Dynamic’s Alfine Road Bike: The Synergy

Dynamic Synergy.jpg

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.

Versa shifter 1

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.

Synergy rear

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.

Versa shifter 2

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.

Synergy front quarter

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.



15 Comments

Drop-bar Nexus! Great to see a company put this into production. Also, well-done on the review. What does the Synergy weight in at?

Cool…I absolutely dug on this machine (I wonder if it is the same bike I got to ride for my review?):  http://www.bikecommuters.com/2009/02/15/review-dynamic-synergy-road-bike/

I really hope this shifting technology takes off and that Versa/Dynamic sells the shifty bits separately for the tinkerers among us.  I am also really looking forward to a more dedicated commuter model, which Dynamic says they may let me test sometime in the future.

For all the “drop bar Nexus” talk, I’ve found that a cheap SRAM derailleur and MTB shifters work well without the cabling, weight, and cost of Alfine/nexus. An 8/9s Rival lever or an 11-30 10s cassette is what we really need.

Well then that’s not an internal gear then though, which is the point.

Thanks for this review, Mark - very interesting.

I talked to these guys briefly at the Seattle Bike Expo and ask if they were thinking about selling the shifters separately as a components package. They said they are “thinking about it” having gotten “lots of requests.”

Would be a nice package to put on something like a Salsa Casserroll or a vintage steel bike w/horizontal dropouts…

I guess I don’t quite understand why their first model was to put this on a semi-sporty aluminum frame….the commuter model maybe should have been their intro model. Then for folks who live in rainy climes maybe a version with discs.

The point to me was that my flirtation with MTB components this winter in Minneapolis/St. Paul snuffed my lust for Alfine/Nexus.

The upside:
* It’s lighter.
* You use the same wheel year-round, and it’s lockable with a security skewer.
* The gear range is flexible.
* Replacing the wheels for tire/tube/brake pad/cassette work is easier.
* no need for chain tensioning

The downside:
* Inelegant with drops
* No shifting when idle.

And I should add that drop bars are a non-starter on the ice you have to face here in the wintertime, anyway.  All in all, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but the pendulum swings the other way if you’re thinking about disc brakes… and I am.

My only correction to the previous comment is that the “1:1 actuation ratio” is not the same between SRAM’s road and mountain groups.

Seattle weather drives the desire for Nexus with and then, why do I have to use this with “a flat bar?” that’s stupid led to Drop-Bar Nexus.

First to DL Bryon - the weight of the Synergy is at about 21 lbs.

To answer your question about why this was the first model we introduced versus a more ‘commuter’ oriented model, this is a good question. In our opinion, it seemed that practically every other production bike on the market using a internal hub is set up with the same old retro style city bike look, checking in at around 30 pounds give or take a couple. Our goal was to demonstrate how light and responsive a bike using an internal hub could be. At about 21 lbs, the Synergy is in a different class than all other internally geared bikes when it comes to weight and performance, and hopefully the Synergy will help consumers and bike ships recognize the potential for these hubs beyond the typical city bike.

With that said, we have a more dedicated commuter model scheduled for availability in July. This commuter model will feature the same Versa shifter and Alfine hub, but with a cromoly frame and fork, dual disc brakes and full coverage fenders pre-installed.

As far as offering the Versa shifter set on it’s own, this is going to happen. We are helping the factory that makes the Versa components through discussions with a couple US distributors. However, until this distribution is established, these components will be available directly from Dynamic Bicycles beginning in early June.

Patrick Perugini, President
Dynamic Bicycles

We’ll take a Versa shifter for a retrofit project.

I received my shifters from Dynamic Bicycles today. Package includes a pair of brake levers, with the shifting mech in the RHS, a Ritchey barrel adjuster, cabling, housing, ferrules, pinch bolt (for hub).

Shape is very similar to my 9sp 105 STI levers.

Will be setting up my Nexus with these shortly.

Patrick from Dynamic was very helpful in getting these to me in Australia.

Excellent. Keep us posted.

I’ve cabled my levers and taken it for a quick ride. Initial impressions are very positive. Much better shifting than the Shimano tapfire shifter (ST-8S20) I was using in the previous flatbar setup on my Cross Check.

Long lever throw for downshifts isn’t actually a problem in use, (and I have small hands), shifting to higher gears is very easy to do by tapping the top small release lever.

My setup (haven’t had time to tape the bars yet!):
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=co-motion&w=85942209@N00

Typo!: Long lever throw upshifts, small release lever downshifts.

You’d think so, but Dynamic’s shifter is reversed when connected to Nexus.

With my redband Nexus hub (SG-8R25), zero cable tension puts you in 1st (lowest) gear. The long throw (lower) lever pulls cable and upshifts to a higher gear, the release downshifts to a lower gear. This matches your original review and is reversed compared to derailleur STI.

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