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Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2 Review

Cannondale sent over their Scalpel Carbon SE 2 for review. In this article, we are going to take a look at the bike. Who it’s intended for and where it really shines.

The Scalpel is Cannondale’s XC bike that blurs the lines between an XC and a Trail Bike. The bike is built for speed whether it’s ascending technical climbs or descending epic trails. The bike has 120mm travel at the rear and 120mm travel at the front with RockShox SID suspension. The bike also features Cannondale’s Flexible chainstay which utilises the properties of carbon fibre to create a virtual horst link removing the need for bearings and an additional pivot point. This not only reduces maintenance but also improves rigidity and reduces weight in the frame.

Review

So first things first. This bike is a cross-country weapon. It’s designed for pedal smashing speed with its stiff short travel, aggressive geometry (for an XC Bike. 67-degree headtube angle) and ultra-responsive feel and feedback.

The Scalpel is a lightweight thoroughbred and features a Flex Pivot in the form of a virtual Horst link which does result in the bike frame being stiffer and lighter weight. Even though it looks like it could easily snap, it is in fact incredibly strong but also very flexible but the best bit is that it is completely maintenance-free. No need to maintain and replace bearings.

Climbing

This bike climbs so well. Because it’s so lightweight and stiff. Pedalling power is efficiently transferred to the wheels resulting in an ascent that feels similar to that of an EMTB. You can really get the power down on climbs without losing traction. The bike responds so well and climbing actually becomes a joy!

Trail riding

So I admit, cross country is not my riding style of choice and I would usually opt for more aggressive steep trail and downhill riding. I think this is likely quite obvious from the video above where you can see I am riding on flat pedals and baggy MTB clothing. However, riding this bike may have converted me. Not only did it make less interesting trails more fun through the short travel and responsive nature of the bike but I was able to take this bike to really technical and steep trails without feeling like I would die at any minute. This bike is very impressive and I was amazed at what you can achieve with it. I’m sure I didn’t even get anywhere close to reaching its full potential.

Descending

Unlike other XC bikes, I have ridden in the past that feel twitchy when descending and make you feel that you are going to OTB at any minute the Cannondale Scalpel feels in control, has superb traction and is confidence-inspiring. Even when riding over rough technical terrain I felt I could control where I wanted the bike to go and the suspension although stiff would track really well giving me grip not only for braking but for putting the power down for an additional speed boost when needed.

Suspension

The suspension is truly great. The RockShox SID Select behaved as expected remaining fairly rigid for the majority of the time but still supple enough to absorb small bumps and keep the bike tracking well. Where the bike really shines though is towards the rear where a RockShox SID Luxe Select+ rear shock handles pedalling and the terrain really well. Pedalling feels really efficient yet the back has enough movement and flex to take the harshness out of the ride. The FlexPivot also really adds to this too. You need to try a Scalpel to understand.

Bike Spec

The bike spec is pretty decent for the price range. Priced at £4000 here in the UK you get a 12-speed SRAM SX Eagle, Shimano MT500 brakes as well as the RockShox SID Fork and Shock mentioned above. The bike also comes with Cannondale’s DownLow Dropper post which I’ve used on a few bikes in the past and still not had any issues with.

Summary

In summary, this is an excellent XC bike built for speed but with aggressive enough geometry to allow you to push the limits of cross-country riding. It features a well-thought-out and reasonably priced spec which is more than enough for most. For me the only thing that let the bike down was the tyres however, tyres are a personal preference and tyre choice really depends on your style of riding and the terrain you ride on.

I would happily recommend this bike and I think it deserves the 5/5 rating.

What is the Scalpel Carbon SE 2 and what kind of riding is it intended for?

The Cannondale Scalpel is a light, stiff and fast full suspension mountain bike designed for pushing the limits of trail riding at speed without compromising on built quality or performance.

The bike frame is made from carbon fibre and features a virtual Horst Link to increase stiffness, make the frame lighter and reduce the need for additional bearings. They have also utilised proportional response in the design of the frames adjusting the suspension and kinematics across sizes to ensure no matter what size you are, you’re getting the best from your bike performance and suspension.

The Scalpel blurs the lines between XC and Trail bike. It seems to offer the best of both worlds with super-light frame design and short travel, pedalling efficiency but can still hold its own when the trails get rowdier.

Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2 Specs

DRIVETRAIN

  • Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB PF30 MTB83

  • Chain: SRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed

  • Crank: Truvativ Stylo 6K DUB, 34T, Ai offset

  • Rear Cogs: SRAM PG-1230, NX Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed

  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM SX Eagle

  • Shifters: SRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed

FRAMESET

  • Fork: RockShox SID Select, 120mm, Debonair, 15x110mm thru-axle, tapered steerer, 44mm offset

  • Frame: All-New, 120mm travel, BallisTec Carbon, Proportional Response Tuned, FlexPivot Chainstay, PF30-83, Tapered Headtube, Speed Release 12mm thru-axle, Ai Offset, Stash compatible

  • Headset: Integrated Sealed Bearing, Tapered

  • Rear Shock: RockShox SIDLuxe Select+, 2-Pos mode adjust, adjustable rebound

WHEELS

  • Front Hub: Shimano Deore 15×110

  • Rear Hub: Shimano Deore, 12×148

  • Rims: Stan’s NoTubes Crest S1, 32h, tubeless-ready

  • Spokes: Stainless Steel, 14g

  • Tires: (F) Maxxis Ardent Race, 29 x 2.35″, EXO Protection, tubeless-ready (R) Maxxis Recon Race, 29 x 2.25″, EXO Protection, tubeless-ready

  • Wheel Size: 29

BRAKES

  • Brake Levers: Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc

  • Brakes: Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc, 180/160mm RT54 rotors

COMPONENTS

  • Grips: ESI Chunky Silicone, 32mm dia.

  • Handlebar: Cannondale riser, butted 6061 Alloy, 31.8mm, 5° rise, 9° sweep, 760mm

  • Saddle: Fabric Scoop Radius Sport, steel rails

  • Seatpost: Cannondale DownLow Dropper, internal routing, 31.6, 100mm (S), 125mm (M-L), 150mm (XL)

  • Stem: Cannondale 3, 6061 Alloy, 31.8

Summary

What do you think of the Cannondale Scalpel? Would you consider riding a shorter travel trail bike for an increase in agility, weight reduction and faster responses? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read more about the Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2 here over on Cannondale’s website here.

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5 / 5 Reviewer
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Responsive with excellent feedback
  • Really efficient when pedalling and ascending
  • Enables you to go as fast as your body allows
Cons
  • Tyres don't feel like the best choice for the bike
  • Stiffness in suspension is noticible over high chatter sections
Summary
A super lightweight responsive bike that lets you push the limits of what is achievable on a cross-country mountain bike. The Scalpel SE 2 is endless fun and lets you reach speeds that you would hope to reach on a race weapon. If you are looking for a cross-country/down-country bike then this could be the ultimate bike for you.
Rating
Will Brett-Atkin

Will Brett-Atkin

Will (@willbrettbikes) is the founder and creator of One Track Mind Mag. He is an award-winning Digital Product Designer and has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. When not behind a computer screen Will likes to be out in nature riding natural trails with friends. He also likes to dabble in a bit of Enduro racing and has had some great results racing in the UK

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