Flow: ‘Hey guys, we’d love to test a 2013 Cannondale Scalpel, what do you say?’
Cannondale: ‘Sure, how about the Scalpel Carbon 29er Ultimate?’
Flow: ‘What, like the eleven thousand dollar one!?’
How lucky can you get? The offer to review and test one of the most incredible bikes available, the Cannondale Scalpel Carbon 29er Ultimate had us feeling excited and quite honoured.
To test this magnificent machine we took the Scalpel to the four day stage race in West Oz – The Cape-to-Cape. The Scalpel was more like a performance enhancing advantage than just a bike to ride. [private]
Performance And Looks To Match
Cannondale and high end bikes go hand in hand, be it on the road or off it. The American brand is blessed with a strong cycling heritage and a wildly innovative reputation that so many brands will never come close to. From our view point down under, we have noticed Cannondale go through some ups and downs, changed hands in Australian distributorship and international direction. Manufacturing finally made the shift from the U.S.A. to Asia and they look to be back on track, and since, their carbon frames have reaffirmed the brand at the top of the savvy cyclists wish list.
Locally Cannondale bikes frequent the race track more than the back country trails with lightweight race bikes like the Flash and Scalpel. These carbon beauties are well known to be some of the lightest on the market and are the choice of those who both appreciate a fine riding carbon frame and have their head around the Lefty suspension.
We were very impressed with the Scalpel’s performance both during the race and when we got it out to our home trails. What really blew us away was how easily it climbed loose trails. Even with fairly skinny 2.1″ tyres the rear wheel traction was in abundance!
And for a 29er, even in size large, we were able to flick it around tight single track turns with ease. Also it’s sharp but not too much of a handful at speed, magic? Not, just quality workmanship.
For 2013, the premium Lefty Carbon 100 XLR has undergone a serious makeover. Gone is the big rubber boot and in place is a more traditional looking round inner leg and seal. The key to the Lefty’s stiff and precise operation is the needle bearings inside, and this new version uses a hybrid of needle bearing and bushes (bushes are found in traditional telescopic forks).
The forks performance improved over time as the compression and rebound felt very slow to begin with. Whether is was caused by an oil flow restriction or simply the bedding in of the bushes and seals is unknown, however it did improve. Lockout is via a Rockshox XLoc, and it fit neatly within reach of the left thumb. Not only did the fork feel smoother than Leftys of the past, the damping properties impressed us. With less brake dive and unsupported compression damping this Lefty is the nicest we have ever ridden.
Do We Have To Give It Back?
We had to give it back, which was a massive shame. Premium components aside, this bike is simply the ultimate race bike. Thankfully the Scalpel does come in other price points, in carbon or alloy versions, so there is a Scalpel for many more budgets.
The sharp and zippy geometry of the bike lends itself so well for the race track, or the rider looking for one of the most efficient rear suspension bikes around.