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Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2 – First Impressions

Cannondale recently sent over their Scalpel Carbon SE 2 for review. This isn’t the review but my first impressions of the bike now that it’s been built up and I’ve had a couple of initial rides on my local trails. Read on to see the bike specs, some initial photos and what my first impressions of the bike are before I conduct a full review.

Cannondale Scalpel

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 it’s own when the trails get rowdier.

Cannondale Scalpel-2

Scalpel SE is the ultimate marathon racer and high-speed trail slayer. World Cup fast and all-mountain fierce – this is next-level cross-country mountain bike performance.

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Cannondale Scalpel-8
Cannondale Scalpel-7

First Impressions

My first impressions of the Cannondale Scalpel is that it’s lightweight, looks rapid and has some brilliant frame design using the carbon fibre material to its full potential creating “Flex Pivot” points on the chainstays which not only look great but work as a virtual Horst Link Pivot removing the need for bearings which results in a lighter, stiffer frame that requires less maintenance.

I took the Scalpel SE 2 out to my local trail centre for an initial lap of mellow XC trail that I know really well to get to grips and understand the way the bike feels and behaves. This trail (The Blue Loop at QECP) has plenty of climbs, berms, some more natural sections and finishes in a downhill flow section that is back to back berms.

The first thing I noticed was that the bike pedals extremely well which is what you would expect from an XC/Trail bike. Riding up the inclines was a breeze with minimal drag and pedal bobbing. The weight of the bike helps too as it is very light. The bike is very responsive with short travel Rockshox SID forks and shock which are perfectly tuned to the bikes geometry combined with the virtual Horst link results in a comfortable ride with plenty of tracking and the efficiency of a hardtail without the harshness.

This bike is clearly designed for efficiency and speed. It’s not only nimble on the climbs it also descends well too. This is where the XC and trail bike lines blur. This bike fits comfortably between the two in a new category known as down country. Descending the trail was great fun. The bike handles well and picks up speed so easily. You can pump and utilise every bit of trail to your advantage with minimal effort. Cornering response is on point, so much so that I was finding I could easily power wheelie out of each corner.

After the blue trail, I was confident enough on the bike to take it to some more natural trails. So I head over to a red trail that features lot’s of natural rooty, chalky and rocky terrain. This trail also has some steep sections with catch berms. Over the rough terrain, I did start to notice the lack of travel and the vibrations of riding flat out through the rocks and routes were felt through my hands and arms. However, saying this I never felt out of control or at the limit of the potential of the bike. I actually struggled more with the XC-oriented tyres which were losing traction on the wet chalk. This is an easy fix, either change the tyres or reduce tyre pressure a bit so this didn’t phase me.

In summary, I am really impressed with this bike. It’s the ideal mountain bike for those that want to hit their trails at max pace. I can also see it really appealing to those who are short on time and want to get in as much riding in a short space of time without having to buy an E-MTB or sacrifice the benefits of a full-suspension bike. I’m looking forward to riding this bike more and on different terrains. We have lots of grippy sandy and loam trails our way and I think this is where this bike is going to excel. I am also keen to push the limits and see how steep the trails can get before feeling like I’m pushing the boundaries of the bikes suspension and geometry. I have a feeling this bike is a lot more capable than I first anticipated and it will be interesting to see of I can even reach the bikes intended potential.

Cannondale Scalpel-10

Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE 2 Specs


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • Brake Levers: Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc

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


  • 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

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.

Keep an eye out for the full bike review coming soon.

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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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