Cannondale and Specialized are both major players when it comes to top-tier XC bikes. With each brand having recently released two new models, a World Cup race machine in the Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod and the Specialized Epic, and a more all-around trail-friendly XC bike in the Scalpel SE and Epic EVO, it only makes sense to draw some comparisons.
The Scalpel SE and Epic EVO are both likely the bikes that most riders will be interested in, and it just so happens that they're the two I have on hand at the moment so let's dig in and see how they stack up against one another on paper.,Cannondale Scalpel SE
The Scalpel has been an iconic bike in Cannondale's line for nearly 20 years. The full-suspension bike first debuted in 2001 as a futuristic 26" wheeled XC race machine with a 2x drivetrain, electronic lockout suspension, Lefty fork, and disc brakes. It's evolved significantly over the years, remaining one of the lightest XC race bikes available and a popular choice for many pros and amateurs alike.
The previous version of the SE was the Scalpel Si, a capable bike that featured plenty of Cannondale’s proprietary tech - Lefty fork and AI offset wheels included. The very latest iteration of the Scalpel that we’re looking at today features a host of changes, including a new suspension design, to make it perform even better and be more user-friendly.
The Scalpel SE sports 120mm of suspension, front and rear. The bikes are available in sizes small-XL with prices starting at $4,000 USD for the Scalpel SE 2 and range up to $9,000 USD for the Scalpel Hi-MOD1 team replica bike.Specialized Epic EVO
The Epic has been Specialized's flagship full-suspension race bike ever since its introduction some 18 years ago. In that time, the bike has been on the podium of top tier races countless times under the world's top riders. For 2021 Specialized is introducing two updated versions of the Epic. The goal with the new Epic platform was to bring the bike into the category of what Specialized considers "modern cross country."
Previous versions of the full-suspension Epic used Specialized's proprietary BRAIN shock that uses an inertia valve to discern between trail inputs and rider inputs. The BRAIN is still present on the 100mm front and rear travel race-ready Epic, but the Epic EVO cuts the baggage and uses a metric shock to get 110mm of rear-wheel travel. That is coupled with a 120mm travel fork and a dropper post to make the bike more "shred friendly."
The Epic EVO is available in a number of different builds composed of SRAM and Shimano drivetrains and RockShox or Fox suspension. Bikes are available in sizes XS - XL with prices starting at $ 4,125 USD and ranging to $11,525 USD for the top of the line S-Works models, complete with SRAM's wireless AXS drivetrain and RockShox SID suspension.
Both bikes have some unique design elements when it comes to their frames. The Scalpel SE carries over the same frame that the Scalpel has, using a different stroke length shock in order to achieve more travel. The Epic EVO utilizes the same front triangle, as the Epic but the rear end is completely different, foregoing the Brain inertia valve system found on the 100mm travel Epic.
Both rely on the flex of the rear triangle rather than using any bearings or bushings where there normally would be in the chainstay or seatstay area. The Scalpel SE has a flex-pivot built into a point in the chainstay to allow the suspension to work, whereas the Epic EVO uses flex in the seat stay to achieve this. The Scalpel's flex zone is more immediately visible due to the flattened profile of the chainstay.
Cannondale have engineered their own on-the-frame storage stash. On the water bottle mount, there’s Dynaplug's new ultra-light carbon plug tool, a Fabric multi-tool, and a spot for a CO2 in an easily accessible yet out of the way location. If that’s too much weight for you, you can take that off and put a blank plate in its place. The Epic EVO? It comes equipped with Specialized's SWAT steerer tube storage for a multi-tool, master link, and chain tool. This can be removed, without leaving any signs that something was previously there.
The Epic EVO is available in an XS size where the Scalpel SE is only available down to a size small. Looking at the numbers, the size small Epic EVO gives a shorter seat tube than the same size Scalpel SE but, even lacking the XS size, the Scalpel SE has a good amount more standover.
The Scalpel SE uses Cannondale's proprietary Ai - “Asymmetric integration” offset drivetrain to give more tire clearance by moving the drivetrain 6mm to the right. They also claim that this system creates a stronger and stiffer wheel, although it does meant that the wheel is dished to the frame, adding a little bit of work if a spare is needed in a pinch. Additionally, there is a “quicker release” thru-axle in the back to speed up wheel changes by only having to thread into the drive-side of the dropout.
Lastly, frame weights are both light. The Scalpel SE weighs a claimed 1,900g with shock but the Epic EVO is lighter, at a claimed 1,757g for the Comp-Pro models and then 1,659g for the SWorks version...a significant difference.
