Tested: Cannondale Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team

The Cannondale Scalpel is a bike that has always polarised with its weird and whacky frame and ‘fork’ designs since way back. It’s always been a platform to showcase Cannondale’s latest designs and material technologies. The Scalpel was an early adopter of a carbon ‘flex stay’ arrangement, at one point had plastic chain stays, super minimal and light nylon bushing pivots in the linkages, remote lockouts and always with either bold or ultra subtle graphics. Fast forward to today and the latest incarnation of the Scalpel is a beautifully finished bike with attractive and sleek lines.

Let your eyes feast on this thing of beauty.
Let your eyes feast on this thing of class.

A Scalpel is what you’d want underneath you when it comes time to race, its long-standing reputation for one of the finest elite cross country racing bikes made it even more exciting to hear that Cannondale had announced a refresh for 2017. But they didn’t just make small improvements to an already light bike; they totally went to town on it. So when we secured the top model for review we were in for something extra special, here is what we thought of the new sub-10.5kg Scalpel.

For our first impressions and some saucy photos of the lush Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team click here for our Flow’s First Bite.


Sharp name, what’s it all about?

The Scalpel is a purebred racer; there are no two ways about it. Razor sharp in its frame geometry, minimal in suspension amount and built with some of the lightest kit you’ll ever see gracing a bike shop showroom. The Hi-Mod Team is the top option, the highest spec of all the Scalpel models available in Australia comes in at a mighty $11999, but you can see where the dollars lie, with its complete premium parts kit from SRAM, ENVE and FSA.

When we say top-shelf, we mean it. This thing tops out everywhere.
When we say top-shelf, we mean it. This thing tops out everywhere.

We weighed our medium sized bike at 10.47kg after tubeless conversion and without pedals that alone is enough to make the thirstiest XC racer salivate.


Are they all $11999?

Thankfully not! Available in Australia in five models, the one we have on review is the top of the top. Starting at $4399 you get an aluminium frame version, and then there are carbon models starting at $6599 and the premium Hi-Mod carbon starts at $8799. Hit up the Cannondale site for more on the range.


Who needs – or wants – a Cannondale Scalpel?

The Scalpel is the type of bike you would choose over an XC race hardtail if your race courses are rougher, more technical and longer – and they seem to be progressing that way – a dual suspension will always be a safer option. They handle rougher surfaces with more composure, provide more traction on the climbs and turns, and of course, they are a whole lot less fatiguing on the body.

Just because it’s a dual suspension bike the Scalpel is not the type of bike you could simply fit a bigger front tyre and a riser bar and throw down some reckless trail riding, though, it demands way more respect than that. If you want to race short course cross country, Olympic format, marathon, multi-day or your trails are simply buff, and fast then this is your ticket.

So what we’re trying to say here is – buyers beware, this bike sits right on top of the pointy end, and you need to be that type of rider to enjoy and make the most of it. Sitting one step to the left is the Cannondale Habit, similar in construction but far more relaxed and ready for fun trail rides. We’ve ridden and rated the Habit, and it’s rad. Check out our review here: Cannondale Habit SE Review.


What’s new with the frame?

A lot. It’s lighter, slacker, stiffer, longer out the front and shorter out the back. The whole structure is wildly asymmetrical too, what Cannondale call AI (asymmetric Integration), with the drivetrain shifted outwards by 6mm. To achieve a straight bike, the rear wheel is 6mm back the other way. The asymmetry then allows a zero dish rear wheel with even spoke length for a stiff wheel and more clearance for the tyre and front derailleur.

The rear centre is shorter for better handling and climbing traction, ours has a chainstay of 435mm in length.
The rear centre is shorter for better handling and climbing traction; ours has a chainstay measurement of 435mm in length.

The new frame is now Shimano Di2 compatible (and the FSA bars have provisions for internal wiring) with specific ports for the wires and a cradle for the battery inside the frame. And they’ve also managed to retain mounts for two water bottles on the frame, excellent stuff for marathon events or multi-day racing.

Compatible with a front derailleur the Scalpel doesn’t rule anyone out with the option, by using the S2 style mount you can still have a clean frame free from the unsightly front derailleur tab on the seat tube, a nice touch. We’re also very stoked to see Cannondale accommodating for a dropper post with the provisions for internal routing, as the race courses on the World Cup are becoming progressively rougher more of the top riders are using them, we are 100% supportive of this movement!

We’ll be repeating ourselves if we delve into fine details of the new frame anymore, so for a lot more head over to our feature on the 2017 Scalpel here: Cannondale Announces New Scalpel Si.


29er only?

Nope, this medium size one rolls on 29″ wheels, but the small and extra small frames use 27.5″ wheels.


What makes this new Lefty so unique?

This is our first ride on a Cannondale Lefty with the new ‘2Spring’ internals, a small internal part that has taken a lot of development but smacks previous models right out of the park. While the Lefty is very light and incredibly stiff to ride we traditionally had a gripe with the spring rate, it always felt a little harsh when compared to competitors from FOX or RockShox. That has all changed, and this is the nicest feeling Lefty we’ve ridden.

More on how it performs in the ride section below.

One small part has had a huge impact on the suspension feel.
One small part has had an enormous impact on the suspension feel.

2Spring is named for its self-balancing positive and negative air springs a completely new part developed by the team at Cannondale that can be retrofitted to 2014-2017 model Lefty forks and fitted as standard going forward with 2017 bikes.

Want more details on the 2Spring in the new Lefty? Click here.

Ever wonder how the Lefty is so stiff? Check out the size of the axle.
Ever wonder how the Lefty is so stiff? Check out the size of the axle for part of the story.

