Cannondale has revamped the Scalpel to deal with increasingly technical World Cup XC courses.
The new Cannondale Scalpel is built for XXC. Extreme cross country anyone?
According to Cannondale, “The climbs are getting steeper and the descents are getting nastier. There’s no room for error and to win at this game, you need more than just light and stiff, you need capable and stable handling.”
They continue, “Races are won on the climbs, but can be lost on the descents.” The new Scalpel is intended to win these races. Let’s take an in-depth look at the bike.
Si = System Integration
It’s still a 100m travel full suspension design with pivot-less rear flex-stays and (mostly) 29in wheels but there’s been a significant amount of tweaking and redevelopment going on. There are a lot of lessons learned from Cannondale’s F-Si hardtail in evidence here.
The full name of the bike – Scalpel-Si – refers to Canondale’s System Integration. System Integration basically means that it’s more than just the frame that has been designed. The Scalpel-Si works with a proprietary fork (Lefty), a special wheelset, a modified chainset and even custom fitting for Shimano Di2 electronic drivetrain components.
29in or 650B depending on frame size
The new Scalpel is available in frame size-dependent wheel sizes. Most Scalpels will be 29in wheel but Small men’s Scalpels will be 650B, as will all sizes of women’s Scalpels. There are no overly cutesy paint jobs on the women’s models so there’s nothing stopping female riders opting to ride a mens version if they prefer 29in wheels.
The Scalpel was first launched in 2002 but, unlike trail and all-mountain bikes, the Scalpel arguably hadn’t changed significantly in geometry since that time. There were changes in frame material and wheel size but the geometry was always focussed on rapid climbing, fast steering and a short wheelbase.
Slacker and longer
The new Scalpel takes some geometry cues from Cannondale’s Habit trail bike. It has a longer front centre and a slacker head angle. At 69.5 degrees the head angle is not exactly slack but it is less scary sounding than the previous 71 degrees.
Paired with this new head angle is a Cannondale Lefty fork with an offset of 55mm. This is a relatively larger offset than found on most forks. The basic idea of a large offset is to put the front wheel further out in front of you and having a long front centre and increase wheelbase for stability, whilst still having a fork trail that results in a quick steering front end. The overall idea being to retain the Scalpel’s (in)famous lightning quick handling in the tight stuff.
The 650B Scalpels come with 50mm offset forks to achieve the same effect on handling. The large offset theory has been dubbed “OutFront” geometry by Cannondale.
Top tubes have grown on the Scalpel by 10mm. Stem lengths have been reduced by 10mm. Wider handlebars are fitted as standard now too. So the overall reach of the bike is the same as before but it’s differently distributed for better handling on technical terrain.
BallisTec carbon fibre
The first Scalpels to be released will be carbon fibre. The top end models will be made from Cannondale’s HiMod carbon, where less material is needed (ie. lighter) to achieve desired strength and stiffness levels. All carbon models will feature Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon which is designed to be impact resistant and crash friendly.
Aluminium Scalpels will be coming out towards the end of the year. Even these aluminium models will have a bit of carbon on them; the shock linkage on all Scalpels is made of carbon fibre that’s been moulded under pressure (as opposed to carbon fibre sheet lay-up).
Pivot-less rear stays
The suspension design is a linkage driven single pivot. The rear stays have built-in flex to them, dispensing with the need for a pivot near the rear wheel axle. The rest of the pivots are sealed bearings and are serviced by standard Allen keys. The main pivot is technically an expanding thru-axle, which should offer good stiffness.
Cannondale claim to have delivered “the lightest, stiffest and most durable full suspension cross-country bike on the market.” That’s quite some statement. A claimed weight of 2,118g for a large frame including shock, mounting hardware and rear axle does put it at the top of the current XC full suspension lightweight charts.
Di2, dropper posts and two bottles
They’ve managed to include two sets of bottle bosses in the main front triangle too. The seat tube bottle bosses are low enough not to interfere with standard length internally routed dropper posts.
In case you haven’t heard, dropper posts are rapidly becoming a common sight on World Cup XC race bikes.
As well as being compatible with bottle bosses, you’ll have no trouble running Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting with a dropper post. Unlike most other Di2-ready bikes that have the battery located in the seat post (thus preventing use of a dropper) the Scalpel puts the Di2 battery in the top tube, just in front of the rear shock.
Having a full-on World Cup XC-ready bike that is both Di2-ready and dropper seatpost friendly is a something of a coup for Cannondale. Kudos to them. It’s certainly an intriguing sign of the times for XC racing.
A less painful internal cable routing?
The Scalpel runs as many cables internally as possible. Brake hoses, gear cables and even suspension lock-out hoses all run inside the frame tubes. Internally routed cables are always going to involve a bit of faff come servicing time but Cannondale’s designers have done their best to make it a bit easier by putting fairly large entry and exit holes in the Scalpel.
These gaping holes are then plugged up with a choice of plugs, depending on which combination of cables are used in your build.
These plugs have small screws in them for snugging-up cables once set to the desired insertion. This keeps things working consistently and should also cut down on annoying little clicks and rattling noises experienced whilst riding.
Metric rear shocks
The rear shocks are all the new metric standard. Scalpels which feature lock-out suspension do so in a very neat way. Just one button on the handlebar locks out (via hydraulic hosing) both front and rear suspension simultaneously.
The RockShox Monarch rear shocks with lock-out have been supplied with a custom banjo which enables the hose to run inside the frame’s top tube.
Ai back end
The back end of the new Scalpel is where the most significant System Integration can be found. Cannondale call it “Ai”. It’s sort of like Cannondale’s version of Boost.
Essentially the back end of the Scalpel is a normal 142 x 12mm bolt-thru but one that’s been shifted 6mm to the right via kinked dropouts, a modified crank spider and a dishless rear wheel. This results in short chainstays (435mm on 29in, 425mm on 650B), decent-for-XC tyre clearance (2.35in fits fine), a stiffer rear wheel and all without resorting to a skinny chainstay. You can even run a double chainring drivetrain if you wanted to, which a lot or marathon and ultra-distance racers will appreciate.
Flat-mount disc mount standard
The keener-eyed among you may have spotted the new location of the rear disc calliper. The Scalpel features the Flat-mount standard more often found on disc-equipped road bikes. Moving the disc calliper from the seat stays to the chainstays has improved the rear suspension’s flex stay kinematics, say Cannondale.
The single-sided triple-clamp Lefty fork is an intrinsic part of the new Scalpel. The new Lefty forks have had their damping circuits tweaked to offer a bit more support under hard braking and/or on steeper descents. The inverted design of the fork should still offer the low levels of stiction found on previous Lefty forks but there should be a bit less plunging going on.
- Scalpel Si Black Inc £8,999.99
- Scalpel Si HM Racing £7,299.99
- Scalpel Si HM Team £6,299.99
- Scalpel Si HM 1 £4,999.99
- Scalpel Si Crb 2 £4,699.99
- Scalpel Si Crb 3 £3,799.99
- Scalpel Si Crb 4 £3,299.99
These prices are subject to change but they should be there or thereabouts. As you can see, we only have the prices for the carbon Scalpels at the moment.