...and it loses the controversial Lefty fork and DYAD pull-shock
Sounds like a bit of a U-turn then?
You could say that, but the writing has been on the wall for some time regarding Cannondale’s unique single-sided, dual crown fork and high-pressure pull shock (at least outside the world of XC racing). Indeed we said as much when we last tested the Jekyll in 2015.
Riders simply don’t want the added complexity of bespoke items, nor the headache of sourcing parts and servicing expertise when something goes wrong. And with off-the-shelf suspension so good nowadays, and the brand’s top enduro racer – Jerome Clementz – running stock RockShox products anyway, the move was, well, inevitable.
Kudos to Cannondale for being honest and upfront about the reasons for the switch, however, as it’s never easy to make an about turn when you’ve been heading down certain road for so long.
Didn’t we see Jerome Clementz riding prototypes of this bike last spring?
Well remembered. And looking at the spyshots, his mule seems pretty close to the finished design, although there’s now a carbon shock link to compliment the carbon frame. Actually, if you cover the shock on the old and new designs with your finger, they both share an almost identical profile.
Does it still get a travel adjust gizmo like the old bike?
Indeed it does, but the new system is much simpler, and arguably smarter and more valuable. Called the Gemini shock (yes, Cannondale used to make a freeride/DH bike with the same name) it uses a cable-operated remote to open and close a secondary air chamber in the otherwise standard Fox shock.
Similar in concept, if not function, to the Nude system used by Scott, and the old Specialized Itch-Switch, this gives two different air volumes – a fully open mode with 165mm of rear wheel travel, and a low-volume mode that changes the air spring curve and effectively reduces the travel by 25 per cent (130mm). This spring curve change is key, as it gives much more progression, not only reducing the travel, but making the bike more poppy and responsive to rider inputs when pumping terrain to gain speed. Think of it as adding and reducing volume spacers to your shock, without having to take the whole thing apart. What’s more, the whole system is 77g lighter than the old DYAD.
I bet the two modes get cool names, right?
You bet. Fully open is called Flow mode (carried over from the old Jekyll), and the short travel option is called Hustle. Which sounds a bit like a glossy men’s magazine from the 80’s, but maybe that’s just us.
More interestingly, the idea, and much of the development work, was the responsibility of Jeremiah Boobar – the man behind the Reverb and the Pike fork when he worked at RockShox. Even more interestingly, Cannondale actually partnered up with Fox to develop the Gemini, not SRAM, so it was breaking new ground for all involved.
What about the remote? Didn’t Clementz use a GripShift to operate the old system on his Jekyll?
Yes, he sure did, but this being a joint Cannondale/Fox project, that was never an option. As such, the Gemini is operated by a Fox twin lever remote. To be quite honest, it doesn’t feel like the perfect solution, although in Cannondale’s defence, it’s not an easy problem to solve.
The issue is, it’s extremely difficult – verging on impossible – to switch between modes in the heat of the moment on rough terrain. You have to wait for a smooth section of trail, or a fireroad or climb, to operate the remote. That limits the usefulness, because it’s rare that trails don’t change character along their length. One bit might be smooth and pumpy, the next might be rough and chundery.
With the Gemini you have to choose one mode or the other, unless there happens to be a handy bit in the middle that lets you release your grip on the bars and contort your hand around to operate the thumb shifter. Obviously if you buy a Jekyll (or Trigger), there’s nothing stopping you trying to operate the Gemini using a Grip Shift, and that’s exactly what we’d experiment with if we had one.
Can you tune the volume of the shock independently from the Gemini system?
You mean, can you add or remove spacers to play with the spring curve? Sure you can. You need a couple of specific tools, but by getting into the air can you can add or subtract what Cannondale has dubbed ‘Snap Bands’. There are two as standard in the Jekyll shock, and you can run up to four.
Again, this is definitely an area we’d like to spend more time investigating, as the Jekyll has a linear progression curve in the Flow mode, and there were times during the launch of the bike in Finale, Italy, when we felt we’d like a little extra support and progression, without sacrificing travel by switching to the Hustle mode.
What else do I need to know about the new Jekyll?
One of the less obvious benefits of switching to a regular fork is that the offset has been reduced and the steering is now much more stable and natural. The old Lefty on the Jekyll had a huge 50mm offset, and combined with a high bottom bracket, fell into corners unpredictably.
That’s not the case with the new bike, and the slacker head angle, lower bottom bracket, shorter 44mm offset and stumpy chainstays combine to make it a really agile, rewarding machine. It really is streets ahead of the old model in the handling department.
Better still, the sizing is much improved. Although 25mm has been lopped off the chainstays, the new bike has gained length in the front end, so the wheelbase is almost identical to the 2015 Jekyll we tested. At 5ft 10in I rode the large frame and it felt spot on.
Designed around a 35mm stem and steep, 75 degree effective seat angle, it gave a great seated position and climbed efficiently – even with those short 420mm chainstays. There are still four frame sizes on offer, from S to XL.
To improve the chainline and allow for a stronger rear wheel, Cannondale runs its Asymmetric Integration. This uses a BB30 bottom bracket with the drivetrain offset by 6mm paired with an evenly dished Boost 148mm rear wheel to increase frame/tyre clearance.
Even with that massive carbon shock link, the Jekyll (and Trigger) still lets you run a bottle. Full-size on the L and XL frames, and 600ml on the M and S.
What about the ride?
As we’ve already said, the new Jekyll is a vast improvement on its predecessor. Cannondale wanted to create an all-rounder with the redesign, rather than a mini-DH bike, and that’s exactly what it’s done.
This is a fast and agile ripper rather than a sledgehammer, that carries speed and changes tack with ease and feels versatile enough for a full day’s pedalling on UK trails.
The front end snaps to attention like a private on parade and the back end can be placed with pinpoint accuracy. It’s definitely a bike that #lovesbackwheel too.
Given more time, we’d definitely like to play with the volume of the shock in Flow mode, for those times when you need a bit of support to push against when pumping and trying to get the bike airborne over an obstacle. This would also help with pedal strikes, because on more than a few occasions we felt like we were going to clip obstacles when sprinting along flat sections of trail in Flow mode.
And if we’re being ultra-critical, it didn’t always seem as sensitive, or grippy, as we’d like. But to really draw any firm conclusions, we’ll need to test it on home turf against the best enduro bikes on the market. Sounds like fun!
What about the Trigger?
We’ll keep it brief here, but the Trigger is basically the Jekyll in a shorter travel, ‘trail-friendly’ package. You still get to Flow and Hustle to your heart’s content, but the Trigger bequeaths you 145mm and 115mm of rear wheel travel in the two modes. Up front is a 150mm travel fork, and the geometry has been backed off a touch too.
The Jekyll will be sold in four guises in the UK. The top Jekyll 1 that we rode gets a full carbon frame, Fox Factory level suspension and carbon wheels for £6k on the nose. The carbon Jekyll 2 gets alloy chainstays and alloy wheels for £5,500. For £4k there’s the carbon Jekyll 3, and to round off the range a lone full-alloy Jekyll 4 at £3k.
The Triggers retain the same price structure, but there’s no alloy version, so the range bottoms out with the carbon Trigger 3 at £4k.