2018 Cannondale Scalpel-Si Carbon 1 review

In search of unicorns, it seems many are after a dual suspension mountain bike that offers an elusive mix of marathon prowess, cross-country capabilities, with a dusting of trail tolerance. It’s no small ask, but in the last two to three years we’ve seen the makers of cross country / marathon bikes solving for unicorns and with some success.

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 4.jpg

 

The Cannondale Scalpel-Si was first launched in early 2016 and, at the time, was considered a bold, progressive move with its slacker geometry and stubby chainstays. We’re no stranger to the Scalpel Si having spent some time on one in the launch year, but we happily took the opportunity to test out the 2018 Cannondale Scalpel Si 1 and revisit the platform.

 

The Scalpel-Si Carbon 1 model sits towards the top end of the range with only the Scalpel-Si Team and Scalpel-Si Black Inc. topping out the lineup in the South African market. Fittingly, the Carbon 1 comes equipped with top end components for an altogether impressive and light build.

 

All three of the models mentioned share the same frame construction using Cannondale’s BallisTec Hi-MOD carbon construction which makes an appearance across their top tier carbon bikes. This construction method uses high and ultra-high modulus carbon fiber to create an incredibly stiff frame with less material, therefore, saving weight.

 

Specification list

  • FrameScalpel-Si, 100mm, BallisTec Hi-MOD Carbon, Zero Pivot seatstay, Carbon Link, PF30, 1.5 Si head tube, Ai Offset
  • ForkLefty 2.0 Carbon, 2Spring, 100mm, XLR Isolated Damper Technology with XC+ tune and XLoc Full Sprint remote, 55mm offset (29), 50mm offset (27.5)
  • ShockRockShox Monarch XX, 100mm Travel, Remote
  • RimsHollowGram 23, Superlight Hi-Impact Carbon, Tubeless Ready, 28hole, 23mm inner
  • Hubs + SpokesHollowGram Lefty front, HollowGram by DT Swiss Rear, Star Ratchet, 142x12 , 28 hole (Ai Offset dish - Rear), DT Swiss Aerolite spokes
  • TyresSchwalbe Rocket Ron EVO Snakeskin, 29x2.25", folding, Tubeless Ready
  • HandlebarCannondale C1 flat, Carbon, 760mm
  • StemCannondale C1, 7075 Alloy, 31.8, -5°
  • HeadsetCannondale HeadShok Si
  • BrakesSRAM Level TLM, custom flat mount rear, Centerline Rotors 180/160mm
  • ShifterSRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
  • Rear derailleurSRAM XX1 Eagle, Type 3 RBC, 12-speed
  • CassetteSRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 10-50, 12-speed
  • Crank armsTruvativ Stylo Carbon Eagle, BB30, 34T, Ai Custom
  • ChainSRAM Eagle 12-speed
  • Bottom BracketCannondale Alloy PressFit30
  • SeatpostCannondale C1 Full Carbon, 31.6x420mm
  • SaddleFabric Scoop Shallow Elite
  • GripsCannondale Locking Grips
  • Weight10.77 kg
  • Price (Indicative market price)R 94,000.00

 

Suspension
A pairing of the Lefty 2.0 Carbon “fork” upfront and RockShox Monarch XX 100mm rear shock keep the Scalpel sharp. Both are linked to a dual remote lockout to quickly lock out should the need arise. The XLoc remote lockout on our test model was a bit sticky and in some instances didn’t want to release back to open mode. It is a widely reported issue though, but one said to be easily solved under warranty should it arise.

 

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 15.jpg


Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 6.jpg

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 8.jpg


Drivetrain
The drivetrain is SRAM Eagle 12 speed with an X01 Eagle shifter and XX1 Eagle rear derailleur. A Truvativ Stylo Carbon Eagle crankset keeps the wheels turning. There is not much to be said for Eagle that hasn’t already. It just works. Shifting is smooth and quiet and it offers a great range.

 

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 12.jpg


Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 5.jpg

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 13.jpg


Brakes
The SRAM Level TLM brake set features a 180mm rotor up front and 160mm rotor in the rear. Given the class of bike, it offers ample stopping power while keeping weight down. The Scalpel-Si’s capable nature did lead me into a few situations where burlier brakes would have been useful, but not a must-have.

 

Wheels and tyres
Cannondale’s HollowGram carbon rims are laced to a Lefty front hub and DT Swiss hub in the rear, held together by DT Swiss Aerolite spokes. The HollowGram rims feature a 23mm internal diameter, very much on trend with what you’d expect in this class, but I couldn’t help feeling that an extra millimeter or two wouldn’t hurt to create a more stable tyre profile, especially if you’re opting for anything wider than the stock 2.25 Schwalbe Rocket Ron’s.

