Cannondale Jekyll 3 2013 review

Our newest test rider is something of a rarity in the world of mountain bike testing; he is willing to speak his mind. However, for his own safety and for the sake of covering our backs, we won’t be revealing his identity. What’s the point in that?

Well it means that our man can put his huge experience in the world of bikes – which includes decades of riding, racing (as a pro), working in the industry and, not least, working in the MTB media – truly into use as he gives bikes and products a good seeing-to and reports back on his true views and opinions.

Carsick John lives in many places, rides in many events (still) and has experience of just about every bike product ever made. He knows his stuff.

For starters, John has beamed over this write-up of his findings when trying out the 2013 Cannondale Jekyll 3 – a bike that has carried Jerome Clementz to innumerable victories and podiums but a model in the range which leaves a little to be desired…

Take it away, ‘John’:

Cannondale Jekyll 3 – 2013

Words: Carsick John

Cannondale Jekyll 3 which Carsick John took to the Canary Islands for his long winter break.
Cannondale Jekyll 3 which Carsick John took to the Canary Islands for his long winter break.

The Frame

The Jekyll is Cannondale’s ‘over mountain’ range of bikes with the Jekyll 3 being their mid-range alloy offering.

It features Cannondale’s on-the-fly travel adjustment of either 90mm or 150mm, which essentially boils down to a lever on the bars which adjusts the travel from 90mm for climbing and 150mm for trail and downhill.

The frame itself is aluminium and branded as ‘smart-formed’, I’m guessing that alludes to it being cleverly hydro-formed. The frame features all the latest buzzwords currently doing the marketing cabaret circuit: BB30, ISCG, 1.5 heatube, 142×12, Syntace, etc, etc.

The geometry is what you would expect; 67 degree head tube, 73 degree seat tube, a relatively short 16.9” chainstay and pretty stable wheelbase of 1131mm.

Weight wise at around 13.5kgs the Jekyll 3 is also in the right ballpark to make a great starter enduro race/weekend-in-the-mountains bike.

Incidentally, in John's words,
Incidentally, in John’s words, “The WTB Volt Saddle is one of, if not THE most uncomfortable saddles ever.”

The Kit

At £3199 the Jekyll 3 is not exactly cheap, but on paper for a Cannondale alloy ‘smart-formed’ frame with some nice bits of kit hanging off it, the price starts to look more reasonable.

The components; Fox 32 Float 150 CTD forks (not Kashima), SRAM X7/Shimano XT pick ‘n’ mix gearing with an XT clutch rear derailleur, Magura MT2 brakes, Shimano MT68 tubeless ready wheelset all finished off with the usual higher margin own brand seatpost, stem, grips and bar combo. However, even though own brand parts tend to suck Cannondale have managed to do a very decent job on their parts with the bars even being a reasonable 740mm wide.

The Ride

Shamefully my last ride on a Cannondale was in 1990 at the UK National MTB series. So 12 years later [Editor's note: John, did you take maths at school?], I’m more than ready to get re-acquainted with a Cannondale and especially as it’s on Gran Canaria, the only place in January where you can find lobster red Brits, fish ‘n’ chips and sunshine.

Putting the tagline to the test…OVER – MOUNTAIN:

OVER…Going up with the travel locked down to 90mm and the CTD forks set to ‘climb’ the Jekyll was like an overweight XC bike, but it was much more nimble than it looked and much better at climbing than some 150mm bikes in this category. The travel was firm but still soaked up the smaller bumps and never became too harsh. The front wheel stayed planted and on the steeper sections the gearing/suspension made it easy to spin without shifting to the granny(ish) smaller front ring. So my first move would be to shed some weight and go with a 1×10 set up.

After the up comes the fun, and into some flowy rock strewn singletrack. Flip the switch on the bars, extend the travel to 150mm and you can feel the bike physically change underneath you. Followed by an annoying quick stop to change the fork’s profile from ‘climb’ to ‘trail’ to mirror the rear and the change was easy to feel, much more supple over the trail debris and rock mayhem, yet very stable and planted, which immediately instils the confidence to start hammering.

