Test Ride: Cannondale Synapse NEO, a great equalizer on the road.

At Gears, we’ve been delving into the e-Bike market for several years and we’ve seen the incredible joy and fun they bring to those who “discover” what this technology has to offer. They have become a great equalizer on many fronts, and beyond that, they have brought the adventures of cycling to a new type of customer.

However… given my cycling experience and what I like to do on the bike, the concept of riding an e-Road Bike was one that I never would have entertained in the past. Let’s just say, I’m one of those guys who takes a warped sense of enjoyment out of suffering on a bike. As an old racer, its kind of what we do and its become completely engrained in what we think we need to be doing when riding a bike.

But given I make my living selling bike, all types of bikes; I felt it was very important to experience this new technology first hand.

The opportunity presented itself to me at the recent 2019 Cannondale Launch at Mountain Creek NJ.

One of the criticisms I’ve had about many e-bikes and in particular some of the “road” versions we’ve seen has been that fact that they just don’t look like road bikes. There has been little integration of components, combined with an aesthetic that is not exactly inspiring. Add to this, ride and performance characteristics that feel unbalance and sluggish.

The Synapse NEO is none of the above.

At first glance, this bike looks like a “real” road bike. Yes, the down-tube is oversized and the bottom bracket area is enlarged to house the Bosch Gen 3 drive unit, but for the untrained eye, it actually requires a second look to notice that there is something different about this bike.

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Starting with Cannondale’s SmartForm frame construction, this bike is very nicely put together into a well-integrated and good-looking package. Built and evolved from the tried and true Synapse, the NEO features an Ai Offset Drivetrain, Out-Front Geometry, SAVE Micro-Suspension with a new BallisTec Carbon fork. The frame is also equipped with rack and fender mounts.

Yeah, lots of buzzwords and marketing-speak but how does it ride?

As we noodled around the parking lot waiting for our ride group (which consisted of Cannondale’s Canadian National Sales Rep, the new Ontario Sales Rep and a fellow Cannondale Dealer from Toronto), I quickly noticed that even with the Bosch Gen 3 drive in the off position, the bike did not feel like a typical e-Bike. While the weight was noticeable, the bike did not feel miss-balanced. And given that is was equipped with a full 11 speed Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain and with no perceivable drag in the Bosch Gen 3 motor, one could actually comfortably pedal the bike.

With the motor drive activated (powered by a 500Wh internal battery), the bike really came alive and suddenly the noticeable weight of the bike completely disappeared.

My fellow riders and I proceeded to head out on the 18k test loop mapped our by Cannondale. Having just done the route earlier in the day on Cannondale’s new SystemSix road bike (an amazing new bike in its own right), I knew this was going to be a good test for the Synapse NEO as the terrain went from smooth country roads to a rather long 5k rolling climb with a couple of sections topping 8% grade… to the very fast decent.

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What was immediately noticeable was how quiet the Bosch motor was. Silent in fact, as a proper road bikes should be. Power transition was smooth and natural feeling (once one got used to the fact that the bike had a motor). With the Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain (50/34 with an 11/32 cassette) choosing a comfortable cadence was easy to do.

As we hit the big climb, this is where the beauty of this bike really became evident. The added power was inspiring and I felt like an absolute champion on the climb. I still needed to put effort into the pedals so there was a level of satisfaction that the bike and I were working in sync to make the climb. I certainly could have climbed slower and allowed the bike to do more of the work, but as mentioned earlier, I do like to push hard on the bike.

The descent was a whole lot of fun and despite the fact that it was raining, the bike’s handling was inspiring as we still hit speeds of about 75kph. The big comfy 32c WTB Exposure TCS tires and the hydraulic disc brakes allowed me to corner and descend with absolute confidence. I also believe that the added weight and low center of gravity helped with the handling.

Once at the bottom we headed back to the demo area. It was at this point were something truly interesting happened and it requires a bit of back-history.

My fellow Cannondale dealer, who was on this ride, had required a little bit of convincing for her to join our group. She’s a very strong and accomplished cyclist but unfortunately, she’s been fighting a battle with cancer most of the year. And while she’s winning the fight (yeah, she’s tough), it’s taken a toll on her fitness, endurance and even the desire to want to ride a bike.

