Review: Cannondale Trigger 29er – A Fast Adjustable Travel All Mountain Bruiser

Cannondale Trigger 29er mountain bike review

Unveiled last August, the Trigger 29er ushered in the era of long travel Lefty forks and DYAD dual travel rear shock for big wheels. Despite several trips with the Cannondale crew in the ensuing year, it wasn’t until late this summer that we actually got some time on the bike, though. And, travel schedules being what they were, our visits were mostly limited to local XC trails. But we made the most of it to get some time on the bike, and despite it’s “Over Mountain” billing, it does just fine on smoother, pedally trails while holding enough travel in reserve to make a trip to the mountains a joyous occasion.

With 130mm max travel and 80mm when set to in short travel mode, the bike does indeed have two personalities. Thanks to clever design, the geometry changes slightly to fit the travel setting, so it feels right regardless of how you’re riding it. Even though it’s a big bike (especially the XL we tested!), it’s plenty fast and plenty nimble, and quite honestly we liked it around our local trails more than we thought we would. Once we got it set up right, that is…

TECH DETAILS & ACTUAL WEIGHT

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

We’ve covered the suspension technology in depth when it launched on the 26″ Trigger in June 2012, check that post for the real nitty gritty.

2013-Cannondale-Trigger-29er-mountain-bike-review02

The gist of it is a twin chamber pull shock that uses separate compression and rebound damping circuits for both short and long travel settings. This lets them tune the bike for each setting and maximize performance all around rather than just limit travel or firm things up too much in a “climb” mode.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

The big wheels and closely spaced chain and seat stays make the bike look loooooong. Big thru axles at all of the main pivots keep things stiff, though I could sense a bit of squirm at the rear end under hard cornering. Not too bad, but faintly present. Some of that could have been the tires, which were absolute overkill for our groomed trails. It didn’t really detract from the ride.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

If the shock looks bulky, that’s because it is. But it works. Really, really well. The rebound knobs make a noticeable difference. I mainly played with the short travel (right) knob since we didn’t get this thing on any really gnarly descents, but even a couple clicks made a difference in how the bike felt. I ended up about two clicks faster from the middle setting and it kept the bike lively without being bouncy. Cannondale provides a recommendation chart listing air pressures for positive and negative based on body weight and initial rebound settings. The chart seemed spot on for air pressure, and pretty close for rebound. As with anything, tune it to suit your tastes.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

It’d be nice if they printed the air settings on the shock.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

The rear shock is controlled by a thumb lever. Push it forward like this and it’s in short travel mode. Nudge the silver button on the end of the lever to release it into long travel mode. It’s a good design because it’s easy to just rock your hand over and hit the button if you get into some rough stuff a little too quickly and don’t wanna compromise your grip.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

The Lefty SuperMax stays at 130mm travel, and that’s fine. It never felt too soft or too firm. It was just right, and for anyone that’s not ridden a Lefty yet, yes, it is laterally and rotationally stiff. And the new version, which is detailed here (updated tech) and here (Super Max particulars), rides phenomenally well. This one’s my second ride on the latest fork, the other was on a Scalpel 29er, and the suspension action is smooth and well damped.

The red button is your rebound control and doubles as a lockout button. Push it down to lock the fork, and hit the blue button to release it. Air is pumped in from the bottom.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

The lower stanchion is now round, one of the major changes to the Lefty from last year, and is protected by a leg shield. Tire and flat changes can be done without front wheel removal. For more serious repairs, the brake mount bolts can be loosened to release the entire mount assembly, keeping your calipers set up properly.

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

While almost everything about the bike seems overbuilt, the leg shield is the anomaly. The plastic is a bit flimsy, which is fine, but the cable guide mount is secured from the inside with two tiny screws. As in, only a hair bigger than those holding the cover on the bottom of my Macbook Pro. They thread into metal inserts on the back of the clip, and both of them broke as I was boxing up the bike to return it. So, they didn’t break on the trail, but it took virtually no effort for them to snap when I was inspecting the shield. The bolts closing it down around the cable are larger, so it seems like they could simply combine the two and mold the inner half of the guide onto the shield. As is, this clamp is trashed because half of the tiny bolts are stuck inside the threads. (Sorry, Billy!)

