The New Scalpel-Si
Cannondale's all-new Scalpel-Si has been designed not only as a flat-out cross-country race machine, but also one that's not a handful on technical trails as so many purebred race bikes can be, including its predecessor. While it used to be all about grams and efficiency, it's now all about grams and efficiency WITH the added caveat that the bike has to be way more than just passable on relatively rowdy terrain.
Cannondale says that the 100mm-travel Scalpel-Si excels when things get technical thanks to its progressive (for a cross-country race bike) geometry, which, coincidentally, might also make it a great short-travel weapon regardless of if you're lining up in a start chute or not.
• Intended use: cross-country racing, riding
• Rear wheel travel: 100mm
• Wheel size: 29'' (on most models)
• 27.5'' wheels on men's small, women's
• Frame material: carbon fiber
• Aluminum entry-level model
• Ai offset rear-end
• Zero Pivot Flexstays
• Lefty forks on all models
• Dual-ring compatible
• Di2 compatible
• Frame weight: 2,118 grams (inc. shock, hardware, axle)
• Lifetime warranty
• Availability: May (for most models)
• MSRP: $3,200 - $12,790 USD
The Black Inc model costs $12,790 USD. Three models down is the Scalpel-Si Carbon 1 that costs $7,460 USD. The Scalpel-Si Carbon 2 costs $6,390 USD. The Scalpel-Si Carbon 4 costs $4,260 USD. Models and Pricing
There are ten Scalpel-Si models in total, two of those being built around more compact female-specific frames and eight of which are available in North American - the Team and Women's 1 are for Europe only. At the top of the pile sits the Scalpel-Si Black Inc that's fitted with XTR Di2, ENVE wheels, and other stuff that doesn't weigh much. It retails for an I'm-a-dentist $12,790 USD, but it all starts with the ScalpeI-Si AL 5, the only aluminum bike in the range, at $3,200 USD. My stealthy looking Scalpel-Si Carbon 3 test bike (shown in the first photo) costs $5,330 USD. The Women's 1 is available in Europe only, and the Women's 2 model goes for $4,260 USD.
The top tier Black Inc, Race, Team, and Carbon 1 models are all built up around Cannondale's Hi-MOD version of the frame that features a different carbon fiber make-up that they say is a ''mix of high and ultra-high modulus fibers to create the stiffening network.'' Basically, they claim that the materials are stronger so they're able to use less of it and hence, the Hi-MOD frames are a bit lighter.
The aluminum ScalpeI-Si AL 5 costs $3,200 USD, or one quarter of the price of the Black Inc model.
Unlike the 29'' wheeled Scalpel that came before it, the Scalpel-Si can be had in either 29'' or 27.5'' wheels, depending on what size of bike you require. The standard models roll on big wheels in medium, large, and extra-large sizes, whereas the small bike is made for 27.5'' hoops. The women's bikes, which come in extra-small, small, and medium, have also been made for 27.5'' wheels.
The Scalpel-Si Carbon Women's 1 is available only in Europe. The Scalpel-Si Carbon Women's 2 costs $4,260 USD.
What Is It?
Cannondale's lightest full-suspension frame to date, but also a 100mm-travel cross-country race bike that they say can handle some properly challenging terrain.
A blurb about the new Scalpel-Si straight from Cannondale: "A weapon that's ultra-light and as stiff as you'd expect - but designed with a lot more capability. For that extra X. This is exactly why we didn't build the Scalpel-Si for just XC. We built it for XXC." The previous version of the Scalpel, with a 71.2° head angle, was most definitely a pure cross-country race bike, but the new Scalpel-Si is longer and a bit slacker, making the bike look much more forgiving and, dare we say it, fun for a machine that's made to win cross-country races. Just because the salt running down your face makes it feel like someone's putting matches out on your pupils doesn't mean you're not having fun, does it?
| The bike's carbon fiber rear-end delivers 100mm of race-oriented travel.|
You'd be better off asking what isn't new, even if the old and new bikes do share some very similar lines between them. What's new is everything, front to back, with an emphasis on creating a frame so light that you feel guilty about that bucket of KFC chicken you ate. How light? Cannondale claims that a Scalpel-Si frame weighs 2,118 grams including the shock.
Speaking of weight, Cannondale says that the bike's injection molded carbon rocker link saves even more weight over an aluminum rocker. This carbon link is used on all of the bikes, including the $2,999 USD aluminum Scalpel Si-5. Sealed bearings are employed all around, besides at the Flexstay, for obvious reasons, and I was told that the bike's designers put an emphasis on making the pivots easy to work on.
Cannondale explained that they've moved towards using collet-style pivot hardware - they call it their LockR Pivot System - for that very reason, and went on to say that it's also a more reliable setup that doesn't require any funky or expensive tools to work on.
Carbon here, carbon there, carbon everywhere.