Together, we rolled to a stop at what was the only red light on our ride. As I turned back to see how she was doing following our 18k ride, I noticed tears rolling down her face (the rain had finally stopped, these were real tears). Immediately, I was concerned that something horrible may have happed. “No no no…” she quickly explained, “…you don’t understand, these are tears of joy. I never thought I’d be able to ride like this again.”  Wow, that hit me hard, but in a good way. It seems that the capabilities of this bike had allowed her to once again experience the beauty of riding with no fear of getting dropped and no concern about being able to ride anywhere a road bike can travel.

All in all a rather emotional experience and one that I’ll never forget. It’s a solid reminder of what e-Bikes can deliver. They are a great equalizer and they allow anyone to experience the joys of cresting that climb, feeling the freedom that riding brings and exploring the road less travelled by anyone but the ultra-fit.

In closing, the Synapse NEO is ideally focused at the e-Bike rider who is looking a true road experience with the added benefit of pedal-assist to smooth out the climbs and the range to ride all day long (up to 200k in ECO mode).


The 2019 Cannondale Synapse NEO is available in Canada in three models and comes in four sizes; Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large.

The Synapse NEO 1, equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain ($9000 msrp) (this was the model tested).

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The Synapse NEO 2, equipped with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain ($6200 msrp).

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The Synapse NEO SE (Gravel), equipped with a SRAM Apex 1×11 drivetrain and gravel crushing, ride anywhere 47mm tires on a 650 WTB wheel-set ($5700 msrp) (this model was my personal favourite).

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#RideTheFuture  #PedalingFun  #emPoweredByGears

Review: BH Easy Motion Rebel Gravel-X

Written by Derry Bunting (Gears Oakville)

I recently had the opportunity to ride the BH Easy Motion Rebel Gravel-X eBike from our Oakville shop home to Mississauga and back again on my 24 kilometre daily commute! I couldn’t be more excited about this bike!

The Rebel Gravel X is a High Performance Electric Pedal Assist Gravel Bike that will takes you anywhere you want to venture, offering real fun and confidence that almost no hill is too high and no ride is too far. The Rebel Gravel X will always get you there and back, whether you are riding on gravel, off road, or on pavement.

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At first glance, the Gravel-X looks like a pretty conventional gravel bike in every way, except that is has a Yamaha PW Mid-Drive electric pedal assist motor and battery built into the frame bottom bracket and down tube, ensuring a low center of gravity and minimal visual impact.

 

FEATURES:

  • BH Aluminum Alloy Frame & Fork
  • Shimano 105 2 x 11 Drive Train
  • FSA Crankset
  • Shimano Mechanical disc brakes with Ice Tech rotors
  • Schwalbe G-One 700 x 40c Tires
  • Shimano RX31 Rims Laced with bladed spokes to Shimano RX31 Disc Compatible Hubs
  • Yamaha PW 250W 36V Pedal Assist Motor built into the bottom bracket of the frame
  • 400W Battery mounted to the downtube

 

IMPRESSIONS:

As mentioned earlier, I just had the opportunity to ride the Rebel Gravel-X from from our Oakville shop home to Mississauga and back again on my 24 kilometre daily commute and this is one awesome pedal assist bicycle!

The Rebel Gravel-X, and most all of the current generation of eBikes, are electric pedal assist bikes, and what that means is that you ride the bike and shift thru the gears the same way you would with any other bike, but also set the electric pedal assist system to your desired assist level. As you pedal at your normal cadence, the pedal assist system seamlessly comes on and acts like a wind at your back help you get up and over hills, buck those wicked headwinds, or just keep up with your riding partners who are just happen to be a little faster than you are!

Gravel Bikes are my go to ride because of their versatility on and off road, their drop bars allowing you to duck under headwinds, and their more comfortable riding position. 

The BH Easy Motion Rebel Gravel-X is a gravel bike in every way, and the Yamaha electric motor is the smoothest pedal assist system I have ridden. There is virtually no noticeable surge in power when the assist comes on, but there is plenty of power there when you need it. 

There is a 1.6 kilometre long steady uphill stretch on my ride home that I normally dread, but with the Rebel Gravel-X I cruised up and over that incline easily. With the pedal assist helping me overcome a prevailing headwind and that long uphill climb, my homeward commute took me 2 thirds the time it normally does! On my commute back to work the next morning, downhill and with the prevailing wind at my back, the pedal assist allowed me to arrive in time to grab a second cup of coffee before we opened the doors!

Bottom Line, I could not be more excited about the BH Easy Motion Rebel Gravel-X! Whether you are looking to extend your gravel rides farther than ever before, looking to make cycling a more feasible option for your daily commute, or perhaps looking for a bike for your not quite so cycling obsessed partner so you can do those weekend gravel rides together, the BH Easy Motion Rebel Gravel-X is an excellent choice!!!   