2013 Cannondale Trigger 29er alloy dual travel full suspension mountain bike review and actual weights

Actual weight for the complete bike, size XL with alloy frame was 30.8lbs (13.97kg). This is with tubes in the tires, so you could drop half a pound of rotating mass pretty quickly and easily since it’s spec’d with Stan’s Crest wheels. But for those looking to build something lighter, that’s one of the few options without breaking the bank or compromising the functionality of the bike. A carbon handlebar could be subbed in, and a 1×11 group upgrade would be fun, but beyond that there aren’t many ways to make this bike lighter. The rest of the build is XT shifters, brakes and rear derailleur, SRAM 2×10 crankset and front derailleur, FSA handlebar, Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires, and X-Fusion dropper post w/ remote.

Fortunately, it’s not that bad. It didn’t feel like an almost-31-pound bike on the trail. And there’s always the new carbon Trigger 29ers for those that want the lightest. They drop a bit more than a pound in frame weight, and for 2014 will be your only options to get the Lefty SuperMax. The alloy Trigger 29ers will only be offered with standard forks next year.

RIDE REVIEW

Cannondale Trigger 29er mountain bike review

The first thing to mention is that proper suspension set up is key. My first ride was simply a pull it out of the box, eyeball the sag and hit the trail. That ride kinda sucked. The bike just didn’t feel right.

After consulting the air pressure chart and getting it dialed, it was pretty stellar. Much like the Scalpel 29er, this bike will hustle when driven, standing or seated, and the damping settings do a pretty darn good job of balancing the varied hits they’re meant to take. Yes, the fork will bob a bit when you’re standing and cranking it, but under most riding conditions it’s very well mannered. So, also much like the Scalpel, there’s really no need for the lockout.

Cannondale Trigger 29er mountain bike review

Fortunately we have a few technical trail features to play on, and a number of jumps and high speed berms. The exit of this log (above image) is a slanted, two-foot drop that starts when the log erodes beyond rideable. Good fun, and the entry is a rounded rock that drops you onto a sharp bump. It’s easy to get jostled coming onto and off of it, but the Trigger made it a cake walk. It also displayed excellent stability and balance.

When it was time to drop off this or any other obstacle, take a hard landing or just pummel into carpet of roots, the long travel suspension soaked it right up.

When things were flatter or faster, or if I had to climb or hammer, the short travel mode firmed things up and made it feel just like a 100mm race bike. A full suspension race bike. And the low top tube makes it look fast, too, so lycra doesn’t seem totally out of place while piloting this 130mm travel crusher.

I was pretty bummed not to be able to get to some bigger trails while we had the bike. It’s like having a Jeep and not really getting to go off road…sure, it does pretty good on the easy stuff, but you just know it’s capable of so much more. Personally, I’m a 29er kinda guy. I’ve ridden the Jekyll (26″) quite a bit, including some fast and nasty enduro sections in Italy. It shares the dual travel suspension design, and it’s plenty capable of bombing downhill, but the climbing performance and overall hammering felt much better on the Trigger 29er. I suspect the big wheels would more than make up for the slight decrease in travel…my money would be on the Trigger 29 to post better enduro times than the current Jekyll.

So, summary time: The Trigger 29er is a fast bike that’s extremely capable and rock solid. The dual travel suspension works as advertised, feels great and essentially delivers two bikes for the price of one. Definitely worth a test ride.

Cannondale.com

Comments

K11 - 10/17/13 - 2:52pm

lower leg shield, that’s great, but what is going to protect the right side of the front wheel?

lefty is just a study in form before function.

Tmac - 10/17/13 - 3:03pm

The Lefty is a fantastic fork but best for skilled riders. The right side of MY front wheel is holding up just fine…

Kevin - 10/17/13 - 3:10pm

No matter what, that bulky rear shock can also ruin your vacation if it does blow……
not too concerned about the Lefty though as it can always be replaced.

buddy - 10/17/13 - 3:31pm

Wow….30lbs with Crests. What kinda weight weenie puts Crests on a 130mm trail bike to save a 1/4 pound or so….should have Arch ex minimum-Flow Ex is whats on most 130mm trail bikes. Im skeptical of the whole bikes durability since obviously it is for bike paths. At least they left off the small block 8′s……

Keith - 10/17/13 - 3:31pm

That’s the funniest Lefty criticism I’ve ever heard…..protect it from what? I have ridden Lefties for 12 years, and I won’t own a bike with a “traditional fork.” But I don’t waste my time criticizing traditional forks, because we don’t all ride the same frame…….so what’s the point? Thanks for the laugh though!

