Today, on the shore of the spectacular Lake Garda, Cannondale unveiled the company’s latest iteration of its flagship World Cup dual-suspension race weapon, the all-new Scalpel-Si. Bicycling spent the last few days in the hills surrounding Lake Garda getting to grips with the impressively capable dual suspension.
In response to increasingly technical World Cup XC tracks, engineers in Wilton, Connecticut spent the past two and half years refining the Scalpel’s design to allow riders the best of both worlds, an incredibly light, stiff and efficient frame with a ride experience that can handle the extreme technical demands of modern day XC tracks. Read on to find out how Cannondale have delivered on their promise to ‘X’ up XC.
According to Peter Valance, Cannondale’s Mountain Bike Product Manger, the three main goals with the new Scalpel were first and foremost to build the fastest possible XC race bike, secondly to maximise durability and fit two water bottles in the main frame making it a killer marathon machine and thirdly to create a better tuned size-specific race fit by designing 29er and 27.5” specific frames.
Cannondale first introduced their Si – which stands for System Integration – design on the F series hardtail, the F-Si. The philosophy hinges on the frame, fork and key components working seamlessly together to maximise performance.
The Scalpel-Si’s hollowgram cranks, Zero Pivot flexstays and Lefty fork are now paired with Cannondale’s offset drivetrain called Asymmetric Integration (Ai) and OutFront steering geometry, which as a package make for an incredibly fast, agile and confident bike. In our opinion, Ai and OutFront geometry are the two main highlights on the new Scalpel-Si.
Ai sees the chainrings and front derailleur shifting 6mm outboard giving the rear wheel room to move forward without comprising on stiffness, tyre and mud clearance as well as 2x compatibility. The rear-triangle has also been shifted to match giving rise to even spoke angles and tension.
The added room allowed Cannondale to shorten the chainstays to 435mm (9mm shorter than the previous Scalpel), which translates into noticeably agile handling on the tight turns as well as consistent grip all round.
Tyre clearance is also pretty impressive with tyre volumes as big as 2.35” able to fit between chainstays. With the current trend of running higher volume tyres this simply adds to the scalpel-Si’s versatility.
OutFront Steering Geometry
The second component to the Scalpel-Si’s agility, and more importantly, to its confident handling is what Cannondale call OutFront Steering Geometry. The approach combines a slacker, 69.5 degree head angle with a longer than normal 55mm fork offset that is made possible by the proprietary Lefty fork.
What this design translates to is a longer front centre improving stability at high-speed and on descents, while the 55mm fork offset retains slow speed agility around switchbacks and obstacles.
How the Scalpel-Si measures up to the competition
The smaller, but no less important improvements
The new Scalpel-Si features a new LOCK’R expanding pivot system that Cannondale claim is 6% stiffer and 10% lighter the previous model. It also uses fewer parts and requires no special tools making it painfully easy to work on. A carbon link is specced on all models.
First the first time, the Scalpel-Si is able to carry two water bottles in the main frame – something that the old Scalpel noticeably lacked and is especially important for the South African market.
The Scalpel-Si’s rear brake calliper is now flat mounted which has helped lighten up the rear flexstays.
Internal cable routing can really be a ballache so Cannondale supply the Scalpel-Si with various modular internal cable routing fittings to make life a bit easier.
On the range-topping Di2 specced scalpel-Si, the new shock mounts have allowed engineers to place the battery above the shock making access easier and allowing for a dropper post to be fitted.
A custom designed Rock Shox banjo neatens up the Monarch’s rebound dial with internal routing adding to the clean finish.
Cannondale have engineered the Scalpel to fit both 29” and 27.5” wheels to offer a better fit for all riders. The specific sizing and wheels sizes can been seen in the below chart.
We weren’t able to verify, but Cannondale claim that the Scalpel-Si’s frame weight with shock, hardwear and rear axel is 2118g making it lighter than its main competitors. Cannondale compared the 247g difference between the Scalpel-Si and S-Works Epic to being the equivalent of having to carry a spare tube and bomb with adapter.
Summing up the Scalpel-Si
While the nitty-gritty details and marketing explanations of all the technologies is great, what really counts is how the bike handles in real world conditions. Cannondale hosted a diverse group of journos for a day’s riding in the hills above Lake Garda to get a feel of what the Scalpel-Si is all about.
In short, Cannondale have delivered on their promise of a lively, confident experience that is truly versatile. The shorter chainstays really do quicken handling and the front end simply dominates technical terrain especially steeper sections – something that XC race bikes traditionally struggle on.
The Scalpel-Si’s speed, versatility and confidence inspiring geometry make it one of the best XC race machines we’ve ever ridden.
Local distributor’s Omnico have supplied us with the following recommended retail pricing