The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Jun 2010

The Spoke Word: Cannondale 2011 Mountain Bikes

The One-Bike Quiver

DSC02048 This is quite a bike. The 2011 Jekyll—a name that Cannondale has returned to its lineup after a seven-year hiatus—is a six-inch all-mountain bike with a rear shock that is literally two shocks in one. A handlebar-mounted remote toggles between the two for the six-inch-travel “Flow” mode and the climbing-friendly, 3.5-inch-travel “Elevate” mode. Paired with a Fox Talas fork that can switch between four and six inches of front-end travel, the Jeckyll truly is a go-anywhere bike.

Sound heavy? It’s not. The top-end Jeckyll Ultimate that I’ve been riding this week at Cannondale’s launch in Park City, Utah (we’ve also been testing the all-new Scalpel; more on that below) weighs just 25.4 lbs. It’s a full-carbon frame made from an impact-resistant carbon developed for the Japanese military and built up with a high-end spec that includes a SRAM XX drivetrain, Cannondale’s own Hollowtec cranks, a Fox Talas FIT RLC fork, and Crank Brothers Cobalt wheels.

DSC02056 The heart of the Jeckyll is the DYAD RT2 rear shock (sorry, I have nothing to do with the overly jargoned nomenclature of mountain-bike components). Developed in conjunction with Fox, this complex-looking piece of hardware houses two separate shock chambers built around a third unit that diverts or closes off air and oil flow in the chambers depending on which setting the bike is in. In Flow mode, the rear end settles down to give the Jeckyll a stable, laidback geometry perfect for technical descending. Elevate mode reduces sag by 40 percent, lifting the rear end and effectively steepening the head-tube angle for better comfort and handling on long climbs.

It all works as advertised. I was able to keep up on the climbs with riders on 29-inch hardtail bikes, then fly past them in Flow mode on the descents. The low bottom bracket—a concession to downhill stability—meant that I was hitting the pedals constantly, not just on rocks but even on the banked sides of the singletrack trails where we were riding. This was unfortunate, though by the end of our test ride I was already successfully adjusting my pedaling and lines to compensate for this. It takes some getting used to, but it’s workable.

That’s honestly my only gripe with the bike so far. The dual nature of the Jeckyll really does make it a one-bike quiver for riders who embrace a variety of terrain types. Paired with a linkage designed specifically for the DYAD, the rear shock delivers a plush, linear feel throughout the travel. The sensation in the first inch of travel isn’t much different from the sensation in the sixth inch—smooth and predictable.

The handling is incredibly precise. Cannondale uses 15mm thru-axels with dual external bearings at every pivot point to drastically reduce lateral flex. There’s absolutely no noticeable give at the pivots. The frame itself is simply wide. The massive downtube allows for such a broad suspension link that there’s room for a full-sized water bottle cage to fit inside it. All that width meant I could pick a line through rock gardens and feel confident that I wouldn’t get bounced off it. I honestly felt like the Jeckyll let me ride beyond my abilities. That performance boost doesn’t come cheap. The Jeckyll will come in three carbon models and three alloy-frame models, with pricing ranging from $7,999 for the Jekyll Ultimate that we tested down to $2,999 for the 30.9-lb Jeckyll 5. The bikes are scheduled to hit stores in the fall.

18.5-lb Cross-Country Scorcher

Scalpel_UltimateCannondale also used its Park City press event to introduce a completely redesigned Scalpel cross-country race bike. The 2011 Scalpel maintains the pivotless-suspension concept that has defined the Scalpel, but the execution is brand new. Tavel has been reduced from four inches to 3.15 (100mm to 80mm) in back and from 4.3 inches to four up front (110mm to 100mm).

Instead of the one-piece construction it has used for previous Scalpel model years, Cannondale went with tube-to-tube construction for the front triangle. The company’s engineers claim this allowed for straighter and, thus, stronger tube shapes. In fact, Cannondale says that in independent testing, the Scalpel has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any full-suspension bike on the market.

DSC02063And yes, it is a full-suspension bike. Flexible areas molded into the seatstays and chainstays allow for dramatic vertical flex in the rear triangle. Connected to a RockShox Monarch rear shock, this delivers a predictable, if not exactly plush, 3.2 inches of travel. Cannondale’s outstanding Lefty Speed Carbon fork delivers the travel up front. (If you’re afraid of Lefty forks, get over it. Especially in the cross-country-travel neighborhood, they are as good as or better than anything else on the market.)

DSC02062As you might imagine of a full-suspension bike that weighs less than a lot of road bikes, the Scalpel is a revelation on the climbs. There’s no doubt that this is a race-specific platform. Our 25-mile test ride took us through some rock-garden descents that were outside the suspension’s comfort zone. But for pure, lightweight, XC racing, the Scalpel has few peers. Personally, I think the Scalpel platform is begging for a 29-inch version. I’ll be first in line to ride one.Pricing for the four models in the Scalpel line will range from, ahem, $9,599 for the SRAM XX-spec’d, 18.5-lb Scalpel Ultimate to $3,949 for the Scalpel 3 (no word on weight for that one yet).Like the Jeckyll, the Scalpel should be available this fall.

—John Bradley
Twitter: johnwbradley

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K2: The Long and Winding Road

Fredrik approaches K2
I’m just about to fall asleep when I hear a sharp crack from the ice directly beneath me. I’m not a huge fan of crevasses, and something like this would normally send me flying from the tent like I was shot from a cannon, but tonight I’m just so happy to be here at the foot of K2 and so dog tired that I simply wrap my big down bag around me and fall asleep. If the Earth wants to open up and swallow me whole, she’ll get me without a struggle tonight.

