Cannondale’s New Scalpel And Scalpel SE – XC riding reimagined

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There’s a new Scalpel on the block and Cannondale is keen for everyone to see how new and how dramatically different it is from what has gone before. Originally pitched as a full suspension, World Cup-worthy race bike back in 2001, the newest 2020 Cannondale Scalpel has had the benefit of nearly 20 years of refinement and a fresh look at how people actually ride the bikes. This has led to a branching of the Scalpel range into two: There is still the 100mm full-on race machine Scalpel and there is a new, 120mm travel Scalpel SE too for that kind of fast trail riding that the people, who aren’t enduro, are doing.

What? I always ride like this…

There will be four bikes in the range in the UK. Two each of the race-ready Scalpel model and the trail-ready Scalpel SE. Both share the same, brand new frame, which has thrown out the old design and started again. What the new Scalpel frame has is a light weight and a more efficient suspension system, incorporating a virtual Horst Link. Cannondale has done this by re-working its chainstays. Previous Scalpels had a chainstay that flexed in the middle to provide a pivotless suspension. This has now been re-engineered in the form of a super-skinny chainstay section near the rear dropouts that flexes where a Horst Link would be. Cannondale claims that this gives similar performance and grip, but without the 200g or so that adding a moving pivot with bolts and bearings would give. Everything else, the pivots and linkages has all been nipped and tucked for a neater overall look. The whole frame with shock comes in around 1900g.

Got time for a quick video? Of course you have…

According to the sales blurb, the the Scalpel platform is intended to be a ‘weapon for racers’ and a ‘shredding machine for riders’ if that helps you pigeonhole it for you.

The tech involved in the frame is very impressive. Cannondale has proved that you can have a flexing chainstay instead of a pivot (or a flexing seatstay, as more companies have had) with enough durability that you’re still using the technology 19 years later (the first Scalpel came out in 2001!) only this time it has moved that flex to nearer the dropout for a more dramatic influence over the wheel path. Cable runs are internal for a super neat look and it’s good to see that the bikes will come with a little add-on race kit or ‘StashKit’ according to Cannondale. This leverages Cannondale’s close ties with Fabric, to provide the rider with a multi-tool holder and a CO2-ready clip for instant race access. Every frame, even the less racy Scalpel SE comes with a Dynaplug Racer tool too, which is a nice touch.

CO2, Dynaplug Racer and Fabric tool with every bike. Neato!

The Scalpel frame also come with Cannondale’s Ai wheel geometry, where the whole transmission is moved closer to the drive side, but without widening the whole rear triangle. This is Cannondale’s way of keeping the back end short (436mm) without having to go all SuperBoostPlus.

Ai – Asymmetric Integration, kicks the whole drive train more drive side.

Cannondale Scalpel

The new, racy Scalpel comes with 100mm travel and the company’s Lefty fork. There will be two versions in the UK – a Team Replica, for a cool £6800 and a slightly more sensible Carbon 3 model at £3500.

Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 Team Replica. No excuses here.
Scalpel Carbon 3 – a lot of race bike for £3500.

As you can see from the figures, the Scalpel is pretty slack for a World Cup race bike. The reach figures might not endear themselves to the enduro crowd, but with an XC-suited long and low stem, it should give a pretty racy position. (We managed to size up on our Scalpel SE review bike for more reach too)

Scalpel SE

The Scalpel SE is pitched as being a fast-trail bike (that can also be raced if you want) so it’s aimed more as those riders who love big, fast rides – whether after work in the woods, or all day epics. These bikes come with a new RockShox SID fork in place of the Lefty, and a dropper post too. There’s also 20mm more travel, with the Scalpel SE coming in at 120mm travel front and rear.

The £4200 Scalpel SE 1
Scalpel Carbon SE 2 – in metallic orange sparkle!

The geometry of the Scalpel SE is what you might expect if you put a taller fork on a race bike. A degree slacker at 67°/74° and a touch less reach due to the more laid back position. A 430mm reach is pretty short for a modern trail bike, though this figure is shared with the Habit too, so that’s obviously what works for Cannondale.

From our viewpoint (and Daz’s review of the Scalpel SE 2) the hot ticket seems to be the £4200 Scalpel SE 1 model, which comes stock with 12 speed XT, carbon rims and a dropper post, but we expect to see plenty of the race-ready Scalpel on start lines, when there are start lines again.

More details, have a look at or check out the review elsewhere on the site.

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Chipps Chippendale

Singletrackworld's Editor At Large

With 22 years as Editor of Singletrack World Magazine, Chipps is the longest-running cycling magazine editor in the world. He started in the bike trade in 1990 and became a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the last 30 years as a bike writer and photographer, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish, strengthen and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

More posts from Chipps

Comments (5)

    “This is Cannondale’s way of keeping the back end short (436mm) without having to go all SuperBoostPlus.”

    Lots of companies seem to manage this with a normal wheel?
    SE looks Lush though.

    I’d argue that if you’re more xc focused the carbon 3 will be the hot ticket with the shimano 12 spd 🙂
    looks better value than treks equivalent supercaliber but not as good as canyons lux

    and they definitely need to bring the red fade in……

    The red fade is apparently not coming in, but we can always keep asking 🙂
    The Carbon 3 with Shimano 12 speed is also great. Both the SE1 and Carbon 3 look great bikes, depending on what you want to use them for.

    Always doubted the proprietary stuff on a race bike – damage a wheel and you can’t exactly borrow one…

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