Cannondale’s SmartSense system is an innovative and controversial approach to combining headlights, taillights and radars into a single seamless package. Rather than recharging three separate batteries and powering them on individually, the SmartSense system features integrated cable routing with a central SmartSense battery on the downtube of Cannondale’s bikes. This system is currently only available on the Synapse and Topstone bikes but we wouldn’t be surprised if it was extended to other model lines. A speed sensor on the front wheel allows all the devices to turn on automatically when the bike moves and shutdown if no motion is detected for an extended period of time. The lights can also be fully controlled via a free Cannondale App which also allows you to customize the output modes.
At the time of writing this cyclist guide, Cannondale only offers one SmartSense system, note a StVZO variation is used where required, with a Lezyne headlight (SmartSense Foresite 350) and taillight (Hindsite Array E85/E25) along with a Garmin Varia rear radar. The main battery has a 2665 mAh capacity and can easily be detached from the frame to be recharged or used as a powerbank to charge other devices off the bike. Power cables are internally routed through the frame and seatpost for a slick integrated appearance. Cannondale also includes a separate Varia display unit which uses an interesting colored vertical LED array to show cars approaching along with audible warnings.
Cannondale currently offers the SmartSense system in different variations on their endurance Synapse bike series and Topstone gravel bikes. The full setup is integrated into bikes with the “RLE” in their model name which stands for radar-equipped, light-equipped and electronic shifting. Cannondale also offers “LE” and “L” variations which have the lights only. Each component is also available separately to allow people to upgrade but you need a SmartSense compatible frame to take full advantage of the battery docking system and internal cable routing. The motivation for this system is to offer a seamless experience and eliminate redundant batteries and controls.
The entire system is powered by a central removable battery mounted on the downtube just above the bottom bracket. While the power cables to the lights and radar are internally routed through the frame the battery itself is entirely exposed as it clips onto a mounting plate on the exterior of the downtube. Although most people would have preferred a more concealed battery, this design makes the battery easily accessible and doesn’t alter the geometry of the bike. The battery itself is 2665 mAh with a four LED battery status display and USB-C charging port. Not only does this central battery offer a more user-friendly experience, as you don’t have to charge each light and radar separately, but it can also be used as a power bank to charge other devices when you aren’t riding. One important note is that the electronic shifting components still use their own dedicated batteries, so you’ll still need to charge those separately.
Part of the magic of the SmartSense system is the Garmin wheel sensor on the front wheel which allows the entire system to automatically turn on or off when you start and stop riding. This means you can simply jump on the bike and have all the accessories auto-wake and ensure you’re visible and safe on the road. The headlight and taillight can be manually cycled through four different modes using a button on the rear of the headlight and automatically switch to a day and night mode based on the ambient light. Additionally, the headlight and taillight automatically react to cars detected by the radar and when it detects you slowing down.
Re-branded as the SmartSense Foresite 350, a clever name in our opinion, the Lezyne headlight is a reflector style beam-cutoff headlight. This means the light has an anti-glare design that focuses the beam pattern on the ground instead of the air. The downside of this design is that the headlight is quite large as the reflectors require additional space. Visually, it has a simple gloss black finish with a beveled rectangular form factor. The headlight has a GoPro top mount with a rear input power cable and an output cable (i.e. to connect to the Varia display or a Garmin battery extender). On the Cannondale Synapse 2 RLE we reviewed, the bike came with a dual-sided K-Edge out-front mount which places the headlight directly in front of the stem.
With 350 lumen max output the headlight is bright enough for daytime riding and limited nighttime urban riding. Although the headlight and taillight automatically turn on and off, you can also manually control both lights using the rear power button on the headlight. Holding the button shuts both lights off, you can only turn them off individually using the Cannondale app, while a short press cycles through the four preset modes. If you prefer to use your own headlight you could remove the power cable from the headlight and install your own light in its place, however, you would need to secure the internally routed power cable to the bike or completely remove it.
HINDSITE TAILLIGHT + GARMIN RADAR
To match the headlight, Cannondale naturally offers the Hindsite Array E85 rear taillight which is also a rebranded 85 lumen Lezyne taillight. The taillight has a slim curved design that wraps around the Garmin radar and tucks underneath the saddle. For improved visibility the taillight has a raised red lens with multiple LEDs that are triggered in different modes or react to cars approaching. There is no manual button control of the taillight, instead it operates in sync with the headlight or can be separately disabled via the Cannondale app. The Garmin radar is a stand-alone e-bike style unit with no battery or integrated light and a compact rectangular design. Cannondale has matched the curvature of the radar to the taillight shape which gives the two devices a unified appearance.