#RideTheFuture               

The E-Bike Challenge and Sweet Reward

By Louisa Mursell, Executive Director, Ontario By Bike

Editor’s Note: Originally published in the 2018 Cycling in Ontario / Le vélo en Ontario guide. View online version at www.ontariobybike.ca/2018

E-bikes make you look. Whether you notice as they whiz by you on your push pedals or you’re an innocent bystander noting something just isn’t right with the ease of speed and rider, a second glance may answer the question. What may appear to be a regular bike may indeed be sporting a chargeable battery pack, with pedal assist kicking the bike into an accelerated speed.

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With e-bike sales sky rocketing, we decided to investigate further and take one out on a ride. Picking a destination known for its climbs and scenic routes, we headed to Escarpment Country, in Halton Region, not far west of Toronto. With it being a non-event day, we easily parked at the Velodrome in Milton, also using it as an opportunity to take a peak inside this world class facility, and use the public facilities.

Credit_ Howard Calvert

Riding out with plans to zip about the 50km Veldrome Vista route, an odd couple we may have seemed, one on an e-bike and another riding a high end road bike. The challenge was on, but all for fun. Digging the flatter country farmland, with a backdrop of jagged and crumbling Escarpment cliff faces, we were soon running a series of rolling hills. Great pleasure was taken in pressing the ‘turbo’ mode and easily outpacing the Cervélo. With fall in full swing, the colours were a stunning mix of muted yellows and oranges, enjoyed all the more, without having to make the full effort needed to power up the hills and keep up with a faster rider.

At 30km a few deciding factors came into play. The weather appeared to be taking a turn, with threatening rain clouds circling. Also a phenomena new to me set in, range anxiety. Not wanting to be caught out with many extra kilometres to go and a flat battery, unsure of the full life expectancy of battery and not fully trusting the handlebar computer’s calculations, we made the call to re-route, easily finding an alternate loop option that saw the ride out.

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What a super experience! There is no shame in riding an e-bike, it is 100% fun, and still requires a considerable amount of physical exertion. I imagine with more familiarity on e-bike of choice, range anxiety would not be an issue. For riders, families or friends of two speeds and different ride styles, this is a great way to be able to ride together again, and a win-win for all.

FUN FACTS

  • 35 MILLION e-bikes worldwide sales estimate for 2017
  • E-bikes are one of the fastest growing categories of bicycle sales
  • There are e-bikes of every type and brand

*Thanks to Gears Bike Shop for the e-Bike Electra Townie

Photo Credits: Howard Calvert

Roadies on eBikes… yeah, its happening!

We recently came across this cool and inspiring video about eBikes posted by the “roadie” folks at GCN. (Global Cycling Network). Traditionally, very road-centric, these guys live and breath road-bikes… but are also open and very willing to look at new technologies and opportunities.

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Tested by two very fit “fast and skinny” roadies whom are both wired to be competitive by nature. The duo did a really good job putting the Giant Road-E bike to the test over the incredible medium course at the legendary Maratona dles Dolomites.
If you don’t appreciate the content it is worth watching for the scenery!!!

I couldn’t help but fantasize riding the same route in the future with my wife on a couple of Giant Road-e bikes.

We recently received inventory of these Giant Road-e bikes at Gears.

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Long may you ride!

Kevin Wallace

Editor’s Note: Was very pleased to see so much positive and supportive feedback for eBikes in the comments below the GCN video. Folks are beginning to understand that the more accessible and enjoyable we can make cycling (no matter who the riders is and what level of experience and fitness they have)… the better for all. 

Easy Motion – Factory Rebate Offer

Just a quick “plug” today to let our readers know that Easy Motion is offering a $200 Factory Rebate on their eBikes sold between now and January 1, 2018.

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Gears Bike Shop is proud to be an exclusive dealer for Easy Motion bikes in the GTA. And in the coming days, we’re expecting an influx of about 50+ NEW units coming from Easy Motion 

With the purchase of a NEW Easy Motion eBike, you automatically qualify for this rebate offer.