Tool storage is available on both bikes. Cannondale created room for a multitool on top of the Scalpel's downtube, and Specialized stashed a tool in the steerer tube of the Epic.Suspension Design
Both bikes look similar, but technically they use different suspension systems. The Cannondale uses a specific point in the rear chainstay, between the main frame and rear axle making it a four-bar system. The Epic, on the other hand, uses the entire length of the seatstay to generate that flex making it a linkage driven single-pivot suspension design.
Notably, this year, Epic EVO has jettisoned the Brain platform that the Epic is known for in favor of a higher volume metric shock and a flip-chip adjustable link that gives riders another half-degree of adjustability. This bike uses a very different leverage ratio than the racier Epic, and it has more anti-squat as it has to give more support in the suspension without the BRAIN.
The Scalpel SE uses suspension kinematics which are size-specific, varying with each size frame. The idea of this is not so much centered around the weight of the rider but more on where the center of mass of the rider is.
Can you spy the differences?Cannondale Scalpel SE Geometry
A size medium Scalpel SE has a 67-degree head tube angle, 74-degree seat tube angle, 436mm chainstays, a 430mm reach, 344mm bottom bracket height, and 757mm of standover.Epic Evo Geometry
The Epic EVO has a 66.6-degree head tube angle, 74.5-degree seat tube angle, 438mm chainstays, a 436mm reach, 336mm bottom bracket height, and 781mm of standover.
Those numbers are very similar, but the Epic Evo is a touch longer and slacker, and it has a lower bottom bracket height.Spec Options
Both the Scalpel SE and Epic EVO come in a variety of different specs with Shimano and SRAM options. Taking a Shimano spec from both bikes, as we have here, there are some major differences (yes, one is XT and one is XTR). The Scalpel is only offered with RockShox suspension and in two builds, and a women's version, with the top of the line offering being the Scalpel SE 1, shown here, that sells for $5,500 USD and weighs 25.2 lbs, with the multi-tool, bottle cage, and tires set up tubeless with a generous amount of tire sealant.
The Scalpel SE 2 and the Scalpel SE Women's (different color/touchpoints) both feature a SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain with a RockShox SIDLuxe Select + rear shock and SID Select fork. The bikes both sell for $4,000 USD.
All of the Scalpel builds use a Cannondale seatpost and the SE1 uses Cannondale's carbon Hollowgram wheels.
The Epic EVO is available in four different builds, starting with the Epic EVO comp which sells for $4,125 and is spec'd with RockShox SID suspension, a Shimano drivetrain and a mix of Specialized parts and topping out with the $11,525 S-Works Epic EVO that features a stiffer and lighter frame, SRAM AXS drivetrain and dropper post, and RockShox SID suspension. The model pictured here is the Pro level build that has a Shimano XTR drivetrain and Fox Factory suspension. It sells for $8,250 USD and weighs just under 24 lbs with the SWAT tools in the steerer tube, a bottle cage, and of course, generous amounts of tire sealant.
All of the Epic EVO builds come with four-piston brakes where the Cannondale saves a little weight but sacrifices power with two-piston calipers.
So, which bike is for you? With a number of options, there are plenty of viable aggressive XC trail bikes currently available and a lot of choices will come down to personal preference. Both the Scalpel SE and Epic EVO have their advantages to the right rider. The Epic EVO certainly has a few more options in the build category but not quite as much rear travel, and it's a bit pricier overall. Both bikes are dialed packages that can no doubt provide a fun and fast ride in the forest.
We will have riding impressions coming up for both of these in the XC Field Test that is currently happening in Squamish so stay tuned in the coming weeks!
You win Pinkbike for the day
Hell, if you shop very wisely, you could have a pretty decent DH, AM and XC bike for that.
In fact you’re just wasting money. You could build any 11k bike up for a lot cheaper yourself.
Of course, this site is populated by young people or the anti-wealthy, so of course that sucks, regardless of whether that high end tech trickles down to your $3500 bike in a couple of years.
Now, if I really busted my ass, and kissed some ass, I might be able to make 200K a year, but I would probably be less happy because my job would be my primary focus, and that isn't worth 100K+ per year, to me. Yet, to some, it is.
I don't judge people either way.
Nobody makes over 100k a year, even dentist and such make less.
A lot of department heads etc. make that money, easily. In Europe. In Euro.
