Nov 2, 2018 by Evan Bailey
Last year I was riding on my aging 2003 Giant NSR 2 bike on the Cypresswood trail and my seatpost clamp think broke off! This was surprisingly the 2nd time it has broken since I’ve owned it! (am I getting that fat)? In addition to the seat post breaking again, I noticed that my rear Rock Shox SID was no longer holding air in one of the chambers and felt really stiff and also my front crank had been creaking for some time.
I knew these could be somewhat easy fixes and repairs, but I decided that maybe it was time to replace my 14 year old 26” bike. Since I live in Houston and primarily do my riding here, I wanted to stick with another lightish cross country bike that I could toss around the trails here.
I started to do some research on bikes and realized that a lot had changed in the biking world in the last 10 years. The last few years had been challenging for me due to being swamped at work, raising 3 very active young boys, and then having to deal with my OCD knee condition that left me hobbling along for 4 years. You can read more about that ordeal here if you wish. Needless to say I had been out of the mountain biking world for a little while and had not been keeping up with bike technology changes.
After reviewing all of the sweet new features on bikes and looking at what I could afford, I realized that if I wanted all of the new features in a light XC bike, I’d have to probably shell out a ton of money for a new one ($7-10K). Ouch! Yeah, that was not going to happen… so I started looking on the used market with a budget of around $2k
I had some criteria/wish items that I wanted this time around since apparently I don’t buy bikes very often.
1) I wanted it to be the same weight or lighter than my Giant (roughly 28 lbs). 2) I wanted hydraulic disc brakes- I realized that was pretty easy these days (my Giant had mechanical disc). 3) Carbon Fiber frame please! - Could I find a good used one for under $2k? 4) Bigger wheels (27.5/29”) - This was pretty easy since 26” bikes are pretty much obsolete now unless you go super cheap budget bikes or kid bikes. I wasn’t leaning one way or another on that debate. Finally 5) A cool color that wasn't red (my Giant was red and I wanted to switch it up!).
One of the other items I wanted was a 1X drive train since it seemed all the newer bikes had gone to that (Hey to not have to deal with adjusting a front derailleur and also make it a little lighter and maybe quieter? – Sign me up!
The lefty forks on the Cannondales have always had my interest since I saw my first Cannondale Jekyll in college that had one. It looked so sweet for some reason, maybe because I admired Cannondale for always trying new things and pushing the industry. I remember the Head Shock back in the 90’s that was odd but seemed to work during that time although I don’t think I ever rode on one.
So, some of the lefty Scalpels caught my eye but I had read some things regarding some maintenance issues with the Lefty forks and also bike rack compatibility. My wife’s bike rack was not lefty friendly and would require an adapter which would complicate things and taking off the wheel every time also seemed like a pain.
Due to some of those issues, I started to back off on my Scalpel lefty aspirations and was pretty much set on a Giant Anthem Advanced. The ones I was looking at were carbon and even had some carbon wheels from the factory but they were a little over my price range. I continued searching ebay for weeks keeping my eye out for a bike that met my criteria and price range. Some may wonder why I did not look locally for a bike but I actually did, well not for a long time. I briefly glanced through craigslist but did not see anything promising and Houston doesn't really have a good marketplace location for used bikes that I had seen. And I've bought my last 3 bikes off of ebay and had great success so it only made sense.
One day I came across this 2012 Scalpel Carbon 1. I loved the color, the wheels, and it was carbon! It looked brand new (at least in the photos). Some bike shop in Salt Lake City, UT had a bunch of bikes they were clearing out on ebay. The buy it now price was $2100. MSRP for the bike back in 2012 was $7600 with a weight somewhere in the 23.3 lbs (mine weighs about 23 lbs 11 oz). Although just a guide for pricing, Bicycle Blue Book put the value right around that range for the Scalpel. After some convincing, I received the approval from my wife, and purchased it. Scary and exciting at the same time!
