The Beta Tests: 2022 Cannondale Jekyll 1
There's never been a better Cannondale
-165mm rear travel
-170mm front travel
-High-Pivot suspension design
-No more proprietary shock
-Potential for increased drivetrain wear
-Keeping the drivetrain clean is critical
-Lockout lever on shock is hard to reach
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The most common question that comes up with high-pivot bikes is inevitably, is the extra complication of adding an idler pulley to the drivetrain worth it? Does the bike ride that much better? Is the juice really worth the squeeze? We didn’t ask that question after riding the newest Cannondale Jekyll.
How come? Partly because the new Jekyll, idler and all, is actually simpler than Jekylls of the past—something that somehow seems very fitting for Cannondale. Aesthetically, there’s no question that the new Jekyll is cleaner. The linkage sits much lower and is more compact than the previous generation. The seatstays moved much lower as well, giving the rear-end a look that almost seems inspired by the single swingarm of the Super V. Most high-pivots look a bit funky, but Cannondale somehow managed to make it look downright stunning. And that’s before noticing the awesome iridescent paint job.
But what really makes the new Jekyll simpler is the fact that there’s no more proprietary handlebar-actuated Gemini travel-changing shock system. Instead, Cannondale made a bike that’s naturally efficient without the rider needing to think about flipping switches. A Jekyll without a rats nest of cables? Yup, and it’s actually more efficient. Oh, and it does so while having 165 millimeters of rear wheel travel—15mm more than the bike it replaces.
Since it sits so low, in a cutout in the downtube, the lockout lever on the Fox Float X2 shock is not easy to reach, but the best part of designing a bike that pedals so well already is that you just don’t need to think about it. The bike is always ready for anything. During our test loops, we never felt the urge to flip on the shock’s pedaling platform.
Also gone is the awkwardly high bottom bracket that gave previous Jekyll a sort of pedestrian feel, as if you were riding on top of the thing. Cannondale lowered the bottom bracket by nearly 10mm and doubled the BB drop to 3mm. Overall, the new Jekyll has modern geometry with size-specific frame layout and chainstay lengths that all add up to make the rider feel much more centered and connected to the bike. One tester remarked on how he never felt like he was getting pushed around from his position on the bike, and we all noticed that you could enter corners with more speed and confidence than we felt with most other bikes in the test.
We agreed that the Jekyll doesn’t feel as snappy in corners as the Orbea Rallon or Specialized Enduro, but that very few bikes do such a good job of blending straight-line speed and cornering ability. The rearward axle path provided by the high-pivot really does allow the rear wheel to get out of the way faster, giving the Jekyll a very plowy feel on the straights. But the suspension is supportive enough for hard cornering and a really balanced overall feel in most conditions.
As for the idler pulley, it really didn’t bother anyone. It was easy for us to forget that it was a high-pivot at all—until it was time to descend. There’s quite a bit less chain wrap around the idler and chainring than some other high-pivot bikes, which might have something to do with how quiet and unobtrusive the drivetrain felt in comparison. But, less chain wrap can also increase wear on those parts because the load is spread across fewer teeth. Our test period wasn’t long enough to assess this type of wear, but it’s a consideration, especially if you’re already one of those riders who seems to go through more parts than your riding buddies.
But if you ask us, the Juice was definitely worth the squeeze. Not only is this the best Jekyll we’ve ever ridden, it might be the best-riding mountain bike Cannondale has ever made—and that’s saying a lot.
Studio Photos: Ryan Palmer
Action Photos: Paris Gore