Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2 | 2015 Bible of Bike Tests

A capable, albeit complex, trail shredder

CANNONDALE TRIGGER CARBON 2 | $6,170 | CANNONDALE.COM

Cannondale augmented its carbon-fiber Trigger 29 with a smaller-wheeled sibling in order to cater to the 27.5-inch crowd. How- ever, great efforts were taken to ensure that the two different wheel sized bikes would retain key handling traits and in all other regards be identical.

So, they both get carbon fiber frames, Lefty forks, Fox Dyad adjustable-travel shocks, Shimano XT dual-ring drivetrains, Shimano XT Trail brakes, Mavic Crossroc wheels and tires and KS Lev dropper posts. However, the smaller wheels get more suspension travel (140 millimeters up front versus 130 millimeters for the 29er, and 85-140 adjustable rear versus 80-130), a slacker head angle (68 degrees versus 69 for the 29er) and a fork with more offset (60 millimeters versus 50 millimeters). Ultimately, this begs comparison not just with other brands, but also within the family.

Will riders prefer the big hoops or the small?

In the real world, as much as there are striking similarities between the two bikes, they are still very distinctly different from each other. More aggressive testers preferred the 27.5-inch wheels, stating they made for a more flickable, responsive ride. The old man of the group preferred the 29-inch version, claiming it felt calmer and more stable.

This aside, Cannondale did a remarkable job of creating a similar fit and feel in all other regards. The chassis is incredibly stiff; it's free from any sort of wag or flex.

Regardless of wheel size, this bike handles well, climbs snappily in the 'elevate' short-travel mode, and descends with confidence in the 'flow' long-travel mode. It also means that both bikes share complex shock setup procedures, alongside proprietary forks that require bed-in time to achieve full travel and feel somewhat heavily damped. – Mike Ferrentino

Cannondale Trigger Carbon review
 
Cannondale Trigger Carbon review
 

Q & A with Bill Rudell, public relations manager – Cannondale

We had questions about the new bikes before we even got our test rigs, so we sent out a few queries—the kind of things we thought you might be asking yourself when you're looking at this bike. Then we sent out another round of asks if any major questions or issues came up during testing. Here's the feedback we received from Cannondale public relations manager, Bill Rudell.

Consider this a bonus feature—just a little something extra to chew on if you're still hungry for information after you've watched our video reviews and flipped through the Bible of Bike Tests.
—Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator

VERNON FELTON: Why produce both a Trigger 29er and a Trigger 27.5?

BILL RUDELL: The intent of the Trigger platform was to create the ultimate all-purpose (OverMountain) bike for the full throttle adventure rider – people who want to gas it on the climbs, then open it up and let it rip on the downhill, and who want the highest performance they can get across the widest spectrum of terrain. Some of these riders prefer the stability, momentum, grip and roll-over-anything-ability of the bigger 29er wheels, while others prefer a little more nimble, precise and quick accelerating bike. Since this is such a huge category, we wanted to create a bike for both rider types and heights. It's no secret that some taller riders prefer 29-inch wheels and shorter riders like 27.5-inch wheels but we see lots of cross-over – smaller guys on 29 and taller on 27.5 – it's all about what you like.

VF: What makes the bikes different (handling wise) from one another and who would be the ideal rider for each bike?

BR: Trigger 29 handling is designed to balance the inherent stability of the big wheels with a level of slow-speed nimbleness that generally isn't found in longer travel 29ers. We gave the SuperMax 29 fork the biggest offset in the business (60 mm) which reduces the trail measurement. When paired with slacker head angles, this delivers both high-speed stability and low-speed agility, making it an all-around playful bike that can handle aggressive descents and technical climbs equally well. It makes a great Enduro machine on more pedally courses, and just eats up the miles on long adventure rides.

Trigger 27.5 loves to be ridden a bit more aggressively. It's super flickable and the smaller wheels reward a riding style that is more quick and explosive. It uses a 50-millimeter offset SuperMax fork to keep ideal trail with the 27.5 wheels. Punchy climbs, technical descents or flowing singletrack, this bike is nimble and ready to shred.