  • Rebate forms will be accepted through 5pm PST 1/15/18.
  • Rebates must be completed on the website at:
    https://emotionbikesusa.com/dec-factory-rebate/
  • Or email a copy of the purchase receipt along with their name, address and phone number to redemption@emotionbikesusa.com
  • Rebate is applicable on NEW Easy Motion bicycles only (Rebate does not apply to returned, refurbished demo or rental bikes)
  • Rebate will be paid directly from Easy Motion to the purchaser in the form of a check
  • Payment will be made within 45 days of redemption date
  • Bicycle must be purchased from an authorized Easy Motion dealer
  • Rebate will not be accepted without a copy of the original purchase receipt.
  • Purchase Receipt must clearly state Bike Shop Name, Purchase Date and Price Paid.

EasyMotion

Contact your nearest Gears Bike Shop for more details.

#RideTheFuture

 

Lock it… or lose it.

Ever had your bike stolen? Chance are if you’ve been living in Toronto for any length of time and have owned a bicycle, you may have answered yes. Speaking personally, with well over 25 years of riding a bike in the city I’ve been very lucky have never had one of my bikes stolen. Optimistic thinking, yes… but I’m also very careful about where, when and how I lock up my bikes)

LotsOfLocks

However… as one who works in the bicycle retail business, we hear it all the time from our customers… “hi, I just got my bike stolen and I’m here to replace it.” And if its not the full bike being stolen, its the lights, the saddles and seat posts, etc. ARRGH!

As recently reported in the Toronto Star this past week, we seem to have a huge crisis for stolen bikes in Toronto with a reported 3,728 gone missing last year. With only 1% of stolen bikes every recovered, I’m curious to know where they all end up? (BTW: Give the article a read, they have also put together a very interesting map showing where in the city most bikes get stolen… you’ll be surprised.)

Furthermore, I’m most certain that the actual number of bikes stolen far exceeds this amount as many people the I speak to never actually report these thefts to the police. When asked why, the standard response is, “why bother, its a low-priority for the police.”

Hearing such thing is both disconcerting and disheartening. When you consider that the average price of urban bikes being sold in the GTA is about $650 to $700, that equates to well over $2.5 million in stolen goods. Not a number to be ignored. When we factor into this, the simple fact and less than 1 in 4 bikes stolen is even properly reported… this number increases exponentially.  Maybe if we thought about the total value of good sold, bike theft may be taken a little more seriously by all… and not just the thieves.

The one area that has been identified where theft is on a huge increase, is at condo and apartment buildings. With an 82% increase from 2014 to 2016 (yikes), it seems that its safe-pickings for thieves to do their “shopping” in the security of one’s underground parking lots and bike lockers. Most frustrating to the bike owner, who is often told by their condo boards that its against the rules to bring bikes up in to their units… but the at the same time being told that the building is not responsible for stolen and damaged property. Having a safe, secure and properly monitored bike lock-up room in a condo or apartment is a must. And if one is not provided… my feeling is that tenants and residents have every right to bring their property into their units for safe-keeping. Truth be told, I’ve never been able to understand the concerns of bringing a bike up an elevator and into one’s apartment. We have no issues with strollers, shopping carts or other such wheeled devices… what’s the problem with a bike? Especially one that could be valued at thousands of dollars.

It frustrates me to no end that bikes get stolen in such high numbers… and yet, there seems to be very little being done about it. Or is there?

First and foremost, with the number of people I speak to having had a bike stolen, it surprises me how little they did to properly ensure their bikes were safely secured. By following a few extra steps, you may never be 100% able to prevent the theft of your bike, but you can certainly increase the odds that your bike remains where you left it.

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If you have to lock your bike up… here are a few tips:

1) Get a good lock. REPEAT… get a good lock. The level of security is dependant on the amount of time you need to lock up your bike, the value of your bike, and where you’ll be locking your bike. I’m a big fan of a solid “U” lock, but there are many good products on the market these days. Don’t undervalue this. Also, make sure that the lock is a tight fit to eliminate any leverage opportunity.

2) Position the lock off the ground with the key hole facing down

3) Lock according to value… frame, back wheel, front wheel. Should you want to secure your wheels, take a look at replacing your quick-release with a locking skewer or similar type of product. Speak to your bike shop staff about the best option for you.

4) Lock your bike in a well-lit and high-traffic area. Out of sight and in the dark is what the thieves are looking for, as it gives them privacy and time to work

5) Lock your bike to an immovable object, and not something that can be cut. You’d be amazed how often I hear, “…but it was locked to the fences… and they cut the fence.” (or similar)

6) Don’t lock you bike on the same place and at the same time every day. Thieves notice patterns and if your bike is seem over and over… it becomes a target because the thieve know it will not be moved (or missed) for some time.

