Cannondale Scalpel-Si Black Inc review

Race-rocket frame with ultimate high-tech XC kitlist

BikeRadar score4/5

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.

The frame, wheels, cranks and cockpit are all seriously stiff, so every muscle twitch creates tangible torque through the rear tyre

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.

The Lefty fork increases stability beyond normal XC twitchines
The Lefty fork increases stability beyond normal XC twitchines

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.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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