Hate it or love it, Cannondale does it differently. 1.5″ headtube, crazy looking Dyad 2-in-1 pull shock, and of course the ever-polarizing Lefty fork. The adjustable rear suspension is sprung by two separate chambers controlled via a bar-mounted trigger – one is full-open at 140mm of travel while the other stiffens and steepens the bike to the tune of 85mm. The Trigger is a far cry from my comparatively traditional Santa Cruz Bronson, but it only took one rip around town on the wild looking bike to know I needed to put it through its paces. It felt incredible – light, plush, poppy, and ridiculously easy to get in the air. With a price tag damn near a down payment on a small home, I was definitely expecting the Trigger to impress. How’d it do?
Dialing in the Trigger seemed a daunting task, but Cannondale’s guide for the rear suspension proved on-point.The rear felt supportive and plush with their recommended pressure and rebound settings. I didn’t have a guide for setting up the lefty, so I had to go by feel but eventually settled at 75 psi with just a few clicks on the old red knob.
Holy shit! The first thing that blew me away was how plush the lefty was. I’m used to a Pike, so I know how a good fork feels, but this was on another level. I felt like it was reacting to things as small as pine needles. Equally impressive is that the rear didn’t feel comparatively harsh when run full open, yet still gave lots of pedaling support. I rarely found myself opting for the shorter, stiffer travel mode, instead just laying power into the massively stiff frame and propelling the plastic rocket ship uphill with aplomb. Aided by a scale reading around 26 lbs, a mild-mannered 68 degree head angle and a nimble 46.4 inch wheelbase, the Trigger is without a doubt the most fun bike I’ve ever pedaled uphill.
My first ride on the Trigger was with it set up totally stock, and it became clear before I even began descending that the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires were way under-gunned relative to the rest of the bike. This resulted in a feeling of always being right on the edge when descending, and I pretty quickly flatted the rear off a drop. A flat?! In this day and age?! I swapped the tires out for my Specialized Butcher up front and Purgatory rear and set them up tubeless.
Proper rubber opened up a new realm of descending possibilities on the Trigger. The bike is incredibly stiff, both due to the lefty up front and the frame design. So stiff, in fact, that the frame’s capabilities seemed to exceed the bike’s geometry and travel once pushed onto steeper, faster terrain. For very skilled riders, that means the Trigger is a float-like a butterfly lazer-power rocket ship. For less skilled riders, that could mean a few spills while finding the bike’s limit. On mellow downhills, the Trigger can be popped off tiny undulations and pumped around very easily. It carries speed very well and acceleration felt turbo-powered. Suspension performance was top-notch through appropriate-sized chunder, gnar, drops, political protests, whatever. It felt supple and supportive but never bottomed. For some reason the Lefty was pretty noisy when in motion. It sounded dry, but wasn’t.
It seems that most trail bikes these days err towards all mountain. The Trigger is refreshing because it does the opposite. It shines on the climbs and over mellower terrain, while skilled riders will be able to push it hard on gnarlier downhills as well. It truly feels like a bike that could win local XC races but also endure a few days of lift access. It felt like the perfect bike for Saxon Hill, but felt a bit tight and twitchy at Perry Hill on trails like Burning Spear and Joe’s.
– Best climbing bike I’ve ever ridden, period.
– The Lefty’s performance is very impressive, pending durability issues.
– Stiff, lightweight frame.
– I was impressed by how confident the featherweight Crossmax SLR wheels felt, though I wish they were wider for a better tire profile.
– XX1 Drivetrain was typically flawless, but I would have traded for X01 and a price tag starting with a seven.
– Cannondale’s in-house Hollowgram SI cranks were impressively stiff and contributed to the bike’s paltry weight.
– Tires aren’t nearly capable enough for typical New England trail riding.
– Why, oh why, are companies speccing Magura stoppers? The levers are a silly shape and they lack power and modulation.
– It would be a huge improvement if Cannondale specced the right side reverb lever and mounted it under the bar on the left side.
– The travel-adjust lever could have better ergonomics.
– Innovation 2/2
– Function 2/2
– Aesthetics 1/2 – Gonna stay neutral on this one.
– Features 2/2
– Quality / Price 1.5/2
– Overall 8.5/10
– MSRP: 8340! Yikes!
– Colors: Black/Cannondale Green
– Sizes: SM, MD, LG, XL
– Full Specs, geometry, and sizing