First Impressions: Racing the New Cannondale Jekyll 27.5

What Better Way to Test the New Jekyll than to Race it Blind in a Spanish Enduro?

Words by Brice Minnigh
Photos by Ale di Lullo and Jake Hamm

One of the highlights of this year’s Cannondale Factory Racing camp was the chance to ride the company’s new 27.5-inch-wheeled Jekyll on some of southern Spain’s steep and rocky trails. What made this even more special was the fact that our first ride on the new bike was in an enduro race on some seriously sick courses just outside the whitewashed mountain village of Ojén.

Of course when given the opportunity to ride high-speed racecourses on a brand-new, carbon all-mountain bike—in lovely weather, surrounded by sweeping views of mountains and the Mediterranean Sea—it’s kind of hard to think critically about the bike itself. This is especially true when you’re focused on sticking it to the other mountain-bike journalists you’re racing against.

Almost as exciting as the race itself was the opportunity to watch some of the world’s fastest enduro racers—including Enduro World Series champion Jerome Clementz, who will use the new Jekyll as his weapon of choice this season. All of Cannondale’s OverMountain team members—Clementz, Ben Cruz, Jason Moeschler, new addition Marco Osborne and injured veteran Mark Weir—have been heavily involved in the development of the new Jekyll.

Will Jerome Clementz repeat last year's Enduro World Series preeminence on the new 27.5-inch Jekyll this year? He's already won the Andes Pacifico on it.... Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Will Jerome Clementz repeat last year’s Enduro World Series preeminence on the new 27.5-inch Jekyll this year? He’s already won the Andes Pacifico on it…. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Among the main changes are the slackening of the bike’s head angle from 68 to 67 degrees and the steepening of its seat angle from 73.6 to 74.9 degrees. The Jekyll’s new angles felt incredibly well-balanced, especially for the quintessential European enduro-racing terrain. The slacker head angle, coupled with the stiffness of the brand-new 160-millimeter-travel SuperMax Lefty fork, immediately instilled confidence when launching off the many steep drops we were riding blind.

This fleet of new 27.5-inch Jekylls has just been broken in on some ridiculously fun trails in the rocky mountains of southern Spain. Photo by Jake Hamm.

This fleet of new 27.5-inch Jekylls has just been broken in on some ridiculously fun trails in the rocky mountains of southern Spain. Photo by Jake Hamm.

On the long fireroad climbs between the descending stages, the steeper seat angle made for a more comfortable climbing position, especially when the suspension was flipped into the ‘elevate’ mode, which is designed to make the 95-millimeter-travel rear shock behave more like a cross-country air shock. When left in the wide-open ‘flow’ mode, the shock is intended to feel more like a coil-sprung DH shock. When descending the course in ‘flow’ mode, the suspension felt plenty plush, and achieving a balance between the plushness of the rear shock and the stiffness of the SuperMax Lefty required a fair bit of fiddling with the shock’s rebound. By the second stage of the race, however, I felt confident and ready to charge—if only I’d had the legs to maintain on the steep-and-punchy climbs between descending sections.

One of the great things about enduro racing is the fact that the climbs are not timed—which allows plenty of time for a good chinwag on the way up to the top. Photo by Jake Hamm.

One of the great things about enduro racing is the fact that the climbs are not timed—which allows plenty of time for a good chinwag on the way up to the top. Photo by Jake Hamm.

The editors of Bike will be doing some longer-term testing of the new 27.5-inch Jekyll and Trigger models in the coming months, so stay tuned for updates as we get some more time on the bikes. But for now, we’d prefer to focus on the experience of racing the new Jekyll in such an idyllic environment.

In between sections of tight, steep singletrack were several more wide-open stretches of track, perfect for closing (or opening) the gap between the dudes who started 30 seconds before and after you.... Photo by Ale di Lullo.

In between sections of tight, steep singletrack were several more wide-open stretches of track, perfect for closing (or opening) the gap between the dudes who started 30 seconds before and after you…. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Spanish farmers have been growing grapes and other crops on these terraces for centuries, and now we get to ride as fast as possible down them. Modern life in the first world.... Photo by Jake Hamm.

Spanish farmers have been growing grapes and other crops on these terraces for centuries, and now we get to ride as fast as possible down them. Modern life in the first world…. Photo by Jake Hamm.

If you make it to the top of your stage quickly enough, you'll have some time for a snack and a chat before pointing your bike downhill again. Photo by Jake Hamm.

If you make it to the top of your stage quickly enough, you’ll have some time for a snack and a chat before pointing your bike downhill again. Photo by Jake Hamm.

Once the dust has settled, it's time to check the results.... Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Once the dust has settled, it’s time to check the results…. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Of Cannondale’s OverMountain enduro team racers, new addition Marco Osborne—a 22-year-old native of Novato, California whom Mark Weir and longtime friend Ben Cruz have helped bring into the Cannondale fold—was king of the day, finishing his two stages with a faster combined time than Clementz. Even though the race was a lighthearted affair and the OverMountain team was saving themselves for the more critical contests of the coming months, the fact that Osborne finished so strongly bodes well for his future success in the discipline.

And rookie Marco Osborne, of Novato, California, found himself on top of the podium. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Rookie Marco Osborne, of Novato, California, found himself on top of the podium. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

No matter who finishes first, longtime buddies Marco Osborne and Ben Cruz will always share a shot of the local hooch at the end of a sublime day of racing. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

No matter who finishes first, longtime buddies Marco Osborne and Ben Cruz will always share a shot of the local hooch at the end of a sublime day of racing. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Even in the rare occurrence when Jerome Clementz doesn't come out on top, you can bet he'll always have a smile on his face. Clementz is truly one of mountain biking's great ambassadors. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Even in the rare occurrence when Jerome Clementz doesn’t come out on top, you can bet he’ll always have a smile on his face. Clementz is truly one of mountain biking’s great ambassadors. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

It's always nice to finish a race in a sunny town square in southern Spain. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

It’s always nice to finish a race in a sunny town square in southern Spain. Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Who needs post-ride recovery drinks when you have cold beer and hot paella? Photo by Ale di Lullo.

Who needs post-ride recovery drinks when you have cold beer and hot paella? Photo by Ale di Lullo.

And of course another shot or two never hurt anyone, did it? Photo by Ale di Lullo.

And of course another shot or two never hurt anyone, did it? Photo by Ale di Lullo.

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