Q-Rings and switching back and forth between round and oval rings doesn't make a big difference to me. At really long rides I sometimes think I feel slightly less fatigue in my legs, but there are so many different factors at play, that I wouldn't put it down to the Q-Rings.
Something else gave way a little later: the rear rim.
Coincidentally I noticed it after I had lent out my EVO to a friend, who owns a Synapse and wanted to know how a Supersix geometry would fit him. He is not a heavy guy so I suspect the beginnings of the crack were already there.Of course I blamed him for it anyway...
How do I like them so far (approx. 500 km's in)?
Well, they are great. The hub-design is well thought out and they roll very smoothly. I fitted them with Schwalbe One 25mm tires and the ride is very comfortable and it holds the road extremely well in corners. I think this is down to the wider rim bed, that makes the tires sit more squarely and therefore don't allow for a lot of sideway deflection in corners.
What about sensitivity to crosswinds?
I mainly ride in the Netherlands and that is effectively a guaranty for wind. Even on the Ksyriums I noticed this, quite violently on occasions. I prepared myself for a little swerving on the first ride and actually was quite amazed. Yes, the do catch crosswinds, but the way it feels is so much more controllable than on the Ksyriums, I was a bit blown away (sorry, about that). The Ksyriums have pretty wide aero-spokes, that act as a sail and the blunt profile of the Visions make the way these wheels handle wind so predictable, I would like to argue, that the Visions are better wheels in windy conditions.
I suppose a set of Vision metron 40 would do an even better job, but still. I think technology like CFD and windtunnel testing do work. Of course it is all theoretical, not able to take into account the fact that wind is never steady, what happens if you drive along a tree-lined road where the wind is interrupted by the trees, all that stuff that you will encounter in real live (unless you bought this wheel to use on your home trainer).
I must say, before this I was a bit of a non-believer, thinking that the aerodynamic benefits of wheels (compared to body position and clothes, which are much more influential) would not be noticeable and that a lighter wheel would ALWAYS be better. Period. Well, I guess it's not just marketing when you see every single pro riding on deep section wheels, even in the mountains.