The Lefty on my 22.4 lb large Scott Spark 29 rides just fine too!

Now just go ride in the dirt….

Ck - 10/17/13 - 3:48pm

I love how nitpicky some BR commenters get just to find fault with a bike. Really? You’re worried about no right stanchion/lower protecting one side of the wheel?

This bike has always held my interest since it first showed up. I love a versatile bike, so it’s good news to hear that it doesn’t feel compromised in one of the two travel setups.

pile-on - 10/17/13 - 3:55pm

Leftys–still dividing the masses; the haters are pretty obnoxious and the lovers are very thin-skinned. Cannonball!

K11 - 10/17/13 - 3:58pm

lefty geeks attack.
@Tmac you got me, you skilled rider you.
@keith nobody cares what kind of bike you ride.
@Ck yes really

form before function=lefty, sorry.

BT - 10/17/13 - 4:16pm

After seeing a catastrophic failure of a Lefty not too long ago, I’ll pass

Keith - 10/17/13 - 4:25pm

LMFAO

Lauter - 10/17/13 - 4:30pm

form before function=lefty? Not likely
This implies that the lefty is only ornamental. If that were true, it would not have wide support and would not have been made for so long in different versions/generations. The stiffness and whatever other characteristics the goofy-looking fork has is a result of the form: form follows funtion.

I still prefer traditional forks though: I prefer the feel of some flex up front, parts are more available, and I would hate fielding lefty related questions. Also, I really like protecting the side of my wheel from sideways moving things with fork legs :)

aaron - 10/17/13 - 4:44pm

I agree with
@pile-on

@keith, it is kind of lame listing your ride, along with size and weight.

I would like to demo ride this design, looks interesting.

Jonny - 10/17/13 - 5:03pm

Lefty’s are wonderful forks… To ride. They require way too much maintenance though, rebuild after 40hrs!? Give me a break.

Jack - 10/17/13 - 5:06pm

The only people that do not like Lefty’s are those who have never used one. K11, you are really out of touch, lighter, stronger, stiffer, yea but keep on barking form over function. [deleted]

mike - 10/17/13 - 5:28pm

Pull shock YUCK! Your Stuck with FOX with this bike. Yes fox makes some decent stuff and maybe this shock is an exception but when it blows up your probably out a month or more if your not covered under warranty. Then there is the question of what to do if Cannondale abandons these pull shock bikes for more traditional shocks. How long will fox support rebuilds and parts before you are SOL?

Jimbo - 10/17/13 - 6:07pm

@Jonny I love it. For reference service intervals are the nearly identical to a fox fork. Rebuild after 200 hours for both lefty max and any fox fork.

goathead - 10/17/13 - 6:21pm

Cannondale has always been the absolute worst riding mtb I have tried. I gave them so many chances at so many demo events. Nothing doing. I think they need to get some mtb product managers that actually ride their products.

Keith - 10/17/13 - 7:21pm

aaron you missed the point, yo…but it’s cool with me. I don’t like shimano, so I don’t use it and I don’t put it down because others prefer it….hmmm

simply pointing out I wont even ride an non cannondale bike without a lefty. like my Jet 9, and Anthem X 29.

Jdog - 10/17/13 - 9:31pm

This bike has been a total surprise and joy to own. The variable rear travel really gives two very different personalities. A few nits to pick and it really can be improved : Hans dampf tires are way too slow for a bike that is not powered by gravity alone. The knobby nics make it really come alive. I ditched the front der and changed it to 1 x 10 for simplicity and a nice weight savings. Ditched the dropper post for Thompson for a nice weight savings. Forget the pressure chart, trial and error is key When these ship in carbon I will be first in line. This is must ride to understand bike. Open your mind on this one. This is a fast, capable ride that feels like my KTM when it needs to and like my scalpel the rest of the time. (Albeit 7 lbs heavier).

