BY Richard Cunningham
Ken Wood launches the Cannondale Jekyll 4 over the rocks at the top of Ted WiIliams. The 150-millimeter all-mountain chassis proved itself at the Southern California DH training ground. Ian Hylands photo
Cannondale’s single-pivot suspension and big-tube aluminum chassis has been around for a long time, but just when the industry is ready to declare it dead, the engineers there seem to be able to squeeze more performance from the design. The 2012 Jekyll, which has been competing successfully on the European Enduro circuit, bears witness to Cannondale’s magic. In this feature, we test the remarkably affordable Jekyll 4. The $3000 All-mountain/trailbike bristles with features, like the remote-actuated Fox-made twin-chamber Dyad RT2 pull-shock and a travel-adjustable RockShox Sektor TK fork that give the bike gravity-bike plushness on the downhills and XC freshness for climbing. Stripped to its elements, the Jekyll 4 provides a cash-strapped enthusiast with a modest, but very capable component selection, showcased by a beautifully-executed 150-millimeter travel frame that is worthy of expensive upgrades in the future. The Jekyll 4 is available in small, medium, large and X-large sizes. The weight (sans pedals) for our medium-sized test bike was 31 pounds even (14.09 kilos).
Jekyll 4 Construction
Cannondale’s Jekyll chassis sports a huge-diameter down tube that widens to three inches at the midpoint to support the pull-shock rocker linkage. The hollow rocker link is welded from two halves to boost stiffness and it clamps 15-millimeter tubular pivot axles designed to provide over-the-top torsional rigidity to the rear suspension. A pair of sealed ball bearings at each dropout pivot location ensure that the Jekyll’s rigid suspension will not be defeated by bearing slop. The rear dropouts are also welded box-sections that feature a Syntace X-12 through-axle and a beefy derailleur hanger. A forked top tube keeps the bike’s stand-over clearance to a manageable height and its underside has screw-in housing guides for a dropper seat post. Down low, Cannondale uses an oversized-axle BB30 bottom bracket that incorporates an ISCG-03 chainguide flange. Finally, the direct-mount front derailleur is mounted to the swingarm so that the cage follows the chain as the suspension cycles to ensure optimum shifting in the rough. Aside from its full-length housing and hoses, the Jekyll’s frame is remarkably free from clutter – an evolved and purposeful looking design.Cannondale Jekyll 4 GeometryAbout That Suspension
Cannondale teamed up with Fox Racing Shox to produce the Dyad RT2 shock, which looks far more complicated than it is in actuality. The pull-shock has three chambers. Two of the chambers are air springs with floating pistons. The center chamber (the pull shock part) pumps fluid into one or both of the air springs, depending upon where you set the handlebar remote lever. When both chambers are open, the Dyad RT2 shock achieves full travel and a more linear spring rate. When the remote lever is activated, (elevate mode) the pull-shock pumps fluid into only one air chamber, which reduces the suspension travel to 90mm and increases the spring rate because there is not enough space in the one air spring to accept the full volume of fluid that the pull-shock can pump.
Each chamber has its own low-speed rebound damping clicker, so technically, you must fine-tune two dampers before you can ride. Getting it right is quite easy and Cannondale provides easy-to-follow set up instructions that are printed on the frame near the business end of the Dyad RT2 shock. Fox Racing Shox also has a dedicated Dyad page
which details tuning and setup as well. Component Check
Allocating a sizeable share of the Jekyll 4’s sticker price to its premium frame and shock should have led to cost cutting everywhere else on the bike, but Cannondale managed to fill out its components quite well. The tires are super grippy 2.35” Schwalbe Hans Dampf on moderately wide, Sun Ringle’ Inferno 25 rims. Shifting is SRAM X.7 with a non-series triple crankset and brakes are Avid Elixir 3 with 180mm rotors on both ends. Cannondale was a first-adopter of the 1.5 head tube and the Jekyll gets a clean-looking internal version of the big headset.
