I picked up my new Cannondale Scalpel 29 Carbon 1 last Saturday. Wow! It is a very visually appealing bike to say the least. Some things the photos have not really shown were the width of the top tube and the “S” bend of the seat tube to make way for the front derailleur, very unique to be sure. The rear seat and chain stays are also very thick. In person, the bike just looks very aggressive and robust; it is nothing short of awesome. I ordered a large and elected to replace the XO brakes for the World cup version of XX. I decided to keep it a full SRAM kit for simplicity sake and also because my lbs has SRAM parts readily available. Weight on my size large was 23.04 lbs on the shop scale. Apart from adding an Arundel cage and XTR pedals it is bone stock.
So after picking it up on Saturday it was not until Monday that I was able to get my first ride in on the new machine. I want to preface my ride report with some of my experience. I am 6’2”, 175 lbs and race CAT 1 XC, 100 milers, 24 hours, etc. I’ve been moving away from XC towards endurance since I’m getting tired of the pain of XC racing at 39! My previous bike was a Yeti ASR-C and I loved it. However, I had the chance to demo an Orbea 29er while the Yeti frame was being warrantied (for the 3rd time) and I really liked the feel of the 29er more underneath my gangly physique. The Yeti was an awesome bike but 3 frames being warrantied really concerned me so I sold it. I own a Cannondale Super Six and that is what led me to starting looking at this bike.
So first ride out: wow! When I first starting riding I knew from experience the big wheels would make the turns flow much more. This bike was better than the Orbea though because it rarely lost contact with the ground, despite how rough things became. Riding on hardback with heavy leaf cover with a root/rock scattered here there, I did not feel like I could override this bike’s ability. I still did not push it to the limits, but I can say those limits are much greater than the Yeti’s. The adjective that kept running through my mind was “direct.” This bike is so precise, direct engagement of pedal input; direct feeling on the steering, direct shifting; everything just felt very “connected” if that makes sense. One example I’ll give is running over a loose rock in the middle of the trail. Previous bikes would absorb the impact and then give a secondary bounce to the left or right, leading to a rough or unstable feeling. The Scalpel addressed this with a very secure feeling lateral bounce and rested back down with a very direct/solid feel. I think this has mostly to do with the combination of the Lefty and big wheel, but also contributing to this is the very noticeably light front end. This is the lightest front end I have ever felt on a bike, which has included carbon forks and high end 26” wheel sets. The pedaling input also feels very stiff and direct. It is the stiffest pedal input of any frame I’ve ridden. I expected this because of the size of the PF30 BB and the massive seat stays and chain stays. One slight annoyance was that my calves would regularly hit the seat stay, nothing major and something I was able to overcome. On one climb that is very steep with rocks, I’d have problems spinning out on the Yeti. I expected that not too happen on with this bike and I was right. The big wheels and suspension kept it securely hooked up and I motored up what used to be a 50/50 rideable hill. The Schwalbe’s only spun out one time climbing, but I think that was more gear selection and leaves over loose rocks. They seem like they’re going to work pretty well for me and running them at 27psi probably helped, but I think I may run them even lower next time out because the sidewall flex did not ever appear like I was coming close to the rim.
One other thing about this bike I noticed is that it is quiet, damn quiet. I kept trying to figure out what was different about the ride (besides the feel) and I realized I never heard the chain slap the frame. I’m not sure if this is the XX derailleur or the design of the frame, but I noticed it and I really like it. The Yeti was louder than a busted chainsaw going through rock gardens, so maybe that it is why I noticed this bikes stealthy silence. The shifting also was very direct and quiet and I can tell that I am going to be very happy with the 2x10 setup. Having ridden XTR triple cranks for the last 6 years, this was a huge step up. If you been contemplating 2x10, do it; I’m sold.
You can probably tell I am a huge fan of this bike, however; it can’t always be all puppy dogs and ice cream. Some things that weren’t what I expected. As I mentioned I changed out the XO’s to the XX WC brakes. I’ve had Avid brakes in the past and I haven’t been a fan. I’m not sure I’ve changed my mind on these brakes. After riding XTR these felt really industrial on their modulation. I just don’t like the metal on metal feeling you get with Avid/Sram brakes. I may switch the pads to organic to see if that will help because overall power is fine. One other strange thing is the cable routing on this bike. It looks like an afterthought. The derailleur cables run on the underneath side of the down tube, but the rear brake line runs on the top left of the down tube, being secured by a clamp that doubles as the lower bolt for the bottle cage. It makes for a weird juncture at the left side crank arm and really just kind of looks ugly on an otherwise beautiful bike. I don’t know why they would not have just had all 3 cables/lines run down the bottom of the down tube. Nothing major, but I thought I’d mention it. The area reserved for the bottle cage is also a little tight, but I was still able to use a 24oz bottle with just a slightly different process to get it removed and resecured quickly. These are not huge issues and do not take away from the primary purpose of the bike.
I have a pretty good bar to seat drop and I really feel secure and fast on this bike. I think I read on another forum somewhere the feeling of sitting “in” the bike vs. “on” the bike. I just feel it “click” in as soon as the pedals start turning. This bike does everything very well and I have no doubt we will see several thousand miles together, miles that will be seen a lot more quickly and comfortable than I have experienced in the past!
(A few pics from the maiden ride)
EDIT: Put paragraphs back in!
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