Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, side

As the name suggests, the Cannondale Jekyll has two distinct personalities. Most of that is the result of the Gemini-equipped Fox rear shock which adjusts its travel from 130-165mm and changes its spring rate with the press of a button. In climb mode the bike’s rear end rides high, leaning you into a solid position for efficient pedalling. When descending the open shock sags deeper and allows you to hang back while it gobbles up steep, rough terrain.

I tested the Jekyll 3, which is the lower-mid level model but still gives you everything an enduro bike should – it offers plenty of travel on both ends, it’s long, slack and stiff, and component-wise it’s fully equipped for enduro racing…

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, inside front triangle

First off, this thing is one unique lookin’ bike. On my first few rides I was excitedly asked ‘What is THAT?’ by lots of wide-eyed locals. I like the bold color scheme and racey graphics, and it seems others do too. The Jekyll features a BallisTEC carbon front end with an aluminum rear triangle that looks very leggy, but the chainstays are actually a pretty stout 420mm. The two halves are joined by a carbon rocker link.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, rear triangle clearance Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, actual weight on scale

I didn’t put the bike on a scale until my testing was nearly over, and I was quite surprised how hefty the Jekyll actually was at 32.09 lbs (with pedals). On the trail I always thought the bike felt far lighter than that, but I guess it’s not a contender in the flyweight class – at least at this build level.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, Fox Gemini shock

The most significant feature of the Jekyll is the Gemini rear shock, which offers two modes Cannondale calls Hustle and Flow. Hustle mode is for gettin’ on up, and with the press of a handlebar-mounted button the rear shock is limited to 130mm of travel and the spring rate becomes stiffer. Flow mode opens the shock’s full 165mm of travel with a more linear progression for plowing down rough trails with ease.

The Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL shock’s open, medium, and firm modes offer a discernibly different feel with each click. The Firm setting is very firm, so it transfers pedal power well but I wouldn’t recommend it for climbing anything too bumpy. Medium allows the shock to use its travel more, and provides a softer ride on technical singletrack. I didn’t notice any huge loss of pedalling efficiency in this setting, so it quickly became my choice for going up.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, rear linkage

The Open mode lets you get deep into the shock’s stroke, and gives a pretty linear feel until the bitter end. The ride immediately feels more lively in open mode, but the plushness becomes really obvious when the rear wheel takes a big hit.

As you may or may not expect, the Jekyll is a pretty efficient pedaling machine. I was a bit worried that the bike would be reliant on its stiffening/shortening trickery, but it wasn’t a terrible climber when I left the rear shock wide open at full travel. Using the Gemini switch definitely helps with your body position though, so you’ll want to take advantage of it.

While climbing, you can tell the shock is in short/stiff mode when square-edged rocks come along, however the rear end remains active enough to keep your tire planted. Traction while climbing in the saddle was excellent; I rode in some very dusty conditions and can’t remember spinning a wheel at all. Standing up I did manage to loosen the back tire, but only on a few steep bursts.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, descending rocky trail

With 165mm of travel in the rear (and a 170mm fork), I had high hopes for the Jekyll’s descending capabilities and the bike did not disappoint. The rear end feels quite active and hungry to absorb bumps, and Cannondale’s claim of ‘You won’t know jack’ seemed to hold true. The bike did a great job of smoothing out one particular tooth-chattering section of my local trails, and with the shock wide open its ability to take bigger hits really shines through.

Despite being supple under impact, the linkage still gives enough support to pedal uphill bursts fairly well and help boost you forward while pumping through flowy trails. As you’d expect from its beefy carbon front triangle, the frame proved to be nice and stiff. While pinballing through rocks and roots, the Jekyll never needed much convincing to hold a straight line.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, geometry

The Jekyll’s front triangle is definitely lengthy; I’m not sure how much longer a medium frame should be! But that said, I quickly came to really appreciate the geometry of this bike. With its steep 75° effective seat tube angle, the Jekyll puts you in a great position for pushing the pedals despite its long reach.

I was very impressed with how centered I felt over the bike while descending. It was like my body was perfectly balanced between the wheels, and this made the ride feel really stable and grippy. After not long I found myself pushing into corners harder than I usually do, which put a big smile on my face.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, climbing

The most interesting thing about the Jekyll’s geometry is how the Gemini switch affects it – by limiting the rear travel the Hustle mode keeps your back end riding high, making it easy to keep your weight forwards while climbing. When you switch into Flow mode, you don’t notice a huge difference in your riding position until you put the rear shock to work – on the descents, it becomes obvious how much more active the shock is and you get that ‘slack and laid back’ feeling as you dive deeper in the travel.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, Fox 36 fork

