Cannondale Scalpel Team Pro Review

Pro Reviews

Cannondale’s top of the heap XC Scalpel Team edition gets dirty. Doubt everything about the bike from the funky fork to a rear end missing at least two joints, but like everything else, a ride tells the story.

Cannondale is “that other American brand”. Frankly they’ve always done a better job designing and building bikes than they have at marketing them. That’s a bold statement coming from a goober like me, especially when you consider that, along with prototype testing or R&D, a company’s marketing guys usually run the media show…

But please understand that I don’t mean it as a swipe at Cannondale. Frankly, if a few companies engineers (the ones that actually have engineers that is…) spent more time in original thought focused on what works better, rather than in playing catch up to a marketing departments ideas about what sells, well, they would be Cannondale. Some of the best examples of that have consistently been in their development on the Mountain side, and the Scalpel Team is no exception.

The easiest thing to note here, and the first thing every casual passer-by notices is the Lefty fork. It’s been in the product range long enough that nobody (with any brains) is calling it a fashion fork (especially guys trying to design something competitive). The latest version on the Scalpel, the Lefty Speed Carbon SL is a relatively close cousin the Max Carbon (tested by Mtbr site manger Gregg on the Rize) and represent the best of the bunch and offer fantastic performance.

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  • Matt says:

    This bike is amazing. I had a chance to demo one briefly at skeggs here in the SF bay area, and it blew me away. I came home telling my wife, \No, I’m not kidding, I think I may need to spend $7000 on a bike.\ It made my Intense Spider feel like a Huffy.

  • Wish I Were Riding says:

    I’ll take one of these or a Rise if it can fit 650B wheels…

    Nice review. Thanks.

  • Vlad Sabau says:

    nice review, awesome bike

    Keep it up Eliflap.

    Regards from Romania,

  • charles says:

    Vlad the picture of your insane Scalpel in the review was my favorite Pic!

  • gregg says:

    Hey thanks for the awesome review, Charles!

    Not surprising to see that it rides very similar to the Rize.

    And I totally agree…I wish more of the carbon fiber was visible too….but then I enjoy the tech look.

  • Vlad Sabau says:

    Charles, is not my bike in the review…. is Eliflap’s bike and the other one I don’t know who it owns is …

  • hutchone says:

    not to knock your very nice cannondale but if what you said about this fork were true more companies would be going this route(single side fork) and there not, and on top of that cannondale in my 20 years of building bikes has never been known for top notch frame strength in fact ive seen more busted cannondale frames then any other kind of MTB frame. This is just my personal opinion but i’d take my $7000 and by a hellova lot nicer bike then a cannondale scalpal

  • hutchone says:

    PS: like say a TREK Top Fuel 9.8 or 9.9

  • charles says:

    I really like the 9.9ssl too. in fact, I’ve been on that bike along with the Scalpel team, Scott Spark, Sworks Epic etc… Fantastic bikes with a lot to offer (and lots of reasons they don’t copy designs from one another…)

    I could definitly be wrong in what I’m feeling, but I have been on most of the top end XC bikes available lately including the 9.9ssl (great back end). What I felt with the lefty is pretty much on par with what others in the industry feel about the lefty (even several competitors when they’re being honest). And having seen stiffness testing (and nobody is disputing the weight) I’ll simply stand by what I’ve said.

    As for broken bikes, we’ve both seen plenty from virtually all brands. Staying on topic though I’ve not seen a single broken 09′ team edition Scalpel. But if I had, Cannondale (along with a few of it’s competitors, including your Trek choice, Specialized, Scott, Look) take very good care of their customers.

    If you have any data on fork tests and or pics of lots of broken 09 scalpels, please let me know though! I learn something new every day and don’t claim for a second to know it all. I would say post pics or info you have, in the Forums but noticed you have no posts at MTBR (no crime though as I hardly have any either, though I’m not exactly hard to find or identify…)

  • Dan Gerous says:

    For the 12 years old: The reason other companies dont use the superior Lefty design is simple: Cannondale own the design and patents and are not interested in licensing it. People dissing the Lefty with such arguments as ‘if it were that good, others would do it’ obviously haven’t been riding one… The only negative point I give a Lefty is that after being used to them, it becomes quite hard to ride anything else, they just feel wrong and vague.

    Oh and I’ve seen a lot more Treks snap than Cannondales with Fishers being even worse, but any brand of bike can sometimes have failure…

    Charles: nice review. I’m on a 2008 Team Replica myself and you just got me a lot more curious about the 2010 range… coming soon.

  • Vinny C says:

    I just cannot bring myself to get past the lefty forks. I tested a Cannondale (not the scalpel) with a lefty fork and it just didn’t feel right and I hate the way they look. Probably the same feelings as a Cannondale fan would have about conventional forks! I ended up getting a 2009 Top Fuel 9.8 and cannot imagine a faster and more comfortable race bike…..and comfort in a racing rig is saying something.

