Cannondale Jekyll Carbon
Price Range: $6,320-$8,320
By Joe Parkin
First a disclaimer, this is a long-term review of the carbon Jekyll I've been riding these past couple of years—the paint schemes and component spec on the latest carbon Jekyll's are different than what you see here, but the frame and shock technology largely remain the same. To see the latest iterations of the Jekyll Carbon 1 and 2, go to the web address listed above. Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let me begin by saying that the Jekyll has become my go-to, 26-inch test platform for various components, which is why this test bike is wearing a custom kit.
We've said it before, but it bears repeating—Cannondale's flagship 150-millimeter-travel all-mountain bike is a study in lateral and torsional stiffness. Or to put it another way, if the front and rear wheels of the Jekyll aren't tracking in line with one another, it isn't the fault of the frame, but rather some combination of wheels and tires.
Cannondale credits its ECS-TC (Enhanced Center Stiffness-Torsion Control) system for this super-precise ride quality. And all marketing hype and terminology aside, every single one of our test riders has commented about immediately feeling this true-tracking ride quality. The Jekyll employs a burly H-shaped link with 15-millimeter through-axles and double bearings at the chain- stay/seatstay/rear-dropout junction to eliminate any discernable flex from its rear end.
Furthermore, the bike's rear-end is, comparatively speaking, a snap to rebuild—something that riders who have the time, fitness and skills needed to torture a rig like this will find extremely reassuring.
Perhaps the most obvious of the Jekyll's selling features is its dual-personality Fox DYAD RT2 rear shock. A flick of its handlebar-mounted remote lever changes rear-wheel travel from 90 millimeters to 150 millimeters by swapping air-spring volume and damping circuits. A cursory parking-lot test ride might cause the casual tester to compare this system to a remote-actuated ProPedal, but it's far more complex than that. Since the DYAD is basically two shocks in one, you're able to tune it so that you could, for instance, achieve rear-suspension characteristics that are World Cup XC-firm in the short-travel mode and pillowy-soft in the long-travel mode.
The DYAD can make you feel capable of pushing an extra gear on fireroad-type climbs, while also allowing you to lovingly embrace your inner downhiller on descents. Setup, however, is the key here. There's a guide on the shock that suggests initial air pressures, but to get the most out of the bike, riders will need to spend some time fiddling with settings and learning a bit about suspension.
Is Cannondale's split-personality ride the right bike for you? If you're down with the price tag and the somewhat complicated rear shock option, it's entirely possible. Personally, I've found that I get the most out of the Jekyll when I am able to push it really hard. If I'm just noodling about, the Jekyll performs like just another bike—albeit a really, really bitchin' one. Do you consider yourself an aggressive rider? If so, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give one of these babies a try.