Scalpel 26: A Love Story

IMG_1063You may remember that – some time ago – my beloved Cannondale Scalpel frame cracked after years of use.  Through a warranty claim, I was able to get a new frame (that, subsequently, cracked) – leading to a third frame.  The folks at Cannondale gave me a full carbon fiber frame – and I was elated!

I’ve loved my Scalpel since I first got it back in the early 2000’s.  Maybe it was because it was my first “real” mountain bike (unlike the first one I picked out because the color was nice…….no idea what I was doing).  Since I’ve had the Scalpel, I even purchased a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR – which is a nice bike, but I just never really warmed to it.  Now, I use the Stumpjumper as my backup bike.

All was going well with the latest Scalpel frame until a few weeks ago.  Out on a weekend ride with my brother, Randy, and my best friend, Jason, it happened again.  The frame cracked along the bottom.

Well, actually, it started out as a broken derailluer, but none of us really saw anything out of the ordinary that caused it.  Jason – the MacGyver of our group – helped transform my ride into a single speed.  Before we knew it, we were back on the trail.

IMG_0186Before long, though, we heard a loud crack that brought me to a standstill.   Again, nothing out of the ordinary stood out to any of us.  I think I was crossing a small log at that time – but it was so small that the chain and frame easily cleared it (no chain/cog ramming here).

Here’s what the crack looked like when I was able to drive it into my closest Cannondale bike shop (and the folks who helped me get to this frame after my last frame cracks).

This is where things started to spiral out of control.  The shop representative said he’d submit to Cannondale – calling it a “crash” replacement.  I told him that I didn’t consider it a crash at all.  I was merely riding through the woods when this happened (after the single speed change-over).  Regardless, I think that’s how it was submitted.

About a week or so later, the shop rep called me to tell me that it was not covered under warranty.  Truth be told, I would have accepted that answer.  However, he continued to tell me that Cannondale had no more 26″ Scalpel frames – so my only choice was really to purchase a new bike.  He mentioned that the new Scalpels were 28″ frames – but my experience with a 29″ frame test ride in the past didn’t leave me with a good taste in my mouth.

A few weeks earlier, I had purchased a brand new Lefty fork for this bike from the same shop.  I had been using the same Lefty fork since my very first bike purchase in the early 2000’s – so, when it started pooping out on me, I thought the investment was well worth it.  Now that I spent that money, I really didn’t want to ditch the Scalpel.  Besides, it remains my favorite bike.

So, I was faced with the choice of ditching the bike for a new one – OR – seeking out a replacement frame myself (and something told me that either Cannondale was blacklisting me for breaking too many frames OR the bike shop just wanted to sell me a new bike).

As most anyone does today, I turned to the Google search.  Quickly,  I found some frames that looked like they’d work for sale on eBay.  I’m a bit leery of purchasing something like this from someone I don’t know, though.  So, I kept searching around until I found my next closest Cannondale dealer, Cole’s Bicycle Shop in Carlisle, PA.  They’re a small shop that’s been family-owned since the 1940’s.  They stock and sell more entry-level bikes, but they are happy to special-order things as needed.

I thought I’d give them a shot.  Jason had purchased a bike or two from them in the past, and I really had nothing to lose.  I emailed them and got a response back over the weekend from Cinda Cole Shannon – who asked me to give her a call.  I called and explained the situation – telling her that I was more concerned with finding a new frame than getting it covered under the warranty (but, of course, would be thrilled if it was covered under warranty).

She asked me to drop the bike off on a Sunday (which, by luck, was one of the few Sundays their shop was ever open).  I ran it down and shared my Scalpel love story with her.  A few days later, she called me to tell me that her Cannondale representative found a matching frame!  I think I cried (but don’t tell anyone).  I told her to move forward with replacement.  Within a week, I had a call that the new frame was in – and – a few days later, the bike was ready to pick up!

Early December was pretty busy for our family, so my Scalpel took a week or two vacation at the bike shop until I could pick it up today.  It was beautiful when they rolled it out for me to inspect.  I’m sure there were violins playing in the background (or, maybe, that was my son practicing for his upcoming recital…).  Again, I just might have cried.

airplane sceneI met Mike Cole and discussed in great detail my love of the Scalpel.  It felt a bit like that scene in Airplane where Ted explains in great detail to fellow passengers his past – only for the fellow passengers to desperately try to find an escape.  Fortunately for Mike, the phone rang and he had to go….

So…..I went, too.  As soon as the door shut behind me, I jumped on the Scalpel to ride it out to my vehicle.  The joy of that moment is hard to describe to non-cyclists.

Now, I can’t wait to get back out on the trail to ride again.  I just only hope I don’t break the frame again anytime soon.  If I do, I think I found the bike shop that’ll be my first call!

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