…‘Downcountry’ ?! I know what you’re thinking, what are they talking about now? As if mountain biking didn’t have enough sub-genres already! Well, it’s worth pointing out that this term is being used more and more in-store and during idle chat on the trailside; when you start to see a trend developing it’s time to sit up and take notice, particularly if you work in the fast-moving, ever-shifting-sands of the bike trade…
Riders have been using the term to describe the type of mountain bike that starts out as a lightweight cross-country rig and is effectively beefed up a little to handle more demanding trails and aggressive riding. Here at Wheelbase we’ve seen the trend for this type of bike usually as part of a custom build where our customer starts out with their chosen frame and fork and then specs their components to be that bit more gravity-focused. Key factors include beefed-up suspension travel, usually increasing from 100mm up to 120mm, wider, higher-volume tyres, 4-pot brake callipers, bigger disc brake rotors and a dropper seat post; all of these tweaks allow you to ride harder on the downs while being way more efficient on the climbs and on day-long epic mountain bike marathon adventures.
Need more convincing? Look no further than Cross Country racing at the highest level. If You’ve watched any of the RedBull coverage of the XCO Word Cups recently you’ll have no doubt noticed just how technically demanding the courses have become. The races are fast paced and action-packed these days with races not just being won on the climbs; there’s been a fair amount of victories that have been won thanks to just how well racers can ride the downhills and technical sections.
Responding to the needs of their own racers and picking up early on the developing trend of Downcountry mountain bikes from the general biking community Cannondale have launched the all-new Scalpel Carbon SE LTD Lefty, billed as the ultimate marathon racer and high-speed trail slayer.
This new, beefed up Scalpel needed a whole new fork as the conventional Cannondale Lefty Ocho fork wasn’t going to deliver the extra travel required for this bike. The all-new Lefty Ocho 120 features (surprise!) 120mm of travel and an extra-long fork offset which gives you more stability and confidence when things get rough, while keeping the steering XC-quick everywhere else.
Cannondale have matched that longer-travel front end with a RockShox SIDLuxe Ultimate shock out back with 120mm of travel; the shock features a 2-Position mode adjust and adjustable rebound to help you tune your ride.
Cannondale make a point of telling us that the Scalpel Carbon SE LTD Lefty follows their ‘Proportional Response’ principle; this evokes visions of world leaders describing how they are going to react to some lawless state lobbing motors over the border but rest assured it’s nothing that troubling. Cannondale use Proportional Response to customise and fine-tune the layout of their suspension for each frame size so that every rider from the tallest to the smallest experiences the same brilliant suspension performance.
An aggressive cross-country mountain bike still needs to be super-light and efficient; the key to this Scalpel’s incredible suspension performance and agile, featherweight feel is thanks in no small part to their FlexPivot at the chainstays of the frame. These patented carbon plates create virtual Horst link pivots, while being stiffer and lighter than bearings. Cannondale reassure us that they’re incredibly durable, very flexible and completely maintenance-free.
Another feature that’s of note on the Scalpel SE LTD Lefty is Cannondale’s Ai – Asymmetric Integration – what’s this? It’s their unique offset drivetrain which helps to provide enhanced clearance between tyre and frame allowing you to run larger volume tyres – perfect for the kind of riding this bike has been developed to do. This setup means that the rear wheel actually features less dish, this means that the spokes run at less of an angle between hub and rim which helps to create a stiffer, stronger wheel.
We love the look of this mountain bike and can see that this approach will be really popular with riders and racers taking on marathon-style races and fast-paced super-technical trails. Our very own multi-discipline mountain bike racer Lucy Bell who is notoriously fast on tight, technical trails is the perfect candidate for an aggressive Downcountry setup like this, having already raced 8 hour epics on a conventional Cannondale Scalpel we can imagine she would have bags of fun racing this machine!
The all-new Cannondale Scalpel Carbon SE LTD Lefty will be available in-store and online very soon, watch this space!…