If you like ENVE carbon and electro techno, Cannondale’s latest Scalpel, the Cannondale Scalpel-Si Black Inc, is the ultimate-spec example of the new breed of XC bike, combining race weight with a touch of trail attitude.
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While it’s seriously light (2.1kg, large with shock), the Scalpel mainframe is no waif. A massive 1.5in head tube blends into a broad down tube and the fat top tube hides the front end of the shock and the battery for the electronic drivetrain. Super-skinny seatstays allow pivotless suspension flex, while splayed-out seatstays accept Cannondale’s ‘Ai’-spaced rear wheel (which shifts the drivetrain 6mm to the right) but scuff immediately. There’s room for knobbly 2.35in tyres and two bottles.
ENVE rims and a Chris King hub make up probably the ultimate tough yet free-rolling wheel pack. Cannondale’s own Si cranks are gorgeous, stiff and lightweight, and you can opt for one ring or two.
Shimano’s XTR Di2 offers impeccable programmable shifting, along with a clunky mechanical interface and extra weight. There’s an analogue XTR ‘Race’ bike or a 1x12 SRAM Eagle ‘Team’ model available too if your budget can't stretch to the Black Inc.
However you choose to change gear, expect a whole lot more upshifts and fewer downshifts than normal, because the Scalpel accelerates and climbs with voracious velocity, even for a race bike.
The frame, wheels, cranks and cockpit are all seriously stiff, so every muscle twitch creates tangible torque through the rear tyre. A single remote gives a fully rigid, double-ended lockout too, so smooth sprinting is brutally efficient.
The suspension has a progressive feel that adds drive and cornering traction over roots and rocks, but it stays shy of full travel unless it has to deal with a big slam or landing. While the suspension character is resolutely ‘race’, the 69.5-degree head angle and 55mm offset on the super-accurate Lefty fork increase stability beyond normal XC twitchiness. If that’s how you’re likely to use it, though, a shorter stem and stickier tyres are a must.