Cannondale has released the all-new Cannondale Scalpel HT, a progressive geometry XC Hardtail featuring the same dropped seatstay concept proven on the pivot-less full suspension bike. While these subtly flexible seatstays don’t offer any notable “travel” as such, they are said to reduce chatter and take the edge off hits, improving control and reducing fatigue for the rider. Out front, a 110mm travel fork sits at a category redefining 66.5°, pitting the Scalpel HT as one of the most aggressive XC hardtails out there. Let’s get into it.
Cannondale Scalpel HT
Yes, you read that correctly. Cannondale’s new Hardtail MTB for XC Racing has a super slack head angle of 66.5°. Putting that into context, the Trek Procaliber’s HA is 68.8° while the Scott Scale’s is even steeper at 69.5°. That makes the Cannondale Scalpel HT geometry one of the most aggressive we’ve seen for this category of hardtail, especially when you consider that with the 110mm travel fork on the top-end Hi-Mod 1.
A 110mm Lefty Ocho does the work on that model, with a 100mm travel version seen on the Scalpel HT 2 and a 100mm RockShox SID on the Scalpel HT 3 and Scalpel HT 4 models. The shorter travel models aren’t quite as slack out front, coming in at 67°. Cannondale reigns all of them in with long offset forks to keep the Trail measurement sensible; 50mm offset on the Hi-Mod 1, 55mm on the HT 2, and 44mm on the HT 3 and HT4.
When Alex Howes of UCI World Team EF Education–Nippo fame was spotted riding this, our immediate thought was that it could be a SuperSix F-Si, based on the assumption that those dropped seatstays could be another example of Cannondale’s SAVE micro-suspension. And, well, we were right, about everything except the name.
In order to avoid any potential confusion there, we can confirm the Scalpel HT does not replace the long-standing F-Si, Cannonale’s 100mm travel hardtail with a much steeper 69° head angle. It’s also way more affordable, with prices starting at $2,200 USD for the entry-level HT4.
The Scalpel HT takes the dropped seat stay design from the full suspension Scalpel, which works in tandem with subtly flexible chainstays to add a little rear-end compliance; Cannondale says this small amount of flex near the dropouts not only reduces rider fatigue thanks to the vibration damping effect but also improves control due to the enhanced rear wheel tracking over rough terrain.
Paired with the slack head angle is a fairly upright seat tube angle of 74.5°; not wild by any means but still a little on the steeper side for an XC Race Bike. Looking at the rest of Cannondale’s off-road offering, the Scalpel HT’s geometry is actually strikingly similar to that of their rather more budget-friendly Trail SE hardtail; key differences here being the carbon frame with flexi rear-end, improved spec, and size-specific geometry.
Like the vast majority of Cannondale high-end off-road bikes, the Scalpel HT is designed around their Proportional Response philosophy. That means that, throughout the SM-XL size range, chainstays lengthen along with reach. The aim here is to give all riders the same ride feel, regardless of the frame size they’re riding.
How much does it weigh?
For the top-end Hi-Mod, Cannondale gave us a claimed frame weight of just 895g in a medium (5g lighter than the F-Si Hi-Mod).
The complete bike, out-of-the-box, weighs a claimed 9.68 kg. That $5,000 USD model gets a Lefty Ocho 110mm travel fork, Shimano XT/XTR 12 speed drivetrain, HollowGram 25mm carbon wheelset, Schwalbe Racing Ray and Racing Ralph tires, Shimano XT 2-Piston Brakes, carbon bar, and Prologo Dimension saddle on a fixed seat post.
Even the lower grade standard modulus models come in at a very respectable weight; 10.52 kg for the HT3 complete bike in size medium.
Pricing & Availability
The Cannondale Scalpel HT is available in three models with price tags that come under the $5,000 USD you’ll have to part with to secure the Hi-Mod 1. All three run Cannondale’s lower-grade carbon fiber frameset. For $4,000 USD you can pick up the Scalpel HT Carbon 2 which runs a 100mm Lefty Ocho and drops the carbon rims for a Stan’s NoTubes Crest MK4 alloy wheelset. Those are paired with a Shimano SLX/XT 12 speed drivetrain, 2-Piston XT brakes, and alloy bar.
$3,000 USD gets you the Scalpel HT 3. This one drops the lefty for a regular single-crown 100mm fork in the form of the RockShox SID SL Select+. Other highlights include the Shimano SLX/XT 12 speed drivetrain, Shimano M6100 2-Piston brakes, and Stan’s Crest MK4 alloy wheelset.
The most affordable of the lot is the Scalpel HT 4, retailing at $2,200 USD. This one rocks a RockShox SID SL 100mm travel fork, Shimano Deore 12 speed drivetrain, Shimano MT500 2-Piston brakes, and alloy WTB i23 rims on Shimano hubs.