In the hands of Jérôme Clémentz, the 26in wheeled Jekyll was the fastest enduro bike around, claiming him the inaugural World Series title in 2013. Since then it’s gained 650b wheels, slacker/longer geometry and more travel for 2015, but how does that add up on the trail?
Frame and equipment: top notch selection
The range topping Jekyll 27.5 Carbon Team benefits from all of Cannondale’s composite knowledge, with everything down to the shock rocker made from carbon. The 142x12mm back end, 1.5in head tube and PressFit 30 BB shell aid rigidity, and travel is now 160mm (6.3in) all round. The head angle has been slackened to 67 degrees, extending the distance from BB to front axle and delivering greater high-speed stability. A steeper seat angle means the effective top tube length is just 4mm longer and a 50mm stem helps keep the reach similar, though the wheelbase grows by 49mm on the medium size.
The single sided Lefty fork is a Cannondale staple. This air sprung SuperMax model has carbon uppers, a new damper with increased oil flow and a 50mm offset to add stability. It’s extremely stiff and weighs an impressive (claimed) 1,850g. There’s an external rebound dial plus a button to stiffen it up for climbing, but disappointingly it lacks compression adjustment.
The new Lefty is light and stiff, but the factory-set compression won’t suit all
The Fox DYAD RT2 shock offers on-the-fly travel and geometry adjustment – the ‘elevate’ mode reduces travel to 95mm (3.7in), makes the bike sit higher in its stroke and steepens the head angle – and has been retuned to give more support in the mid stroke. It requires a special pump, and fine tuning can be difficult.
The rest of the kit is top notch. The single-ring SRAM XX1 drivetrain gives flawless shifting paired with stiff Cannondale Hollowgram cranks, the Magura MT6 brakes lack feel but do a good job of hauling the bike up, and tubeless ready WTB rims are paired with grippy Schwalbe Hans Dampf rubber.
Ride and handling: flighty nature keeps you on your toes
The Jekyll’s racing heritage is obvious, with a nimble, fast and flighty feel plus near instant acceleration. If you’re used to enduro bikes that plough through rough terrain then it’s a bit of a surprise how much input and work is needed to keep it on line – something caused in part by the low overall weight but also by the relatively high bottom bracket. The DYAD shock also felt like it got bogged down in rougher sections, even though we were running minimal rebound damping.
The reduced travel mode made the climbs easier, but the remote lever on the handlebar is small and hard to locate for quick mid-run adjustment. The Lefty is amazingly stiff, matching the taut frame, but we’d rather have the RockShox Pike RCT3 found on the significantly cheaper, alloy Jekyll 27.5 3 for its overall damping smoothness and support.