Second Impressions

02.25.2015 | 10:02 am

First impressions matter to me. They matter a lot. In fact, they form a bias I have a tough time overcoming at all

But it can be done. 

Which is what today’s post is about.

First Impression

When I first got a Cannondale Scalpel 29 Carbon Team for long-term testing, I was — as is completely understandable — so excited I wanted to take this beauty to bed with me. 

But lots of bikes — almost all bikes, really — are gorgeous-looking. I’d suggest that for die-hard cyclists, how a bike looks in its showroom state doesn’t really qualify as its “first impression.”

The real first impression you have of a bike is how you feel when you take it out on that first ride.

And on the Scalpel, that first ride didn’t go so well for me.

catcher's mitt

On my very first descent with this bike, in a hairpin turn, I tipped over, put out my left hand to catch my fall (stupid), and bent my pinky finger back. 

This, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with the bike. It was user error, pure and simple.

[Side Note: Even though I fully acknowledge that I crashed because of clumsiness, I’m tempted to go on a rant here, asking why mountain bike manufacturers spec out ridiculously narrow tires with their high-end bikes. It’s not just Cannondale, all major bike manufacturers do this. I suspect it's so they can claim as low a weight on the bike as possible. But I’m not going to dwell on this, except to say that before I rode the Scalpel again, I replaced the 1.95 tires the bike ships with, with some much-more-reasonable 2.2s.]

But still. The wreck colored my perception of the Scalpel. I now associated it with falling down. And as a result, I was way less excited about this technological marvel of a bike than I ought to have been.

[Another Side Note: I wonder how often this happens with real bike reviewers. You know, people who legitimately review bicycles. Not that I expect they crash anywhere near as often as I do, but the truth is, about 84% of how any given bike feels on any given day has to do with what you personally bring to the ride. If you’re hung over or hungry or had a quarrel with your dog or have a cold coming on, no bike — no matter how amazing it is — is going to impress you as much as it would if you are personally having a banner day.]

I knew this impression was unfair, and I wanted to give the Scalpel a fair shake. To associate it with something besides my own error.

And last weekend, I had the opportunity to do just that.

Second Impression

For my first time ever, I plan to race what’s emerging as one of the premiere early-season endurance races in UT: The True Grit Epic. It’s fifty miles of rocky, often-technical singletrack and doubletrack in Saint George, Utah. 

Yeah, I know I said earlier that I was considering the 100-mile version of this race. That was somewhere between Folly and Hubris on the scale of Stupid Things to Say.

Why? Because last weekend, as part of a “Camp Lynda” group ride, The Hammer and I went to pre-ride the True Grit course.

And fifty miles was plenty

I brought the Scalpel, knowing that this light full-suspension racing machine is in fact perfect for this kind of course. I knew that if I was going to fall in love with this bike, that it was going to happen here, on incredible trail.

IMG 1837

And, within an hour of riding — sure enough — I had fallen in love with this bike.

For the first time in..well, ever…I was able to hang with both Kenny and Brad on all but the most technical of descents.

Down the ramp

Once, in fact, I actually caught up with Brad on a fast downhill. This has never ever happened before. Ever.

And the Scalpel’s a crazy-good bike for climbing, too. 


For one thing, this full-suspension, geared 29er weighs a grand total of 22 pounds. Yeah. And for another — and this is important to me — you lock out the front and rear suspension with the press of a single button, letting you swap this bike from a full-suspension descender to rigid climber, instantly.

I didn’t count, but I’d guess I did this swap more than 200 times during this ride.

Unfortunately for me, the bike can only do so much. When you’re out of gas on a climb, you’re out of gas:


Dropping the ten pounds I’ve still got to lose will go a long way toward resolving that issue. Nothing in the universe can make you a better climber than you’ve earned the right to be.


Oh, and here’s a picture of Brad, sticking out his tongue while poking me in the ear:

IMG 1399

Because: comedy.