The Lefty uses the less seen 1.5″ steer tube size, which limits stem options somewhat, but Cannondale Australia keep a vast range of lengths and gradients, and they’re only $50. And we’re told other notable brands like Syncros, RaceFace, Easton, Thompson and Truvativ also make stems for 1.5″ steer tubes so if you want to go higher, shorter or longer you have options.

1.5" stem in 80mm length, shown here in its lowest position.
1.5″ stem in 80mm length, shown here in its lowest position.
A long and low cockpit, but some will need to swap out the stem for a lower height.
A long and low cockpit, but some will need to swap out the stem for a lower height.

How’d it go?

Amazing to say the least, this is an unquestionably fast handling bike! Though it did take some getting used to as we expected, like hopping out of a Subaru Forrester and into the driver’s seat of a Formula 1 race car, it requires focus, or it can become hard to hold onto when the trails get angrier and faster.

We took the Scalpel to a variety of trails, race tracks and got a good feel for where it is most comfortable. One particular ride on the most buff and twistiest singletrack racecourse around, we walloped it, lap after lap we got faster and faster holding great speed through the undulating climbs and finding the limits of how hard you could push the Scalpel in the turns and descents.


Going up.

The cockpit and geometry put you in a position that lends itself to an aggressive attacking style of riding, and when you put in the effort, the reward is immediate. No wonder here, but it’s a very fast and efficient climber! Stand out of the saddle and crank down hard on the pedals, it flies up the hills, with plenty of room for you to move forward over the front end without banging your knees on the bars when gradients are steep and the legs begin to burn. We lowered the stem down on the steer tube for a slightly lower front end; there’s plenty of adjustment range and aftermarket stems

A sub 10.5kg bike will no doubt be a pleasure to climb but coupled with the stout 100mm of travel and a laterally stiff frame; there’s no unwanted loss of energy at all.

Hammer on the pedals and up it goes, it’s a phenomenal climber.

cannondale-scalpel-si-hi-mod-team-0425


Lock it out and unleash the sprint.

The Team model uses the RockShox hydraulic button on the bars, which simultaneously locks out the fork and shock. The rear shock lockout hydraulic is quite impressive the way it travels through the top tube, you never see it. While it’s an excellent feature for quickly locking out for sprints or tarmac, we did find the on/off nature of the lockout a little restricting. We tend to appreciate suspension designs when in their firmest setting can still react to quick impacts to help the wheels from skipping around. The suspension at both ends lacks adjustability, while there is only 100mm we found ourselves wishing for some degree of slow speed compression tuning options, and air spring volume adjustment.

With the lockout so easily accessed at any time with just one press of the thumb lever the bike transforms into a sprinting rocket, and because it is so quick to press we used it to milk every piece of performance on short pieces of trail that we knew suspension would be obsolete.


Descending at speed, woohoo!

The first thing we noticed when we turned the Scalpel down the trails was how well the fork was coping with the quick and repetitive impacts, we mentioned it before, but the new 2Spring internals has done wonders to the Lefty. We were hitting rocky straights off the brakes and could feel how well the fork was working away beneath us, reacting quickly to each impact with little force required to get it moving into its suspension stroke.

The Lefty, dropping into a sharp corner under brakes it feels super stiff and direct, it doesn’t dive backward like a lightweight 32mm legged fork typically would.

You can rely on the lateral rigidity from the front end to let you drop and turn with confidence.
You can rely on the lateral rigidity from the front end to let you drop and turn with confidence.

For such a light frame, the rear end feels very laterally stiff when you push it through corners; it doesn’t wobble on hard landings or chatter across the dirt when the rear brake is locked like we might expect. And with the Lefty leading the way with a 69.5-degree head angle and a long top tube reach there is a lot of bike in front of you, but it still steers so quickly and lightly. It’s quite impressive how far steering geometry has progressed over the years!

Like an eternal tail wind, the light wheels hold their speed really well.
Like an eternal tail wind, the light wheels hold their speed so very well.

The new Scalpel is dubbed ‘XXC,’ not just XC; the extra ‘X’ is for extreme. With more progressive geometry numbers like a longer reach, shorter stem, and shorter chain stays, Cannondale wanted to widen the bike’s versatility to appeal to more than just the racers. While these improvements to make it handle hard impacts and twisting singletrack very well, it wouldn’t necessarily be our go-to bike for fun blasts around with mates on a Sunday arvo; it is still a race bike at heart.


Big bucks, are the parts worth the spend?

You won’t find many bikes with a spec like this out of the box, but you can always trust the folks at Cannondale to do so. The Hi-Mod Team is dressed in the ultimate parts, the lightest and hottest.


SRAM’s finest.

It’s a 100% SRAM bike with brakes, drivetrain, and suspension from the fast moving brand. Most notably is the SRAM Eagle 12-speed drivetrain with its massive 50T cassette; the range altogether denotes the need for a front derailleur, but the whole system operates on another level from their premium 11-speed offerings. The shift action is crisp and light, the drivetrain glides along so smoothly, and the tension on the chain and derailleur cuts out the noise and helps it shift through the wide range even when the trails are extra bumpy.

SRAM Eagle, next level stuff!
SRAM Eagle, next level stuff!
Silent drivetrain, powerful brakes, stiff wheels, superb!
Silent drivetrain, powerful brakes, solid wheels, superb!

You won’t find many bikes with a spec like this out of the box, but you can always trust the folks at Cannondale to do so.

Released last year is SRAM’s new cross country specific brakes, the Level, with a single piston caliper and a minimal lever body without the reach adjustments to cut weight down.