 

On the point of tyres, the Rocket Ron’s are well matched to the bike and it was pleasing to see a manufacturer spec a tyre based on functional performance over vanity metrics (weight).

 


Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 9.jpg

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 10.jpg


 

On the trail


The Scalpel-Si Carbon 1 is noticeably light and responsive, a result of both the Hi-MOD carbon construction and the high-end build kit. As to be expected this all adds up to great climbing capabilities and although a remote dual lockout was on offer I seldom found the need for it. Out of the saddle on climbs and flats the Lefty is quite active and on non-technical terrain full lock out may be preferred, but for any moderately technical climbs or trails leaving the suspension to do its thing felt most efficient overall.

 

A focus point for the Cannondale team in the development of the new Scalpel platform was its handling. Their development efforts lead to shorter chainstays to improve traction and handling, and a slacker head angle with a longer fork offset to improve stability on technical terrain, all without sacrificing agility in the turns. No small feat, but from this encounter with the Scalpel-Si (and our earlier outing), we were impressed to confirm that Cannondale hit the mark on this.

 

The relatively slack head angle at 69.5 degrees gives a definite confidence and stability boost when the trail gets bumpy. Cannondale’s “OutFront” geometry also produced a more playful feel, willing me to have fun on the trail where other bikes in this class can be all about business. Make no mistake, though, the Scalpel-Si is very much a race bike, but one built with the demands of a modern cross-country course in mind. It's still nimble and responsive through turns on both up and downhills and doesn't exhibit the sluggishness you might expect from the slackened geometry.

 

Overall the Cannondale Scalpel-Si is something of a unicorn, if only within the cross-country / marathon to entry-level trail market. And no, that has nothing to do with its single pointy leg out front. It delivers a finely tuned balance of performance and capability that should tick boxes for a range of shoppers in the market for a short travel, do-it-all mountain bike.

 

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon 1 2.jpg

 




27 Comments

Rocket-Boy, Feb 21 2018 06:25

Bike prices have gone a bit nutty, I mean seriously at just short of R100k you would think they at least wouldnt steal half of the fork.  :whistling:

Traveler, Feb 21 2018 06:33

Lefty is so sharp that you only need half of it.

 

Need to add as well, Cannondale has addressed the issue of bearing migration extremely well in the Lefty 2.0. You only need a valve spanner, a shock pump and 2 minutes to reset the needle bearings. It is not necessary to take your bike to a mechanic or to go on a specialist course to learn how to reset the needle bearings.

Headshot, Feb 21 2018 07:35

That price will challenge most budgets actually. Lovely looming bike though. Still can't work out why remote lockouts still appear on bikes. They give problems and defeat the object of suspension.

Reset needle bearings?? I just give my forks a wipe and leave the bike upside down for a while for slick performance 😀

Pipsqueak, Feb 21 2018 07:39

"relatively slack head angle at 69.5 degrees..." I had to snigger. But you're right, I suppose for a bike like this its quite a risqué move.

Admin, Feb 21 2018 07:58

That price will challenge most budgets actually.


That’s a more accurate statement, but as mentioned there are options further down the lineup which are still well specced and a little less eye watering on price.

Admin, Feb 21 2018 08:03

"relatively slack head angle at 69.5 degrees..." I had to snigger. But you're right, I suppose for a bike like this its quite a risqué move.


It took some reflection in writing that to remember the “standards” in this category at the time. Looking at most XC / marathon bikes now it’s about normal.... if not even a bit on the steeper side, but I think they’ve found a sweet spot for this purpose.

lechatnoir, Feb 21 2018 08:05

I really hope it comes in other colours. I mean, at that price, I can afford to buy one of each colour. The more the merrier IMHO...

Traveler, Feb 21 2018 09:18

Reset needle bearings?? I just give my forks a wipe and leave the bike upside down for a while for slick performance

 

But your fork has suspension bushes that needs regular replacement, and suspension bushes has stiction and that is even for the low friction kind. :-)

Underachiever, Feb 21 2018 10:46

Weight of the bike for interest sake?

NickGM, Feb 21 2018 11:11

Still can't work out why remote lockouts still appear on bikes. They give problems and defeat the object of suspension.

 

If you're in a sprint for a podium position, wouldn't you rather be sprinting on a temporarily "rigid" bike? That's my guess anyway, having never troubled the podium myself. 