VF: The marketing copy states "The new Trigger is a ground-up redesign based on the Trigger 29, but dialed in for 27.5-inch wheels." What are some of the key differences between the two bikes? Obviously the geo is different (the 27.5 has a much slacker head angle, for instance), but does the 27.5 feature other less-obvious tweaks to the Trigger formula?

BR: Yes, the Trigger 27.5 is based on the 29'er design but, to get the most out of the smaller wheels, we had to completely redesign it. Every tube on it is different. We wanted to keep the ride and handling pretty similar between the two bikes, but play to the strengths of the different wheel sizes. One of the biggest advantages we have is that we make our own forks, so we can play around with offset (rake) to create the best handling for each wheel size. Increasing wheel size automatically increases trail, which can make for sluggish handling at slow speeds. Also, slack head angles –which improve handling at high speed – increase trail. By increasing the rake, we can compensate for both of these factors and bring best of both worlds handling to both wheel sizes.

The differences in the frames are:
– 27.5 has a slightly shorter top tube (1 centimeter in size large)
– 27.5 has a slightly slacker head angle (1.5 degree in size large)
– 27.5 has slightly shorter chain stays (1 centimeter in size large)

There is also a difference in suspension:
– Trigger 29 uses 80 millimeters in elevate mode & 130 millimeters in flow mode
– Trigger 27.5 uses 85 millimeters in elevate mode & 140 millimeters in flow mode
– Trigger 29 Lefty SuperMax has 60-millimeter offset
– Trigger 27.5 Lefty SuperMax has 50-millimeter offset (trail is both wheel sizes is the same)

What is the same:
– Both bikes use our new Trail-tuned damper with Wide Mouth piston to flow more oil and improve small-bump sensitivity
– Both bikes use our Zero Pivot seatstays, which save weight, increase lateral stiffness and help soften the blow if you bottom-out the rear suspension
– Both bike use our ECS-TC System (Enhanced Center Stiffness Torsion Control) which eliminates flex and play in the pivots and links for rock-solid stiffness and instant responsiveness
– Both bike use BallisTec Hi-Mod Carbon frame construction

VF: The less-expensive trigger models come equipped with "normal" Fox forks, while the higher-end bikes sport Lefty models. Right or wrong, some riders still balk at the Lefty. Thus, Cannondale could be seen as limiting the sale of the higher-end Triggers and, yet, you guys are sticking by your guns. You clearly believe in Lefty. Why? What makes it a better choice than, say, a Fox 34 or RockShox Pike?

BR: Yeah, it's funny. Lefty's been around for 15 years and still some people just don't get it or think it's a gimmick. Generally, they balk and are unsure right up until they ride one. The fact that Marco just won the Kamikaze on a SuperMax should reduce some of the balk, for sure. But absolutely, we love Lefty. We're stubborn, but I can guarantee that we wouldn't have championed it for a decade and a half if it didn't offer serious benefits to the rider.

Lefty's biggest advantages are in weight, stiffness and steering precision – it's counter-intuitive but the single-legged Lefty is actually stiffer and stronger than traditional forks because of how it's designed. The Lefty SuperMax delivers stiffness and strength that rivals dual crown DH forks, but is lighter than most regular trail forks. The other factor is that, rather than sliding on bushings, the leg rolls on strips of needle bearings, which means it stays completely smooth under all loads. Having that kind of stiffness and smoothness up front means you can brake later and harder into turns and pick more accurate lines through rock gardens, all while carrying way less weight. Once you get used to its capabilities, it can be hard to go back to "normal" forks. The only reason we don't use them on every one of our bikes is just cost – all that technology is expensive so there is a threshold below which we simply can't afford to spec them.

More trail bike reviews from our 2015 Bible of Bike Tests:
Banshee Phantom

Kona Process 111

Evil’s The Following