Just what is XXC? Xtreme Cross Country. Also referred to as Aggressive Cross Country. A new marketing catch-phrase with the intention to grab consumers' attention? Maybe. But apt in many ways at the same time. If you have caught snippets of Cross Country races lately, you might have mistaken them for downhill or enduro races. The race courses seemed to have became gnarlier and a helluva lot more demanding on the racers. This new race characteristic that is fast becoming a common occurrence gave rise to the need to distinguish the old XC with the new XC – maybe calling it XXC if you would.




On the topic of Cross Country races, an objective observation shows that World Cup courses are indeed changing. And the demands on racers and their bikes are seeing a shift from the former focus on bike weight & fitting to additional considerations on the bike's capabilities – which is translated from the bike's overall geometry, linkage design (for full suspension bikes) and its ability to take punishments. A race could be won on climbs, but at the same time could be lost on the descents.

Bike brands are thus hard-pressed to design and produce Cross Country bikes that are light, efficient, durable and reliable. The new expectation on the bike could be summarized into the ability to go fast on both the climbs and descents. Tall order it seems, but we have seen the evolution of Enduro bikes. So why not Cross Country bikes?





Amidst the mad rush amongst bike brands to outdo each other in the various mountain biking disciplines, Cannodale had announced their weapons of choice too. In the Cross Country segment, they have the 100mm front and rear travel Scalpel SI. The Scalpel SI, according to Cannondale, is built for high speed stability over rough terrain yet retaining slow speed agility around switch backs and obstacles. The "SI" in Scalpel SI stands for "System Integration", which refers to Cannondale's approach to incorporate frame design with custom fork, suspension and drivetrain components. We take a closer look at this new XXC machine that has a long track record for good performance.




Traditionally, Cross Country bikes are designed with steep head angle, short rake, thus resulting in a tight trail and a relatively short front center. This resulted in the typical quick handling of Cross Country bikes. While most brands with a full range of products would usually offer a slightly slacker geometry in the form of Trail Bikes, and even slacker geometry in their All Mountain Bike range, these bikes of old generally trade off climbing capabilities with more forgiving handling. The above illustrate the typical attributes that Cross Country bikes used to focus on – climbing capabilities, quick handling and lightness. For longer travel bikes, like Enduro bikes, which are designed with improved climbing capabilities and widely regarded as an all rounder over their older All Mountain Bike counterparts, they cannot be a full replacement for Cross Country Bikes in terms of speed, weight, agility and climbing prowess.



The reason why the older All Mountain bikes or even Trail bikes with slacker than Cross Country bikes' head angles feel more sluggish during climbs is due to their use of forks with the "usual" offset. 



The solution for better steering control is to increase the fork rake. The Scalpel SI's stability and agility is made possible by a slack 69.5 deg head angle and a custom 55mm fork offset. The long rake and slack head angle results in a bike with a long front center. And this give the Scalpel an edge over older Cross Country Bike designs in terms of stability and control where the head angle is steeper and the rake is shorter. 



When a rider is fitted optimally on a bike with a long front center design, descents would feel more confident, with better control. This SHOULD generally lead to better speed, thus faster descends for that said rider. 





The above is only half the story.

Clever calculations and design allow the Scalpel SI frame to retain the use of 142 mm by 12 mm hubs, keep its chainstays short, accommodate wider rear tyres than before (2.35 inch for an XC bike!) with unchanged Q-factor, and yet able to accommodate 2X drive trains! This cool list of features are what Canoondale called the Ai, Asymmetrically Integrated Drivetrain System, which allows for bikes with ultra-short chainstays to improve traction, handling and stiffness for the bike, without any of the usual compromises in clearance or limited chainring options. Sounds good?



Cannondale has been known to build really stiff bikes and the Scalpel SI is no different. This frame's stiffness is partly due to the application of the Zero-Pivot Flexstay design on the rear triangle. The absence of pivots, utilizing the slight elastic nature of carbon and its uniquely shaped stays rewards the rider with a responsive and stiff ride and a bonus of some weight savings. 

Other nice bits on the Scalpel SI includes Modular Internal Cable Routing which allows for the internal cable inlet to be switched between 2 or 3 cables depending on the bike's setup or rider's preference. The new Scalpel SI frame is dropper post and Shimano Di2 ready. There is even a patent pending Di2 Battery Mount option for this bike. New cable routing on the Scalpel SI also also eliminated complains, from the older models, of cable rubs on the fork. And for more stiffness right down to the wheels, the Scalpel SI frame uses even-lengthed spokes.

The Lock'r Expanding Pivot System – a new suspension system featuring a custom RockShox Monach XX Banjio rear shock is 6% stiffer, 10% lighter and has 33% fewer parts than the older shocks. Carbon links are used on all models of Scalpel SI and this shock needs no special tool during servicing. While fewer parts are used for this new shock, Cannondale maintains the ECS-TC (Enhanced Torsion Stiffness-Torsion Control) which uses thru-axles at all pivot points and placing the bearings as far apart as possible for additional stiffness. 





It would seems like the Cannondale Scalpel SI is designed to be a race bike first, and a do-it-all short travel speedster second. Or should it be the other way round? Which ever way you see it, this bike is worth a second look. To check out this bike and/or to understand the Cannondale tech-jargons better, visit their outlets and see how the Scalpel SI can make you gnarlier.





Cannodale outlets are located at:


83/85 Frankel Avenue Singapore 458211, Tel: (65) 6441-4772 



#01-20, 33 Ubi Avenue 3, Singapore 408868, Tel: (65) 65-700-634




All information and photos by Cannondale