The taillight and radar both pivot on a GoPro mount that is connected to a saddle rail mount. While the saddle rail mounting gives the taillight and radar a sleek look, it can get in the way of saddle bag attachments. Cannondale recommends using a GoPro extender to move the devices further out. This method worked for us but makes installing and removing saddlebags more tedious and may not work with all saddlebag shapes as the taillight and radar protrude downward. The power cables for the devices are routed directly through the seatpost which is a clever way to eliminate any exposed cables.
One of the interesting features of the SmartSense system is the stand-alone Varia display head unit which can display radar information on a dedicated screen. It’s an interesting feature that we don’t quite understand as most people purchasing these bikes will have dedicated GPS head units like the Bryton S800 that offer integrated radar displays. The compact display is rectangular in shape with a multi-color and multi-LED display that shows the cars position along a line of LEDs. The display even features a built in speaker to provide audible beeps when cars are detected and allows you to stay focused on the road. Personally, we think the analog style LED display is quite cool and has a minimal but easy to understand design. The display is mounted on a separate out front mount which can get in the way of larger GPS units. Power to the device is routed from the output port of the headlight into the bottom of the Varia display unit.
There are four default output mode options for the SmartSense system: high visibility, twilight, power saver and pulsing. Each of these modes alter the headlight and taillight output for different riding conditions. High visibility is a daytime bright mode that pulses the headlight and taillight in an irregular pattern with a claimed runtime of 10 hours with the radar. Twilight mode is designed for low-light conditions with a constant front headlight and burst mode on the taillight and is good for 4 hours. The Twilight mode is automatically activated if you have the “auto adjust in low light” default on. Additionally there is Power Saver mode which flashes the front and rear lights which provides the highest runtime of 13.5 hours. Finally there is pulsing which ramps both the headlight and taillight from off to full brightness for up to 4 hours.
Using the Cannondale app you can also customize the headlight and taillight output modes between: pulse, flash, burst, solid burst, constant or shut them off entirely. It’s a great feature that lets you personalize the experience or entirely disable a headlight / taillight to optimize runtimes. With the headlight rated at 350 lumen and the taillight 85 lumen they are both bright and daytime visible. For riding on dark trails we’d recommend using a brighter headlight (i.e. 500 lumen or higher) as the stock Lezyne Classic E350 is better suited as a “be-seen” light for daytime riding. Otherwise, the lights work well with eye catching braking and radar activated warning modes that help attract attention of drivers around you.
To customize the SmartSense system or simply track or your ride, Cannondale also offers a full app. It’s clear Cannondale has invested time and money into the app as it’s highly polished and intuitive to use. The app has six main tabs that include: activity view, bike garage, active ride states, messages and a profile page. Once you connect to the app it shows you all the details for the bike’s stock components and even offers service reminders based on recorded ride time. A well designed ride page mimics a dedicated GPS display with a circular speed graph, ride stats and even a map view. The app can even connect to the rear radar and display radar information and trigger audible alerts to keep you aware of your surroundings.
The more exciting feature of the app is the ability to fully control and personalize the SmartSense system. You can change the output mode of the lights and adjust the setting such as: auto-adjust in low light, brake alert, low power mode, react to radar and even an auto proximity flash (i.e. the lights flash to greet you when you approach). All the settings are currently defaulted to be on from the factory except for the auto proximity flash. If you already have a dedicated GPS unit and are happy with the default settings, then you never need to download or bother with the app which is something we appreciate.
Overall, we found the Cannondale SmartSense system to be a clever and seamless approach to integrating lights and radar to bikes. Rather than purchasing devices separately and then installing them using different mounts and using separate controls for each, the SmartSense system integrates them into a dedicated single battery and adds auto on/off features. The beauty of the SmartSense system is that everything is automatic with the lights turning on as soon as you move and shutting off after extended periods of no movement. With its integrated design the lights can also automatically react to cars approaching or when braking to provide additional safety. While there are better lights on the market, the headlight and taillight are both daytime visible and have good runtimes.
Unfortunately, all these smart features come at the cost of a proprietary setup which means you cannot swap out the lights or radars for other models. Cannondale also does not offer any larger battery sizes or light options, aside from StVZO regional variations, even after more than a year of being on the market which is a bit disappointing. With more aftermarket support or options we think the SmartSense system would appeal to more customers and riding styles. For example, we’d love to see an extended battery to minimize recharging or a high output headlight for night time riding. That said, the SmartSense system does achieve its goal of improving safety and offering seamless integration.
Disclaimer: The views expressed on this website are solely those of the authors and are here to help people make an informed choice before a purchase or serve as a reference . The authors or the blog itself does not get any compensation from the product manufacturer or third-party websites/vendor links that are posted here.