I wasn’t expecting all that much before riding the new 2018 Trigger.
Looks wise not that appealing (to me), feels a bit on the heavy side, lots of cables wrapping around the front... But getting a chance to steal a new and different bike that’s actually my size for a couple days is always fun. And as that overused cliche goes one should never judge a book by it's cover, right?
For 2018, Cannondale completely redesigned both the Trigger and Jekyll platforms. The version I tested was the Trigger 2, which blends a carbon front triangle with an aluminum swingarm out back.
Like most of their bikes, Cannondale has a lot of buzz words and frame/suspension features going on that you can probably get a better sense of here. But to be succinct: this bike sports 145mm travel, traditional fork (no Cannondale Lefty this time around), a travel reducing rear shock but built off a standard Fox platform, long front center, short chainstays, slack head angle, steep seat angle, etc. So, about what you would expect from a contemporary "all-mountain" or long travel trail bike with a few unique Cannondale touches thrown in.
Ride wise I got to test it on my local trails that I know well here in Fairfax, California and included a pretty good mix of different terrain, but terrain that tends to be on the looser, drier and more natural end of the spectrum (no jump trails around here). So down to it.
This is the area where I was not expecting much, but the bike actually pedals pretty darn well for a mid/long travel bike. Well, I guess I should caveat that by saying it pedals pretty well with the rear shock set to the most open setting, since there’s a fair bit of adjustment available. While it didn’t have quite the same get up and go as say a dw-link Ibis Mojo or HD3 it still felt pretty solid and didn’t have a detrimental amount of pedal bob. I did end up switching the shock to hustle mode most of the time as well as setting the compression platform to the middle setting to get a bit more support, and with this setup the bike pedaled even better while grinding up some of the steep local climbs. On more technical uphill sections the suspension seemed to still stay active and not get hung up on rocks and roots while still feeling pretty efficient so I’d say it gets good marks in that respect too.
Really the only negative I noticed was on really steep (and even some not so steep) sections of trail the front end did seem to want to wander a bit more than I expected. Yes the bike has a 66º head angle and some of that is par for the course, but it did seem to be more of a noticeable issue compared to other bikes I’ve ridden with similar or even slacker angles and similar reach/stem set ups. Even with the steep effective seat angle (and decently steep actual seat angle which as a tall guy is something that actually matters a fair bit) that resulted in a pretty good pedaling position the front end still seemed to want to wander and require a fair bit of attention. Something to do with only riding the bike twice and not being used to it? Perhaps. As an aside I did clean one nasty up hill section of trail that had eluded a clean run until riding this bike so could have been all in my head too...
There was one word that came to mind any time I started going downhill or hit anything even the least bit technical: planted. Planted in the sense that nothing seemed to shake this bike at all. Not that my local terrain is the most technically challenging in the world, but being that its end of summer with all the blown out loose ball bearing dirt and gravel you could want, even the most composed bikes can feel sketchy at times. And, while it goes without saying a that a modern bike with close to 150mm of travel, long reach, low bottom bracket and a 66º head angle is probably going to descend acceptably well, I think those traits coupled with a buttery smooth fork up front and whatever the suspension engineers have cooked up with the rear linkage made for a pretty seriously confidence inspiring ride. Every little rock, root, drop, rut the bike just seemed to float over or through totally unfazed.
And while planted is the word that kept popping into my head that’s not to say it felt like a stuck to the ground plow machine - it still was able to pop around and feel fairly playful on the trail. Cornering wise the bike felt solid and predictable and wasn’t too bogged down on tight twisty bits and switchbacks - my guess is the longer front center coupled with the short 420mm chainstays made for a good balanced ride and does what Cannondale was aiming to do with the bike. So, planted, balanced, solid - really not much complaint in this department and, again, a much better ride then I was expecting.
Other notes and parts check
Bike/frame - Stiff and stout feeling, which is a good thing for a bike like this. No creaks or noises. Downside? A bit on the heavy side for a bike costing 6k (29 ½ lbs w/o pedals). Personally I’ll take durability and stiffness over light weight for a bike with this kind of travel and attitude, and being that I ride XL bikes even my hardtails that I’ve owned have been ~30lbs so not really an issue for me...
Suspension - already kind of covered this but seem pretty darn good, as it should for a bike costing this much. The rear shock worked well and felt great but I didn’t really notice a huge difference between the hustle and flow modes. A bit of change, yes, and maybe with more time and more trail scenarios on the bike would be able to get a better sense of when it makes the biggest difference, but I still seemed to use it nonetheless. Fork wise super impressed 2018 Fox 34 elite: super smooth small bump compliance, supportive mid stroke, controlled big hits, just about everything you could ask for.
SRAM Eagle - second time riding a bike with this group set and now I definitely want it on my personal bike. Shifted great, easy gear that actually makes it reasonable going up all the stupid steep climbs around where I live. Sold.
Wheels and tires - Kudos to Cannondale for spec'ing actual tires that fit how the bike's going to be used; the Maxxis Minion dhf/dhr combo’s hard to go wrong with for a bike like this, and while 2.5 up front would be nice, 2.3 is probably the smarter OEM spec for an already pretty heavy bike. Wheels seemed solid and have a pretty wide rim which is another plus. Heavy? Probably, but at least they seem to function well and I didn’t destroy them like I seem to be doing to wheels lately so that’s a plus. If you were going to upgrade this bike this might be the place.
Summing it up
I’ll admit, I have a bit of a bias against Cannondale. Not so much from riding their bikes - I owned two different Cannondale road bikes that rode great and were pretty trouble free - but as a professional mechanic who has to work on Cannondales on a regular basis the way they do things on the mechanical side often leaves me with a bit of discontent towards the brand.
However, while only getting a couple of rides on the Trigger I was surprisingly impressed with the bike - it seems to strike a really good balance between comfortable and efficient pedaling with solid, confident and fun descending abilities.
Yes, it’s a bit on the heavy side, but that doesn’t seem to transfer to how it rides. And with the smart parts package and stiff feel it’s just about what you want for a bike classified as “all mountain”.
For a rider looking for a bike that’s comfortable in a lot of situations I’d say Cannondale Trigger is definitely is worth your consideration.
Justin is full time tech and salesperson at Sunshine and rides mountain, commutes to work and knows how to dance the Grinduro.
Sunshine has the 2018 Cannondale Trigger in our demo fleet (sizes vary). They come and go on our floor, but are quickly available from Cannondale.
Images courtesy of Cannondale.