 

I would be keen to see how the crank brothers dropper post holds out in the long term. Their previous efforts at making dropper posts have been some of the most spectacular failures in mtb product history. Hopefully they have turned a corner. 

Headshot, Feb 21 2018 12:11

I think y

 

If you're in a sprint for a podium position, wouldn't you rather be sprinting on a temporarily "rigid" bike? That's my guess anyway, having never troubled the podium myself. 

 

 

That may well be the logic but in practice that happens how often even at the sharp end? How many people realize that on a climb a moving fork helps the bike climb   - lower front end and rides over bumps better? With this system you cant choose not to lock out the front.    A friend of mine rode most of the Fairtree Contour race with a locked out fork because the hydraulic remote failed. Its not a trail side fix either. 

 

I have nothing against adjustable compression damping btw - that makes a lot of sense and is easy to use via a dial on the top of the fork leg. Its especially useful on steep descents where you want the fork to ride a bit higher in its travel.

Headshot, Feb 21 2018 12:13

But your fork has suspension bushes that needs regular replacement, and suspension bushes has stiction and that is even for the low friction kind. :-)

Ha ha - I'd still take a little bit of stiction and new wipers every 100 hours or more over "resetting needle bearings" every ride :-) 

Christie, Feb 21 2018 12:51

Imo a bike review should show the weight of the bike for perspective and comparison, esp. if "super light build" is stated.

Stefan Cremer, Feb 21 2018 01:13

That $%^&en lockout is the single biggest piece of horse#$%^ that has come out of the Rock Shox stable in recent memory. I have had numerous warranty replacements on the unit and been to the shop on more occasions than I care to remember for the sole purpose of fixing/replacing/servicing it.

 

The rest of the bike really is a treat - it rides as well as it says on the advertisement.

ZXR, Feb 21 2018 01:21

The manual says you should reset the bearings every 50hrs, I wish!!

Maybe not after every ride, but close! 

Headshot, Feb 21 2018 01:24

The manual says you should reset the bearings every 50hrs, I wish!!

Maybe not after every ride, but close! 

Before this thread I'd never heard of this to be honest. What happens when the bearings need a reset? 

Nick, Feb 21 2018 01:26

Weight of the bike for interest sake?

 

10.77 kg on the shop floor.

ZXR, Feb 21 2018 02:33

Before this thread I'd never heard of this to be honest. What happens when the bearings need a reset? 

You loose travel, I've measured as much as 35mm, and the performance is not so good.

Traveler, Feb 21 2018 02:43

Before this thread I'd never heard of this to be honest. What happens when the bearings need a reset? 

 

You just basically align them next to each other again, on Lefty 2.0 very quick and easy. Previous models easy, but a lengthy process which required that you removed the Lefty (if you followed the manual). Have found a loss of travel on a 2.0 PBR 130, to be about 10mm in 2 months, riding about 15hrs a week.

 

https://cannondale.z...-Bearing-System

Meezo, Feb 22 2018 11:10

i attempted a needle reset on the older lefty's gave up after a while, and told my mate take it to the shop!

kosmonooit, Feb 22 2018 12:47

Bike prices have gone a bit nutty, I mean seriously at just short of R100k you would think they at least wouldnt steal half of the fork.  :whistling:

 

 And resale  price halves one walks out the door

kosmonooit, Feb 22 2018 12:58

You just basically align them next to each other again, on Lefty 2.0 very quick and easy. Previous models easy, but a lengthy process which required that you removed the Lefty (if you followed the manual). Have found a loss of travel on a 2.0 PBR 130, to be about 10mm in 2 months, riding about 15hrs a week.

 

https://cannondale.z...-Bearing-System

 

 

Since when did you have to remove the Lefty for a bearing reset?

spy, Feb 22 2018 02:39

would love to hear about the comparison "On the Trail" feedback re the Fork OFFSET between some of the big manufactures that has applied this "new" geo to XCO bikes . Cannondale and Specialized sit on the opposite of the fence re OFFSET and achieve the "trail tolerance" very differently.  

 

 Scott Spark at 51mm ( not sure if its diff between FOX  / Rockshock Fork)

Scalpel Si 55mm

S-Works Epic 42mm 

Titleist, Feb 22 2018 03:43

As long as people are willing to pay the price, shops and manufacturers will charge what the market pays. For R90k I'll order a nice Canyon freshly delivered from Germany thanks very much.

Bizkit031, Feb 22 2018 04:42

BallisTec High Mod Carbon, Cannondales fancy name for just another plastic bike.Never been a fan of the lefty and the maintenance cost on them is absurd.