Down Time: It's fast and stable, has smooth, bottomless-feeling rear suspension, and clears chunky terrain thanks to its high bottom bracket, but the Jekyll 29 lacks confidence when things get really steep.
The Up Side: The Gemini system makes the Jekyll very efficient on smooth, steep climbs. It minimizes suffering up long fire road slogs, but lost its momentum on the ledgy, square-edged climbs on our test loop.
Dollar for Dollar: At well under four grand, the Jekyll 29 3 is a good value, but if what you value is rear suspension performance, it's worth forking over the extra $1,500 for the next model up, which features a Fox DPX2 shock, plus beefier brakes and a nicer drivetrain.
At $3,800, the Jekyll 29 3 is a bike that offers Swiss Army Knife versatility at an excellent value. Want ultra plush, trail unfurrowing suspension? You've got it, and you can set the suspension up at 30 percent sag for a more poppy, supported feel, or go deeper for extra rock-gobbling squish without risking harsh bottom-outs. Want more pedaling support for climbs, or even an extra firm, heavy-hardtail style lockout for smooth fire roads? The Jekyll does that too, at the push of a button, thanks to the proprietary Gemini shock handlebar-mounted lever.
Let's start out with what testers liked about the brand-new Jekyll 29: This bike outperformed the little-wheeled Jekyll in high-speed stability and confidence. It rolled through rough descents and maintained speed more naturally, and the high bottom bracket allowed us to continue pedaling through more junk than some of the lower BB bikes in the test. Plus, we liked the way the Gemini system firms things up and effectively shortens the Jekyll's travel from 150 millimeters in 'Flow' mode to 120 millimeters in 'Hustle' mode, and how convenient it was to hit the switch on the bar. It allowed us to run the suspension nice and soft, without much concern for how it climbs. Flipping the Gemini switch to Hustle basically reduces the volume of the air spring, allowing the suspension to ride higher in its travel. The way it sort of shortens the travel, is essentially by ramping so aggressively that you just can't get full travel in that mode. Gemini allows you to go from super plush to super firm in an instant.
We liked that part, but there were things we didn't. Surprisingly, it had less to do with the Gemini system, and more to do with bike geometry, where it seems like Cannondale shied away from the full potential of the larger wheels. The Jekyll 29 has a shorter reach than the 27.5er. It also had the highest-in-test bottom bracket, and lowest-in-test stack height, with the shortest front travel, putting us in a less than ideal position for aggressive descending. I felt particularly perched on top of the bike instead of 'in' it, with too much weight over the bars. The bar drop could be fixed with a higher-rise bar, but you wouldn't want to put a longer travel fork on the Jekyll and bring the already tall bottom bracket up more. While it was confident at speed and plowed through chunder with ease and the security of extra clearance, it just didn't provide the same level of assurance when diving into steep drop-ins. And, as good as the value is on the Jekyll 29 3, if you're interested in one, we'd highly recommend going up to the 2 for an extra $1,500, where you'll get a Fox DPX2 shock that provides better climbing traction in Hustle mode.
Q & A with Scott Vogelmann, Sr. Product Manager, Cannondale MTB
It seems like everyone has a different idea of what defines a 'long-travel' 29er. The Jekyll 29 is the longest-travel big-wheeled bike Cannondale makes right now. How did you settle on 150 millimeters of front and rear wheel travel, and was the Jekyll 29 designed to be more, less, or equally capable compared to its small-wheeled brother?
Equally capable. We set out to take advantage of the monster-truckability of the 29-inch wheel. For us, 150 millimeters of travel was a natural selection. Both bikes are very capable and have distinct personalities. The 27.5-inch Jekyll is for riders who prefer the flickability of the smaller wheels, Jekyll 29 is for riders who prefer more swagger and rollover. Both bikes are quite capable and a ton of fun, but ultimately it comes down to rider preference.
The Jekyll 29 has a 355-millimeter bottom bracket height, with just 16 millimeters of bottom bracket drop. Some of the other bikes in the test have up to 30 millimeters of BB drop, all of which had more travel. We don't expect a company like Cannondale to blindly follow industry trends, but this did stand out to testers. Cannondale no doubt has its reasons for keeping the BB high—can you share those reasons with us, and perhaps how BB height fits into the overall geometry and intended feel of the Jekyll 29?
We like to be able to pedal through rough stuff. So many of these super low bikes don't allow that. Our bb height offers a good middle ground offering shredability, and at the same time being able to offer blip pedalstrokes through bumpy sections.
We noticed that the Jekyll 29 3 felt somewhat pogo-sticky when climbing chunky terrain in 'Hustle' mode, almost as if the air spring in the short travel mode was overpowering the Gemini shock's rebound circuit. This isn't something we noticed when testing the Jekyll 2. The 2 and 3 are spec'd with different shocks, so we hypothesized that what we were feeling came down to the difference between the Fox Float DPS and DPX2 Gemini shocks. Would you agree that the DPX2-equipped build has more traction on chunky, technical climbs when in 'Hustle’ mode?
The tune is biased towards descending because its more fun to go fast downhill than uphill. The comparison between DPS and DPX2 is a tough one, and the DPX2 does outperform the DPS. Yes, the DPX2 build will have a more composure on the climbs, but it will also have more composure on the descents. Spec/Value is something we agonize over and we think plenty of riders will be very happy with the Jekyll 3. But the main reason to consider the Jekyll 2 is the suspension upgrade.