The brakes respond very nicely under the finger with a smooth and consistent feel, and the power is bitey but easy to modulate.


Those wheels though…

The ENVE wheels are a real advantage when you’re pushing the bike around, they strike a perfect balance of weight, rolling speed, compliance, and stiffness. It is no wonder that ENVE is held in such high regard when it comes to carbon wheels across the entire world of cycling.

Raise your hand if you wouldn't want ENVE wheels on your bike!?
Raise your hand if you wouldn’t want ENVE wheels on your bike!?

 


Would we change anything?

We’d have to be pretty damn snobby to want to change anything on a $11999 bike, wouldn’t we? In our minds, the original parts are well picked, thoughtful, and spot on.


Any gripes?

Just a few little niggles with this one, but nothing major. The front brake is a bit of a headache to setup drag-free, in place of a regular brake mount are two black spacers which add additional amounts of movement, and we battled to get the brake to spin freely despite many efforts.

We also noticed that while the tester of this bike may be toward the upper end of a size medium at 180cm tall, we were surprised to see the seatpost was a maximum height, definitely worth keeping an eye on during a fitment assessment. There’s no protection on the chainstay from a slapping chain, while the Eagle drivetrain puts loads of tension on the chain to reduce slapping we did still manage to chip the beautiful paint, so if it were ours we’d look into some form of rubber strip for noise and paint protection. And lastly we did hear the brake hose rattling around inside the frame, nothing a little bit of attention to the cable length and internal housing ports couldn’t sort out.

The two black spacers take place of a regular brake one-piece mount, despite our efforts we couldn't stop slight brake rub.
The two black spacers take the place of a regular one-piece mount, despite our efforts we couldn’t stop slight brake rub.
Max extension, our FSA post was up a long way, not something this reviewer comes across often with a medium size bike.
Max extension, our FSA post was up a long way, not something this reviewer comes across often with a medium size bike.

Enough waffle, verdict, please!

Cannondale has made their fastest bike ride faster, not just by dropping weight out of the frame, but by improving on the Lefty suspension action, tweaking the frame geometry and increasing frame stiffness too. The Scalpel maintains its position in the elite pack of dual suspension bikes that you’d see raced at professional level where weight and efficiency are paramount.cannondale-scalpel-si-hi-mod-team-0378

If you are 100% certain you know what you want, then rest assured the Scalpel will reward even the most earnest racer with ultimate speed.

Flow’s First Bite: Cannondale Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team

On review we have the cream of the crop, the top of the shelf race bike from prestigious brand Cannondale, the Scalpel Si Hi-Mod Team. The highest spec of all the Scalpel models available in Australia comes in at a mighty $11999, but is dressed accordingly in an absolute premium parts kit from SRAM, ENVE and FSA.

Our medium sized bike tipped the scales at 10.47kg after tubeless conversion and without pedals, top that!


UPDATED – Final review is now live, click through to that here.


Greener than a mossy log under a lush canopy deep in the Awaba MTB Park.
Greener than a mossy log under a lush canopy deep in the Awaba MTB Park.
Take a moment to admire the Scalpel's unique asymmetrical shape.
Take a moment to admire the Scalpel’s unique asymmetrical shape.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the review, here is what we are looking at.

Who is the Cannondale Scalpel for?

The Scalpel has been around for many, many years and has always catered for the cross-country and marathon racing crowd with its lean and lightweight frame and minimal suspension travel. It rolls on 29″ wheels, but the size small frame uses 27.5″ wheels.

It’s not for the faint hearted though, this is a seriously fast handling race bike. There is the Cannondale Habit for anyone looking for a more fun and confident trail bike on a variety of terrain, read our review of that one here: Cannondale Habit review.

my17_geo_scalpelsi

Check out the numbers on this one.

It’s a new frame for 2017, what has been changed?

Lighter, stiffer, slacker, shorter, longer etc. The new Scalpel is ‘Built For XXC’ by adding another ‘x’ to ‘xc’ they want the message to be that this is an XC bike that can handle the rougher race courses out there. Shorter chain stays, slacker head angle, increased fork offset, and Cannondale’s new OutFront Geometry. We’ll have more to say on that in our final review.

There’s not a lot of symmetry going on here, aside from the obvious – single sided fork – the rear end and wheel is also wildly offset to help achieve shorter chain stays with good tyre clearance. It’s a trippy bike to look at!cannondale-scalpel-si-hi-mod-team-9735

There’s also a new internal cable routing and provisions for Shimano Di2, and the rear shock remote lockout cable is the neatest we’ve ever seen, travelling inside the top tube to the shock.

The upper shock mount sits inside the top tube, so neat!
The upper shock mount sits inside the top tube, so neat!

For more on the frame details head over to our feature on the release of the 2017 Scalpel here: CANNONDALE’S NEW SCALPEL SI


What is ‘Si’ that Cannondale harp on about?

Si stands for System Integration, where many of the components of the bike are closely integrated into the frame like the cranks, fork, stem etc. Cannondale take this a few steps further than most with their proprietary front suspension ‘fork’, the Lefty.

Si - System Integration.
Si – System Integration.

So what’s new about this new Lefty then?

We have ridden and rated dozens of Cannondale Leftys since 1998 when it was introduced to the world, but they’ve always polarised with their obvious appearance and performance when up against the likes of FOX and RockShox. While we’ve always had plenty of great things to say about the light weight and steering precision of the single sided fork we’ve had just as many unhappy opinions on the plushness and sensitivity of the air spring and damper. At a time where the suspension market is making huge improvements with air spring curves we wanted more from the Lefty, we wanted it to be more supple off the top of the stroke and lighter in the compression tune.

