Cannondale 2011 Product Launch: Park City, UT

2011 Cannondale Jekyll

Cannondale’s Jekyll is back in the game in 2011. Re-designed from the ground up as the ultimate, no compromise, dual-travel trail bike—according to the company line—the 150mm F/R travel 2011 Jekyll replaces the RZ One Forty in the Cannondale line. The Jekyll will come in 3 carbon fiber and 3 aluminum alloy flavors, with the lightest model weighing in at 25.4lbs, sans pedals. Prices will range from $2,800 to $7,500 MSRP.

Cannondale and Fox collaborated to develop the DYAD RT2 rear shock (pull-shock design) that is two air shocks in one, each with it’s own, isolated damping circuit. A handlebar-mounted remote switches the shock between the 150mm "flow" mode and the 90mm "elevate" mode. A single air valve fills both positive air cans, and similarly there is a single valve for filing both negative air chambers. I’m glossing over the technology involved, but that’s the broad-brush picture.

Combined with the Fox 32 Talas 150/90mm fork, the Jekyll really lives up to its split-personality namesake and provides two bikes for the price of one. I rode a carbon Jekyll on rolling singletrack in the Park City foothills, where I had the opportunity to switch between the two travel modes. I felt the Jekyll’s personality and handling change as the travel mode changed. In the 90mm mode the Jekyll felt snappy when ripping through fast and twisty singletrack, and the combination of shorter travel and firmer suspension improved climbing efficiency. The bike had a spry XC personality in the 90mm mode.

DYAD RT2 rear shock

Conversely, with the travel set at 150mm, the Jekyll served up all the bump-eating coosh of a longer-travel trail bike. In this "flow" mode the additional rear sag and increased fork travel combined to produce a lower bottom bracket and slacker head angle. Just what the doctor ordered for bombing downhill. And the Jekyll is all about bombing. The bike gobbled up hits and the chassis felt tight and flex-free on fast, rocky downhills. Cannondale put a lot of effort into improving both frame stiffness and what they call "center stiffness" which is the flex (or lack thereof) in the connection hardware, such as bearing, pivot axles, and so on. This attention to the details added up to a tight, predictable feeling when pushing the bike hard into corners. Nice.

Fortunately the Jekyll resisted bob rather well, and was still quite pedalable in the 150mm mode. However, I liked the concept and execution of having two bikes in one. It was not that I felt that I "had to" switch between the travel modes every time the trail conditions changed, but since it was convenient to do so, Iffound myself toggling between modes as the terrain dictated. One nit to pick is the fact that said toggle switch required noticeably more pushing pressure than other handlebar-mounted remote controls that I’ve used.

As a final note, I’ll point out that Cannondale uses what the call "BallisTec" high-strength, high-impact carbon fiber that was originally developed for military purposes. The technology is trickled down to recreational uses, including carbon baseball bats—a testament to the impact resistance of the stuff.

2011 Cannondale Scalpel

Cannondale spent some time honing the 2011 Scalpel. Their XC-race full-sus frame got lighter and stiffer, with the large frame weighing in at 1365 grams (1591 with shock). Four models will be offered, all with carbon fiber construction featuring a Zero Pivot rear suspension that delivers 80mm of rear-wheel travel through flexible carbon fiber chainstays and seatstays (without use of pivots). The top model weighs less than 19lbs. (without pedals). Prices will range from $3,950 to $9,600 MSRP.

The Scalpel is built using Cannondale’s Tube2Tube technique, wherein each frame tube is individually laid up with the fiber orientation and the number of layers appropriate for the tube’s intended purpose. The tubes are then joined by wrapping with additional carbon layup. Construction involves a one-piece chainstay and bottom bracket shell.

All models get a new 100mm travel Lefty up front—with uppers, lowers and stem/steerer assembly further integrated. Lefty construction now involves only 3 parts (was 7 parts in the past). For 2011 the 100mm-travel Lefty forks will come with increased compression damping for improved control. Two of the Lefty models in the Scalpel lineup will be offered with SRAM’s handlebar-mounted Xloc connected to the Lefty’s PBR damper, giving the rider the ability to switch between active and lockout mode with the push of a button. All Scalpel models will have 2×10 drivetrains with integrated E-type front derailleur mount.

I rode the 2011 Scalpel on a sweet 25-mile jaunt on the Mid Mountain trail in Park City. The Scalpel lived up to its "light and efficient" design goals. This is a go-fast bike with sports-car handling. This Scalpel was sharp and precise, and demanding of rider attention at all times. When I was paying full attention and picking my lines, I could really wind it out and fly on this bike.

The pivot-less rear suspension continues the sports-car theme—short travel and on the firm side. However, it still let me rip through rough sections faster, and provided just enough "give" to spare my body from the abuses that a hardtail would have dished out. Just don’t count on the rear suspension to bail you out if you get lazy and pick an ugly-bad line. When I let my mind wander, the Scalpel tended to wander with it. Pay attention, pay attention.

Based on my abbreviated test, I feel that the Scalpel hit its mark. I would make a great choice for XC racing in situations where rear suspension is called for.

2011 Flash Carbon 29'ER

News Flash! Cannondale introduced their Flash line of 26" carbon fiber and aluminum alloy hardtails in model-year 2010. The big news for 2011 is that they’re be adding big wheels to the Flash line. Both carbon fiber and aluminum alloy 29" Flash models will be available, each one sporting a 90mm-travel Lefty up front (26" models will get 110mm of travel). All Flash models will feature 2×10 drivetrains. Prices on the 29" Flash line will range from $2,800 to $5,500 MSRP.

The Flash carbon frames are made from the same BallisTec fiber described above, and the 26" frame weighs in at a feathery 950g. The lightest 29" full-bike is reported to weigh in at just over 21 lbs. Frame details include a BB30 bottom bracket, oversized head tube, reinforced version of Cannondale’s dropout hanger, continuous fiber construction on the top tube and seatstays (molded as one piece) and post mount disc brake interface. The frame is engineered to provide up to 5mm of vertical compliance. Cannondale’s carbon fiber SAVE seatpost is engineered to provide twice the deflection of a traditional carbon seatpost and offer additional shock absorption on rough trails.

On the Park City trails the shock absorption of the Flash Carbon 29’ER was immediately obvious. I suspect that both the carbon fiver frame and the SAVE seatpost contributed to a "ride" that felt impressively buttery for a hardtail. I was surprised by the size of rocks and bumps that the Flash was able to roll over, with minimal buffeting of my backside.

Handling on the Flash Carbon 29’ER was quite intuitive, and I felt comfortable atop the bike from the get go. I carved fast, swoopy turns instinctively, with no mid-course correction required. Pointed downhill, the Flash Carbon 29’ER felt stable and predictable—never nervous at speed. The bike felt efficient, perhaps even spry, on the uphills. Hammering the pedals produced snappy acceleration. Based on my test session, I’d say that Flash Carbon 29’ER would be a great choice for the racers in the crowd, or any rider looking for a lightweight 29’er.