Classic Bike Test: 2016 Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2

Cannondale has come a long way since its beginnings in a crowded loft above a pickle factory back in 1971. The company name is almost synonymous with innovation in the cycling world, as it has developed many of the technologies we all enjoy today. Have you ever ridden a frame with oversized aluminum tubes? Cannondale did that first. How about one with a press-fit bottom bracket? Yep, Cannondale did that first, too. Cannondale’s design philosophy is to push the envelope and constantly question the status quo. The Trigger is the latest trail bike from the mad scientists at Cannondale, and it sports a ton of unique features we simply had to put to the test on the trail.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Trigger sits comfortably in Cannondale’s lineup as arguably the most well-rounded machine, fitting between the Jekyll enduro platform and Scalpel cross-country race sled. Don’t call it an all-mountain bike, though. Cannondale created a category called OverMountain bikes, which utilize the proprietary Fox DYAD shock to shapeshift between cross-country geometry and travel to all-mountain plush flow with just the flip of the handlebar-mounted remote. The Trigger’s ideal rider is one who seeks the climbing prowess of a cross-country bike and the technical prowess of an all-mountain bike in one package.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Trigger’s frame is carbon through and through and sports proprietary suspension front and rear. The bike is done in classic Cannondale style, pushing the envelope rather than adhering to design limitations. The frame is constructed from Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon fiber, and unlike some other “carbon” frames, which only use carbon in the front triangle, Cannondale uses its proprietary carbon on both the chain and seatstays. The frame also uses a PressFit30 bottom bracket, oversized 1.5-inch head tube, a 12- by 142-millimeter rear axle, and Cannondale’s own 15-millimeter ECS-TC clamped pivot points to reduce flex at the pivot points.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The DYAD shock and Lefty Supermax suspension “chopstick” stand out as the heart of the Trigger’s trail-taming nature. The DYAD shock is a multi-chambered shock that Cannodale developed in conjunction with the suspension gurus at Fox. The DYAD is a “pull” style shock that essentially works in the opposite way of a conventional shock. The DYAD also features remote-controlled travel adjustment, which shifts the travel from the full 140 millimeters in “Flow” mode, to a climbing-friendly 85 millimeters in the “Elevate” mode on the fly. Cannondale designed the Trigger to work as two bikes in one, and the DYAD allowed them to pull it off.

The Lefty Supermax is an eye-popping component and has some key design advantages over other forks in this category. The fork may only have one leg, but it uses a dual crown, needle bearings instead of bushings, and an ultra-stiff carbon chassis to deliver the steering precision. Cannondale claims the Lefty is actually much stiffer than a traditional fork design thanks to these technologies.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Suspension setup: The OverMountain suspension certainly isn’t the simplest setup to master. Fortunately, Cannondale takes much of the guesswork out of it for you. The DYAD shock comes with two air valves and two separate rebound control valves. We simply set the positive and negative chambers to the recommended pressures and followed the built-in sag meter, which read a reasonable 35 percent, and hit the trails.

The Lefty fork might look complex, but it’s surprisingly simple to set up. The single air valve on the bottom of the fork should be set to match the sag of the DYAD.

Moving Out: Our large size Trigger felt bigger than most stock larges, with a relatively high standover height and long-feeling cockpit. Most riders will fit a standard size, but if you’re in between, we’d recommend a test ride before ordering the bike.

Climbing: In the Elevate mode, the Trigger exhibits a lively feel that’s happy to ascend the trails. Unlike a true lockout, the short-travel mode simply gives the rider more efficiency without giving up the extra plushness that comes in handy on technical ascents.

Cornering: Don’t let the one-sided fork get inside your head as you dive through a corner, because it will guide you through with steadfast confidence. The ultra-stiff Lefty Supermax does an excellent job resisting flex in corners and delivers a level of steering precision we don’t find with many bikes. The neutral-feeling geometry of the Trigger is as comfortable on tight switchbacks as it is on high-speed corners. It’s not overly twitchy, but it requires some skilled input to navigate technical corners.

Descending: The Trigger’s suspension has a fairly progressive feel, meaning that it takes a lot to dig deep into the travel. Testers noted that while the bike sports over 5 inches of travel, it feels like slightly less than that on the trail, even with the shock’s air pressure set fairly low. That said, though, the dialed geometry, competent precision of the carbon frame, and the ultra-stiff front end keep the rider tracking with confidence over technical terrain.

Braking: Shimano’s XT trail brakes are among our favorites, and Cannondale once again delivers in spades with the Trigger 2. Cannondale uses a modified single-pivot suspension design that should theoretically have some braking influence, but we certainly couldn’t feel it.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

Mavic’s Crossroc wheel and tire system is its entry-level wheelset, but the wheels are tubeless-ready right out of the box. The bike comes delivered with tubes installed, so plan to pull them out immediately for a “freebie” upgrade.

The Trigger’s 2-by-10 drivetrain works well to give riders an adequate gearing spread, but we would have appreciated the simplicity and quiet and smooth ride of a 1-by-11 drivetrain. While we can’t fault the performance of the drivetrain spec’d here, it seems like Cannondale could have eked out a little more in the spec chart for the $6200 price.

BUYING ADVICE

The Trigger performs dutifully as a lightweight trail bike that’s also not afraid to tackle some aggressive trails. The OverMountain technology makes it possible to feel like you’re carrying two bikes in one with the flip of a switch, which makes it incredibly versatile for nearly any type of trail rider. While some of the components seem a little lackluster for the price, there’s much more to the Trigger’s story than which derailleur is bolted to it. The technology of the full Ballistec carbon frame, Lefty Supermax fork, and Fox DYAD shock delivers eye-popping performance you won’t find anywhere else.

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