MASSIVE improvements to the Lefty with 2Spring.
MASSIVE improvements to the Lefty with a new 2Spring – the new two coil valve and top-out springs.

Enter 2Spring, a completely new part developed by the team at Cannondale that can be retrofitted to 2014-2017 model Lefty forks and fitted as standard going forward with 2017 bikes. After one short ride we can certainly say that this is the best Lefty we’ve ever felt, far more sensitive and supple over the small bumps and it remains that way when the impacts become faster and harder. So far we’re very, very impressed.

Here’s the word from Cannondale on 2Spring:

“2Spring is named for its self-balancing positive and negative air springs, which are controlled by two coil valve and top-out springs that deliver significant improvements in performance and dependability.”

“First, the coil top-out spring reduces friction, allowing Lefty to move more freely at the top of the travel, which provides increased traction. Second, the simple design combines multiple parts into one and reduces part count by 17% which increases reliability. Third, softer material and reduced surface area at contact points create a soft touch, further removing feedback to the rider. Fourth, the air piston geometry was changed to hold more oil against the seal which keeps the fork moving more smoothly.”

“Finally, 2Spring’s valve and top-out springs have been designed to last the lifetime of the fork, unlike previous systems that required servicing every 100 hours.”

Pretty high spec, is it worth the cash?

It’d be hard to find a bike with such a high spec as this one, especially with SRAM Eagle and ENVE wheels. Then there’s the premium stuff from FSA with the bars and post, and Schwalbe tyres all ready for tubeless. So, yes it is mega bucks, but mega high-end too.

ENVE M50 rims, there's a lot of the dollars.
ENVE M50 rims, there’s a lot of the dollars.

We’ve already had one quick ride on this thing and holy moly it is quick. We were very well acquainted with the older Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 29er Ultimate after a few weeks testing and racing it at the Cape to Cape, and already this feels like a very different beast. Once we got the suspension setup and tyre pressures sorted we began to put huge confidence in this bike and really let it gallop on fast singletrack, we were absolutely flying. For such a rapid handling front end, there was also a lot of stability on the descents, not what we’d expect from a racey 100mm travel 29er.

As we gear up for a few more solid test rides we’re going to get to know the details behind the 2Spring part in the new Lefty, and investigate what tuning capabilities there are with the front and rear suspension. We’ll also look into stem configurations too, we may want to get those bars down a little lower and we also noticed our medium frame had us nearing the limit of the seat post maximum height out of the frame.

Stay tuned, we’re going to love sinking our teeth into this one!

Flow’s First Bite: Cannondale Jekyll Carbon 2

On review we have the Jekyll Carbon 2, a bike that is so enduro from every angle.

We recently reviewed the all-new Cannondale Habit SE, the short travel trail ripper and we LOVED it. – Habit SE review.

Cannondale’s director of suspension technology, Jeremiah Boobar was in town recently and we grabbed him for a chat about mountain bike suspension, product testing, Cannondale, Lefty’s and setup. It’s worth a read for sure.  Interview: Turning Bumps Into Heat With Jeremiah Boobar.

_LOW0034
A Jekyll with a Pike!

The Frame

The Jekyll is about as unique as they come, with a wild looking suspension design and a pull shock at the heart of it all. The FOX DYAD rear shock looks more like an underwater breathing apparatus than a mountain bike part, but what it achieves is pretty cool.

_LOW0050
Two air chambers, two rebound dials.

_LOW0042

The FOX DYAD rear shock. Our first experience with the FOX DYAD rear shock was with the Jekyll’s kid brother, the shorter travel Cannondale Trigger which we’ve spent some time on – Trigger review.

The FOX DYAD RT2 shock is a pretty wild concept. Rather than compressing like we are used to it pulls apart, and is actually two separate shocks in one unit. Using the remote lever on the bars, you can switch between ‘Flow’ and ‘Elevate’ mode, with short (95mm) and long travel (160mm) modes.

The adjustment subsequently has an impact on the bike’s geometry. We’ve seen Cannondale and Scott use this style of suspension adjustability to great effect, there is nothing like hitting that lever when the trails turn up, sharpening the angles, lifting the bottom bracket height and reducing the travel for better climbing efficiency.

_LOW0014
The upper linkage plate is super-wide.

 

The remote lever for the DYAD rear shock can be mounted above or below the bar, we're experimenting with it like this.
The remote lever for the DYAD rear shock can be mounted above or below the bar, we’re experimenting with it like this.

Geometry: The Jekyll comes from Cannondale’s ‘Overmountain’ category, with a 67 degree head angle and a 592mm horizontal top tube measurement, it’s a long and slack bike, just how we like a 160mm travel bike to be. 

The chainstays are 440mm, that’s pretty long but will also translate to some serious high speed stability.


The Parts

First thing that stood out to us is the absence of a Lefty, and in its place is the more familiar RockShox Pike. Since the late nineties we have become used to seeing Cannondale’s distinctive Lefty up the front of their bikes but in our experience we’ve had mixed feelings with the unique single sided suspension ‘fork’, the Lefty has its benefits when it comes to weight and steering precision but also downsides when it comes to the damper when compared to modern FOX and RockShox forks.

The Lefty usually dominates our thoughts when reviewing a Cannondale, making this model Jekyll even more interesting, as everyone is familiar with the brilliant Pike by now.

_LOW0012
160mm travel Pike on a Jekyll, this should be interesting.
_LOW0015
The big 1.5″ head tube looks massive without a Lefty steer tube through it.

It’s a SRAM show with the drivetrain and brakes, but Cannondale handle the cranks with the trick looking HolloGram SI crank and SpideRing one-piece chainring and spider. The cranks run through the big BB30 bearings, the whole crank area looks very neat indeed.

