Cannondale released their first mountain bike in 1984, the SM500. It was, as is par for Cannondale’s course, different. The SM500 featured a TIG-welded aluminum frame, steel fork, and a 26”/24” mullet set-up.
Since then, the creativity of their design team has been matched by the success of their racers. Many designs were tried, raced to victories, sold for a few years, and then upgraded. Unsatisfied with early suspension forks, Cannondale created the Headshok in 1992, when they debuted their first full-suspension bike. Cannondale then retired the Headshok when their Lefty fork design was further refined.
The Cannondale Scalpel began as an aluminum, full-suspension XC mountain bike with a Lefty fork. It eventually included a hardtail version, moving on to carbon-fiber, and keeping both the hardtail and full-suspension flavors. The use of carbon fiber, the light, stiff, sensitive Lefty fork, and dialed geometry make these bikes some of the most versatile cross-country race bikes available today. The Scalpel is light, with the pro-level model weighing in at around 22lbs.
Cannondale’s Habit is their trail platform; it’s chock full of cool features and its fun ride makes it a do-everything type of bike. Early Habits had full-carbon, carbon/aluminum, and full aluminum frames. Suspension is 130-140mm, depending on the model. 29” wheels are standard, but thanks to flip chips, 27+ can also be ridden. The Habit also has suspension kinematics adjusted depending on the frame size, meaning the XS through the XL are tuned for varying weights.
The Jekyll has been Cannondale’s big hit bike for over 20 years. It has evolved considerably: Over the years, the Jekyll has switched to carbon fiber, the suspension has increased, and the frame is longer and slacker, all in the name of increasing its ability in the roughest stuff. The latest iteration shows how Cannondale is still innovating and dancing to its own tune. Cannondale has refined a high-pivot design that mounts the shock at the bottom of the split downtube and utilizes an idler pulley at the pivot that eliminates any kickback from the suspension. And, as with their Habit, they’ve created size-specific Proportional Response Suspension, so the rear suspension is tailored for the rider.