I think remote lockouts are silly, especially for a bike with just 100mm of suspension, but the Scalpel-Si being designed for cross-country racing means that Cannondale was pretty much obliged to include a go-fast button on their new bike. The Scalpel-Si pedals extremely well when left full-open, as it should, but most racers, especially European racers, feel they need a lockout... I bet Europe would try to fit a lockout to the back of hardtail if they could. So, a single button on the left side of the handlebar offers hydraulic control of both the fork and shock. Push for open, or push when you don't want your suspension to work at all; there is no middle setting offered or required.
| All of the Scalpels are fitted with metric-sized shocks, and models with hydrualic remote lockout see the hose routed down the inside of the top tube for a clean appearance.|
Other niftyness includes a smart internal cable management system that uses replaceable and configurable entry ports that can be set to accept one, two, or three lines (depending on location), Di2 cables, or be blanked-off for a clean look. A small screw preloads the ports to keep the lines from pulling into or out of the frame, and while there is no internal guiding inside, large exit ports should make feeding a new line through the frame a no-swearing kind of job.
Cannondale also includes a clever Di2 battery holder
that tucks up inside of the top tube, just ahead of the forward shock mount, instead of inside the seat tube. This means that riders can run a dropper post and a Di2 battery in unison.
Cable entry ports can be configured any which way you'd like, or be blanked off completely. There are no internal guides, but a large exit port should make it easy to swap lines.
What Isn't New?
Only a few things, the most obvious of which is the Zero Pivot Flexstay design at the rear axle that, as the name says, doesn't employ traditional bearings and all of the associated hardware. Instead, the carbon rear-end is designed to flex to provide the small range of motion that's required. That word, flex, always seems to have a bad connotation in the cycling world, but this could be an ideal place for it, especially on a bike with just 100mm of travel. Cannondale has been doing this for years and years without troubles, as have other brands, and it's worth a good chunk of weight savings.
| No axle pivots required. Cannondale's Zero Pivot Flexstay design provides enough movement for the bike's 100mm of travel but saves weight by not requiring any pivot hardware.|
Asymmetric Integration, or Ai for short, is new to the Scalpel but first used on Cannondale's F-SI race hardtails. It sees the normal 12 x 142mm hub and drivetrain shifted to the right by 6mm, along with equal spoke tension and angles for the rear wheel. Then, the crank's spider moves the chainring 6mm to the right to compensate. Cannondale claims that the design, which they've been using for years now, does everything that Boost accomplishes and more, including making for a compact rear-end without compromising tire clearance (there's a ton of it) or the ability to run two chainrings.
And all that without having to use a funky rear hub that makes everyone angry. That said, it should be noted that you can't just slot in a normal wheel without dishing the rim over by 6mm.Let's See Some Numbers
Might as well start with the digits that you're probably most interested in: Cannondale claims that the 2017 Scalpel-Si Hi-MOD frame (the fanciest version) weighs just 2,118 grams including the shock, hardware, and rear axle. That's only a few grams lighter than the 2016 Scalpel, but they also say that a 2016 Specialized S-Works Epic frame weighs 2,358 grams, or 240 grams more. That makes the Scalpel-Si feathery enough to be one of the lighter production frames on the market.
Cannondale didn't have a weight for the ultra-chic, ultra-pricey Black Inc model, but my Scalpel-Si Carbon 3 test bike weighs 24lb 10oz according to my scale. If you're a downhiller reading this, that's probably less than your bike weighs after you take both wheels off of it.
There are probably some more important numbers than weight, however, especially for those who don't own a bunch of white Lycra shorts or a year's supply of Breathe Right strips: geometry. The gist is that the new Scalpel-Si and its 'OutFront' geometry is longer and slacker than the old bike, and is also slacker and has more fork offset than its most important competition, which is why Cannondale stuck that extra X in front of XC.
Up front, the Scalpel-Si has a 69.5° head angle versus the old bike's sphincter-tightening 71.2° number, a 55mm offset, and trail has been lengthened one-tenth of an inch from 2.9'' to 3.0''. You know, so you don't feel like you're going to die every time you roll into that steep chute. A 17.5'' reach compared to the old bike's 17.2'' ( reach on the large-sized frame means you can run a bit shorter stem, and the back of the bike has been tightened up by a third of an inch to 17.2''. Overall, the wheelbase is longer - 45'' vs. 44.3'' on the large - and all of that should add up to a more capable rig in technical terrain, and also one that's more stable when you're gassed during a race but have to pinball your way down something scary.
Cannondale also says that the Lefty's proprietary fork offset (55mm on the 29ers, 50mm on the bikes with 27.5'' wheels) plays a big role in how their new OutFront geometry feels on the trail.
| Having two bottles inside the front triangle of a full-suspension bike isn't all that common these days.|
One last number for you: two. It's how many bottles can fit inside the Scalpel-Si's front triangle, something that Cannondale said was a priority when they re-designed the bike. This won't be a big deal for some riders, but those who despise backpacks (my hand is up) know how important this is. There is no bottle mount on the underside of the down tube, however, which is a silly place to store something that you're going to be putting in your mouth anyways.