Not sure what country yoh are talking about but 1% of the UK earn over 100k pa. Doesn’t seem that many, but that’s 700,000 people.
I would have thought it a lot more, mind.
Everyone likes to try to compare the USA to Europe, and its a very hard thing to do because life is complicated.
However, if Sweden left the EU and joined the USA, it would be poorer on average than nearly every USA state, when total consumption (both private and public) is taken into account:
Obviously, there is a lot of complex things going on here more than just "USA good, Europe bad" or "Government healthcare good, private healthcare bad"
Markets are weird like that
Overall Salary gap, taxes, food price, housing, healthcare and education etc are really different in US and EU so its difficult to compare anything.
I'm actually in the process of building up a wheel that needs 6mm of dish and I'm excited about the stronger wheel. In the end, dishing isn't a huge deal for an emergency wheel swap, but if your doing it regularly then yea...you'd obviously want the bike that can easily share parts with others.
Both of these bikes are made by huge companies with factories overseas. So there isn't any special in terms of that qualifier. I think Specialized dealerships are actually a little more common, so that's nice, and it might mean getting a deal on one is easier too.
...but for once...and finally, Specialized has ditched all the weird proprietary stuff (Brain, Yoke) and even has a threaded BB all while being one of the lightest bikes on the market.
Yea, if I had the coin, and Epic Evo would end up in my garage.
I have a hollowgram crank on a fugitive 157 frame. The 55mm ai offset makes for a great chainline
I had the BB scanned by a local engineering firm, and it is almost bang on Shimano's specs for BB86. Why the big boys struggle so much is a mystery to me. It goes in line with what Hambini has found, with Deng-fu being slightly behind Look and Time, but far better than Cannondale.
A sample of one is not data though. It's an anecdote.
My wife lost her spleen in a car crash, and she seems OK. Has to get a serious shot every few years for immune response. Kidney seems questionable for a mountain biker. If you screw up the spare then it's real trouble, You can give away half a liver and the remainder will regenerate.
How much do you drink?
And don’t even with the “x” brand hooked me up or that’s not true of “x” brand. Everyone can deny anything for any reason and most every reason a bike fails isn’t manufacturing defect. Everyone’s warranty is snake oil because people have bastardized it into a complete lack of personal responsibility and Think that bike companies are making things that should survive every clip of the Friday fails and live on for one thousand years after. Doesn’t work like that.
Pin it wide open and admit when you case it will go a f*ckload further to a warranty rep’s willingness to help you out than being a weasel and emailing the brand because you didn’t like what the shop said. Extra points if you can get the rep to quietly whisper “aw f*ck yea” when they see the damage from sending it.
If you want to know how to construct a light frame, this is it (compare to those hideous pinarellos for ex.)
The reason the Race versions starts at a higher price is there is no "Comp" Race version, only the EVO. The Race version starts with the Expert model and is the same price as the EVO Expert. At the Pro level the EVO is the more expensive of the two and when you get to the S-Works models they're back to the same price.
I don't think we're going to see another alloy Epic. I think they're going to go all carbon on the higher end bikes and alloy on the lower end like the Chisel, Fuse, Pitch, Rockhopper, etc. I have a feeling that we're not going to see an alloy Stumpjumper before too long. We'll just have to wait and see.
1) Is the rear end lateral stiffness the same between the Scalpel SE & Epic Evo? The Epic Evo rear triangle and associated mounting points look less beefy than the Scalpel SE.
2) Which suspension platform offers the best small bump compliance and pedaling platform for XC riding? The Scalpel SE already has some great mentions from Bikers Edge, etc.
Whether it's better than a SID is debatable..However, it's for sure more expensive.
Many brands have fanbois, and waaay back in the day Cannondale, was the shit,
These days, they make a perfectly fine bike, but nothing special. They're pretty well priced, so if you like the geometry and ride, it's a good way to go.
But... proprietary, and people hate that.
That bike was stolen, and I will always miss it. Replaced with a Pivot Les.
Specialized ditches the brain and 4-bar and switches to a faux bar single pivot.
Canondale ditches the lefty, and switches from single pivot to 4-bar.
In the meantime, the Scalpel looks like a camber/stumpjumper , while the Epic actually sorta resembles the previous cannondle habit.
Things used to be interesting. Now it's just splitting hairs. 2020 sucks once again.
The f2000 was the pro race bike with a headshock lefty
stop right there we already know what you're gonna pick.
You could just go - "Oh, I'm wrong, my bad"