Important Additional Observations

Riding a very technical and challenging course (42.5 miles, 5610 feet of climbing, countless technical moves) this early in the year is incredibly educational.

First and foremost, I learned that the True Grit course is amazing. It’s tough and technical and beautiful and — above all else — really fun

It’s an amazing showcase of the fantastic trail network that’s evolving in St. George. If you can possibly find a way to get over and race it this year (or next year), I highly recommend it. (But be ready for it — it’s not an easy race at all.)

Secondly, I am very, very afraid of The Hammer this year. You see, while I have always talked up how strong she is, my big male ego has remained comfortable…because I was always still stronger and faster than she is.

On this pre-ride of the course — specifically, on the second half of it — this was not at all the case. Over and over, she would drop me on climbs, then have to wait for me to catch up.

Here she is, comfortably hanging with me on a climb I am killing myself on.

No problem hanging with Fatty

Every year since we’ve been together, The Hammer has narrowed the gap between our riding abilities. That gap has now been fully closed, and is now beginning to open in the other direction. 

Time will tell if my big male ego can handle it. [Hint: If I stop talking about how well The Hammer is riding, it’s because I can no longer bear the shame of it.]

And finally / thirdly, I’m really lucky to have the good friends I’ve got. If Kenny hadn’t hung around, waiting for The Hammer and me, we would never have been able to ride that course. (I just hope it’s well-marked on race day, because I have a hunch that Kenny won’t want to wait around for me then.)

Oh, and here’s a selfie of Brad, Kenny and me

Brad, Kenny, Fatty

Because: comedy.


  1. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.25.2015 | 10:48 am

    Sorry, Fatty. But the Cannondale Lefty fork has ALWAYS left me feeling disconcerted! maybe it’s because I seriously tacoed a front wheel at Moab while riding a Lefty – user error but still…

    It’s like George Carlin once said about a tomato. “On the outside it looks fine but, on the inside, it’s just not finished yet!” For the Lefty you say, “On the Left Side it looks fine but on the Right side it’s just not finished yet!”

    YMMV. Glad you like your loaner bike.

  2. Comment by Frank | 02.25.2015 | 11:13 am

    I am happy for you guys to be able to have such fun (and kudos to Lisa…she scares me a little though) but also extremely, insanely jealous. Sorry, but I am stuck inside with single digit temps, tons of snow etc. and no mountain in sight…

  3. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 02.25.2015 | 12:39 pm

    Glad to hear you are loving the Scalpel. Just a word about lefty’s. I love mine, but I would recommend not attempting to ride no handed unless you are exceptionally skillful at doing so. I can ride without hands for miles on end on every other bike I own, but my lefty is a different story. A couple of 100 yards is the most I dare go and most of that is with a distinct lean.

  4. Comment by Geoffrey | 02.25.2015 | 1:10 pm

    What’s the story with Brad’s mustache?

  5. Comment by rb | 02.25.2015 | 1:43 pm

    Narrow tires make no sense at all. I would like to send a certain bike manufacturer a bill for my broken ribs after their 2.0s spec’d on their XC racer made me fall twice in the same race. I’m on 2.2s now, and much happier. It was all the tires, I know it.

  6. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 02.25.2015 | 2:01 pm

    Saw the movie trailer for this earlier and thought, ‘cool’. Of course it would be sheer folly to check with Wife#1. Maybe next year DaveT, ChrisD, Carlos, and Doug might want to explore Utah. Of course only if Carlos’s driveway is snow free by then.

  7. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 02.25.2015 | 2:55 pm

    Just watched the True Grit video. Between that and your photos all I can say is Wow! Way out of my league, and less than a month away. I have a Gran Fondo with 30 miles of gravel roads coming up the same weekend, and even that has me a little concerned. Hope you’re REAL comfortable on your loaner, and more than 10 pounds lighter!

