Cannondale’s Jekyll debuted in 2011. It was a gutsy bike, or really, two bikes. Click the handlebar-mounted travel adjuster and the Jekyll morphed from downhill slayer to climbing stud. The stout frame was uniquely tied together with 15-millimeter thru axles, and at the heart of it, the Fox-built DYAD pull shock. Until then, pull shocks weren’t famous for their reliability, but the Jekyll’s fancy dual-chamber shock worked surprisingly and consistently well.
For 2015, the Jekyll line gets updated with 27.5-inch wheels and 6.3 inches of rear suspension. Cannondale tweaked the geometry as well, slackening the headtube a degree, steepening the seat tube angle and growing the toptube by .15 inches. Finally, the Jekyll’s rear shock got a new plusher compression-damping tune and a wider rebound damping range.
The Jekyll 3 boasts a very refined frame including the same high-end shock that’s mounted on Cannondale’s nearly $8,000 Team model and an assortment of excellent parts like the RockShox Pike RCT3, SRAM X7/X9 drivetrain, MRP 2x guide and WTB i23 rims mated to SRAM X9 hubs. I was less crazy about the X-Fusion HiLo dropper post, which works consistently, but isn’t as smooth at the lever as competing posts. Likewise, Magura makes plenty of fine brakes, but the MT2s don’t impress with their power, even with 180-millimeter rotors.
On paper, the Jekyll has a fairly high 14.3-inch bottom bracket and the 67-degree headtube is steeper than you’d expect from a bike that has dominated the Enduro World Series. But the Jekyll is designed to be ridden with a fair bit of sag (35 to 40 percent) and out on the trail, the bike feels a lot slacker, lower and meaner than the geometry chart suggests.
The DYAD rear shock is simple to operate. Proper air pressure, however, is key. At 30-percent sag, the Jekyll pedals so crisply that you may never switch the shock to its 3.7-inch travel Elevate mode, but then the Jekyll struggles on larger impacts. Setting sag from 35 to 40 percent results in excellent big-hit performance, but definitely makes climbing in Elevate mode necessary. In that short-travel mode, the bike makes easy work of fire roads and smooth singletrack, but offers less traction on rocky ascents than I prefer.
The Jekyll 3 is a lot of bike for the money. Is it cheap? Nope, but it is stout, capable and very versatile.