Cannondale Jekyll 2 review£5,500.00

Super-fast newcomer with a split personality

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Arriving fresh this spring, the Jekyll was the earliest ‘2018’ bike available, but is this radical-looking ride with its remote-control shock as enduro race-ready as Cannondale claims?

It’s when you commit to a section flat out that the Jekyll shows its true colours

Cannondale rarely follows convention, and while the Jekyll ditches its single-sided Lefty fork, the way the shock sits above and ahead of the kinked linkage gives the carbon mainframe a distinctive look.

It leaves room for a neat side-loading bottle cage on the seat tube too, and thru-axle pivots make it a lot stiffer than it looks. Stiffness is also a strong point of the BB30 bottom bracket shell and huge head and main tubes.

The rear end is alloy, and the asymmetric kinked seat tube, chainstays and rear wheel mean it can be kept super-short (420mm) while still providing ample clearance for 2.4in tyres. A unique ‘Gemini’ version of Fox’s Float X shock gives two travel/rate curve modes (‘Flow’ and ‘Hustle’) via a handlebar remote.

Cannondale Jekyll 2 kit

SRAM’s 12-speed X01 Eagle gearset is tougher than the pricier XX1 version, and the carbon Truvativ Descendant cranks are a great way to lever it into action.

The own-brand cockpit dimensions are excellent, the Race Face dropper is super-reliable and the Fabric saddle is day comfy. In fact, the only obvious compromise is the use of a black-shafted ‘Performance Elite’ Fox 36 fork and Float X shock, instead of Kashima-coated ‘Factory’ units, although the damping tech is the same.

If you’re into minimal weight fibre rather than more crashproof/cheaper-to-replace metal, the Jekyll 1 offers a carbon back-end and rims and top-spec dampers for £500 more.

Cannondale Jekyll 2 ride impression

While the non-‘Factory’ Fox dampers aren’t quite as sensitive over trail chatter, the 2.5in front tyre goes a long way to hide that, after you lower the pressure (the 29mm rim means you can go down to 20psi without it squirming).

Once the fork and shock move past their stubborn initial phase, sensitivity is good, with an easy, generous mid stroke that gives good traction and speed sustain.

Drop your heels, let go of the brakes and the way it seems to melt serious drops into nothing is truly phenomenal
Drop your heels, let go of the brakes and the way it seems to melt serious drops into nothing is truly phenomenal

It’s when you commit to a section flat out that the Jekyll shows its true colours. Drop your heels, let go of the brakes and the way it seems to melt serious drops, square edges and normally speed-choking rock gardens into nothing is truly phenomenal.

Compared to the tightest-feeling bikes, that ultra-fluid, impact-ignorant travel does come at the cost of crisp clarity as to exactly what the rear wheel is doing as it limousines along deep in the travel. Some riders may also want a touch more progression in the full-open ‘Flow’ mode (irritatingly, that’s a dealer or pro tuner job), although it does work like some sort of hyperspace button when it comes to sheer straight-line speed.

If you’re after a tighter feel, ‘Hustle’ mode reduces the volume of the rear shock’s air spring to drop travel by 35mm and give a more progressive stroke. This also has the effect of steepening the dynamic head and seat angles, so the suspension and steering wallow and wander less on technical climbs.

I found myself using the switch as often as the gear shifter when pushing the pace on rapidly-changing terrain. The tighter setting also helps offset the Jekyll’s weight when trying to get it moving (13.83kg / 30.49lb, medium).

No matter how you’re using the suspension, the Jekyll is a superb shape to get the most from it. Even my medium sample was the same length as a lot of the ‘large’ bikes on test for Superbike of the Year.

The 780mm bar, 35mm stem and 65-degree head angle let you get maximum traction from the 2.5in front tyre, and the easy suspension stroke means the dynamic ride height always feels hunkered down rather than perched and precarious. In contrast, the short rear end is easy to hop and chop around. The result is a bike that feels incredibly calm and relaxed even when riding recklessly fast but dynamic and alive when you don’t need full slack, full travel flow.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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