Cannondale Scalpel 2011 First Ride - Bike Magic

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Cannondale Scalpel 2011 First Ride

Cannondale Scalpel 2011

Earlier this week we reported on the all-new Jekyll all-mountain bike (or OverMountain as Cannondale have coined it) but today it’s time for something altogether a bit racier: say hello the new Scalpel.

The Scalpel has been a long-running XC race bike in the company’s range and has always been popular with racers from an amateur level right up to world cup stuff. It is in fact one of the most successful bikes on the XC race circuit, winning an impressive hoard of international victories (you can read more about them here). Being such an important bike for Cannondale it’s obvious that any updates are going to be very carefully considered.

Therefore it’s no surprise there’s no radical changes for 2011, but instead a raft of smaller, not no less significant by their contribution, changes that all add up to make for several big improvements: lighter, stiffer and faster.

So what has Cannondale done to improve on an already very capable bike? For a start they’ve saved a whole chunk of weight, we’re talking about 340g (0.74lb) which is impressive given just how damn light the bike was before they started tinkering with it. Now, the frame and shock hangs off the scales to the tune of 1580g (3.47lb).

This has been achieved by using the knowledge gained in the development of the Flash carbon hardtail. An improved carbon layup using ‘HammerTime’ (and no, we don’t think it’s named after the legendary MC Hammer tune of the same name) carbon fibre – apparently developed by the Japanese Army for ballistic armouring – is reportedly tougher and stiffer than other standard carbon fibre. The monocoque of last year is gone and replaced with a more time intensive tube-to-tube construction process for the main frame, allowing precise control over the frames construction.

A major change to the frame is found when you investigate the bottom bracket area. There’s now a new one-piece chainstay and BB30 bottom bracket assembly which is moulded as a single unit, along with a new seatstay and upper bridge produced in the same manner.

The downtube is as big as you’d expect from Cannondale, a whopping 60mm diameter. To get the right balance of light weight and stiffness, the top tube is actually made from three separate pieces; two longer straight sections with very thin walls connected by a tight radius section of tube which is beefed up substantially to handle the forces generated through the rear shock. But while it’s nearly carbon everywhere you look, the designers opted for aluminium for the dropouts, disc brake tabs and the shock linkage.

Part of the low weight is also down to the lack of a main pivot; the Scalpel has always been a pivot-less design which instead relies on flex in the chain stays and seat stays to produce enough movement to reach the desired travel. A small rocker linkage controls the shock rate and travel is just 80mm, down from 100mm on last years bike. This might seem an odd decision giving the current trend for increasing travel year-on-year, but it actually means the Scalpel is now more race focused than ever before. Just what the Cannondale Factory Racing team riders were after in the new design.

Along with the revised frame is an updated Lefty. It’s been made lighter by virtue of a reduction in the separate parts that make it up, resulting in the Speed Carbon XLR weighing just 1250g (2.75lbs). Travel is down to 100mm of travel, from 110mm last year, and inside there’s a new cartridge damper with increased low speeding damping and a PopTop hydraulic lockout lever (borrowed from RockShoc) with a XC specific blow-off threshold. There’s also a redesigned stem that not only is lighter and stiffer, but also looks far more elegant than previous efforts.

The Scalpel won’t be cheap however, and there are currently no plans for an aluminium version, with just four models on offer (they all share the same frame). Prices will be confirmed very soon.

Read our first ride impressions.

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