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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 


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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.

 

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27 Comments

Stoffel76, Feb 23 2018 02:06

I got loaned a 2016 model last year for a weekend... It was a terrible mistake - It totally ruined my currently bike for me. Climbing back on my old bike afterwards felt like going from a Range Rover to an old series Land Rover!  :P

fusion01, Feb 25 2018 04:57

"tick boxes for a range of shoppers in the market for a short travel, do-it-all mountain bike" - big contradictions right there. This ain't no do it all and with travel, geo can never be.