The Ride You Go to Day After Day: Cannondale's "Sculpted" Scalpel HT Is Pricey but Amazing

Scalpel HT Carbon 1 9 photos
Photo: Cannondale
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There are a few cycling teams out there that are worth watching, and one of them is Cannondale. Well, this time around, we explore their "new" Scalpel HT Carbon 1, a hardtail two-wheeling mountain goat built to be light, strong, and the ride you go to day after day.
Ladies and gents and lovers of all things cycling, lend me your eyes for the next few minutes so that you may get a feel for what Cannondale has whipped up this time around. If you're already familiar with the Scalpel HT class of bikes from this manufacturer, then you have some idea of what's in store. If you don't, then you're in for a real treat.

For starters, what sets the Carbon 1 apart from other Scalpel bikes in Cannondale's lineup is the fact that it uses a carbon fiber frame as the backbone for its magic, as its name would imply. But, it is an XC bike, so there are clear limits to what it can do and is meant to achieve; you won't be flying around downhill tracks with this and should always ride a bike within its manufacturer-designed limits. It's one reason why you don't see riders bringing home gold medals on cruisers.

Scalpel HT Carbon 1
Photo: Cannondale
Before I go on, allow me to point out that this puppy isn't cheap, placing it outside of the Average Joe's reach in terms of the willingness to drop €5,000 ($5,300 at current exchange rates) on a new one. Some shops are selling it for cheaper, some for more, so do take the time to shop around.

As for what you're getting your hands on, I mentioned that this thing is light, and with that, allow me to point out that a Carbon 1 frame comes in with a weight of no more than 895 grams. For an MTB? You betcha! Are you starting to understand where some of that cash is going? Carbon fiber is not easy to work with and is very time-consuming to lay up.

One aspect of the frame I do want to shed light on is its ability to reduce "terrain chatter." It does this by relying on "sculpted flex zones" in the chainstay, partnered with a dropped seat stay, a trait often seen on gravel bikes, in order to absorb some of the feedback the road is throwing in the rear triangle and the rider. Even though it is a hardtail, it should feel quite "soft," for a bike, that is.

Scalpel HT Carbon 1
Photo: Cannondale
However, there is real softness built into the Carbon 1, and it's in the shape of Cannondale's famous Lefty Ocho forks. This time around, a 120 Carbon with Chamber Damper and remote lockout brings 110 mm of travel to the game. Cannondale also makes a big deal out of the 50 mm fork offset coupled with a 65.5-degree headtube and how it's supposed to be the sweet spot between agility and stability at the front of the bike. All I know so far is that I'd love to test one of these babies out.

Now, as we move forward on the Scalpel, we arrive at the all-important drivetrain, and if I may, I'd like you to take a moment and leave a comment with who you think may have been chosen by Cannondale for this section of the bike. Come back to the text once you're ready.

Well, at this level of cycling, there are a few teams that typically take the spotlight, and one of them, the crew present on the Scalpel, is none other than SRAM. Sure, Shimano has its own top-shelf MTB drivetrains, but riders seem to prefer SRAM, and one reason is gear range.

Scalpel HT Carbon 1
Photo: Cannondale
Overall, the setup is tuned to run a 10-52T XO Eagle cassette and a 34T XO T-Type chainring. All that supports a T-Type chain that's being jerked around by an Eagle AXS rear derailleur. If you're not familiar with the AXS lineup from SRAM, it's a wireless shifting experience tuned for precision, accuracy, and downright control and power when you need it. It may sound perfect, but there are clearly riders out there who prefer something else. If that's the case, don't be shy; use your favorite setup and components. You just have to find a bare Carbon 1 frame for sale.

The final pieces of the Carbon 1's puzzle are features the rims, handlebar, and seatpost, which are all carbon fiber, an alloy stem, and solid 29-inch tires running 2.25-inch cross-sections. Schwalbe is the crew responsible for the last bit, but if you have something else in mind, go for it, as this feature is rather inexpensive to replace.

Personally, the Scalpel HT Carbon 1 is the sort of bicycle that I'd never use to its fullest potential, so you probably won't see me going out and buying one. But if I were to, let's say, get my hands on one for a test ride, I'm sure I'd be checking all my bank accounts to make sure they can take the hit of newfound love. Ride safe out there, and always wear a helmet.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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