Where's the Rest of the Fork?
It's all there, and I'm sure that Lefty riders are sick and tired of hearing that question by now. You probably can't talk about the Scalpel-Si without talking about the Lefty fork (strut?) given that it comes on all ten models.
The Lefty has been around for well over a decade, and I'd argue (and have argued) that the single-sided fork, with its square stanchion tube and roller bearing strips, makes a lot more sense than using silly fork bushings and depending on arches and axles to keep things pointing in the same direction. The latter has become the norm, however, and anything that's visually different seems to freak people out. Cannondale doesn't seem to give a shit, which I admire, and it doesn't hurt that the Lefty's fork chassis is also functionally awesome.
Unlike a more common fork that employs two round stanchions, the Lefty's single aluminum stanchion is actually square, and the inside of the upper leg matches that shape. Four strips of roller bearings allow the two pieces to roll rather than slide into and out of each other. The square-in-a-square design is what keeps the leg from rotating, whereas a traditional fork slides on bushings and depends on the axle and brake arch for torsional rigidity. There are a few different versions of the Lefty, including a mega-light carbon model, but the Scalpel-Si Carbon 3's fork is the aluminum version. All employ 3D forging to create a one-piece lower leg and stanchion that allows for a round external section, and therefore a more traditional fork seal can be fitted to keep gunk out rather than the old accordion-style fork boot. It also lets Cannondale add a glide bearing to further enhance stiffness.
On the aluminum forks, the same 3D forging creates the one-piece upper leg and fork crown unit that means Cannondale doesn't have to bond or bolt those sections together. Fewer pieces mean less complication and less weight.
The 100mm-travel Lefty 2.0 XLRFS on the front of the Scalpel-Si Carbon 3. The Lefty uses a proprietary hub. Need to take the front wheel off? The caliper mount is slotted, so backing out the bolts by a few turns allows you to slide it up and off without losing your rub-free setup.
Too much tech info, not enough riding info, so let's move on to what matters. Cannondale hosted the release of their new Scalpel-Si in Europe over the last few days, but I didn't attend. Why? Because riding a new bike on unfamiliar terrain isn't usually the best way to see how it handles. Also, I live in southwestern British Columbia, halfway between Kamloops and Whistler, and I'd rather not leave. Would you? So instead, Cannondale sent a $4,499 USD Scalpel-Si Carbon 3 my way so I could put some miles in on trails that I'm extremely acquainted with.
The bike has seen plenty of technical terrain, a bunch of four and five hour days, and a lot of time spent chasing riding buddies on their longer-travel rigs.
I probably don't have to tell you that the Scalpel-Si a crackerjack when it comes to pedaling, but I'm going to anyways. With 100mm of travel and a set of relatively lightweight wheels and tires, the blacked-out Cannondale feels as sporty as you'd imagine on any section of trail where putting the power down will open up a gap between your ass and the guy behind you. It's a race-focused bike, though, so it should do exactly that. I did push the handlebar-mounted lockout button a few times when gassing it up steep fireroads, simultaneously rendering the Lefty and Monarch shock useless, but the bike doesn't really need this sort of attention. Sure, the Lefty fork is quite active, so I could see racers wanting to firm it up for sprinting as needed, and an extra hose from the same remote out to the shock doesn't hurt, I just don't think I'd use it often.
NEWS FLASH: the carbon fiber cross-country race bike is a rocket on the climbs. Moving on now to less obvious facts, including how the carbon fiber cross-country race bike doesn't feel like one on the descents. Okay, with 100mm of travel it certainly does a lot of the times, but I'm talking more about the bike's handling than its lack of cushy-ness. It handles like it's *gasp* a good time!
Last year, I said that Cannondale's 120mm travel bike, the Habit, is one of the best handling rigs that I've ever ridden, and I can definitely see hints of that bike in the new Scalpel-Si. The bike doesn't feel nearly as pointy as I would have expected, even with the 90mm stem that comes stock on it, and while I was obviously moving slower through rough or steep sections than I would on a bike with longer legs, I also never got the impression that the 100mm-travel Scalpel-Si wasn't game. A shorter stem is going on ASAP, of course, but this was after I swapped out the stock carbon fiber seat post for a dropper. Because fun.
The bike simply feels more solid than I expected it to, front to back, but it's how it steers that really makes my eyebrows go up while I'm going down. For a cross-country bike, it is neither nervous nor too lazy, regardless of if I was trucking down a rough doubletrack quick enough to question the outcome of a crash, or if I was creeping down a sniper roll that had my shorts on the rear tire. No, it's not a new-school, short-travel hooligan bike, but it seems to be an extremely capable cross-country weapon that I wouldn't mind riding just about anywhere.
And over the coming months, I am going to be taking it just about anywhere, from three and four-hour cross-country races (hopefully closer to the first number) to trails that probably require a long-travel bike and set of kneepads. Stay tuned.
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