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Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE review

Lightweight XC chassis gets a muscly build kit

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £3,500.00 RRP | USD $5,000.00
Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE

Our review

The Scalpel SE can be sharp, but doesn’t quite cut it in terms of frame shape and rider position
Pros: Frame finish, smoothness and pivot hardware detailing are excellent
Cons: Suspension isn’t the supplest over small bumps and ripples, which tones down cornering and climbing grip; SRAM Guide T brakes are bottom of the Guide range and feel a bit stiff
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Extra bounce, knobbly tyres, fatter fork legs, a wider bar and an own-brand dropper give this SE model of the Cannondale Scalpel more capability and comfort beyond the race tape, helping it to devour distance on natural trails faster and with more grip.


These changes are welcome on longer, rougher descents in the wilds, far away from any fast-paced modern cross-country track.

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE frame

Made from Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon fibre, the Scalpel chassis is smooth and fat-tubed, with an oversized 1.5in head tube to accommodate the brand’s unique single-sided Lefty fork.

The well-finished front triangle is fairly tall and upright, which leaves plenty of room for two water bottles. A slimmer, sleeker rear-end extends from a beefy PressFit 30 bottom bracket shell and drives the shock via a sculpted carbon rocker link.

The frame uses clever LockR (collet-style) pivot axles that expand to become a structural part of the chassis for extra stiffness.

The single-pivot back-end has good muck clearance and uses a weight-saving flex-stay design to omit chainstay or seatstay pivots, relying on the slim upper stays moving under compression and extension.

Cannondale also employs an ‘Ai’ (Asymmetric Integration) layout to offset the chainring and rear hub by 6mm to the driveside for a more even wheel dish, to increase stiffness.

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE kit

Green full suspension mountain bike
Fox’s 34 Step-Cast fork borrows technology from its World Cup XC race sibling, the 32 SC, to save precious grams.
Mick Kirkman

Race-optimised, the silky StepCast version of Fox’s 34 Float fork has had material shaved off its lower tips to save weight and help it move more easily over bumps.

An oversized EVOL negative air spring helps ease it into its travel and a slimmer damper shaft allows more oil to flow. The SE gets 20mm more front travel (120mm) than the standard Scalpel. There’s an EVOL spring in the Fox DPS shock too, which has a longer stroke to generate 15mm of extra rear wheel travel.

While the own-brand 150mm dropper works, the lever is flexy and awkward to push. The slack seat angle means that the saddle extends way over the rear tyre when fully raised up, placing your weight too far back, with your hips behind the pedal axis. This feels inefficient on flatter terrain, and also means the front end feels too light on the steepest climbs.

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE ride impressions

Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE
The SRAM GX Eagle cassette saves a chunk of weight that has to move up and down over bumps compared to the NX cogs elsewhere in this test.
Mick Kirkman

The fatter and grippier Maxxis Ardent front tyre and supple Fox 34 fork ensure that this Scalpel irons out trail creases smoothly and feels composed.

This combo offers good grip, and plays nicely with the 68.5-degree head angle and very short wheelbase, which might otherwise make the bike feel over-responsive when steering.

So far, so good, but your feet tell a different story. The rear shock swallows big bumps, but fails to register small ripples. This means the bike can feel unbalanced, with better suppleness and control up front, and more chatter and chop out back.

The suspension gets overloaded under power while seated and feels soggy sometimes too, to the point that I preferred to climb with the Fox shock’s firming lever flicked over.

Its rear end stiffness can make the ’Dale feel fast, lively and efficient if you consciously pedal neat circles and pull on the upstroke, but if you really stomp the downstroke, it doesn’t surge forward as rapidly as others similar bikes.

The chainline at the top of the cassette looks skewed leftwards, and this may contribute to the Scalpel not being quite as efficient as expected.

When seated, the bike feels roomier than the short reach would suggest, but stand up and the frame feels a bit cramped.

The top tube is near your knees when descending and the tall bottom bracket (due to the longer-travel fork) leaves you feeling high up. Both factors erode downhill confidence and make you feel like you’re tiptoeing down the trail.

The Cannondale can feel spritely, but most of its modern rivals are now longer, lower machines that come with a much steeper seat angle.


Cannondale Scalpel Si Carbon SE geometry

  • Seat angle: 72 degrees
  • Head angle: 68.5 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43.6cm / 17.17in
  • Seat tube: 48cm / 18.9in
  • Top tube: 62.7cm / 24.69in
  • Head tube: 12.2cm / 4.8in
  • Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2.01in
  • Trail: 9.9cm / 3.9in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 2.7cm / 1.06in
  • Bottom bracket height: 34.5cm / 13.62in
  • Wheelbase: 1,142mm / 44.96in
  • Stack: 61.8cm / 24.33in
  • Reach: 42.7cm / 16.81in

Product Specifications


Price GBP £3500.00USD $5000.00
Weight 13.2kg (L) – L
Brand Cannondale


Available sizes M, L, XL
Headset Tange 1.5
Tyres Maxxis Ardent EXO TR 29x2.4in (f) and 29x2.25in (r)
Stem Cannondale 3, 50mm
Shifter SRAM NX Eagle (1x12)
Seatpost Cannondale DownLow 150mm dropper
Saddle Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite
Rear shock Fox Float DPS Performance EVOL
Rear derailleur SRAM GX Eagle
Handlebar Cannondale 3, 780mm
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB PF30
Grips/Tape Fabric FunGuy
Frame BallisTec carbon fibre, 115mm (4.5in) travel
Fork Fox 34 Float Performance GRIP StepCast, 120mm (4.7in) travel
Cranks Truvativ Stylo 6K DUB, 32T
Chain SRAM NX Eagle
Cassette SRAM XG-1275, 10-50
Brakes SRAM Guide T, 180mm/160mm rotors
Wheels Stan’s NoTubes Arch S1 rims on Formula hubs