The wheels will need to be converted to tubeless before we get going on it. The tubeless ready Schwalbe tyres should seal up fine, but the rims will need tape and valves that aren’t supplied.

_LOW0005
The distinctive 30 tooth SpideRing on the HolloGram SI cranks.
_LOW0021
Very nice brakes, the SRAM Guide RSC.

Righto then that’s the highlights, lets put it to the test.

Stay tuned for our review soon!

Tested: Cannondale Habit Carbon SE

It was the second time that we found ourselves lying in the dirt laughing in pain that we decided we really liked the Cannondale Habit SE. Counterintuitive it may be, but often it’s the bikes we crash the most which we like the most. A bike which is digs you in the ribs and says ‘you know, you could probably double that up’, ‘there’s an inside line there’. A bike that’s the devil on your shoulder – that’s the Cannondale Habit SE all right.


Cannondale Habit SE -29

The Habit is a bike that excites us, and puts Cannondale back up where it ought to reside in our esteem. You see, we’ve always adored the raw racing aggression of the Scalpel, but when it comes to bikes for the larger trail-riding market, we don’t feel that Cannondale has been on their best game until now. The Trigger series which has filled this niche for C’dale over the past couple of years is certainly capable, but it never dunked our biscuit like we wanted. Nice bikes, but the weight and complication of the FOX DYAD shock seemed unnecessary, and the previous version of the Lefty was tough to get along with.

And now here’s the Habit, which on paper might read a lot like the Trigger, but on the trail it tells a different tale.

Cannondale Habit SE -28

[divider]Who is it for?[/divider]

The Habit is part of the new guard of aggressive trail bikes: 120mm of travel with 27.5″ wheels, slack geometry, a short chain stay. We’ve ridden a bunch of these recently (the Trek Fuel EX, the Focus Spine and more), all bikes which 27.5′ wheels and great suspension have enabled to absolutely shred.

Cannondale Habit SE -25
The Habit’s dropped top tube offers great standover height.

Being the ‘SE’ version, this bike takes the penchant for rough and tumble a little further than the rest of the Habit line, with a 130mm up front, which slackens the head angle to 67.5 degrees. Its target audience is the one-bike-rider, someone who doesn’t want a quiver in their garage, but needs a bike that’s light enough for the odd marathon race perhaps (and at just over 12kg, that’s certainly the case here) and is confident and burly enough for some over-enthusiastic play.

Cannondale Habit SE -13

As we’ll elaborate on more later, it’s a bike that respects authority. Don’t try and baby it, give it your best drill sergeant impression and torment it instead. As such, we feel it will be best in the hands of a fairly competent rider. Those looking for more cushiness or a bike that will soak up mistakes will be happier on the Trigger or perhaps the Jekyll.

[divider]The frame[/divider]

The presence of the Lefty is pretty overpowering, but ignoring this element, the Habit is a pretty traditional looking bike. It shares a lot in common with the lines and look of the Scalpel actually. The mainframe is built from Ballistec Carbon which is said be more resilient to abuse than Bob Hawke’s liver. The rear end is alloy, and you’ll probably notice there are no pivots out pack, the Habit uses a flex stay instead. Doing away with a pivot is lighter (tick), stiffer (tick) and there’s less complexity (tick!). On the downside, flex stay designs aren’t usually as smooth as a pivot-equipped rear end, and that’s the case here too.

Cannondale Habit SE -30

In between front and rear ends you’ll find a one-piece carbon swing link, and a RockShox Monarch shock. It’s nice and roomy, with muchos space for a proper sized water bottle too.

Plenty of space there for a bottle.
Plenty of space there for a bottle.

More stifferer: Cannondale pioneered the BB30 bottom bracket system found on the Habit back in the day, and it makes for a whoppingly stiff platform to bolt the SI cranks too. The head tube is similarly oversized, and the Lefty has a full 1.5-inch steerer. All the pivot hardware uses expanding collet style fittings, again ensuring a rock solid connection between front and rear ends.

Cannondale Habit SE -26
Cleanly done, and with no play or flex to be found. The Habit’s suspension is rock solid.

Clean cables: Four cables is a good number. Two for brakes, one for your rear mech, one for your dropper post. The Habit doesn’t need or use any remote lockouts, with both fork and shock lockouts easily accessible. Using a combo of internal and external cabling, the Habit is mechanic friendly, but still visually clean.

Cannondale Habit SE -19
SI cranks in a BB30 bottom bracket.

[divider]Is Lefty alrighty?[/divider]

The 130mm-travel Lefty PBR 2.0 is stiffer than a frozen kipper – you’ll not find another front end this precise outside of the realm of downhill forks. Internally, the fork now uses a hybrid bushing-bearing design, and the slider is square-shaped and runs on needle roller-bearings, which means it cannot twist like a regular fork. Point and shoot – it’s the main contributor to the Habit’s inclination to bite off more than you really ought to chew.

Cannondale Habit SE -22

The Lefty packs all this aggro potential into a light chassis too, at 1950g. Externally, your adjustments are limited to air pressure, rebound and lockout, the latter two of which are located atop the fork leg for easy access. You just push the green centre button to lock it out, and the external button to unlock it. You don’t need to be precise or grapple with a lever, which is ideal for those last second unlocks at the top of a descent.

Cannondale Habit SE -4
Green – push to climb. Red – push to descend. The red dial also adjusts rebound.
Cannondale Habit SE -17
The lower slider is protected by a neat guard.

