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.
- 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
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.
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.
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).
Mini review: Crankbrothers Highline Dropper Post
Not to steal the Scalpel-Si’s thunder, but one thing we noted in our earlier ‘First Ride’ is that a dropper post would complete the package. This time around we had the chance to fit a Crankbrothers Highline 125mm dropper post to test both the dropper itself and how it affected the feel of the bike.
The Highline is an internally routed, cable actuated hydraulic dropper post available in 100mm, 125mm and 160mm drop options to fit 30.9 or 31.6 diameter seat tubes. The remote lever is smartly designed with a ball and socket type fitting to allow customisation of the placement. I did miss the one-by style remote lever I’ve become used to, but on cockpit sans remote lockout levers there would be more placement options available.
Overall the Highline Dropper worked flawlessly and added to the stable, capable feel of the Scalpel-Si. At 560 grams it does add some weight, but for my needs, it’s a worthy trade-off. While perhaps not required for all riders or courses, for the majority of the market it would be a sensible investment for the sake of enjoyment and ability.
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.
If you’re in the market for an ultra-capable cross-country race bike or that one and only super versatile bike, the Cannondale Scalpel-Si is a worthy consideration. While the Carbon 1 model as tested does come at a price just shy of six figures, there are a number options down the range which share the same key characteristics.
- Super light build
- Impressively stable and capable beyond what you might expect from a 100mm bike
- Internal routing makes for a clean, clutter-free look
- Sticky remote lockout lever
- Price tag on the test model could challenge some budgets