Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1


Our review

A flat-out XC bike that rewards plenty of rider input but won’t provide a smoothed-out ride

Stiff suspension makes the bike super-reactive to pedal inputs but still gives decent traction on loose climbs; longer, slacker geometry (for an XC bike) works well on descents, provided you can keep the tyres stuck down

Feedback-rich bikes feel quick but aren’t always the fastest option, especially over high-frequency chatter; AI frame design and Lefty fork limit upgrade options

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This latest iteration of Cannondale’s cross-country race bike gets a whole new frame, with flexible chainstays instead of a rear pivot.

Its geometry has been overhauled too, with a degree-and-a-half coming off the head angle, reflecting the ever more technical nature of XC race courses.

Cannondale’s unique Lefty Ocho fork is still present and its one-legged carbon construction has been tuned to give a little more compliance and reduce internal friction for a smoother ride.

Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 frame details

The main change to the 100mm-travel chassis is Cannondale’s new ‘FlexPivot’ design, which does away with a rear pivot in favour of a flattened, flexible section of chainstay (protected by a rubber sheath), which effectively creates a four-bar linkage system.

The shock link has also moved from the top tube to the seat tube. The result of all this, Cannondale says, is a suspension setup that’s lighter, stiffer, more durable and needs less maintenance.

With XC tracks having evolved to become far gnarlier, the US brand has also slackened the Scalpel’s head angle by 1.5 degrees (to 68 degrees), while adding a degree to the seat angle (74.5 degrees). The large size has a reach of 455mm.

Another notable feature is the offset ‘AI’ rear end, which allows for shorter chainstays and better spoke triangulation (for a stiffer wheel).

Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 specifications

This top-level bike gets an updated version of Cannondale’s carbon-legged Lefty Ocho fork, with a bar-mounted lockout lever that also controls the Fox DPS Factory shock.

The shifter, mech and cassette are Shimano XTR, as are the brakes. Cannondale’s own HollowGram 25 carbon rims are shod with fast-rolling Schwalbe rubber.

A sensor on the front wheel syncs with your GPS unit, registers your bike and advises on service intervals.

Cannondale provides the cockpit kit, with the exception of the ESI silicone grips, while ENVE and Prologo take care of the seating.

Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 ride impressions

Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1

While the firm suspension makes things a little rattly on fast, rough tracks, it soaks up the bigger hits.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Unashamedly fast – that’s the first impression of the Scalpel.

This isn’t a subtle bike. The suspension is firm, the rims stiff and the tyres wickedly fast, encouraging you to push as hard as you can, tasting blood and dripping sweat at every opportunity.

Feedback oozes through the pedals and bar, making it feel rapid in every situation, although on rough tracks its pingy ride means it isn’t always as fast as it feels. The handling is sharp when needed, but still lets you carve corners with confidence.

While the firm suspension makes things a little rattly on fast, rough tracks, it soaks up the bigger hits, so you can still take those technical lines.

On climbs, there’s a little squat under power. This helps keep the suspension moving on looser terrain, boosting traction. On smoother ascents, I used the lockout.

Some bikes are designed to isolate you from the ground, but the Scalpel isn’t one of them. It’s absurdly direct in feel, reacting to every input, and feels like a rocketship. If you want to go all-out 100 per cent of the time, take a closer look.

Cannondale Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 geometry