The Cannondale Scalpel: One Heck of a Boss Bike
Ognjen Sokolovic is a legend.
Even though we’re friends on Facebook, and part of the same cycling club, and we ride in many of the same races, he literally rides in a different circle from me (and circles AROUND me). Dude is mean and fast.
He’s a fellow Lapdog, but I don’t think we’ve exchanged actual words aside from a brief moment at the start of the 24 Hour preview race when I said “Oggie!”. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I can call him that.
However, BFFs or not (although give it some time…), when I saw on the Facebook that he bought a new Scalpel, I had to reach out. This bike has some pretty big hype buzzing around it, and I wanted to know more.
“Dude, do you want to write a review?”
Here’s the thing about Oggie…um, Lord Sokolovic…I mean, Mr. Ognjen: He’s aggressive, fast and mean on a bike, but he has a giant heart, and I think he’s kind of a pussy cat. Seriously, check out his Facebook page–I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a cat meme (or three), and he’s always smiling happily–whether on a group ride, relaxing, or crushing other riders from the saddle of his bike.
The Scalpel he’s reviewing is the WC–as in, World Cup. This is a serious bike for a serious rider.
By the way, Mr. Sir Oggie is literally on the ACTUAL OPPOSITE end of the racing spectrum from me. I ride a used single speed (for which I paid $440), and he rides…well, you can read for yourself in his review. He rides a dream. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
Because here it is.
Review: The Cannondale Scalpel WC Hi-Mod, by Ognjen Sokolovic
After spending some time with my new Cannondale Scalpel WC Hi-Mod I can now articulate a few observations for those who are wondering what all the buzz is about.
It is different. The first reaction after seeing Ocho lefty fork was: Whaaa? Then the mandatory visual check of the fork and the rest of the bike started, followed by the weight check by lifting it off the ground. Wow, the first feeling was – this is light. It indeed is light, but more importantly, it is now well balanced.
In my previous lives I was privileged to own many high end bikes, including few manufacturing years of Specialized Epic S-Works, which I considered one of the best XC racing bikes ever, as well as 2018 Scalpel Si Team – the predecessor to this new Scalpel with Ocho fork. I had a few items on the wish list for the 2018 Scalpel to improve on.
And then came the Ocho.
And that was just the beginning.
It was uncanny to see all the good changes that Cannondale executed on this bike. Every wish I had for this bike, was granted – and then some.
- The Ocho fork shaved some 250g off the weight of the Lefty 2.0, losing none of it’s stiffness and smoothness. This is exactly what the doctor prescribed. On the trails bike now feels more balanced, surefooted and stable. It tracks corners with more authority and eats up small bumps like no other bike.
- The handlebar is positioned low enough, right out of the box and makes climbing and cornering more natural, even without stem replacement.
Speaking of stem – it is a standard stem now. One can use any standard stem available on the market. That’s awesome – as customizing the bike to one’s liking is now easier than ever. But really, there is no need to replace the stem. Cannondale stem is light – 110g for 90mm. Lighter than, say, Enve at 100mm (120g). Yes – I tried Enve 100mm to extend the cockpit, as I thought that it was a bit too short out of the box (cockpit is about 7cm shorter than my “standard” setup). I lowered the bar by about 2cm and extended the stem by 1cm to 100mm. On the following ride I felt that bike lost a bit of it’s smoothness and became just a bit jerky in corners. 90mm stem went back on and handlebar went up by 5mm (one spacer was moved back on the steerer). Being just slightly more upright with body position – yields better control, smoother cornering and more stability going down the hill. Hint – I would be very cautious to extend the stem again – it will change the steering – in my opinion for the worse.
- Rear shock, thank you Santa:
When the suspension is locked, it feels definite and exact. Way better feeling and effectiveness compared to hydraulic lockout. The shock works well, with signature Fox characteristics – smooth and easily adjustable. It is easy to fine tune front and rear end to work in sync and feel balanced. Peddling up the hill did not feel mushy and suspension remained active on technical rooty or rocky ascents, as well as smooth and in control on any descent. Both front and rear end ate small bumps with ease. I am yet to ride a fork that is better at small bump compliance. Ocho is the buzz of the crowd.
Some MTB riders still have impression that Lefty forks are unreliable and require a lot of maintenance. I can not speak of versions prior to Lefty 2.0, but Lefty 2.0 gave me reliable performance during the full season, without a single glitch. With needle bearings handling the movement – this fork is silky smooth and very adjustable. Ocho felt the same and better – due to less weight. Another great change for the better is Schrader valve that has been angled to the side – so that it is much easier to use shock pump to adjust the pressure in the fork, compared to the previous design where it was facing the ground and it was not that easy to thread the pump to it.
One of the issues in the past was the front wheel removal – where it was required to remove brake caliper in order to release the brake disc before the wheel could be removed. This process required removal of 2 bolts. No more. New “Stop-Lock” quick release requires only press of the button and 180 degrees turn with the alan key – and caliper is off in a heartbeat, as well as the wheel. Excellent upgrade.
New Enve 525 wheels are a bit lighter than their predecessor M50, but feel quite livelier accelerating out of the corner. They are dressed up in new Schwalbe Racing Ray – front specific tire and new Racing Ralph in the back. Schwalbe also addressed big issues with their side knob flexibility and cracking, making side knobs laterally longer and less tall. First impression of this tire combo is excellent and kudos to Cannondale for implementing this combo on their top of the line bike.
Cannondale’s 760mm wide bar is impressive and this time I am not shortening it. Love the feeling of the wide bar and it really feels like it needs to be that wide in order to shred the course on this bike at maximum speed. Except at Hardwood. Yes, THOSE two trees. 😉
The sum of all these small and big improvements, and previously proven technology yielded the bike that may very well be the best bike I have ever ridden. It is truly #builtforxxc. Extreme Cross Country. Quite capable in the most technical sections of the trail but equally as fun going down the buffed singletrack or climbing gnarly climbs. It is very nimble and handles tight singletrack with great maneuverability. Going down fast was inducing stupid grin on my face. While on vacation without it – I couldn’t wait to ride it again.
In size Large, and with light pedals – this bike tilts the scale at 22.5 pounds, stock. This is on par with my previous favourite – Specialized Epic S-Works. Scalpel can do everything that Epic can do, but it feels like it is more fun. While Epic is fast, it is also on the harsh side. Nothing is harsh about Scalpel demeanour. Instead of requiring a good hit to release the shock (Epic), Scalpel just eats them without a sweat and keeps going forward, without that speed reducing harshness and vertical movement.
With the green/dark gray colour scheme – Scalpel WC looks gorgeous and is a definite attention grabber. Taking everything into account, it is my current favourite and well deserving of all the buzz out there. Scalpel WC Hi-Mod is a game changer. But don’t believe me. Go and demo one ASAP. If you are lucky enough to find one.
A Final Comment from Team Colin
Oggie bought his Scalpel from Gears Canary (500 Front Street East, Toronto), so I called the shop to ask about the different models and various costs. Apparently, there are about 108 different models, ranging from the Scalpel-Si5 (at a cost of $4,000) to the Scalpel-Si Hi-Mod Black Inc. (at a cost of $15,999–don’t even click on it unless you have the cash in your pocket, because it will haunt your dreams).
Mike at the shop told me that even the entry level Si5 is a game changer. Check out Cannondale for more information about models, demo tours, and more.
I think Cannondale wants to take over the world, one MTB at a time.
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