There has been a bunch of internal twiddling to improve the Lefty’s ride quality, and it’s definitely much better than previous versions. Better, but definitely not as good as some of its competition, such as the FOX 34 or RockShox Pike. We still found the Lefty’s rebound circuit overdamped, so we needed to run it as fast as possible to get an adequate rebound speed. Admittedly, heavier riders who will be running more air pressure will likely use more of the rebound range. The initial stroke sensitivity is great now, so it’s good over the smaller rubble. Repeated fast impacts are also much better than in the past, but compared to the amazing reponsiveness of the RockShox Charge or the FOX FIT4 damper, the Lefty 2.0 has a way to go. Cannondale have some good minds on the job, so we’re hopeful.

In our mind, it looks bad ass. (Or just bad, according to some people.)

[divider]The package:[/divider]

Cannondale Habit SE -23

Flawless brakes and drivetrain: SRAM’s X1 1×11 setup is just so good. Not only is the gearing range whopping, but even after taking the derailleur on speed date with a large rock, the shifting remained perfect. The Guide RS brakes have an excellent lever feel and with 180mm rotors at both ends the power and control is on a level that even Putin would be impressed by.

Cannondale Habit SE -6

Fabric butt pleaser: Cannondale’s parent company Dorrell have acquired saddle brand Fabric recently, and their Scoop saddle is not only colour matched to Elton John standards, but it’s one of the comfiest saddles we’ve used.

Cannondale Habit SE -15
The WTB rims are tubeless compatible and seems strong so far, but we’d swap the tyres out.

Mediocre rubber: Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic is a good tyre, but the cheaper ‘Performance’ version found on the Habit isn’t on par with the rest of this bike. We really wish this bike had come with the gripper and more resilient SnakeSkin / Trailstar version of the Nic. The rims are tubeless ready, but past experience has proven the light sidewalls of these stock tyres aren’t really optimal for tubeless use.

Cannondale Habit SE -7
The lever for our KS LEV cracked unfortunately. We’d ideally run the KS Southpaw lever on the Habit.

Good dropper, but needs a different lever: The KS LEV dropper post is a favourite of ours, but the standard remote lever isn’t brilliant. Ours cracked, and it’s not the easiest to operate either, as the lever sits above the bar meaning you need to move your thumb a long way. Thankfully you can retrofit the KS Southpaw lever, which is a neat upgrade, putting the lever in a more reachable location.

Cannondale Habit SE -5

Great cockpit: Cannondale’s own stem and bar are stout, and the width/sweep of the bar felt perfect to us. The grips are unreal too, with a thin diameter that suits the bike

[divider]Ride time[/divider]

Grip it and rip it, baby: The Habit does its best work when you don’t hold back. On one test ride, we took this bike out after a long, tiring week, with a weary legs, and we couldn’t find our mojo. But when we rode the Habit feeling fresh, excited and pumped up, we had the time of our lives. You see, the shape and stiffness of the Habit is built to give you confidence. It’s a bike that derives its awesome abilities to hammer from its geometry, precision and drive, rather than grip or suspension performance. That means you must be prepared to work the trail if you want to get in the groove.

Cannondale Habit Action-2

Climbing: Hanging with the cross-country bikes won’t be an issue on the Habit. The shock lockout lever and Lefty button are within easy reach if you need to really stiffen things up, but it’ll climb efficiently without them. The overall weight of the bike is pretty impressive – it harkens back to the days when Cannondale’s were always the lightest bikes going (though in that era, they were often broken too…) and this is a big contributor to the way this bike goes up. With a 30-tooth chain ring, climbing gears aren’t an issue either.

Cannondale Habit Action-9

Cornering: It’s not a matter of whether the Habit will hold a line, it’s whether you can. This bike had us looking for off-camber inside lines everywhere. Even with loads of pressure in the tyres, we felt super confident chucking the Habit into dubious cornering situations, sometimes with less than upright outcomes. The frame and fork stiffness are the key here, and the Habit reinforced to us once again how often this area is compromised in other bikes. Would this bike be even better in the corners with more supple suspension and better, tubeless tyres? Yes, it probably would, but you’d also lose some of that engagement we enjoy so much.

Cannondale Habit Action-5

 

Descending: As they say, you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. It’s the same on Habit – sometimes it needs finesse, sometimes it cries out for force. When the terrain is loose or sketchy, the less than supple ride of the Habit means you’re best off getting comfortable with the bike bouncing around and skating on the surface, keeping light. But on the opposite side, when things are rough, when there are big impacts or well-supported corners to hit, the Habit absolutely loves being driven straight into the fray with a firm hand. The relatively slack geometry is confident on steep rollers, and the Lefty doesn’t dive into its travel inopportunely so we never had any hint of getting chucked out the front door.

Cannondale Habit SE -1

[divider]Overall[/divider]

Not everyone is going to love the Habit SE. The presence of a Lefty alone is enough to put some people off. The colour is divisive. The suspension is far from perfect. But none of that matters to us, especially when we’re out on the trail grinning from ear to ear as we go back yet again to try and make that tricky inside gap line for the fifth time, or as the rear wheel sprays through a loose corner. This bike feels fast, it feels fun, it feels like Cannondales should. This is a good Habit to have.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Cannondale Habit Carbon SE

Cannondale need no introduction, these guys are legends in all areas of cycling. Their innovative nature may polarise potential buyers with their quirky designs but behind each unique element is a perfectly good explanation.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new model from Cannondale so when we first heard of the trick new Habit we vowed to get on one as soon as possible, it looks like our type of thing.

Read for more on what the Habit is all about, where it fits in and our first impressions before we got it very dirty.


Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-2

[divider]What is it?[/divider]

Slotting in between the featherweight cross country dually – the Scalpel and the mid-travel Trigger, the Habit is an all-new 120mm dually with slightly more relaxed geometry than you’d expect. It’s rolling on 27.5″ wheels, 429mm chain stays and a with a lowly-slung tup tube it looks like a lot of fun straight away.

The ‘SE’ model we have on test is a bit of a half step towards a bigger bike, with a longer 130mm travel fork instead of a 120mm that the rest of the Habit range uses 120mm. This will lift the head angle out to a very trail-friendly 67.5 degrees (half a degree slacker than the regular Habit).

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-31Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-17

The carbon front end joins an aluminium rear (carbon stays on the higher models) with a single pivot suspension design and a sweet little carbon moulded linkage, but take a closer look at the rear end and you’ll notice an absence of a suspension pivot near the rear hub. The ‘zero pivot stays’ rely on a certain amount of flex to make it all work, doing away with a pivot point and all the associated weight and moving parts.

[divider]The ‘Fork’.[/divider]

Let’s just call it a fork, the Lefty is probably the most striking element to any Cannondale, it’s single-sided design has been baffling onlookers sine the late 90s but there’s a bunch of very good reasons they are still around. The latest version ‘Lefty 2’ is on the Habit SE, with 130mm of air-sprung travel it is touted to be the best generation yet, with significant tweaks to the damper units aiming to increase the fork’s sensitivity and lively feel.

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-24 Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-30

The dual crown fork weighs 1950g and slides up and down on a hybrid of needle roller bearings and bushes, eliminating any twisting or biding. For a more in depth breakdown of what makes the Lefty tick click through to the Cannondale link for more.

Our past experiences with the Lefty are a real mixed bag, while we can’t sing enough praise for the steering precision and lateral stiffness we have found some Leftys to feel a little heavy in the damper, with slow rebound and compression speeds. Let’s hope the new Lefty 2 has rectified some of this.

[divider]The Parts.[/divider]

First thing you’ll notice on the Habit is the seriously trick looking cranks. The Cannondale SI (System Integration) cranks use their Spidering SL setup, combining crank spider and chain ring into one unit. It makes for a light and clean looking crankset, and the low range 30 tooth narrow/wide chainring with no chain guide looks so damn good!

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-14

A SRAM X1 drivetrain with the lovely Guide brakes will no doubt be great, and we’re always happy to see a KS LEV dropper post fitted as standard.

The WTB rims will need a conversion kit to make them tubeless, and you may get lucky with the Schwalbe Performance tyres but they aren’t too good at sealing up, perhaps the Evolution level Nobby Nics with the TLE (Tubeless Easy) casing would be a handy upgrade early on.

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-12

So here we have the new Cannondale Habit Carbon SE, stay tuned for our full review very soon but for now here are some more pretty pictures of a very tidy looking bike.

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-26Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-46

Cannondale Habit SE Flow Mountain Bike-50

Fresh Product: New 2015 Bikes From Cannondale

Cannondale are one of those brands that carry an air of prestige both in and out of the cycling world, you can bet that your mate at work who doesn’t ride will know of Cannondale as a premium brand. With a hole-proof line up of top end mountain and road bikes, these guys have a rich heritage in the race scene with their supremely lightweight frames.

With their proprietary suspension ‘fork’ the Lefty, and wild FOX rear shocks Cannondale don’t blend in with the rest, and aren’t afraid to show off their engineering talents. Cannondale may have been a bit quiet in terms of visibility in Australia, but with a recent move to the massive bicycle and motorcycle distributer, Monza, we’ll surely see more of these sweet bikes on shop floors and out on the trails in Oz.

We stuck our head into the Cannondale marquee at their recent 2015 range launch, and these are a few the bikes that caught our eye.

*click on the smaller thumbnail images to expand and more info.

[divider]Cannondale Jekyll 27.5[/divider]

The Jekyll has been around for a very long time, but the name is the only common component, it’s been reinventing itself over and over into a real all-mountain bike, with a whopping 160mm of travel front and back dressed in a parts kit that is clearly ready for some seriously hard riding. The top shelf Jekyll Carbon Team was the first bike that caught our eye in the whole room, it’s a mighty head turner and wherever you look there is impressive technology features and immaculate finished detail all over the frame.

Now only in 27.5″ wheels, the Jekyll is the biggest suspension bike in the Cannondale catalogue, and in Australia two carbon models and one alloy version is available starting at $4999.

Cannondale 2015 45
The Jekyll Team Carbon joins the elite sub 12kg 160mm travel bike club, but you need to spend $8999 to get it.

There are so many unique features to the Jekyll, but it’s the fork and shock in particular that really make up this unique ride. The new Lefty Max is a whopping big fork, with 36mm lowers that slide on a combination of concealed bushings and roller bearings inside its huge carbon chassis. The Lefty will always freak people out with its appearance, but they do ride great with category leading low weight and massive steering stiffness. We often wonder if Cannondale should spec more FOX or RockShox forks to simplify things for the new consumer, but with Cannondale being all about the system integration, maybe they just wouldn’t have that solid and light feel on the trails?

The Jekyll starts at $4999 in an aluminium frame, and up to the Team one we have here for $8999.

Cannondale 2015 19
The carbon Cannondale bikes are all about big, wide axles with minimal material. A huge 15mm axle on the upper linkage is super wide to keep the crazy light frame laterally rigid.

