There's a difference between a gimmick and an innovation. Cannondale has a long history of innovations and doing things a bit, er, a lot differently in search of a performance advantage. Their unmistakable single-sided Lefty fork has earned a devoted following as well as a vitriolic opposition. And who remembers the early 2000s Gemini World Cup downhill bike that utilized two shocks in the frame?
In today's sport, choose any three mid-travel $5,000 all-mountain bikes and you're likely to see nearly identical claimed geometries and very similar component specs. At a time when companies are attacking as clones, Cannondale is applying their own approach to the category.
With the original iteration of the Trigger, Cannondale went all in on its fringe innovations with a Lefty fork and a Fox Dyad RT2 pull shock. The Dyad RT2 was essentially two shocks built into one, making for an odd-looking, but functional, dual-travel rear-end, switching between 140 and 85 millimeters with a handlebar mounted remote. The bike came in 27.5- or 29-inch wheels, featured a 68 degree headtube angle and was a little far out for many consumers.
The new Trigger is available in three unisex models from $4,000 to $7,750, plus a women's version at $4,000. It rolls on 27.5-inch wheels only and is built around 145 millimeters of rear-wheel travel and a 150-millimeter-travel non-Lefty fork. Our Trigger 2 test bike features a carbon front triangle mounted to an alloy rear and retails for $6,000. Notable components include the Fox 34 Elite fork with the Fit 4 damper, WTB Frequency Team i29 wheelset, SRAM Eagle X01 drivetrain and a unique Fox/Cannondale rear shock collaboration that has taken place of the previous Dyad RT2.
Perhaps not so obvious, the Trigger features what Cannondale calls 'Asymmetric Integration' (Ai), which offsets the Boost-spaced rear hub 3 millimeters to the drive side, creating a stronger, more evenly tensioned wheel and helps deliver the Trigger's short 420-millimeter chainstays. When it's time to upgrade, any standard wheel can easily be dished over the 3 millimeters to make it Ai compatible. Additional frame details include an internal mount for a Shimano Di2 battery, a replaceable carbon downtube protector, a carbon rocker link, a bottle mount within the front triangle, and Cannondale's Lockr thru-axle pivot system targeting a flex-free connection between the front and rear end. Without pedals, a size medium weighs 29 pounds.
Every Trigger model features the Gemini shock (unrelated to the aforementioned Gemini bike). As the name suggests, two specific performance traits are featured within one shock. Cannondale describes these settings as "Hustle" and "Flow." Hustle mode reduces the Fox Float DPS shock's total air volume, as if you're inserting an imaginary volume reducer. The increase in progressivity is so drastic, it reduces the frame's rear wheel travel to 115 millimeters. Flow mode returns the rear end to its full 145 millimeters of trail-eating glory. A Fox two-position remote lever gives you instant access to each mode. To be clear, the Gemini Fox Float DPS shock retains all of the open compression and efficiency tuning settings found on the standard Float DPS version, yet simply offers an on-the-fly reduced-travel option.
I've long been of the mindset that riders either want suspension or they don't. Fiddling with cockpit-cluttering doodads to alter otherwise properly setup suspension seems unnecessary for most disciplines. With the sag and compression dialed in, I set out with the intention of riding predominantly in the full-travel setting as if it were a standard bike, occasionally using the Hustle mode on extended climbs or fire roads. That's where I was wrong.
Modern "lockouts" offer a firmer pedaling platform, but in most cases, the shock ceases to behave like a shock. In the Trigger's Hustle mode, the rear suspension remains active and the geometry doesn't feel altered. It's simply going from 5.7 inches of travel down to 4.5. The Trigger's refined single-pivot design and low-speed compression tuning options make for a snappy pedaling machine when the trail turns upwards. Riders who want an even firmer platform can flip the shock's three-position compression adjust lever to a nearly locked out setting. I found myself keeping the bike in Hustle mode for most uphills and undulating sections of trail. It's also ideal on those increasingly popular flow trails. But when I reached a lengthy descent, I would deactivate the remote lever to return the bike to its full travel.
Although the Gemini remote and shock operated as advertised, I feel the system would be more user-friendly if the remote didn't have two different levers to control the system. I found myself having to take my eyes off the trail to locate the elevated release lever on my handlebar. A more intuitive method would be to press a single lever to activate the travel change, and then press the same lever again to deactivate it.
The Trigger comes to life on extended and playful descents thanks to nearly 6 inches of front and rear travel, a 66-degree head angle and a generous 439-millimeter reach on the medium frame. The combination of its short 45-millimeter stem and Cannondale’s 780-millimeter-wide carbon handlebar gives the bike a sensation of having a slightly slacker head angle. The aggressively arranged cockpit, dependable Maxxis Minion DHF front and DHR II rear tires and Race Face 150-millimeter dropper post help make the Trigger capable at navigating steep, technical terrain. But I maintain that the short, 420-millimeter chainstays cost the Trigger some stability on high-speed, jagged trails.
No matter what you think of remote-adjusted suspension systems, Cannondale's Trigger is an undeniably entertaining and capable all-mountain bike, and my fingers are crossed for a 29er version.
Cannondale's Two Cents:
When we set out to develop the new Trigger, we wanted to provide a great riding bike, but also add some on-trail benefits. With improvements in frame weight, kinematic efficiency, shock technology and development of riding styles a larger percentage of enduro-style bikes started to satisfy rider needs in climbing efficiency. Cannondale then posed the question, "How can we improve the ride experience outside of just climbing in a simple package?"
To improve Enduro stage times riders need to maintain and generate as much speed as possible. This means maintaining the most efficiency without sacrificing the ability to have full bump-eating performance when they need it. Using a compression adjust remote didn't satisfy that need, because rear wheel traction is sacrificed and doesn't create any additional "pop" to help generate speed. The Trigger rider can also add compression adjustment of mid or firm to further manipulate the ride feel. Gemini provides all the benefits of modern shocks in optimized progression and adjustable damping, but also with the benefit of remote adjustable spring curve.
— Jeremiah Boobar, Director of Suspension and Component Development