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Ride results for Cannondale Scalpel 3

| Blog, What Mountain Bike | 15/06/2012 14:19pm

Skills coach, part-time XC racer and WMB tester Matt Legg-Bagg times a Cannondale Scalpel against a Lappiere Zesty on a series of fast laps. But which is faster, and by how much?

(Ed’s Note: Matt modestly plays his speed and fitness down here, but the 26 year-old bike coach has been riding for fourteen years, and placed first in last year’s Clic24 24-hour solo race. It’s worth bearing that in mind).

Cannondale Scalpel 3

If you read part one you’ll know the Scalpel had already surprised me during a day’s photoshoot at Afan – it’s quick, clever and a whole lot more fun than a serious racer has any right to be. I arranged to borrow the bike from What Mountain Bike and really put it to the test with laps of my home trails. How much quicker would this 23lb carbon racer be than my 28lb, 140mm trail bike?

As a mountain bike skills coach (, I’m all about technique and I genuinely believe that an improvement in technique will result in an improvement in speed and enjoyment. Skill should always come before fitness. If you’re riding regularly your fitness will develop itself, but fitness without skill is futile. Where am I going with this? Well, while I’m not unfit, I’m no gristly-legged, gel-popping race junkie either. However, a childhood in bicycle trials has gifted me with an arsenal of trail skills. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why I lapped my local trails over two minutes faster on… the trail bike Zesty over the light and racy Cannondale.

The Zesty weighs in at 12.7kg (28lb) and with 140mm of travel is no XC racer, but it does inspire a confidence the Scalpel lacks. I can throw the Zesty into corners aggressively where the Scalpel begins to wash out. Saying that, the straightline speed of the Scalpel destroys the French lemon in less technical sections, but Ashton Court is a smooth, rock-armoured trail centre of a place. It doesn’t get much less technical than that – it’s interesting that even here, that extra straightline speed doesn’t pay off.

The 100mm Cannondale Lefty fork wasn't too troubled by the trails of Ashton Court

After riding with a RockShox Reverb for the last year, it’s a struggle ride a bike with a fixed post, as a dropper has radically changed the way I ride. A low seat allows greater body movement and helps massively in getting low into corners, as well as over the more technical sections. Adopting the most power-efficient seating position on the Scalpel made the technical sections difficult, but the flat-out singletrack even more rapid. The extra pound or so of a dropper post would almost certainly add real-world speed, rather than lessen it.

My conclusion in this little experiment is that Scalpel is simply too much bike for me to get the best out of right now, and though thoroughly enjoyable to ride, it’s not going to make anyone quicker just because its a race bike. I was slower in the corners on the Scalpel, and in theory should have made that time up on the faster sections, but my body wouldn’t allow me to sprint as I’d have liked! You’d really need fantastic fitness to make up that deficit, as so much of any trail is corner. There’s a lesson here for perhaps the majority of riders.

There’s no doubt the Scalpel is a rapid and fun race bike for the punter who has great bike skills and fitness combined. But until I feel fast enough to wear Lycra suits and obsess about leg hair, I’ll continue to beast the laps on my Zesty.

Matt Legg-Bagg, What Mountain Bike tester and Pedal Progression skills coach

You can see the 2012 Lappiere Zesty and the Cannondale Scalpel in an upcoming issue of What Mountain Bike, where they’ll be tested within an inch of their lives.


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