Bro - 10/17/13 - 11:59pm

Attention Haters! I actually ride. I actually get to ride a lot of bikes you would kill to own and this bike blew my mind more than any I’ve spent time on this season (Ibis HDR 650, RIP9RDO, RIPLEY 29, GTFORCE27.5, Scalpel 291, TBC Carbon Covert, TR450). Like all new Cannondales you must push them hard to receive the benefits of these super laterally stiff bikes that are ment to only go fast well – they don’t get bogged down. NO, this bike is not an old mans bike this is a bike that is most appreciated busting ass through chundery section and using the travel adjust to sprint a lung busting climb out of it. This is the first lefty I’ve really given a lot of time to and it’s the burliest fork I’ve ridden. Yes, compression damping adjustments would be nice but that Sh*t’s been dumbed down for consumer use by all companies (CTD, RT3) to the point that they may as well just set it from the factory. Cannondale does a pretty good job IMO and 90% of consumers can adjust their sh*t anyways. The rear shock is amazing and I bottomed it out in races, g outs, gaps to flat, ladders to flat and it didn’t blow up. This shock on this bike is probably not ideal for a 200lbs rider but most bikes feel like crap with a 200lbs rider on them… If you have ridden a new Jekyll 26, Scalpel 29 Carbon then you can talk but comparing this to old Cannondale MTB’s is ridiculous so stop it. Don’t knock it until you rock it

Kevin - 10/18/13 - 2:16am

@mike: finally someone gets my point:
there will always be Leftys (not arguing that they work well either) and you can upgrade as long as Cannondale is around; worst case you can swap them for a “traditional” fork;
BUT with this rear shock you´re stuck, this is just made by Fox per Cannondales design and you´re stuck when they abandon the design……just look at the Scott Genius line and what happened there…

gringo - 10/18/13 - 2:19am

One can make a whole host of arguments as to why Lefty is better, or why Cannondale’s SI cranks are so rad, but but the DYAD is where I think they went wrong…..doing something different just for the sake of being different, with no technical advantage, is not how you convince consumers.

Igor - 10/18/13 - 7:14am

Comments about the lefty are just … funny. Lefty is awesome … if you can afford one. It is superlight and very stiff. Also when you encounter sideflex on the regular fork, uneven twisting of the stanchions stops the fork from working. The main problem was the seals. Until this new edition which has round seals durability was sometimes questionable. Also one of the biggest problems is the use o proprietary parts. Hubs are expensive and you cannot install short stems because of the dual crown!!! 80mm is way too long in my book. So for the XC or trail bike it’s awesome, but for something more gnarly like a Jekyll, Pike is all that you need.

härbert - 10/18/13 - 7:37am

I totally agree with all the worries about the frame beeing resticted to a DYAD!
Especially in terms of fast and quick/cheap replacement…
But in a vacation the chances are not much bigger to get imediate the “standard shock” of your ride
(165mm, 175mm, 180mm, 190mm, 200mm… right hardware … right tune…??)
Mostly you weren´t able to get a pair of brakepads or tires in the wrong part of your country!

At least for the lower jekyll/trigger models there are X-Fusion P1-RL Pullshock
A shock which is stock in other asian frames/bikes
http://ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb9344237/p4pb9344237.jpg

BUT… that pullshock has no advantages is wrong!
pulling the shock means: no deflection no bending load > longitivity
pulling means: most of the time there is more overlap > more stiffness
Pull Shock design makes this frame and its low center of gravity possible > ride feel

I think there are some reasons for the engineers to go this (hard) way instead of buying 10.000 Standard shocks.

Back to the Trigger 29… i realy would love to ride that frame and fork

satisFACTORYrider - 10/18/13 - 10:26am

i’ll trust mark weir before i trust you lefty fanboys.

satisFACTORYrider - 10/18/13 - 10:31am

…and jerome clementz.

Bro - 10/18/13 - 11:30am

satisFactoryrider – Both Mark Weir and Jerome Clementz get a salary from Fox or Rockshox. Mark Weir and Ben Cruz lost badly to Anton Cooper on his Trigger 29 w/ a lefty at the Trans Provence a week ago.. Have you ridden the new LeftySuperMax?

