Cannondale Jekyll 3
Every manufacturer likes to make a song and dance when they release a new bike, and they will all invariably claim that their newest creation is the absolute best bike in its category. For the release of the new Jekyll, Cannondale took it one step further by creating a whole new category dubbed ‘Over Mountain’; with the one and only such bike on the market they absolutely guaranteed theirs was the best!
Released in 2011, worldwide demand was so high that up until now they were about as rare as lips on chickens here inAustralia, but finally we’ve been able to get our sticky mitts on a mid-range Jekyll 3 to play with. Bristling with unique technology, Cannondale claims it’s able to switch personality effortlessly between the mild-mannered doctor and his far more rowdy alter ego; the main difference being you control when are where it changes persona with the flick of a switch. Could this split personality bike really be the legendary quiver-killing machine come to life?
The Jekyll is available in four spec levels ranging in price from $3,999 to $6,999; the top two use a high modulus carbon fibre frame, whilst our $4,499 test bike is the upper of the two alloy-framed models. Its parts mix is mostly mid-range stuff from both of the ‘big S’ brands; the brakes and cranks come fromSRAMwhile the transmission is primarily Shimano. Fox handles suspension duties. There’s a 32mm TALAS RL fork up front, with a custom pedalling platform instead of the normal lockout. Following up the rear is the unique and purpose-built DYAD pull shock that is common to all Jekyll models (we’ll come back to the shock in a minute).
With mostly straight lines, clean graphics and big tubes (you could split the downtube in half and use it as a canoe), the Jekyll has a purposeful and stylish appearance. Our large test bike weighed 13.75kg without pedals (frame and shock 3,380g), so it’s far from light, but it does have a range of features designed to keep it solid and stiff, and the rear shock weighs around half a kilogram on its own.
Creating a Monster
The Jekyll was designed from the ground up for Cannondale by Peter Denk, who previously worked for Scott Bicycles to bring the Spark and Genius models to life; his design work is distinctive and readily recognisable. Common to all models are a range of frame features including a straight 1.5-inch head tube (and matching fork), they use ultra wide thru-axle style pivots for the rocker link and a correspondingly massive down tube. There’s also a BB30 bottom bracket shell, dual row rear pivot bearings and a light and stiff Syntace 142x12mm rear axle.
All of these features are designed in line with Cannondale’s concept of ‘Enhanced Centre Stiffness–Torsion Control’ (ECS-TC); basically the middle of the bike is designed to resist twisting under load, but the rear end is allowed a little lateral flex to aid compliance. In practice this holds pretty true, as the front triangle’s enormous tubes keep it impressively rigid, whilst there is some noticeable flex in the rear swing arm. Rather unusually, the main pivot bearings are probably the smallest in the entire frame; whether this will affect long term durability is impossible to say at this point, but most manufacturers go out of their way to oversize this highly stressed pivot.
The heart of the Jekyll is undoubtedly sitting just above the bottom bracket—the DYAD rear shock. The result of several years of collaborative effort between Cannondale and Fox, it’s a pull shock (it gets longer as the suspension compresses) with two essentially independent modes; ‘elevate’, which provides 90mm of rear wheel travel and is designed for climbing and tight terrain, and ‘flow’, unleashing the full 150mm of travel for descending at speed. Both modes have completely separate damping circuits with their own rebound adjuster, and you toggle between the two by flipping a bar-mounted remote lever.
In elevate mode, only one of the air chambers is used and the bike sits high in its travel to keep your body weight further forward. Flick to flow mode and the second air chamber also opens up, making the spring rate more linear; the bike sits deeper in its travel to slacken the angles out for stability at speed. This makes the Jekyll true to its namesake; it really does behave like two completely different bikes when you switch from one mode to the other—something Cannondale calls Attitude Adjust.
The DYAD shock operates at very high pressures, with average riders running between 350-400psi in the main air chamber, so the Jekyll comes with a large, high pressure shock pump that you’ll want to keep handy during the setup phase. Be sure not to lose it as a standard shock pump won’t cope at these pressures. Because there is no easy way of measuring sag with the pull shock, Cannondale have put a chart with recommended air pressure and rebound settings for different rider weights next to the shock. The shock is claimed to be quite linear in the first two-thirds of the travel before becoming more progressive towards the end stroke. We’d agree, however in use we found the ramp-up was so pronounced that going by the recommended pressures we doubt you’d ever see full travel. It also makes the 90mm setting feel like 70mm, and the 150mm setting feel like 120mm (which is probably all we were getting). We’d recommend using settings one or two weight levels below that stated on the chart. It would also be nice for Cannondale to re-think the DYAD’s remote lever so that it doesn’t sit up on top of the handlebar where it’s prone to being damaged in a crash.
As an ‘OverMountain’ bike, the Jekyll is expected to cover the full gamut of riding conditions, from XC style kilometre-crunching to quite serious and treacherous descents. Flip into elevate mode, and the bike’s relatively steep geometry and short-travel pedalling efficiency allow you to scale steep, flowing climbs with a level of comfort that few other long travel bikes can match; for prolonged fire road ascents you can even drop the TALAS fork to its short travel setting and switch on the pedalling platform to bring its efficiency more in line with the rear suspension. The overall weight means you’re unlikely to be first to the top, but you’ll arrive fresh and unflustered ready for the ensuing downhill fun.
Set to full travel and pointed downhill the Jekyll doesn’t just flow, it absolutely charges; this is where we reckon this bike is in its element. Set appropriately, the suspension gobbles up everything in its path and never feels out of its depth or troubled in any way. It’s more planted than playful, but once in the air the Jekyll feels stable, and the robust frame allows it to land with security and composure from any sane height.