The brand new Scalpel 1 has 100mm of rear travel; double that of the previous model. It appears that the main frame is all carbon, but look closely at the bottom bracket and you can see from the tell-tale welds that this is a mixture of aluminium and carbon. The head tube, top tube and down tube are made from uni-directional carbon-fibre into a monocoque, and this is then co-moulded with an aluminium seat tube.
Using aluminium means Cannondale can weld on the mount for the rocker link and do away with inserts for the bottom bracket and seatpost — necessary with a carbon seat tube.
Rearwards, there’s carbon-fibre for the seat and chainstays and, with only a small reinforcing bridge between the chainstays, mud clearance is impressive. Cannondale claims a frame weight of 3.9lb, our test bike weighs 23.3lb.
Like the original Scalpel, the 2008 bike has flexible chainstays with what Cannondale calls ‘Living Hinge’. The upshot is that there are zero pivots on the seat or chainstay, which not only saves weight but means that, in theory, there’s nothing to go wrong. We say in theory because, as you’ll see, something did indeed go wrong.
Cannondale specs a lightweight DT Swiss XM 180 shock and this is bolted to a forged then machined rocker with cartridge bearings and aluminium fixing hardware. The shock can be locked out, but because it’s mounted under the top tube you have to feel for the lever when riding. It also sticks slightly in the locked position, especially if you’re seated.
One of the reasons this bike is so light is because the 110mm travel, single-sided Lefty Speed Carbon SL weighs just 2.7lb. It’s air sprung but setting sag isn’t as easy as on a single-crown fork. You need a tape measure and a helper to do it properly. We also had issues actually getting air into the fork because, of the five shock pumps we tried, only one of them worked. This is because the valve core is positioned deeper inside the valve.
Previous Lefty forks came with a separate steerer and stem but now Cannondale has combined the two. This has fewer bolts, so it is lighter and is probably a bit stiffer. The stem comes in 90, 100 and 120mm lengths, -5deg, +5deg and 20deg angles, and two 25.4 or 31.8mm diameter clamp options, although the former is just the 31.8mm stem with a shim.
Our test bike came with a 135g Control Tech flat bar, which Cannondale claims is light and one of the few bars to pass its internal test. Fair enough, but it’s heavy compared to a 99g Easton, too narrow at 22in, and we found the sharp edges of the shim (25g) cut into the surface when you rotate it.
We were going to talk about how we preferred the geometry, weight and components on the Scalpel compared to the similarly priced Giant, but as you can see from the detailed picture at the top of the page, the left-hand chainstay on our test bike came unstuck from the aluminium dropout. This happened with a loud pop on a downhill and locked the rear wheel, nearly pitching us over the bars. We immediately contacted Cannondale and it told us somewhat belatedly that a minor percentage of the initial batch of Scalpel Carbon 100 frames (from which our test bike was taken) maybe affected with this fault.
It said: “A number of steps are being taken to ensure that all retailers and customers have a product that meets our quality standards with full lifetime warranty. All retailers that have ordered/sold Scalpel Carbon/Aluminium 100 bicycles have been contacted. Luckily, MBR found this problem before any Scalpels were actually delivered to the UK.” There was no details on how many other ‘early batch’ frames might have been similarly affected, but Cannondale has assured us that only the updated and improved model will arrive in the UK.
Right now we’re waiting for a full explanation on why the dropout came unstuck (see left) and the replacement frame, so we can re-test it. Obviously we will be printing an update in a future issue and, if the bike stays in one piece, we’ll update the current rating.
MBR RATING: 3/10