  • Charels says:

    Vin I see what you’re saying, I just dont feel it… Having had the 9.8 I can say that the damping, operation and stiffness are at the very least, on par and frankly a bit better on the Scalpel. And I’m not looking at it from a brand fan perspective.

    Had you targeted the rear suspension, I would have said there’s a difference depending on terrain and that some may side one way or the other. But I don’t think the fork on the 9.8 is better at literally anything. On the whole though I wouldn’t cry a bit having either bike…

  • Brian says:

    I have tried to look at the lefty objectively but can’t get past a few of the design issues. I wish I had shops opinion , one who has serviced this fork. It seems to me that all the monkey motion required to keep this fork/wheel straight while dampening efficently kind of works agianst itself. Stiction is the enemy of fork operation and as this design wears it seems stiction would increase dramatically. This is all guess woek on my part with know real facts to back it.
    I have owned Cannondales in the past and these one brand components are very expensive to maintain and repair. Many of the reviews I have read say they like the operation but require alot of maintenance. Any real world EXPERIENCED users?

  • Brian Derhalli says:

    Please excuse my spelling errors on that last post. It was supposed to read “This is all guess work on my part with no real facts”.

  • sean O'Neil says:

    I have been riding a 2001 cannondale jekyll with a “basic” lefty fork and I can say that it performs great. I ride about once a week (should be more)on real mountain bike trails and have never had a problem a with the lefty. In fact I have never had it serviced! By the way I’m 6’2″ , 210 lbs. and ride hard.

  • Keith says:

    Brian, I am a “real world EXPERIENCED user”. I own this bike- It’s my 4th Scalpel & one of several bikes I ride regularly (although the others are a little neglected since this baby showed up). I upgraded my previous Scalpel for this exact one, and I can tell you the carbon frame, BB30, and parts groupo improve on a bike I thought was pretty close to perfect. Broken frames are a part of the deal for anyone who races hard, regardless of the brand they’re on. I’m 6’1″ 185lbs & racing at the top level with our local club. We’re literally racing on the Canadian Shield here & the courses are brutal: an old ski hill and a maze of singletrack through an old mining area. I’ve broken a couple bikes including one of my older Scalpels- Cannondale sent me a free replacement & even upgraded my ’07 style for the new one with more travel… not a bad deal right? As for the Lefty, don’t ever try one or you’ll be stuck riding Cannondales for life (or until some other company smartens up and “invents” the Righty). I bought my first Scalpel because, spending this kind of money, I wanted a bike that had some visible engineering innovations… I wanted something special, something exciting! Of course I grew to love the Lefty, as everyone does. Now here’s the problem: I coach a team of 60 teenagers at the school where I teach & many of them are on pretty fine bikes. The kids always want to test ride my Scalpels, but I can’t let them. It’s better if they don’t know. As for the Living Hinge rear triangle- wow, super light & amazing on climbs. Now, you’re probably thinking I’m just brand loyal right? Wrong. I also own a Redline 29er, a Kuota TT bike, a Trek MTB, a Specialized Cyclecross, and a Cannondale road bike. A Specialized Rockhopper Pro hard tail was stolen last fall. All these other bikes are good. OK, the Kuota is great, but my Cannondale System6 road bike is just a regular bike, just like all the others I’ve tried. I’d probably even switch brands & look at a Pinarello for my next one. However, the idea of buying a non-Scalpel mountain bike just doesn’t make sense to me. Is this bike for everyone? No, you’ve got to be crazy to spend this kind of $ on a bike. But if you ride more than you drive & you’re gonna spend your money on a sweet bike instead of the new truck you badly need, the Scalpel is it. Period. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but it’s the opinion of a man who rides a lot and has ridden a lot of bikes. For the record, my wife also rides a Scalpel.

  • Nick Nkanang says:

    guys… I currentlty own a top fuel 9.9ssl.. i also own a trek top fuel 2007 sl .. and i have just finished a trek fuel ex 9.9 build with crossmax sl and oro puro brakes..

    i have just purchased a scalpel team from ebay.. and am waiting for it to arrive..

    i want to love it.. i want for it to deserve a place in my bike shed..

    will give you feeback when it arrives.

    thanks for a great review..!!

  • JP LaMere says:

    I have the new 2010 Scalpel Team, I paid $7100 for it not including tax, best money I ever spent, I’m 42 and have been riding and racing mtn bikes since they were commercially available, have ridden everything, the Lefty is the shizznit, nothing compares to it, the rollerbearings, fuhgettabout it, only problem is going no handed the bike pulls to the right because of the Lefty. Mine weighs 21 lbs with new XTR pedals, real tires with Stans fluid, wrapped chain stays, a real seat, water bottle cage and rizer bars. When you ride this bike, you fee like you are being pulled magically from the front wheel forward by God, even tho I don’t believe in God, oh my God is this bike EPIC!
    – Buzzy

  • Brian Derhalli says:

    Thanks for the reply’s guys. Keith you are absolutely right, when I wrote the original posting I was helping a Friend with a new mountain bike purchase and he wanted the Cannondale in the worst way. We shopped many dealers and rode five different brands all of the same groupo level etc. In the end the Cannondale was a much better design , easier to use, more responsive and the engineering is apparent not some hidden magic that is supposed to make it better than every thing else on the planet. I have had the opportunity to ride my friends bike a few times and now I must admit it will probably be my next bike!