Alejandro - 10/18/13 - 11:57am

It still has a Lefty and they are horrible. I must say that they doooo feal great but, they need a bearing reset and servicing after only a few rides. As a shop mechanic i will never purchase any bike with a Lefty and the pull shock is a nightmare to deal with. Cannondale please wake up!

K11 - 10/18/13 - 12:16pm

@satisFACTORYrider – lefty fanboys, i couldn’t have said it better.

goridebikes - 10/18/13 - 12:59pm

Leftys are horrible? You are an awful mechanic then, @Alejandro.
Modern leftys take 5 minutes to do a bearing reset. 5.
And their service intervals are near identical to that of Fox / RS.
Which, by the way, NO ONE LISTENS TO. Every time a customer brings me a fork for service it has worn bushings, worn stanchions, etc. – and the only reason they’re bringing it in is because all the oil they lost = no lockout. ALL FORKS REQUIRE MAINTENANCE.
And, traditional forks when they go 2 years with no maintenance = throw it away.
I’ve serviced leftys that have gone 3-4 years with no maintenace, and $200 later = good to go. No new stanchions, no bushing replacement, etc.

Lefty is not for everyone, but please don’t pretend like high-maintenance is a problem when you don’t maintain your Fox/RS either… And, @K11 if you find it to be form following function, you’re a moron. If increased stiffness, decreased weight and improved feeling are not functions, I don’t know what is.

K11 - 10/18/13 - 1:08pm

@goridebikes. i guess i am NOT a moron because you stated “form following function” which is the opposite of what i said. think about it a few minutes…

greg - 10/18/13 - 1:12pm

very telling
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WlRqcAQr2w

Tacoma_D - 10/18/13 - 1:12pm

Alejandro – The new Lefty forks (2013 and above) with the round lower are a totally different animal that the prior ones. Bearing resets are done by letting the air out of the fork and bottoming it out. No need to disassemble any part of the fork for this service.(Or if you bottom it out on the trail it resets the bearings)
Service intervals are now twice what they used to be and that means twice as ling as FOX or other companies. The reason for this is with the upside down nature of the fork oil is now bathing the lower seal and bushing at all times. Much better than the past design.
I am an avowed Lefty fanboy and also get to ride tons of bikes with other forks. Nothing holds up or works as well as the new Lefty forks.

notenoughbrakes - 10/18/13 - 1:47pm

@K11 – you’re right, sentence structure was the real issue of goridebikes comment. Clearly nothing he said refuted what you said. Well done sir.

satisFACTORYrider - 10/18/13 - 5:00pm

@bro- anyone can win on anything these days on any given day. I’m not hatin just statin my preference. not the supermax no but the xlr(?) and it was ok. in all fairness it wasnt tuned for me so. they have never felt that great to me in regards to compression. I’ve found better grip elsewhere.

Andrew - 10/19/13 - 5:38pm

I have a Trigger 29er1. I’ve been riding it a few times a week since March and it’s been nothing but awesome. I’ve never owned a Lefty before, I wouldn’t hesitate to get another either.

bin judgin - 10/19/13 - 8:36pm

the comment section of bikerumor is beautiful

Brian W - 10/22/13 - 2:25pm

Where did this test take place? Just curious. Thanks!

Pika - 02/23/14 - 3:22pm

Leftys won’t work blah blah blah
Leftys aren’t as good as traditional forks blah blah blah
Leftys are unreliable blah blah blah

If you have never ridden this bike, please don’t pretend to be some kind of bike expert and leave idiotic comments with no merits.

I’ve had this bike for 10 months now and its capabilities just blow me away. On smooth, fast single track, I’ve been able to keep up with cross country riders (well, mostly . It is 30 pounds with huge tires after all).

On steep, rocky technical DH sections, I’ve passed riders in full dh bikes.

This bike design is truly phenomenal. It has to be set up properly and ridden on various terrains over long period of time in order to appreciate how versatile this bike really is.

alexrivera - 04/16/14 - 3:24am

hello
i assume this forum is to share about Trigger 29er,,,not about how one fork is better or worst that the other one,,,we consumers need info not BS,,thanks ,,,,and feed us the consumer with positive stuff

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