Cannondale Scalpel might as well be a synonym for XC racing. It’s been around for awhile and continues to be refined each year. The 2015 Scalpel continues to expand on it’s abilities with four inches of travel in the rear. But don’t be fooled the Scalpel Carbon 2 is a XC race machine.
Why Scalpel? I wanted a bike that has XC characteristics: light weight, sharp handling & (hopefully) durability. Everything I read pointed in this direction. I might just be getting old (which I am) but a carbon full suspension coupled with 29er wheel technology makes for a incredibly smooth ride. And a fogey like me appreciates those qualities more and more with each passing year.
I said in my First Impressions write up that this bike has “wow” factor. 6 months later, I am still singing that tune. Now that I have ridden it for awhile I can speak on this with a more extensive review. My two main motivations for choosing the Scalpel are: I want to have more fun on the MTB, and I want to be faster. Did it deliver? Absolutely. Fun you say? Well I rode my MTB more than my road bike this winter. Faster you say? I can actually keep Heath B in sight on long technical descents (that is a big improvement). What stands out? The sharp handling of this bike is number one. It’s not named Scalpel for nothing. In the 29 inch wheel world some bikes can feel a bit sluggish in acceleration and handling. The Scalpel hands down is the most precise XC full suspenion I have ridden. At times on certain trails it reminded me of my hardtail.
How is the single ring drivetrain? Well it took some getting use to. The 11 speed cassette has some bigger gaps between gears. On certain climbs I go from grinding to spinning with one click. If you are worried about climbing, don’t. The pie plate in the back has plenty of teeth (42T) to get you uphill. Aesthetically I love the clean look of that single front ring. The Magura MT4 disc brakes are outstanding (rider weight 160lbs). Stopping power is ferocious. I almost threw myself a couple times on those first rides. Better braking = faster descending. I think I have improved a lot in this area, which I owe to full suspension & better brakes. The Fabric saddle is great.
Lots and lots of teeth. (11 speed, 10-42T)
Single ring is such a clean look. Sheds almost one pound (no derailleur or shifter). Cannodale Hollowgram crank arms are some of the lightest & stiffest on the planet. I will put these on all future bikes.
Lockout button makes the bike fully rigid. Handy for dirt road riding or if you ride pavement to get to the trails. I hear you can easily split the buttons to control front and rear independently.
How has it held up? Well if you would have asked me two years ago if I would own a carbon MTB I would have laughed at you. But if you want top shelf performance you must go with carbon. I would be lying if I said that I don’t cringe a little every time a rock gets pinged off the frame. I have been riding this bike for six months mostly on Kessler & Sequoyah the most technical trails in NWA. The only issues I have had are, the switch that controls the suspension lockout started sticking on me (a quick fix) and about a week ago the bottom bracket developed the most wicked creak I have ever heard. Seriously, I almost called to have someone pick me up it was so annoying (another easy fix at the shop). Other than that, no major issues. So far so good. But I am not the type of rider that beats up on a bike. A couple guys I ride with who are way better MTB’ers than I am are both on Scalpel’s. It will be interesting to see how theirs hold up.
23 lbs without pedals (size large).
I will lead with this. The Cannondale Scalpel 29 Carbon 2 is the finest XC (hardtail or full suspension) mountain bike I have ever ridden. If you are looking for race performance, look no further. The Scalpel is at it’s best at speed and begs to be ridden that way. It is really inspiring at times. The bike is light, handles with precision and climbs with serious getty up. Everything you want for XC racing. I recommend you experiment with the pressure in the shocks. Tune it to your own liking not necessarily what Cannondale recommends. Spending the time dialing in the suspension is key. I also recommend cutting the handlebar length down. This will make the steering even more responsive. Lastly, I suggest you test ride a size up if you run a neutral (no setback) saddle position. The longer wheelbase of the large (I ride a medium normally at 5′ 8″) just handles better for me. Thanks to Ben at The Bike Route for steering me in that direction. For more information or to test ride one for yourself go see the guys & gals at The Bike Route.
Full Carbon Frame
Drivetrain: Sram X01 (1×11) 32Tx10-42T
Crankset: Cannondale Hollowgram SI crank arms
Brakes: Magura MT4 disc
Wheels: Stan’s ZTR Arch EX 29 rims
Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s
Suspension: RockShox Monarch XX (4 inches travel) rear shock/Lefty XLR 100 29 Fork
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Race Ti
Weight: 23lbs (size large/without pedals)