Finally: my Scalpel

It took a while but it was worth it. Sincerely, my new Cannondale Scalpel is as close to the perfect bike as it could be. The geometry is spot on and fits me as if the Cannondale designers used me to figure out the measures. It rides like I can control it with my mind, it just does what I want it to, corners solidly without hesitation, shoots uphill like a rocket, goes through rough trails like there's nothing to it, all that with speed, precision, confidence and calm. It's not called Scalpel for nothing! It's 9.6 kg makes it a joy to climb on and it's the best FS bike I ever tried to sprint, accelerate and power out of the saddle. So I could conclude right now even though I don't have that much ride time on the singletrack missile: it's the best bike I ever threw my leg over... but I'll go on.

Suspension duties are well handled out back by the Fox RP23. It does it's job of eating the hits and making the rear tire stick to the ground for outstanding traction but at the same time, it almost makes you forget your on a full suspension bike, pedaling efficiency is impressive and with the different settings that are a finger away, it can feel like a hardtail a second to a descending machine that goes down like a much bigger bike the next.

The descending skills of this lightweight is also due to the stiff and controlled manners of the front suspension, here handled by a very cool prototype looking Lefty that has skipped the decal department in Bedford. But it's a normal '08 Lefty Speed 110 SL, the lightest Lefty Cannondale offers. It stays put out of the saddle even without being locked out (locking it out makes it stiffer than an old school full rigid fork) but does what it has to do in the rough. Also helping in the downhilling capabilities is the bike's geometry that locates the pilot just where it should so it's a much more stable bike going fast and down than a typical super light XC race bike. Really confidence inspiring ride and fast corners in twisty trails become even more fun than they already are.

Another thing that's really important for the handling confidence, cornering and grip is the tire choice. It can make the difference between spinning out on a steep climb but also keep you on the course in a fast corner. The Schwalbe Racing Ralphs are so far the best tires I have used. They roll fast, are light enough but still provide an awesome grip pretty much everywhere. They corner very securely. You don't have bad surprises with these tires, they can handle hardpack, loose over hardpack, roots, rocks, dry, wet and to some extent mud without ever feeling like they will abandon you.

My fingers slow down this rocket using the wonderful Formula Oro Puro brakes and my palms are on ESI Racer's Edge silicon grips. Uncut, these were 42 grams but I shaved about 1/3 to use with the X.0 Grip Shift. Yes foam grips are even lighter but I can't stand them, these feel solid, grippy and they don't slip. They apparently also last a long time.

The light and quick twisty shifters are connected to a pretty standard SRAM X.0 medium caged rear derailleur and a less common Shimano Dura-Ace front derailleur with a set of Gore RideOn sealed cables. I profoundly dislike dirty sticky cables so this is one of the best way to keep the shifting smooth and precise for a long time. The front derailleur was chosen because I found it for real cheap, because it only weighs 86 grams and because the FD-7700 is the last 9 speed Dura-Ace model. With a wider cage than a 10 speed unit, it let's me use more gears on the cassette without having to trim it (which can still be done very well with the Grip Shifts) and a road shifter is a good choice here with the Cannondale Hollowgram SL only having two chainrings and the Scalpel using a downtube front derailleur cable routing. It shifts just as well as a mountain derailleur and because of the location of front derailleurs, being rock/crush/bomb proof is not really important.

My butt sits on a slick looking Selle Italia SLR XC. I like the shape and so far, it's as comfortable or more than anything else I have tried in the past. The Kevlar corners are there to toughen it up and also act as bright reflectors in the night. The saddle is perched on a rare Reynolds Ouzo Pro seatpost. It's a nice post, very clean looking, good clamp design and at 178 grams, it also helps bring the total weight of the bike down. Unfortunately, Reynolds have stopped producing seatposts so they are now very hard to get, this is one of the last they made.

After experiencing catapulting bottles at Mont Sainte-Anne, I put my old cage on my road bike and got a King Titanium cage to make sure it doesn't happen again. It hugs bottles tight enough to make sure you'll still have something to drink after the roughest downhills. I kept the alloy bolts that came with the old cage though, they are light and the Ti grey of the King and gold matches the 4TI Eggbeaters almost perfectly.

I still need more time on the bike to complete the suspension fine tuning and to let the Lefty break in a bit. I may have to change the SL's negative spring for a lighter one to match my weight though. Any negatives? More or less, something I noted but I don't see it as a problem: my calves sometimes rub against the rear suspension swing link. But, I have a narrower than stock crankset spindle, short axle Eggbeaters, cleats offset to move the feet closer in and I have big calves (they house two additional lungs) so moving the cleats will probably solve this... it's more a remark than a complaint. Other things to change? I have a few ideas but they would be luxuries that are not around the corner for now, this is pretty much the perfect bike for me.


Olivier said...

Nice job.
I wonder where you got the Reynolds seatpost. I've been looking for one for months.

Dan Gerous said...

I bought it a while ago, when I heard they stopped making seatposts. Now it must be almsot impossible to get one, especially new.

Anonymous said...

That has got to be one of the lightest FS bikes on the planet. Very sweet! How do you feel about its durability?