I Rode a $10,000 Cannondale Superbike

People often wander through bike shops and wonder why anyone would pay mortgage-worthy sums on bikes. Are they really better? What's the point? What are they like? How much cheaper would it be if I got it online?

Recently, I got to answer all these questions and more when I test rode a Synapse Hi-Mod Disc Dura Ace Di2, a $10,000 Cannondale superbike.

After extensive emailing, a time and place was set up, and I was to meet my date at 5:30 p.m. I pulled up to the bike shop a few minutes early and jailed my aluminum steed to a post. “Really, it's not personal,” I told it. “This is for work. It has nothing to do with you.” I felt as if I was getting dropped off by a girlfriend at a primed hotel room. This must be how pornstars feel when their significant others drop them off at “shoots.”

I exchanged pleasantries with the matchmakers from Cannondale, and they brought me before the bike. A sleek engineering marvel in glossy black, adorned with a few subtle racing-stripes, it looked smaller in person — just like a celebrity. Bike-sized, really. Trying not to get my hopes up any higher, I double checked if this was really the bike that I would be riding. “Yes, will that be alright?” I wondered what kind of twisted bike diva could possibly find this bike “not alright.”

I had followed cycling’s “Spring Classics” over the past two years, watching Cannondale ace Peter Sagan, and I knew that this was almost the same bike. Almost, I say, because this bike was a little better.

Due to professional cycling’s current moratorium on disc brakes (they’re too good, which could be dangerous in close formations unless everyone has them), this disc-equipped Cannondale was the bike equivalent of a non-street legal Ferrari.

I put on my pedals and someone said something about a waiver. I signed, wondering whether I just bought 15 pounds of carbon. “You just bought that,” someone joked as the ink on my signature dried. There was no good response, so I just laughed nervously, which was also not a good response. We hit the road.

On my rigid commuter bike, I usually dodge potholes and broken cobbles at all costs, but I decided put the Cannondale marketing to the test. Actually, a taxi made the decision for me, as it left us with nowhere to go but into a patch of destroyed pavement. Despite the extremely high tire pressure — it should have been lower in the bumpy city — the bike felt smooth over that Swiss cheese of a road. Besides saving my grundle from an unpleasant experience, the frame’s vertical flex (compliance, it’s called), kept my rear wheel on the ground, which I could tell since my pedals hadn’t jerked forward over the washboard. My date was going well so far. 

I was itching to let ‘er rip, so we cruised up the West Side Highway, finally gaining a little speed. I tapped the shifter and heard a robot noise as the electronic Shimano DI2 derailleur pushed the chain. I'd forgotten about the electronic drivetrain. I shifted up and down for a while like a kid playing with the light switch, and debated whether they ruined the unplugged purity of a bike.

The whole time I kept fighting back pangs of fear that we'd be stopped and someone would tell me I wasn’t allowed to ride the bike and that this entire thing had been a huge mistake. I would be arrested and brought in front of a judge to explain how and why I duped Cannondale into letting me ride their thoroughbred pony. That feeling of getting away with something never went away.

We cruised over to the car-free paradise that is Central Park, and agreed to meet up after some solo time. Alone, I considered what would happen if I just kept going and never looked back. What if this bike and I rode into the sunset and started a new life somewhere? We could ride every day and I’d get a job stocking shelves in a hardware store where I could work on the ‘dale after hours. How easy is it to change your name? Do you have to do it in person or can you do it online? Or maybe I could buy it, move into a tent and subsist on Top Ramen, protein powder, and multivitamins for a year. Was owning a superbike like owning a Porsche and you have to have the money for two to keep it running?

I came back to Earth and reconnected with the group. It was getting dark and was time to head back. Naturally, we took the most insane route possible, straight towards the black hole of traffic that is Times Square. Since it was slightly pitched downhill and we were racing the sun down — though my ‘dale had lights built into its headset spacers — we tore through 7th Avenue, dodging cars. I wouldn’t exactly say I normally feel comfortable in that situation, but I certainly white knuckled as we screamed down America's sh*ttiest street, threading needles between cars, and avoiding bumpers and doors. I remember that I have health insurance, but I definitely don’t have bike insurance.

At a light, a taxi came along side and yelled to ask how much the bike was worth. Someone told him not to worry about it, but he pressed. “$10,000,” someone said. He asked if my daddy bought it for me. I thought about how I could explain the complex and nuanced relationship I had developed with the Cannondale public relations team but he peeled out as the light turned.

We got back and I said goodbye to the bike. As I walked out, I realized that this is what having a one night stand with a celebrity must be like. I patted it goodbye, walked outside to my aluminum commuter, and rode eight very unsatisfying miles home.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is often called a bike nerd, but he doesn't shave his legs because Enzo Ferrari said "aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines." Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.