Launched earlier this year, the all-new 2017 Cannondale Scalpel is the brand’s flagship full suspension racer. It was completely overhauled to create a faster, more capable bike in every regard. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to put the XL 29er through the ringer at Charlotte’s U.S. National Whitewater trails during Cyclofest to see how it would handle some very fast, very familiar trails…
One of the biggest changes for the 2017 model is the geometry. Cannondale made the head angle slacker and adjusted the fork’s offset to simultaneously stabilize the bike at high speed and make it nimble at low speed. It’s simple in theory, and it works…once you get used to it. After riding a few other bikes the same day, including the similarly categorized Norco Revolver, it took a few minutes to adjust to the Scalpel’s handling. Once I got used to it, though, it was really fun experimenting with just how poor of a line I could choose and watch the bike pick its way through unfazed.
The other big difference between other bikes in the category is Cannondale’s asymmetric frame and wheel design. Pivots, tubes and even the rear wheel’s dish are all off center (of normal) in order to build a stronger wheel, improve tire and chainline clearance, and keep everything in line.
There’s no “flat mount” standard for mountain bikes yet, but they’ll be ready if one comes about.
After a solid ride, one thing’s clear – the Scalpel likes to go fast. There’s 100mm travel front and rear, and the front felt more supple than the rear. Over successive roots, the back end ripped across them at speed, but if I hit it wrong and had to poke through them, it felt a bit harsher than some other bikes. The tradeoff (upside) is that laterally and torsionally, this bike feels more like a hardtail than any other full susser I’ve ever ridden, so when you go to sprint, it’ll get up and go. That stiffness means it can get pinged around like a hardtail, too, but generally not at expense of traction. It’s simply letting you know this is one XC bike that’s not meant to be converted to a trail bike.