2018 Scalpel SE2 Review

scalpel three quarter view

This beast sat on my carpet for a month before I conjured the nerve to ride it. Ok, that’s a lie, I didn’t want it muddy. That’s partially true. I hate dirty bikes, but I love it. There’s nothing quite as good as playing in dirt. Playing in dirt on a bike. The 2018 Winter, as presented in the PA version, has been so shitty, colossal shit, not like being buried under feet of snow, but so crappy that it sucks from your soul any will to venture out. It’s cold, but not frigid. It’s windy and the air is always wet. The sun is always hiding. The saddest part, all the trails are sloppy, shitty ribbons of muck. There have been 2 whole days of good trails.. I sold my hard tail, a sleek, aging carbon race horse from 2010, fully custom built 29er from Cannondale, partially obtained from Guy’s Bicycles – where I reside as a part time wrench. The cool kids are wearing flannel shirts and baggy shorts on the trail, I, on the other hand, am still wearing my tights. Part of my intervention to grow along with the sport is this big pill, size large 2018 Cannondale Scalpel SE2. It’s a burly version of the wicked fast Scalpel SI, the same frame but fitted with some bigger tires, longer travel 120/115 suspension and a dropper post. It’s black.


It immediately felt weird but in a way that didn’t bother me. The bars are 760 mm wide, much wider than the old XC rig. So that was weird, but I liked it. Like kissing a cousin. Admit you had a cousin you secretly crushed on. Ok, that’s just gross,  Three suspension settings allow you to traverse the goods – ranging from damn near lock out, to crazy efficient, plush madness to wide open, jaw dropping, downhill slay mode. Combined with the RaceFace dropper post, this is by far the most versatile and capable bicycle in the woods. You can drift across muddy, off camber roots and maintain traction, the Eagle drivetrain, perfected by SRAM, is like a cheat code on every gradient. The teeth gnash their way into the chain, biting with a crisp, authoritative feel, with a 500% gear range I assumed the cogs went on forever as the 1-1 actuation shifter handled the clutch derailluer. Cannondale asymmetric rear wheel dishing keeps the center line of the bike intact, which adds to the overall intuitive handling. It’s pretty fucking amazing. Big logovers presented big challenges for me, there’s a bit of a learning curve to timing the hit. It’s a far cry from the hard tail – the launch is a different process.  I gave myself whiplash trying to figure it out. I’ll get used to it. There was a time, an era gone by, when I raced the Mid Atlantic on a dually – and I was good at it! This new whip makes me itch for a big 50 mile loop through the Rattling Creek trails or better yet, climbing the high peaks of the lush Shenandoah in mid July.

side view with critters

It climbs well, according to the shop boys, but for me, staying seated whilst climbing requires a Buddhist discipline. I’m beginning to accept it, I’m on a full suspension mtb and I’m beyond late, but better than never!! My approach is to practice seated climbing on the 2018 Cannondale Super Six HI Mod Evo – until my thighs are bigger than Peter Sagan’s.

pic monkey se2



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