As for components, Fox’s 170mm Float 36 Performance fork was stiff and smooth as a magic carpet. My only issue with the fork is that I (weighing 145 lbs) find the medium and firm settings a bit too firm to use on the trails. Even with my air pressure on the low side and the only volume spacer removed I’m just getting full travel, and given that you can’t lower the fork for climbing I’m hesitant to sacrifice any sag by firming it up.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, cockpit

Cannondale’s C3 780mm bar and 35mm stem made for excellent steering, feeling snappy in the corners but stable on the straights. The SLX brakes and 203/180mm rotors provided plenty of braking power, but they were pretty grabby so modulation could be better.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, cassette annondale Jekyll 2018, saddle and post

The 11-speed Shimano rear cassette offers a huge range but looks cobbled together, and takes some large leaps into its lowest few cogs. The gaps between the lowest three gears were noticeable, so I would have been happier with an even spread. On the upside, the XT derailleur and SLX shifter performed perfectly.

Fabric’s Radius Scoop saddle agreed with me, and the Trans-X 120mm dropper post worked without fault. The Maxxis Minion 2.4 and 2.5” DHF/DHR II tires and 29mm WTB Frequency Race rims made for a very grippy combo, even in the dusty conditions I had during testing.

Cannondale Jekyll 3 2018, side view

All in all I really enjoyed my time aboard the Jekyll. The adjustable suspension setup provides solid pedalling performance or eager bump absorption as needed, and the way the Gemini system affects the geometry really helps make the bike an effective dual-duty machine. While it’s not the lightest option out there, Cannondale has kept up-to-date with all the appointments you’d want on a modern enduro racer, and again, the Jekyll is one sharp looking bike!

The Jekyll 3 retails for $4199 USD. For more information, check out Cannondale’s website.

cannondale.com

26 COMMENTS

  1. CRACK AND FAIL
    now that I have your attention, I work at a shop and have ridden this and the new trigger, they ride nothing like a cannondale in the best way possible. The 2018s are completely new bikes and should have your consideration!

      • I’d wager you are wrong. The vast majority of MTB riders want water bottle cages so they/we can do a 2-3 hour typical ride with only a small fanny pack, or no pack at all. Take a look at all of the Enduro racers. Water bottle and tools stored mostly on the bike.

    • Do people whine about Yetis not having the ability to fit a bottle anywhere? This can take one.
      No Yeti other than the XC focused ASR can fit one. Maybe they have them on the underside of the downtube. Does anyone use an under the downtube bottle mount?

  2. But…at the end of the day, is this still not just a linkage-driven single-pivot design?

    Given the various VPP and DW-Link (and some other worthy, short dual link) designs, who in 2017 in their right mind would sink that kind of coin into a 20+ year old suspension platform, no matter how it’s dressed up?

    I mean, the venerable Horst link (now no longer under patent) has long since been surpassed by better designs, no matter how the Big S tweaks the Brain, etc. Let alone the linkage-driven single pivot design…

    There is undeniably a noticeable, qualitative difference in the feel of the suspension. And it’s not subtle. Ride them back to back. Really.

    • You realize the vpp is 20+ years old, and the dw link is nearly as old, right? And maybe there is something to be said about simple designs. But you’re clearly the armchair expert today, so I will defer to your wisdom on such matters.

    • So have you ridden this back to back?

      Based on your comment every biker would be on one or two bikes.
      Suspension performance on something with just a critical human interface is both science and art (subjective likes/dislikes)

      • Single pivot, DW link, VPP… all are TUNED to the desired ride. Progressive? Linear? High anti-squat? Less anti-squat? All of the suspension platforms can tune to the desired ride. When you say, “ride back to back”, you are saying, “ride each engineered-in riding trait” of which none are unique to any of the branded linkage designs. Put down the brochure, and see the bigger picture.

        • No, some suspension designs will have different wheel paths, feedback, ramp rates, stiction…some of which can be tuned out, some of them can’t (or not easily)

          The bigger picture is that you ride the bike. Irregardless of its suspension design on paper, if you like how it rides compared to other bikes, its the one that suits you. I’d say no modern FS bikes in this category is “bad”

        • I probably agree with what you are saying…I’d argue the frame design and geometry are the main issue. Again, demo and buy your heart

    • Eh, the motorcycle world seems to be getting by just fine with single-pivots and they have money to do research. If it was better they’d be using it.

  3. Dang, Pacific is making some fancy bikes these days… Can I get this thing at the local Walmart, or is it only available at Target?

  4. I never would have guessed I would be riding a Cannondale, and I work at a Cannondale dealer. That is because we also carry Specialized and Santa Cruz, both of which are making great bikes right now. I ordered the Jekyll 3 blind (having not ridden one) and I can’t begin to explain how right I was to have pulled the trigger on this bike. This bike is insanely playful, can climb with ease, and bomb any jump line or downhill you have the guts to ride.

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