The FOX DYAD RT2 shock is also a pretty wild concept. Rather than compressing like we are used to, it pulls apart, and is actually two separate shocks in one unit. Using the remote lever on the bars, you can switch between ‘Flow’ (what a great name…) and ‘Elevate’ mode, this – to over simplify things – converts the bike into a descending and climbing mode with short (95mm) and long travel (160mm) modes. The adjustment subsequently has an impact on the bike’s geometry. We’ve seen Cannondale and Scott use this style of suspension to great effect, there is nothing like hitting that lever when the trails turn up, sharpening the angles and reducing the travel without locking it out for climbing efficiency and traction.

[divider]Cannondale Trigger[/divider]

The Trigger is Cannondale’s all round trail bike, two wheel size options 29″ (130mm travel) and 27.5″ (140mm) and geometry that aims to do-it-all in a lightweight frame. Looking a lot like a scaled down Jekyll, the Trigger also uses a FOX DYAD RT2  using the two shocks to give the rider choice of travel amounts to suit the terrain.

The Trigger starts at $3599 for the Trigger 29 Alloy 4, and goes right up to the Trigger 27.5″ Black Inc for a staggering $11999.

Cannondale 2015 53
The Trigger is available in the $11999 Black Inc model, which basically means that Cannondale have spared nothing in speccing the highest quality parts available on one bike… Whew.

We currently have the Trigger 27.5″ Carbon 2 on a long term test, so keep an eye out for our thoughts. Our first impressions of the red rocket are here:  http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/flows-first-bite-cannondale-trigger-carbon-2/

Cannondale-Trigger-27.5-12
Our long term test bike, the Trigger 27.5″ Carbon 2.

[divider]Cannondale F-Si[/divider]

The bike that Kiwi power house, Anton Cooper rode to Commonwealth Gold in Glasgow is now available to the public. The F-Si is their new 29er carbon hardtail with a funky offset rear end to allow a short chain stay for snappy handling but still have the ability to use a double chainring for a big range. Carbon engineering guru Peter Denk is also behind the design of the F-Si, and with a focus on integrating their Lefty fork, a new SAVE seat post and the Cannondale Si cranks to complete the package of a very clean and minimal bike.

Boasting to have the shortest chain stays in its category at 429mm, the F-Si uses new-school geometry and their lightest hardtail frame yet. 

Cannondale 2015 32

You can snag an entry level F-Si for $3999, with four models topping out at the Black Inc F-Si at $12999 with Shimano XTR Di2 electronic shifting.

[divider]Cannondale Scalpel[/divider]

Their sharpest dual suspension bike in the range, the Scalpel is a real marathon racer’s delight. 100mm of fine suspension in on hand to take the sting out of the rougher or longer cross country race tracks, and all the numbers point to a very quick handling bike for the experienced rider seeking ultimate efficiency.

No changes to the Scalpel for 2015. This featherlight carbon frame does away with a pivot on the rear end of the frame in favour of a slight amount of flex engineered into the tubing, one less pivot can keep weight down even further. This is about as close to a hardtail as you get.

Cannondale 2015 22
The second top end Scalpel, for a cool $9999.

We’ll be testing as many of the new Cannondale’s as possible, first up is the Trigger and then we plan to line up a Jekyll and F-Si for review, so keep an eye out for more from Cannondale on Flow.

 

 

Flow’s First Bite: Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2

Cannondale Trigger 27.5 12

Holy smokes that’s a good looking bike! The all-new 27.5″-wheeled, 140mm Trigger is drop dead gorgeous in the flesh. It’s hard to get past the finish and focus on some of the bike’s more unique aspects,  like the chunky new Lefty Supermax fork and the suspension-disguised-as-a-rocket-pack DYAD RT2 pull-shock.

Cannondale Trigger 27.5 16
Glossy!

We reviewed the 2014 Trigger 29 last year and we came away impressed with the precise steering, traction and the bike’s playfulness despite the larger wheel size. This year the trigger is available in both 27.5 and 29er versions, and as much as we liked the Trigger 29er, we think the snappier, smaller wheel size will be just the ticker and we’re frothing to determine the capabilities of this bike!

Cannondale Trigger 27.5 11
Even with the whopping shock, there’s a lot of room in the mainframe for a bottle. The nude carbon / gloss red finish is luscious.

One complaint we did have about the Trigger 29 1 was that the Lefty felt harsh through fast and repetitive impacts, so we’re looking forward to see how this year’s iteration of the Supermax feels by comparison; it comes equipped with “trail” tune, a damper that is somewhere between cross-country efficiency and all-mountain suppleness.

Cannondale Trigger 27.5 30

Continuing the theme of unique suspension, the Trigger retains the DYAD pull-shock. This multi chambered shock can be remotely switched between an 85mm-travel Elevate mode for climbing and the aptly named 140mm Flow mode for descents.

 

The multi-chambered shock has independent rebound speeds for the Elevate and Flow settings.
The multi-chambered shock has independent rebound speeds for the Elevate and Flow settings.
Cannondale Trigger 27.5 14
Mavic tyres? Yes sir. We have a feeling that Michelin may have a hand in the construction of these tyres. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform!

Another element worth a mention is the combination of Mavic tyres and wheels. On first examination, the compound of the tyres feels rather firm. As out first ride is going to be on some rooty, slippery singletrail, we’ll soon know if we have to switch these out for something with a softer compound. We’re looking forward to the ride, but we’ll be sad to get this glossy, classy finish all covered in mud!

Cannondale Trigger 27.5 1
Yep, there are a lot of cables going on, but they’re all routed neatly underneath the down tube.
Cannondale Trigger 27.5 10
With no quick-release axle front or rear (both axles use a 5mm Allen key) the bike’s profile at the dropouts is super slim. While some will lament the absence of quick release mechanisms, we appreciate the extra clearance.