2021 Cannondale Scalpel HT

2021 Cannondale Scalpel HT

Wheel Size: 29’’

Travel: Hardtail / 100 or 110 mm front depending on build

Material: Carbon fiber

Stated Weight:

  • Scalpel HT Hi-Mod Frame: 1.97 lb / 895 g
  • Scalpel HT Hi-Mod 1: 21.3 lb / 9.68 kg
  • Scalpel HT Carbon 3: 23.2 lb / 10.520 kg

Price: Complete bikes $2,200 to $5,000; see below for details

David Golay reviews the Cannondale Scalpel HT for Blister
Cannondale Scalpel HT Hi-Mod 1
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Intro

The Scalpel name has been in the Cannondale lineup for nearly 20 years now, dating back to when full suspension Cross Country bikes were very much the exception, rather than the rule. But today, Cannondale is introducing a new Scalpel hardtail — to go along with the existing Scalpel full-suspension bike — with pretty wild geometry for an XC race bike.

The Frame

Cannondale is offering the Scalpel HT frame in carbon only, but two different layups are available. The top-spec Scalpel HT Hi-Mod 1 gets the fancier, lighter Hi-Mod frame, while the other three builds get a more standard carbon layup that cuts costs but adds a few grams (though the exact amount isn’t stated).

David Golay reviews the Cannondale Scalpel HT for Blister
Cannondale Scalpel HT Hi-Mod 1 Frame

Trimming weight wherever possible was a clear priority for Cannondale with the Scalpel HT, but the feature set isn’t entirely bare bones. There are mounting points inside the front triangle for two water bottles, fully internal cable routing, and a Sram UDH derailleur hanger. The bottom bracket shell is a PF30 affair (no need for an aluminum sleeve for threads) but an ultra-minimal integrated chainguide is included (similar to the one Canyon includes with their Lux Trail). Cannondale even went so far as to make the cable stops convertible — you can run full-length housing for reliability and easier maintenance or interrupted housing to save a few grams if you’re so inclined. And while none of the complete builds come with a dropper post, cable routing is provided for one if you want to go that route.

Fit & Geometry

Cannondale offers the Scalpel HT in four sizes, Small through XL, with reaches ranging from 410 to 470 mm in neat 20 mm increments. All get a 67° headtube angle and 75° effective seat tube angle (with the actual seat tube angle steepening slightly as you go up the size range). And like a lot of brands are doing these days, Cannondale changes the chainstay length on the Scalpel HT by frame size. The Small frame gets middle-of-the-road 430 mm chainstays, which grow by 5 mm per size, up to 445 mm on the XL.

It’s also worth noting that Cannondale publishes two geometry charts for the Scalpel HT, depending on which length fork the bike is specced with. The actual frame geometry is the same, with the differences coming from the change in fork length. The numbers stated above are with a 100 mm fork (as specced on the Scalpel HT 2, 3, and 4); the 110mm-travel fork on the Scalpel HT Hi-Mod 1 slackens both the headtube and seat tube angle by 0.5° and shortens the reach by a few millimeters. Both charts are shown below.

The two numbers that really stand out are the chainstay lengths and headtube angles. The stays are notably long for an XC race bike and, coupled with the quite-slack headtube angle, should make for an especially stable, composed bike (at least by the standards of XC race hardtails). For comparison, Cannondale’s more traditional XC race hardtail, the F-Si (which stays in the line alongside the Scalpel HT for now) has a 69° headtube angle across the board and 427 mm chainstays in all sizes apart from the XS (which is even shorter, at 423 mm). That’s a big difference and we’re very curious to see how it feels on the trail.

The Builds

The Scalpel HT is only offered as a complete bike, with four builds ranging from a surprisingly-modest $2,200 to $5,000. Here are the component highlights of each:

  • Fork: RockShox SID SL, 100 mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore w/ XT rear derailleur
  • Crankset: Shimano M5121
  • Brakes: Shimano MT501, 160 mm rotors
  • Wheels: WTB STX i23 rims w/ Shimano MT410 hubs
  • Fork: RockShox SID SL Select+ RL, 100 mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX w/ XT rear derailleur
  • Crankset: Cannondale 1
  • Brakes: Shimano M6100, 160 mm rotors
  • Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes Crest MK4 rims w/ Shimano MT410 hubs
  • Fork: Cannondale Lefty Ocho, 100 mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT
  • Crankset: Cannondale HollowGram
  • Brakes: Shimano XT, 160 mm rotors
  • Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes Crest MK4 rims w/ Lefty front / Shimano SLX rear hubs
  • Fork: Cannondale Lefty Ocho 120 Carbon, 110 mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT w/ XTR rear derailleur
  • Crankset: Cannondale HollowGram
  • Brakes: Shimano XT, 180 mm / 160 mm rotors
  • Wheels: Cannondale HollowGram 25 Carbon, w/ DT Star Ratchet internals
Cannondale isn’t offering a no-expense-spared, ultra-high-end build, but the Scalpel Hi-Mod 1 looks like a truly competitive XC race bike for a very reasonable price, and the other three builds are quite good values, too. All of the builds apart from the Scalpel HT Carbon 4 also include Cannondale’s Wheel Sensor to record speed and distance information, either through the Cannondale phone app or certain Garmin devices.

Some Questions / Things We’re Curious About

(1) The new Scalpel HT has notably progressive geometry for an XC race hardtail, yet it’s also obviously still designed with uphill efficiency in mind. So how does that add up on the trail? And who should be looking at the Scalpel HT vs. more traditional XC race bikes, like the F-Si?

(2) Is the Scalpel HT (maybe with the addition of a dropper post) a viable everyday ride for some XC-focused riders, or does it just feel like a dedicated race bike?

(3) And how does the wild-looking Lefty Ocho fork on the two higher-end builds actually perform?

Bottom Line (For Now)

The new Cannondale Scalpel HT has very progressive geometry for an XC race hardtail and is offered in an impressively affordable range of builds. We’re very curious to see how that all adds up on the trail, and hope to be able to line up a full review to come.

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