The fork is the coil-sprung RockShox Sektor TK with the Dual-Travel option (150mm/120mm) and a 15mm Maxle quick release through-axle. The cockpit is all Cannondale house-brand, with a 75mm stem (good), clamp-on grips with aluminum end-plugs (good) and a narrow, 680mm handlebar (not good). Incidental, but nice is a smooth-acting seatpost quick release lever which blunts the fact that this very capable machine lacks a dropper post.Cannondale Jekyll 4 Trail Test
With its three-barrel pull-shock and massive frame tubes, the Jekyll 4 was an imposing sight for test riders, who shied away from the Cannondale in favor of bikes with more conventional profiles. After riding the Jekyll 4 a few times, however, the red and white monster became the go-to for almost everyone. Its handling grows on you, and once you learn that you can trust it, the Jekyll 4 becomes a hoot to ride. The odd-looking Dyad RT2 damper kills it on the long-travel mode and, in the ‘elevated’ short-travel setting, the Jekyll 4 climbs steeps with an ease that defies its 31-pound weight figure. The steering feels a tad steep, but that doesn’t seem to hinder its technical ability. During the downhill phase of testing, one of our test riders was happily launching road gaps. In short, the Jekyll 4 got the ‘all-mountain’ stamp of approval well before the testing was done.Set-up notes:
The Dyad pull shock can’t be read for sag unless you have a friend around to measure it (the shaft retracts at rest, so an O-ring indicator won’t work). Otherwise, it was the easiest bike to get right. Follow Cannondale’s printed negative and positive pressure recommendations printed on the seat tube sticker (or visit Fox’s informative Dyad tech page). Up front your options are slim - verify your fork sag (printed on the Sektor’s stanchion tubes), set the rebound and you are good to go. The Sektor’s coil spring must be preloaded internally with spacers if the sag is more than recommended (spacers included by Cannondale).Pedaling/Acceleration
: Even with the unlikely Hans Dampf knobbys, Jekyll riders could easily spin the big ring on fast, smooth dirt and pavement – thanks in part to the shock’s short-travel mode and the fork’s lockout setting. Still, it is a relatively heavy bike and that can be felt anytime one is forced to brake and re-accelerate strongly. With all the aids switched on (shock and fork shortened), the Cannondale can be pushed hard up and over rollers and out of flat corners, but it lags a bit with the first few pedal strokes when accelerating from a dead stop. In its favor, the Jekyll’s frame is famously stiff feeling in torsion, which can be quite a morale booster when trying to reel in an opponent, because you can be certain that you are not wasting leg power on mushy suspension and a flexible frame.Climbing:
On the dirt, with its suspension set hard, the Jekyll 4 makes good time uphill. When the trail got exceedingly steep, lowering the fork was a welcome help to keep the front tire planted on the ground. That noted, it doesn’t feel overly energetic, it just makes its way upwards effectively and without a fuss. While this ‘feel’ is typical of almost all bikes in its class, the Jekyll’s overall climbing speed is at least a gear faster on smooth surfaces.
With its grippy Hans Dampf, knobbies and slightly steeper steering geometry, the Jekyll negotiates tricky climbs with surprising dexterity. Add its thankfully low, 22-tooth chainring and its rider can maintain long pitches of murderous steps and ruts without triggering a pulmonary event. I often clicked the shock into short-travel mode, because it raises the rear end about a degree and gives the bike better balance – especially when climbing touchy switchbacks or slickrock.Technical handling:
Cannondale’s choice of a coil-sprung Sektor fork was a deal breaker for heavier riders who complained of brake dive while negotiating steeps and drops. Riders under 169 pounds, however, reported that the Jekyll felt secure in similar situations. Cannondale packs plastic fork spring spacers to preload the fork and help solve this problem – and if that doesn’t work (it did for us), RockShox offers three spring options for riders who are lighter or heavier than the national average. With its 67.8 degree head angle, a competent rider can take the Jekyll down some tricky descents and during the downhill phase of the test, riders raved about the bike’s cornering and tire selection on the dry, unpredictable surfaces. Still, with the soft fork, a little brake dive can turn that 68 degree head angle into 70 - and we all had one ‘Hail Mary’moment.Downhill:
Initially, I felt less confident dropping down untried sections aboard the Cannondale, but after four rides, I learned that the Jekyll was much more trustworthy than first apparent. Once I got off the brakes and let the Jekyll go, I discovered that it was quite smooth through the corners and stable when I got the wheels off the ground. Armed with the grippy Schwalbe tires, I could drop the wheels into substantial ruts and it would pop right out, which inspired confidence while scouting unfamiliar routes.
