Bike Test: Cannondale Trigger 1

Many choices: Riders need to fine-tune the shock to get everything out of the Trigger. Cannondale’s System Integration extends to the stem. The long stays would be noodles if Cannondale hadn’t connected everything with massive 15-millimeter axles as the pivots.

Cannondale felt something was missing. Their aggressive trailbike/gravity category, referred to as “Over-Mountain” by Cannondale, had the extreme end of the spectrum covered with the 7-inch-travel Claymore, and the truly undecided rider covered with the 5.9-inch Jekyll. But the jump down to the RZ One-Twenty in Cannondale’s more entry-level trailbike category felt like too much of leap. There needed to be a bike platform between the RZ One-Twenty and Jekyll.

The Cannondale bike gurus put their heads together and came up with a bike that takes a lot from the Jekyll, a little bit from the RZ One-Twenty and a few tricks all its own. The bike guys submitted the plans to the suits, and the suits gave them the thumbs up to pull the “trigger” on the project. The name stuck. The all-new Cannondale Trigger was born.

The Trigger is a very tough bike to pin down. Its on-the- fly, adjustable suspension allows it to act like two bikes in one, and even the “cheaper” version is light enough to whip around a trail. It is a serious trailbike, but if the term “trailbike” means soft, bulky and lackadaisical to you, you are barking up the wrong tree. The Trigger is what we’d call a high-performance trailbike. It can do all the things a trailbike should do, and then attack the group on the climbs.

The Trigger 1 and Trigger 2 models use the same BallisTec Hi-Mod carbon fiber frame with asymmetrical chainstays and a replaceable derailleur hanger. Cannondale uses clamped, 15-millimeter-diameter thru-axles in the shock linkage and a swingarm pivot. Where the bikes differ is the shock. Our Trigger 1 gets the Fox DYAD RT2 Dual Shock that delivers 4.7 or 2.75 inches of rear-wheel travel at the push of a lever (the 2 model uses a shock that doesn’t change the travel, only the damping characteristics). This change in travel has a corresponding change to the bike’s geometry. Longer travel equals slacker steering angles and a lower bot- tom bracket height, while less travel steepens the geometry.

The Lefty fork is still the showstopper on the trail. This one, which gets 5.1 inches of travel, is substantially different from last year’s Lefty. The new Lefty has dual-integrated crowns, isolated dampers to keep oil and air separate, a new hybrid needle-bearing system, and Durathon seals that eliminate the 1972 Maico accordion fork boot (a moto guard takes its place).
Our Trigger 1 comes stock with Reynolds carbon fiber AM wheels. And while this coveted accessory is very understated, we can’t imagine a Trigger owner who won’t point them out to whoever is marveling over the Lefty.

Split decision: The Trigger is agile and way light enough to be pressed into service for endurance and cross-country events. It would be almost as much at home in an enduro (if it wasn’t for its big brother, the Jekyll).

Setup: Okay, this is going to take a little time. Checking sag on the Fox DYAD RT2 Dual Shock (the shock body slides away from the bottom shock mount, unlike conventional shocks that compress to it) will be daunting for everyone but a motocross mechanic who knows how to measure sag from the rear axle to the saddle.

Cannondale’s stickers suggested air pressures to the shock, but none of the wrecking crew agreed with them. We found ourselves going for settings up to 10 percent softer than the recommendations.

The changes you make to the shock have an immediate impact on your fork settings. The Trigger has got to be balanced, or you are paying for performance you are not getting. We are not trying to scare Trigger riders away; just be ready to spend some time dialing it in your first week with the new bike. It is worth it.

Ergonomics: The frame and rocker around the DYAD RT2 shock looks very wide, so you expect to have clearance issues. Wrong. In the saddle the bike feels lean, mean and narrow in the short-travel setting. Open it up and it still feels lean and mean, with a little bit of California kicked-back geometry.

Moving out:
Cannondale has made the DYAD RT2 shock’s lever so easy to use that we loved using it. Blasting off is best accomplished in the short-travel mode. The carbon fiber wheels take off like a cat with a lit tail, and the frame seems to take more from the Scalpel than the Jekyll in this mode.

Cornering: If you took the time to balance the suspension, the Trigger handles cornering like a cross-country racer in short travel and a super-lightweight downhill bike in long travel (that you switch to with a tap to the end of the remote lever). In the rough: We hit rock gardens and cleared them in the short-travel mode so we never felt a great need to go to long travel until the downhills. In the longer travel you get more suspension cushion but the rider has to time pedaling to keep from clicking a pedal.

Climbing: Leave the suspension in short-travel mode and go for it. It is not like you are lugging a heavy trailbike. You paid the price for a weight that would have been competitive for a cross-country race bike five years ago.

Pay the piper: How do you get a full-carbon fiber frame, carbon fiber wheels, the Fox DYAD RT2 Dual Shock and a new generation Lefty fork on a trailbike? You pay for it. Cannondale did not cut corners on the Trigger 1.

Descending: Open it up, partner, and let the Trigger float down the trail. The long travel slackens up the geometry and adds confidence. The wheels don’t deflect off rocks, so don’t work around them; use them to optimize your line choices.

Braking: Cannondale gives you a 7-inch front rotor and a 6-inch rear rotor. And while they’ll sing you a little song after a water crossing, the Shimano XTR Trail brakes are at the top of their game.

Our Lefty firmed up for no apparent reason after about 10 hours of use. The culprit was traced to an O-ring in the Solo Air system that was assembled dry. Cannondale explains this problem has already been remedied and has been corrected at the dealer level and for future production.

The Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO tires make for an impressive overall bike weight, but they are too cross-country-oriented for a trailbike. An upgrade to a Racing Ralph EVO with SnakeSkin sidewalls and bumped to a 2.25-inch width would be a start. If you ride in conditions tough on tires, the Nobby Nic or Hans Dampf would make more sense.

Finally, the Reynolds rear hub emits a click occasionally when applying torque to the drivetrain. In our experience, this results from the slow engagement of the freewheel’s pawls into the hub body. It is something, although minor, that you have to live with.

The Trigger 1 does more than fill a gap in the Cannondale line; it opens up new opportunities to riders who want some help on the downhills but don’t want the feel or weight penalty of a long-travel bike on the climbs. It is the type of bike that you can travel with (we did) and be confident in that it will adapt to the terrain where you are going—unless it is the Whistler Bike Park, and it would even work great on some of the trails there too.

There might only be one reason why you would hold off on getting the Trigger 1; there is a Trigger 29er coming down the trail in 2013 too. Sorry if we just made your decision a little harder.

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