Review: Cannondale Jekyll 29-1
|Cannondale may have stepped back from their penchant for wild designs for the moment, but the Jekyll 29’s chassis has a few creative touches that stand out.—RC|
No provision is given for a front derailleur, which eliminates the need for a tragically offset drive-side chainstay. The Jekyll’s swingarm takes the shortest distance between the axle and the frame, and picks up a significant measure of tire clearance along the way. Up top, the seatstays are bridgeless, which makes room for tires up to 2.5 inches with 29-inch wheels and also facilitates the Jekyll’s relatively short, 44.2 millimeter chainstays. Oh, and there are ISCG 05 mounts on its press-in bottom bracket shell if anyone can remember what those are for.
Suspension DesignThe overarching story about the Jekyll’s kinematic design is that it was reportedly crafted to keep the rear suspension supple and near its sag point under braking. That’s a clever trick to pull off with a single-pivot rear suspension, but it can be done. Swingarm pivot placement and proper ride height play commanding roles in that equation, so getting your shock tune right may be key to the Jekyll’s happiness. Cannondale and Scott have been long-time proponents of handlebar-remote suspension-travel devices. Like Scott’s, Cannondale’s Gemini employs a dual chamber air spring that shortens the Jekyll’s rear-wheel travel from 150 millimeters, to 120 and raises the ride height of the rear suspension. The combined effect is excellent for climbing, because it emulates a steeper seat tube angle and provides the extra support needed to compensate for the rearward weight shift. The downside is the necessary addition of the Fox-made Gemini control lever on the handlebar.
How does it compare? Scott's Genius 900-series gives us a rare opportunity to compare similarly spec'ed all-mountain/enduro bikes that share nearly identical technical features. They both are 29ers from vanguard bike brands. Both have a Fox-made dual-travel shock and both share the same, 150-millimeter suspension travels and 65-degree head angles. Performance wise, the two bikes should ride similarly, because on paper, they are so close. That said, the winner is the Cannondale Jekyll 29-1.
Builds: For the high intensity riding styles these machines are touted for, only the Cannondale is a needs-nothing build. Cannondale's $6800 Jekyll 29-1 slots between the MSRP of Scott's Genius 900 and 910. The Cannondale has an aluminum rear section. The Scott 900 sports full carbon, while the 910 shares the Jekyll's aluminum tail end. Component-wise, Cannondale wins the battle with a SRAM XO1 Eagle drivetrain (Genius 910s are GX/XO1 hybrids). The Jekyll's Fox 36 fork trumps the Scott's 34 and while the Scott Nude shocks are based upon Fox's in-line dampers, Cannondale's Gemini is built around the more desirable Fox DPX-2 reservoir shock. Syncros wheels are one of the better house brands made, but the nod goes to the Jekyll's Stans Flow rims and more capable Maxxis Minion tires. Compare brakes and the Jekyll wins again with SRAM Code RSC versus Scott's choice of either Shimano XT or SRAM Guide RSC. Good news for both brands is they chose 200 millimeter rotors up front.
Performance: Both designs have 65-degree had angles, and corrected fork offsets. Reaches for medium sizes are stated a 441mm for the Jekyll and at 439mm for the Genius, while their seat angles are 75 and 74.5 degrees respectively. Scotts have an 11.5mm lower bottom bracket height, and shorter chainstays (438mm for the Genius and 442mm for the Jekyll). On the dirt, however the Cannondale feels noticeably more collected at speed and out corners the Scott by a noticeable margin. The Scott's rear suspension is less fussy to set up, but it never attains the Cannondale's deeper feel at full travel.
Climbing controls: Scott's TwinLoc remote suspension control affects both the fork and shock, has three modes and more ergonomically engineered lever. If you sprint out of the saddle often, Scott's TwinLoc is like the push-to-pass button on a Formula 1 car. Cannondale's Gemini system only affects the shock and its measure of pedaling firmness is far less dramatic. Climbing fast-paced smooth trails is the dominion of Scott, and if I pedaled any distance on prepared roads to access trails, I'd probably choose TwinLoc. On the dirt, however, Cannondale's Gemini offers twenty millimeters more travel in the short mode, and correspondingly more traction. I also like that the Gemini only has two options and that I could descend well enough in short travel mode. Less worries about being in the correct mode equals more fun.
Real wheels: Hard to go wrong with aluminum Stans Flow rims and WT Maxxis Minion DHR and DHF rubber. Cannondale's choice to go with a race-proven wheelset was the right one.
Gemini remote system: Not a huge fan of handlebar clutter, and the Gemini lever is butt-ugly. That said, I came to enjoy the more upright saddle position and firmer pedaling while climbing.
New frame design: Two thumbs up for the Jekyl's more conservative chassis. It has a good balance between pedaling stiffness, with just enough give in the frame and wheels to erase the fatigue that the stiffer-is-better mentality has heaped upon us.
SRAM Code RSC brakes: The more I ride these, the more I wonder why SRAM didn't market their DH brakes to trail bike makers a long time ago.
|Cannondale's Jekyll bucks trends in a different way, this time, with suspension kinematics and frame numbers that make fast-paced technical trail riding feel more intuitive and less like Anglo-American wedding dance moves. The Jekyll 29-1's planted feel is a cut above plowing through every feature. It doesn't short-change the experience, but it erases the insignificant details, so you can stay ahead of the bike more easily and concentrate on features instead. Its calm encourages a different riding style - one that's wickedly fast.