The bike arrived a few days later and I felt like a little boy anticipating opening it after work. I took it out of the box and was immediately blown away by the weight of the frame! Crazy light… at least compared to anything else I had experienced. Assembly was easy as I only had to put on the wheels, the stem and handlebars, pedals, and a few other small pieces. The bike looked just like the photos and the condition honestly looked brand new. I found just a couple light scuffs and a little scrape on the left rear chain stay but other than that I could tell this thing had very low miles.
As is common I’ve heard when you buy a new bike, the weather had not been cooperating and the trails were closed. I was pretty eager to ride it somewhere though so I took it out on my street and some walking paths in my neighborhood. It took some getting used to with the seating position and the wide handlebars that I was not used to. It wasn’t that long though before I became accustomed to the seating position and the height of the handlebars. It rode perfect! It was silent, shifted perfectly, brakes were amazing and I was bunny hopping like crazy with this ridiculously light bike.
The original owner or bike shop appears to have switched out some of the stock components. Instead of the standard SRAM drivetrain, they were changed to a XT 11-speed rear cassette, XT rear derailleur w/ clutch (came with a SRAM XX from the factory), and then converted it to a 1x setup up front. The brakes were also changed from Avid XX to Shimano XT 8000. Everything else appeared to be stock.
My first real off road ride was actually a night ride with one of my buddies (Houston summers are a bit hot!). The Scalpel performed flawlessly. Up until now I actually have not ridden a ton of different bikes especially cross country bikes so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to. All I know is it felt very fast and could ride over all of the roots around here with ease. It is so stiff and solid and is easy to toss in and out of turns.
One of the first things that I thought I would have to get used to was the Lefty fork and honestly it has not been much of an adjustment. The front of the bike feels much lighter (at least comparing it to my old Giant). The lefty does its job and soaks up the little stuff and does a pretty good job on the big stuff though I am limited to 100mm or a little under 4”. It comes with a lockout which I guess can come in handy if you are riding it on the road but I do not use it on the trails.
I love the 1x drive train and it felt nice not to have to worry about shifting a front derailleur and just concentrate on my rear shifts.
Contemplating this purchase and how mountain bikes have changed over the years, there were a lot of new things for me with this bike even though it was technically 6 model years old when I bought it.
After I had been riding the bike I did a little more research on the bike and found that in 2012 the Cannondale Scalpel 1 was a $2300 premium compared to the Scalpel 2 saving you 2.2 lbs. The 4.67 lb medium frame is shared with the Scalpel 1 and 2. The Scalpel 2 was $5300. If I was buying the Scalpel 1 new today would I spend that much more for the 1 vs the 2? Probably not! I’m glad though that I could find it in the condition it was in for the price I paid for it.
So now I’ve owned it for just over a year. How has it performed? Well, so far pretty well with no big issues. There is one issue though that I’ve been dealing with for a while and I am still trying to get to the bottom of.
There is a creak in the rear wheel/hub area that you can hear when there is any type of stress on it (accelerating, turning, braking, going over bigger bumps). It started up at the beginning of the summer and was driving me crazy. I took a look at it with my brother in law and we thought it might be the rear thru axle being dry. We didn’t have any grease at the time so just put some lube on it and suddenly it was gone! Well, about a week or so later, it came back. I put some grease on the thru axle this time and still nothing. I started to do some research online and people recommended taking apart the rear hub. I took apart the rear DT swiss hub, cleaned it all up, re-greased it and felt confident it was gone. Nope, still there! Someone else online said the spokes may be loose. None that I could tell but I’ll have to buy a special tool for these spokes. So I am still looking to solve that issue. Other than that it is awesome.
It fits “nicely” in the back of my Mazda with the seats down even with those big 29” wheels and I don’t have to mess with taking off the front wheel. In the future I will probably buy a Thule roof rack and just mount it up top but for now, it goes in the back.
Future upgrades? I don’t really have any planned other than some new pedals. Some sweet DT Swiss Carbon wheels would be nice and would get my weight even lower but would probably cost more than the bike so not worth it in my opinion. It would be neat to compare it to the ride of a Giant Anthem, Scott Spark, or the Specialized Epic and see how they compare. For now I have no plans to sell it and will continue racking up the miles and the memories!