Even though the Synonym TR fits the Down Country remit, the rear suspension is still synonymous with old school XC
NS Synonym TR is one of the most down-country bikes in attitude. And that’s because, at its heart, it is a hopped-up cross-country race bike.
It even uses the same full carbon frame as the 100mm-travel RC (race) version. By extending the shock stroke by 5mm and fitting a longer-travel fork, NS has boosted travel to 120mm, this transformation taking its XC platform into trail bike terrain. It has swapped Lycra for baggies then, but it has retained the ability to simultaneously lock out the fork and shock at the push of a button.
NS Synonym TR 2 review
The transformation goes further than simply increasing travel. NS also fits 10mm wider handlebars and adds 25mm to the dropper post to bring it up to 150mm. It also increases the tyres size for improved traction and control. All good moves then, but nothing out of the ordinary.
What makes the NS somewhat unique in the XC Evo sphere is the underlying geometry. This bike is long. With a 490mm reach on the size large, the length is more in keeping with a modern enduro bike than anything you’d see on the XC race circuit. As such, the 60mm stem still gives a stretched, flat-back riding position, as NS has simply added length to the frame to compensate. And it’s this extra space in the cockpit that allows NS to have a relatively steep seat angle for improved climbing, without the bike feeling cramped.
We mentioned earlier that the 120mm suspension on the NS could be locked out at the press of a button, but what we didn’t say is how stiff the lever action of the remote is to open the damping up again. It’s probably the result of the remote being connected to the suspension fork and rear shock, but cable routing also plays a part, as there’s a kink in the housing as it exits the down tube and connects to the Fox Float DPS shock. So while there are similarities to the Scott TwinLoc design and the new YT Izzo, the execution isn’t anything like as sleek or smooth.
With the over-bar dropper lever and under-bar suspension remote, getting all of the controls in the right spot isn’t straightforward. In fact, it took us a couple of rides before we realised that the extra-long NS Hold Fast grips were making it even harder to get the cockpit just so. There’s no faulting the action of the 150mm X-Fusion Manic dropper with its light-touch remote and proven reliability, but the Octane One Crit saddle says everything you need to know about its lack of padding.
Interestingly, NS hasn’t up-specced the disc brakes on the Synonym TR, sticking with SRAM Levels and a 180/160mm rotor combination. The brakes have a reassuringly firm lever feel, and with the semi-slick Maxxis Ikon rear tyre, you’ll run out of braking traction long before you reach the limits of the brakes’ hydraulics.
With the most progressive sizing on test, the NS Synonym TR2 feels like it is ready to tackle anything, but it’s all mouth and no trousers. Yes, the balanced riding position slows everything down so you have more time to think, but this just lets you focus more on how ineffective the rear suspension is. Not only does it lack the sensitivity needed to track terrain, the rebound damping is super-slow even when set to the fully open position. And while this stodgy suspension response makes the bike pedal well, and provides a solid foundation to press against to pump the bike on billiard-smooth trails, it also robs it of speed and control on anything rough. Even on the small, high-frequency hits found on a typical fire road, it continues to chip away at your speed – one area where we’d have expected the Synonym to shine. And while we suspect that the over-damped shock helps mitigate the inherent springiness of the flex-stay suspension design, there really is no excuse for the incessant frame-creaking on a bike with fewer pivots.
There’s a lot to like about the NS Synonym TR2. It’s light, has generous sizing and at times it exhibits the raw speed of an XC bike without any of the associated nerve racking twitchiness. It hasn't managed to shake the XC rider’s unsubstantiated fear of active suspension robbing power, though. As such, without ever touching the remote lockout the Synonym has a crude on/off response from from the rear suspension that hiders progress rather than enhancing it. So even though the Synonym TR fits the Down Country remit, the rear suspension is still synonyms with old school XC.