    Cannondale Convert!

  • Hey Guys . I live in Australia and have a dilema. I own a cannondale prophet 1000 which has been a great bike but a bit too heavy for xc racing.Have test ridden the above bike which was great!Have also test ridden the new santa cruz carbon blur . Have says:
  • Hey Guys . I live in Australia and have a dilema. I own a cannondale prophet 1000 which has been a great bike but a bit too heavy for xc racing.Have test ridden the above bike which was great!Have also test ridden the new santa cruz carbon blur . Have says:
  • Hey Guys . I live in Australia and have a dilema. I own a cannondale prophet 1000 which has been a great bike but a bit too heavy for xc racing.Have test ridden the above bike which was great!Have also test ridden the new santa cruz carbon blur . Have says:
  • Hey Guys . I live in Australia and have a dilema. I own a cannondale prophet 1000 which has been a great bike but a bit too heavy for xc racing.Have test ridden the above bike which was great!Have also test ridden the new santa cruz carbon blur . Have says:
  • Abe says:

    I tested both the Scalpel and Trek 9.9 in January. The Scalpel was the lightest full suspension I’ve ever seen. It’s performance was great but if I chose one of the 2 the Trek just seemed more precise on tech terrain. I would suggest the Cannondale every time for a very light rider as I didn’t think it was for a heavy rider. Both are fast machines. Unfortunately both were mediums and I ride a large so part of the advantage of the Trek was better fit.

  • Alberto Jara - Cannondale Monavie Scalpel says:

    I purchased a Cannondale Scalpel Monavie 2009 from one of the guys at the Monavie Cannondale Racing Team. I love the bike, it is extremelly precise, light, nimble! It has increased my ride quality and it made me a better rider overall! I came from a Trek Top Fuel 9.8 which is a great bike but not in the same league as a Scalpel. The only problem I am having with my Scalpel is that it came 2×9 and 44/29 & 34/11. Since the type of riding I do involves a lot of climbing, it became a problem to clear certain hills. Does anyone know what I need to do to change my gearing to a triple ring? I was told I need a new spyder and 3 new chain rings, but if it is right, where can I find them?

  • Jon O says:

    I’m just another long time Lefty convert, for the most part, but in my spare time I happen to be a mechanical engineer, as are several of my Lefty-riding friends, and I’ll say that for those that think this thing looks weird or that it’s a gimmick…well, us engineers don’t think so. The bending moment (torque trying to bend it) on the Lefty is, as with forks, almost entirely due to the forward offset of the wheel from the headset, and only minimally from the lateral offset of the wheel from the tubes. So when the structure to withstand that bending is combined and built out in a larger diameter you get a structure that is lighter at a given stiffness/strength. Additionally, the single mechanism for location means the Lefty can use needle bearings, instead of needing to allow for a little slop in the two separate stanchions, like a fork has to do in order to be able to move when those stanchions inevitably flex a little independently. Stiction is also dramatically lower in the Lefty as a result, and it doesn’t get sloppy with wear since the (replaceable!) rolling bearings don’t wear past their pre-load within a reasonable lifetime.

    My favorite trails are technical sandstone in Utah, and my Lefty has made a lot of trips there, but sometimes I’ve had to rent something instead. On those occasions I’ve been able to make some direct comparisons of, well…directness. The other full suspension rigs I’ve had on those same trails (Rock Shox, Fox…one other I can’t remember) never held a candle to my Lefty when I needed to grab a handful of front brake and put the front wheel on an exact spot. It’s one thing to grab the brake with the bike stopped and notice how much more play is in those forks, but it’s another thing altogether to notice that you’re staying constantly below 9/10ths on a trail you know like the back of your hand because the wiggly front end isn’t as predictable as the ‘ol Lefty.

    If you think you can’t get past the visual aspect somehow, try looking at the front tire when you glance down instead of the shock…you’ll be used to it in no time!

    But if you convert, do yourself a favor and remember that leaking oil will find its way to the brake; mine has even been known to wear a rag at the base of the boot to ward off surprises. Mine is an ’04 MAX, so I hope they got better with that, but at least on the older ones the top seal is a weakness that has to be replaced every year or so.

  • boomhauer says:

    good lord sub 22 with pedals and tubes? that is insanity.

  • boomhauer says:

    btw- is the UK version a “righty” ? get it? get it??

  • the brit says:

    I own a 2001 scalpel XTR throughout good bike, my problem is with the Fatty SI front fork, hard to repair.
    Can I change it out for a lefty? or can I upgrade to a Rockshox?
    not a hellcat rider just like to get out there and ride the trails.
    Any help with this will be appreciated thanks…

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