Dynamic Bicycles is a company using technologies just a little left of the mainstream to appeal to cyclists. The bulk of their offerings feature shaft-driven, chainless designs, but that is not Dynamic’s only strategy. I recently tested the new Synergy model road bike from Dynamic Bicycles, billed as the first internally-geared production road bike. Road bike in the sense that not only does it have the skinny tires and dropbar, but the Synergy also has the integrated brake/shifter control that is characteristic of the modern road bicycle. The Versa shifter shares many commonalities to the Sunrace STR series of integrated control levers, but in this case is modified to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of Shimano’s revered Alfine 8sp internally-geared hub. The left side lever is devoid of any shifting element, which would obviously be superfluous for this drivetrain.
The aluminium-framed Synergy features four sloping top tube sizes for riders 5’3” to 6’4”. The geometry and carbon fork combine to deliver a responsive yet well-mannered ride. The fork is equipped with eyelets for a fender, but the frame I rode (which is most likely a pre-production unit) lacked eyelets at the rear dropout. Curiously, it did have eyelets atop the seatstays. The rearward dropouts feature M5 bolts to position axle aft and tension the chain. Dynamic did a nice job of dressing the Synergy with proper parts from Ritchey (bar, stem, post) and Selle San Marco (saddle). The Tektro brakes easily accommodate Vittoria Rubino 700x25 tires with lots of room to spare yet scrub speed vigorously.
So how did it ride? Quite well actually. The bike handles well, even sporty, but you wouldn’t mistake this for a criterium bike. The mild geometry and the length of the chainstays are comfortable but are nothing like a slice-n-dice race bike. Still, the bike was fun to ride. The real question for readers is probably the performance of the Versa shifter and the Alfine hub.
Myself, I had no idea what to expect, but having ridden it, find it hard to fault. I tried to shift the bike under full-power and the system always complied, with very quick response. The bike is an honest performer, and I really think that this bike could be a hit. That said, the Alfine hub and Versa shifter have their limits. The Alfine hub has nearly the same ratio difference top to bottom end as a compact double crank/derailleur combo, but you only have 8 steps to break that up. Changing the cog or chainrig can move the range up or down, but the spread unchangeable.
The Versa shifter requires a significant throw of the lever to enact an upshift, though the downshifts are very reasonable. The shifter only allows a single shift per throw, though since the jumps are biggish there’s little need to dump the shifter across the range. Finally, consistent with other bikes with Shimano internally-geared hubs, gear shifts feel different at the pedals compared to a derailleured bike.
Who should buy this bike? Cyclists looking for a sporty yet uncomplicated ride; riders who want the durable and weather-resistant performance of the Alfine hub with an integrated, dropbar-mounted control lever. Instead of fragile and temperamental derailleurs as vulnerable as a cat’s tail in a rocking chair sales floor, the well-sealed hub offers no opportunity to impact damage. And instead of expensive cassette cogs and chains, you could probably replace the 3/32” chain and cog for a little more than an Andrew Jackson, at no more than half the frequency of the more delicate multispeed items.
The Synergy is available directly from Dynamic for $1300. Dynamic also has plans to later introduce a bike featuring the same drivetrain as the Synergy but with geometry and fittings more appropriate to touring and commuting.