When Fredrik and I finally arrived at K2 base camp, we dropped our packs and high-fived as if we’d summited. We may not have a cook tent, medical bag, food, fuel, or a stove, but we made it, and we couldn’t be happier.

The whole ordeal started when we left Hushe, bound for K2 via Gondogoro-la, with a quick side trip to try to climb and ski Laila Peak. Hushe is where the road ends and the trekking begins, but we were unable to find enough porters to carry all our climbing and ski gear, food, fuel, and other equipment needed for a three-month expedition. So we left most of the food and fuel at Hushe with a plan to have it brought on a subsequent carry.

By the time, we had made our attempt on Laila and were ready to move on to K2, the missing gear still had not shown up, although the 19 porters needed to get us and our existing gear to Huspang camp had. We were reassured that our gear would follow right along behind us, so we set off for Huspang under a darkening sky. Sure enough, as soon as we entered the middle of the glacier, the clouds dropped and we found ourselves in a whiteout with a light snow falling, post-holing to our knees with a line of porters behind us in standard-issue white plastic sneakers with holes in their socks.

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Landis Races Wearing "Arrogant Bastard" Jersey

Floyd Landis raced the Nevada City Classic sporting an "Arrogant Bastard Ale" jersey, Twisted Spoke reports.

The jersey, which featured the image of a horned devil with wings (the logo for an Escondido, CA micro-brewery), is described on the website as the best way "to let your fellow riders know your true character as you close in on them from behind or as you pull ahead and leave them sucking dust."

Landis, who recently implicated Lance Armstrong among others in serious drug allegations, raced without a team and took fifth.

--Shauna Sweeney


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The Gear Junkie: Belt-Drive Mountain Bike

Norco - Judan
By Stephen Regenold

Last July, when Greg Martin rolled across the finish line to win the 2009 Singlespeed World Championships bike race in Canmore, Alberta, one thing was missing from the rig he'd pedaled for 24 hours straight: a bike chain. Martin was riding a bike equipped with a belt drive instead.

As innovations in the world of cycling go, the Carbon Belt Drive system from Gates, a company in Denver, could be a game changer. The humble bike chain--greasy, gunk-prone, finicky if not lubed and maintained--has been standard equipment for decades. But belt drives, which employ a flexible loop of polyurethane embedded with carbon-fiber cords, give bikers a new option.

Gates' belt drives ( work with aluminum-alloy sprockets instead of traditional gears. It's a setup similar to what's long been employed on motorcycles. Indeed, Gates is a leading supplier of belts in the automotive industry, where its products are used by companies like Harley-Davidson.

Carbon belts The Gates belt drive that Greg Martin used to win is now seen on more than 40 bikes from major companies like Trek and Raleigh to independent bike builders and custom shops. (Martin rode a model made by Spot Bicycles, a small company in Golden, Colorado.) Gates touts advantages that include a quieter ride, a stronger and lighter drivetrain component set, and a maintenance-free "greaseless chain" that never requires lube.

For the past month, I have been test driving the belt-equipped Judan model from Norco (, a company based in Port Coquitlam, B.C. This tank of a bike includes 29-inch wheels and a steel frame. It weighs about 25 pounds and is a single-speed model with a front shock.

At $1,799, Norco sells the Judan in one configuration only. Its Gates Carbon Belt Drive is set up with a
46-tooth front sprocket and 28-tooth rear cog, which is about the equivalent to a 32-tooth by 20-tooth traditional chain drive.

It pedaled strong and--strangely--almost silently as I rolled onto a singletrack trail near my home. The belt drive cranked smoothly, and except for braking and wheels biting the dirt, there was almost no

Carbon belt gear Norco made the Judan for steep mountain biking areas. Its sprockets spin easily on rolling trails and going up hills. But on flats, and especially going downhill, the ratio limits your speed. Because the Judan is a single-speed bike, you cannot shift up or down to match the terrain. Single speed is how many belt-drive bikes are configured. To get "gears" with a belt drive, you need an internally-geared hub, which is becoming more common from companies like Rohloff and Shimano.

Overall, the belt drive functioned little differently from a chain. It provides all the power of metal links, though with a few advantages. Mud clogging the chain is less of an issue with a belt drive. Gates touts its polyurethane belt as unlikely to stretch or break. Not having to lube a chain is a nice feature, too.

On ultra-light bikes, the Gates system is appealing, as it can shave ounces off total bike weight. A complete Gates belt-drive-and-sprockets system weighs a mere 240 grams.

For bike commuters, the belt drives might make even more sense. Ever arrived at school or work with a grease stain on the inside of your pants cuff? This won't happen with a grease-free belt drive.

Cost is significant, however. A Gates belt drive can add a couple hundred dollars to a bike's retail price.

But from world champion riders to workaday commuters, belt drives are catching on. Watch this year for more people pedaling carbon-embedded belts--and leaving the bike chain behind.

--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of

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Steve Nash: NYC All-Star Soccer Game

Wednesday will be a big day for soccer in America. After Team USA faces off with Algeria at 10 a.m. EST with a chance to advance out of the first round, New York City will play host to the most star-studded pickup game all year, the third annual Showdown in Chinatown. Phoenix Suns All-Star Steve Nash and former U.S. Bball2 national soccer team captain Claudio Reyna lead two squads of eight roundballers and footballers at Sara D. Roosevelt Park, on New York's Lower East Side. The 6 p.m. game will be free to the public, but for those who want the backstage experience, tickets can be purchased for an exclusive Friends of the Steve Nash Foundation Brunch, at 11 a.m., and for an Evening of Showdown after-party and auction at Kiss & Fly, at 9 p.m. Both tax-deductible events benefit underserved children in Arizona, British Columbia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. For more information, visit

You can read Outside's 2009 interview with Nash here and learn more about the USA's World Cup team here.

--Will Palmer

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