7) Register you lock with the lock’s manufacture. Many have some level of theft protection should the lock be compromised and you may also need to order spare keys.

8) Register your bike and its serial number with the local police. Many bikes that are stolen end up in police warehouses and auctions because the owner did not take the time to do so.

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Keep it safe and secure.

“It is not a donkey and it is not horse. Maybe it’s a mule.”

By Henry Gold, Founder of TDA Global Cycling

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“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius

“It is not a donkey and it is not horse. Maybe it’s a mule.” – Gizaw Shibru, Bamboo Road e-bike tester

It was 25 years ago when I attended a bicycle show in Taiwan and came across an e-bike. Being an electrical engineer, I was eager to try it. Mind you, that e-bike was simply a car battery with a motor but it did run on stored electricity. I cycled around the hall and when I got off it, I said to myself this is the future.

A quarter of a century later, if you are a cyclist you have most likely noticed that your neighbourhood bicycle store is probably showcasing one or another kind of e-bike. It is the latest craze; the one that the industry hopes will bring in some dollars. On the other hand, if you are a long distance cyclist, you probably shudder at the thought of using an e-bike on a tour.

My curiosity in e-bikes goes beyond my professional background. The interest is also from my perspective as the owner of TDA Global Cycling. TDA is known around the world as the company that creates extraordinary long distance tours. The New York Times has called us ‘Specialist in long-distance trips’. So I have been asking myself, “Is there a room for e-bikes on TDA tours, and if so, how? Is an e-bike an option on existing tours, or should e-bikes have tours of their own?”

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Perhaps the way to start is to figure out what the motivation is to use e-bikes on long distance trips. After all, it is obvious why e-bikes can play an important role in commuting and transporting cargo as I have explained in an article focused on Africa. But why use bikes to cross continents or even on shorter tours like the Bamboo Road, the Pub Ride, Orient Express or other tours now in the planning stages?

There is another reason that is not so obvious, but that I have witnessed myself. Long distance cycling and touring is conceptually intimidating to many people. We all know that. E-bikes are much less so. And as I have witnessed, an individual came on the Bamboo Road with an e-bike, and after a month he announced that his next trip with TDA would be on a regular bike. He realized that he can do it without an ‘e’ assist.

The purists, including some in our office, will say categorically – no! NO E-BIKES!!! But as Bob Dylan sings, “The times they are a changing”. “Resistance is Futile” declared no less an authority than Joe Murray, former mountain biking National US Champion in an article in the 200th issue of Dirt Rag magazine. So with all this in mind, I decided to look for an e-bike to use as a test from Shanghai to Hanoi, a distance of 2,710km. I contacted a manufacturer, Ezeebike, who last year was ranked by the Australian bike magazine RideOn, as the best e-bike in the touring category.

To my great pleasure, the owner of Ezeebike, WaiWon Ching (lead photo), responded within half an hour, and we started a conversation. This resulted with myself, Gizaw – a cycling novice from Ethiopia – and WaiWon being at the start line of the Bamboo Road this past September 23rd. For the next 5 weeks, I and several others experimented, tested, played and generally just used the e-bikes. Gizaw and I cycled each day – including our longest ride of 180 km – with the battery we charged each night in a hotel.

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There are of course differences cycling with an e-bike as compared to a traditional touring, hybrid or road bike. The one main thing is that an e-bike is heavier than any bike you have used or lifted, and that can be an issue if you want to put the bike on the roof of a van for example. Being heavier than any regular bike also means it handles a bit differently. E-bikes can also be an issue if, for example, you forgot to charge the battery and it runs out in the middle of the day. That can mean pushing a heavy bike up the hill.

Otherwise, the bike is easy to use, and great for hills as you do not get tired at all, and it takes little time to get to the top. The e-bike is fun in the same way a motorcycle is fun, meaning you can give yourself a push anytime you need or want. But the main benefit, in my opinion, is that the e-bike allows anyone who wants to have an adventure, to be out there, and to enjoy cycling life and its benefits, be it improved health (yes, latest research shows that even e-biking is beneficial for health), camaraderie, or the joy that comes with seeing new places and having unexpected encounters with strangers all over the world.

The experiment was a success, so where do we go from here? Stay tuned and you will find out.

Editors Note: Special thanks to Henry Gold for allowing us to re-purpose his blog posting. Should you be interested in learning more about his amazing (Toronto based) bicycle tour company TDA Global Cycling, please be sure to check our their website. You never know where you may end up. 

#RideTheFuture