Experienced downhillers in the test did not have trouble acclimating to the Jekyll and spoke highly of its cornering and ability to change direction. I learned to put a foot out when I really pushed the bike around flat corners because when it let go, the Jekyll was quite a drifter (a trait that at least one rider raved about). While on the subject; the Jekyll’s Avid Elixir 3 brakes were a sore point, with a squealer up front and pads with an indistinct feel. Once locked up, the Elixir 3 brakes required almost a complete release at the lever to unstick the tire – not an optimum condition for steep sketchy chutes. It should be noted here that the sticky brakes may have been caused by an improper bleed. Suspension action:
Surprisingly, the Cannondale suspension was a top performer, We didn’t have much initial faith in the Dyad RT2 shock, but it delivered in the rough, taking the biggest hits without a fuss. Not saying that the Jekyll is as plush as a big bike – it absolutely isn’t – but it can take a lot of punishment and hold a line. With a fork upgrade, the bike could be pushed much harder still. In short travel mode, the feel of the Jekyll is that of a short-stroke XC rear end. It pedals easily and takes the dullness out of the drivetrain.
The Sektor fork took a lot of oomph to set into the short-travel mode. The fork must be compressed 75-percent of its stroke to set the travel, and that is not easy while climbing technical ascents. Because of this, we often gave up and slogged up steeps with a sketchy steering fully extended front end – not a big worry, but still, having the option and not being able to get it is a pain. Opened up, the RockShox fork was pretty plush feeling and relatively sensitive while cornering at speed over rough surfaces. Good stuff from a value-priced fork. Component report:
Small details, but important ones, appeared on the top and bottom of our love list. Aluminum endcaps on the lock-on grips were sweet, the bars were never plugged with dirt, so neither was the car, the living room or the shop where dirt harvested by other handlebars usually ends up. The fit of the frame and seatpost was smooth, the action of the well-made quick release seatpost clamp was butter smooth and the full length of the post could slide into the seat tube for DH runs.
All was not wonderful, however. We like Syntace’s quick release through axles, but the Jekyll’s Syntace X12 rear axle was a hassle to operate. The axle required a shove to get the threads started – which was nearly impossible to do with one hand, because the Allen wrench required to tighten it slipped into the hollow axle. By contrast, the RockShox Maxle Lite up front was always a breeze to operate. One upgrade that we’d love to have is a double crankset (22 x 38 or 36) with a bash ring in place of the third sprocket. We rarely used the big ring on the dirt and always hit it on something. Finally, wide handlebars please? The consensus was, at least 720 millimeter width bars for the Jekyll. Pinkbike's Take:
|Somehow, Cannondale turned its ordinary single-pivot suspension design into a star performer. For $3000, the Jekyll is a sweet deal for a capable bikehandler that wants a do-it-all trailbike. It is no surprise that the elite level Jekylls are ripping it up on the Enduro circuit - and the Jekyll 4 shares the same frame numbers and suspension. Out of the box, Cannondale put together a true all-mountain bike for an affordable price. Add a more capable fork, wider handlebars and some hard-stopping brakes, and the Jekyll 4 would be tough to beat at any level - which is the unspoken sell of the Jekyll 4. At its core, the frame and suspension is a truly elite level chassis, so investing in expensive upgrades like a more capable fork and a dropper seat post would be money well spent. - RC|
Five-Bike $3000 AM Tests:
1 - Cannondale Jekyll 4
2 - Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp
3 - Giant Reign 1
4 - Santa Cruz Butcher
5 - Norco Range 3