  8. Comment by Brandon Banks | 02.25.2015 | 4:23 pm

    Sweet bike for sure. I think I’m skipping Grit this year but you’re right, it’s a helluva fun course. Well except the Stucki Springs Climb, that’s kinda long and boring. haha. Have fun, man!

  9. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate) | 02.25.2015 | 7:44 pm

    Riding is awesome when you are having fun.

  10. Comment by Corrine | 02.26.2015 | 9:33 am

    Way to go, Lisa! Have fun racing the course.

  11. Comment by EricGu | 02.26.2015 | 9:48 am

    Hmm. Check the tab. Yeah, that *looks like* the Fat Cyclist logo, and the URL looks right as well.

    I don’t come here to read that you chose a shorter & easier option because it was “plenty”. I come here to read about overreaching that features pain, suffering (isn’t that redundant? If you are pain, aren’t you always suffering, and vice versa?), and the comedy that the aforementioned pain and suffering belong to somebody else.

    But here you go getting all conservative and stuff.

    Shall I pre-write your ride report for you?

    “Did the True Grit Epic (not-so-epic-half-distance-version) today. Felt good, finished strong, had a great burrito afterwards. Then I mowed the lawn and washed my truck. “

  12. Comment by davidh-Marin,ca | 02.26.2015 | 11:47 am

    Fatty has ‘matured’(fart jokes aside) and now realizes that he needs to pace himself if he’s going to make it to the finish. With twin teenage girls in the house Being constantly told that he was born last century takes it toll.

    Btw: like the ghostwriting.

  13. Comment by Jeremy | 02.26.2015 | 12:51 pm

    Hmmm… Cannondale Green… With Orbea Black n Orange kit. Is Fatty thinking of a new kit design with all new colors??? This question comes to mind, “Will Fatty deviate from the classic elegance of black and orange (or pink) to Cannondale Green and Black for his next kit?”

  14. Comment by MattC | 02.26.2015 | 1:19 pm

    Fatty…I just have to ask…what would the Scalpel sell for retail (for those of us NON beloved celebrity blah-blah-bloggers/etc etc)? A 22lb full suspension niner…OMG! I was thinking 25lbs would be LIGHT (I’m currently saving to buy a FS niner, and at this pint I’m keeping all my options open…even tho if it were to happen today I’d prob get the Ibis Ripley).

  15. Comment by Ian | 02.26.2015 | 6:26 pm

    That there Fatcyclist Jersey (2012?) is my favourite of all the designs. It even has a hidden quote from DR Lammler!

  16. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 02.26.2015 | 11:54 pm

    @Jeremy I think the only ‘green’ were going to see in a Fatty Kit is in our faces when Elden goes riding by on his Cannondale F-Si Black, Inc. (the picture is a little large but it helps bring out the ‘green’ in the rest of us)2015_Cannondale-F-Si-CarbonBlack-hardtail-mountain-bike-600×346.jpg

  17. Comment by Anon | 02.27.2015 | 8:55 pm

    @Jeremy, as long it’s not white and gold! =)

  18. Comment by Ken G | 02.28.2015 | 5:09 am

    Amen on the tires. A teammate and I recently upgraded to WC Epics. Tire spec: 1.95 Fast traks. Both of us now sporting 2.3 Ground control and 2.2 Captain. And for me, the Magura brakes had to go. How a bike like thata is not spec’d with XTR brakes, or at least XT, I don’t know.

  19. Comment by CAMS | 03.15.2015 | 7:40 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed this trail. I jumped on the trail from the Bearclaw Poppy just after Clavicle Hill. The trail is well marked for about 10 miles until you come to a barbed wire fence. At this point the trail is a bit confusing. Make sure you take some good directions with you because when you get to this point you really don’t know what to do. I ended up crossing the fence and taking the dirt road back to Santa Clara. I would have much rather gone back to the Bearclaw Poppy trail if I had known how to get there. I would describe the trail as very strenuous but plenty of fun to make all the hard work worth it.


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