The Scalpel has been in the Cannondale XC playbook since 2001, as the weapon of choice for its World Cup athletes, and it has taken on a few different renditions. After four years, the brand has a new Scalpel and Scalpel SE out and the XC bike comes with some major changes.
The major change for the Scalpel is a switch from a single-pivot suspension design with a flex-tuned rear triangle, to a design that more closely replicates a 4-bar Horst link design, by using a flex-tuned rear triangle. FlexPivot incorporates carbon fiber flex zones that help the bike act like a Horst link, but without the weight or flex from bolts and bearings. This, Cannondale says, also allows them to tune the frame feel for each size with their Proportional Response construction techniques.
So, rather than the frame featuring a pivot between the seat and chainstays like other Horst links, the chainstays flatten near the rear axle, adding for more vertical flex and traction.
This design does seem to save them some weight, and the Scalpel frame with shock weighs a claimed 1,900g, which is just a tick over four pounds. Cannondale is still using the Ai offset drivetrain on the new Scalpel, to get more clearance out of the frame. Rear tire clearance allows for 2.4″ tires, which should be welcome, as more XC riders seem to be opting for wider tires to increase traction. Cannondale is claiming that this makes it one of the lightest XC frames out there, lighter than a Trek Supercaliber, a Scott Spark RC HMX SL, or a Specialized S-Works Epic.
Geometry has progressed on the Scalpel, like anything else, and the head tube angle is a degree-and-a-half slacker than the previous generation. Cannondale paired this with their extra-long Lefty “fork” offset. Cannondale calls this concept OutFront geometry. This gives riders more stability through rough terrain, while keeping the bike responsive.
On a medium 2021 Scalpel, the head tube angle is 68° and the seat tube angle is 74.5°. Reach is actually longer on the XC-minded Scalpel, than the SE, at 435mm on a medium, and the wheelbase is a few millimeters longer at 1151mm.
On the SE, geometry starts with a 67° HTA, and a a 74° STA, not exactly progressive on paper anymore for a 120mm XC/trail bike, but not unreasonable either. The wheelbase is a short 1148mm on a size medium, and the reach is also conservative, at 430mm. Chainstay lengths are 436mm across the board.
The Scalpel lineup wouldn’t be complete without an SE, trail ready version though, and Cannondale didn’t forget. The new Scalpel SE gets a bump in travel again to 120mm front and rear, and the geometry is slacker and more aggressive. Builds come with wider tires and a dropper post.
Another new feature on the Scalpel is a STASH Kit, a tool or storage spot built into the downtube under the water bottle mount. The kit includes most everything for a trailside repair: a Fabric 8-in-1 mini-tool in a quick draw holster, with a Dynaplug tubeless repair kit, and a spot for a CO2 or a mini-pump.
The 2021 Scalpel will be available in eight different models, including the SE and a women’s Scalpel Carbon 2, and women’s Scalpel Carbon SE. Scalpels are sized S, M, L, and XL. Women’s specific Scalpel sizing will be available in S, M, and L.
Pricing starts at $4,000 for the Scalpel SE2/Women’s, with builds priced at $4,500, $5,500, $6,000, and $9,000.