MOUNTAIN…or down as I’m interpreting the tagline. Yet another stop to change the forks from ‘trail’ to ‘downhill’ and I’m starting to get a bit bored with the concept now.

Then a quick lowering of the saddle, (a dropper seat post would be an essential on a bike with an OVER MOUNTAIN nomenclature like this – thankfully it does appear on higher-spec models) and it’s on.

From the onset of gravity-induced speed came the Jekyll’s first real test: a rock drop into a tight right-handed bermed corner.

A whole lot of linkage and shock, but it does work well. The bike is simply let down by the choice of fork though. Higher priced models in the range, however, do come with Fox 34 or 36 forks as standard and a dropper post.
A whole lot of linkage and shock, but it does work well. The bike is simply let down by the choice of fork though. Higher priced models in the range, however, do come with Fox 34 or 36 forks as standard and a dropper post.

After the large landing the Fox 32 Floats showed their true colours by soaking up most of the front travel in an instant and then wallowing in their own moment of inadequacy before entering the corner where any line choice was surrendered by the total lack of tracking from the under-gunned forks.

The rest of downhill trail was more of the same with the rear travel begging to go faster, its 150mm plushness soaking up everything, whilst the forks whimpered to slow down.

Over the course of the next few days it was more of the same. Riding up and over, anywhere the forks didn’t need to be put to the test, the ride was great, but point the Jekyll down and say hello to man vs. bike.

It’s pretty hard to get a realistic picture of the Jekyll 3 as the mismatched forks let this bike down so badly. The Jekyll’s frame and suspension platform clearly have a lot to offer but without the right forks the Jekyll 3 can never achieve its potential, although I have to add that I’ve ridden a lot of very competent bikes in this category that have a much simpler suspension platform that works just as well, albeit not with the adjustability of the Jekyll.

It’s hard to understand why you would part with £3199 for the Jekyll 3 in this configuration. It’s too much bike to be used just as a trail bike and it’s a pretty bad move to buy a bike that needs a fork upgrade immediately as the forks alone can easily be the second most expensive part of your bike.

If you really want a Jekyll 3, I guess at time of purchase if you could persuade the bike shop to upgrade the forks to either a Fox 34 or Fox 36 fork (the more expensive models in the range are, indeed, sold stock with them) then bingo you’d have a much better bike.

Verdict

In short, as this bike fits into the All Mountain category I can’t understand why it was specified with a Fox 32, as these forks really have no place on a frame like this.

Pros

Stable and confident ride; climbing and trails
Quality constructed frame
Reasonable weight and some reasonable components

Cons

Component mismatched shocker – fork
The WTB Volt Saddle, a seriously painful saddle

Cannondale Jeykll 3

Price: £3199
For more information and spec, click here: Cannondale Jekyll 3

  1. ronald

    Good stuff. Thanks BikeMagic

  2. serge the seal of death

    why do all these all mountain bikes have that split top tube?

  3. Jeddz

    This is a review of the fox 32 which we all know is a noodle but still comes on most ‘all mountain” offerings. I run my jekyll with a lefty for this reason.

    1. AntB6

      Jeddz, how do you find your Lefty equipped Jekyll?? I’ve just picked up a 2012 3 for a great price & am swapping parts from my Rz 140 including my Lefty Max PBR, was wondering how you find the performance with the 150mm Flow mode?

      Ta,

      Ant

      1. Jeddz

        http://forums.mtbr.com/cannondale/maybe-question-mendoncyclesmith-835480.html

        I think the 140mm at the front and the 150 at the rear causes a slightly unbalanced feel in the fast descents. See the post.

    2. AntB6

      Ta Jeddz3, will keep an eye on that thread to see if anyone chirps in.

  4. Odom

    Totally agree with is review and I’ve been riding a Jekyll for two years now (albeit the Carbon). Absolutely has to have a dropper post and the Talas Fox 32 is a pain to change when riding (and not that good). The bike is great for going uphill and down hill. Rides completely differently in long travel and short travel. Trouble is you need different tyres; for long travel big country fatties and XC blasters for short travel. Hell of a lot of money to spend and find you need two sets of wheels!

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