I've been wanting to ride one of these for a while now and every chance I had something always came up, but finally, this week, I got my leg over one of the new Cannondale Jekyll Carbon 2's. So first impressions on the new look: Cannondale went back to the drawing boards with this year's model and come up with a new design that looks mental to say the least – the big carbon link on all the range mixed in with internal cables giving it a real clean yet distinctive look, they have also made it (AI) symmetric. In real terms, basically offset the back end to give it a really short chain stay and maxium clearance for today’s market of big tyre choices. To also give the bike a 'I'm here to stay’ feel and to future-proof it, they have added mount points and ports for use of any drivetrain including Di2. After I finished drooling out the corner of my mouth the green shirted men from CSG came in to help set up the shock and bike for me. It didn’t take long. They set the rear shock at 25% sag, to be honest that’s pretty standard nowadays so no fuss there. I also asked them to make the Fox 36 fork a little stiffer than what is on the chart as that’s my personal choice. So bike loaded in the van, I headed out to my local trail where I test all the bikes to give them a fair chance. First thing I noticed, the grip was insane in the loam and over the roots the Maxxis Minion DH tyres they have fitted are a perfect choice on this rig, no sliding out or looping over corners – so with that in mind my confidence went stright up into green zone on my scale. I started to push it harder into every corner I could find with the bike holding strong. The geometry from this 165mm travel chassis bike is spot on, you really don't need to focus on getting your weight right, as it centres you nicely with its stretched out reach and slacker head angle than older models.
So handling done. The next test, my favourite part. How does it handle being thrown over jumps and techy terrain? My playground has that in plenty with drops and some reasonably sized jumps. I may have spent a fair few hours just playing if I'm honest! I was having too much fun and forgot about the rest of the test for a moment, but back on track. For such a big travel bike it was surprisingly flickable: in the air I could move it around where I wanted it to go and land. Of course I chucked in a couple of whips for test purposes and all got my thumbs up. When coming in hot into rock gardens or roots the front picks up really easily and allows for easy hop manoeuvres. It can change direction with ease, in fact the faster you go, the easier it is to turn it. On to the not-so-fun bit – climbing. Now I should mention this bike comes equipped with what they call the Gemini System. This is something that makes this bike stand out from the crowd, especially for racers. It has a lever remote on the bars that lets you switch from the full open 165mm fun bike to a shorter and much stiffer xc bike to make climbing easier. It means when active it won't let you get sucked into full travel so reducing the sag, and that means more power gets put into the rear wheel and not the suspension. It's easy to use, it's like using a dropper post – just a flick of the thumb.
Conclusion: I've ridden tons of bikes in the last few years with all the brands saying they are the best and trying to suck me into all the marketing side of it. However, the ones that know me know if the bike is bad I will tell them as it is. And I’ll most likely take a slap from whom it concerns. So my own personal downside of the bike is, if you wanted to just it more as a 'play' and get rid of some of the cables you would need to change the rear shock out. In fairness to that, there is a lot of choice nowadays, so not to much of a problem more a niggle I guess. However, that said, it’s very rare I can say this but, honestly this bike is in my Top 3 bikes I would own. It does everything with ease and makes you want to go faster, higher and have more saddle time on every ride. So, if you’re looking for a bike you can ride all day or race enduro on pretty much any terrain in the UK or further afield, this would be a perfect choice.