We joked when we tested the over-mountain-category Cannondale Trigger 1 (November 2012), “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. Sorry if we just made your decision a
little harder.” Well, it turns out that we were right (a 29er
Trigger is indeed here) and wrong. We were wrong because
the only thing the Trigger 29er 1 shares with the 26-inch-wheeled Trigger 1 is its name. This is a totally different beast
from the Trigger 26er model. Whereas the 26er is a competent descender, it still has a distinct cross-country feel to it.
The Trigger 29er leaves the mellow trail to its little brother
and heads off for far more challenging terrain.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
Cannondale made this one easy. There is no fence-sitting
with this bike. The Trigger 29er is for aggressive, gnarly,
scary, rocky, rooty, steep and nasty terrain, whether you’re
going up, down or through the mountain. Anything less
challenging and you will be riding too much bike.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Cannondale knew the Trigger 29er owner would ride this
bike hard and put it away wet, so they passed on carbon fiber
for the frame in favor of good old bash-it-around aluminum.
There is a BB30 bottom bracket, plus ISCG03 chainguide
mounts and a 1.5-inch System Integration head tube.
Cannondale employs oversized, 15-millimeter axles at key
suspension pivot locations. Remember when a 15-millimeter
axle seemed big for a front axle? The swingarm and shock
links clamp directly to these thru-axles, so they become part of the swingarm and link assemblies. The top link is 3D-forged in two pieces and welded in a box-section construction. The pivots that can’t be joined by a thru-axle get a side-by-side, paired bearing treatment. Cannondale calls this collection of flex-killing tricks their Enhanced Center Stiffness-Torsion Control, or ECS-TC (sure to be a trivia question at a
bike festival near you this summer).
WHAT IS THE DYAD RT2 SHOCK?
The Fox DYAD RT2 Dual Shock, available on the 1 and
$4100 2 models only, delivers 5.1- or 3.1-inches of rear-wheel
travel with the push of a lever. This change in travel makes a
corresponding change to the bike’s geometry. Longer travel
equals slacker steering angles and a lower bottom bracket
height, while shorter shock travel steepens the geometry.
This is a pull shock, meaning as the bike dips into its travel, the shock extends rather than compresses. This design
requires very high initial pressure settings. A rider who
weighs 170 pounds with gear will have 277 psi in the positive air chamber and 234 in the negative. Yes, the bike comes
with a high-pressure shock pump, because the pump you
have now is unlikely to be sufficient.
Out in Lefty field: The SuperMax Lefty ups the Lefty’s game
with a new level of rigidity. The lower leg is 36 millimeters in
diameter, while the carbon fiber upper leg goes to 46 millimeters. The clamps are aluminum.
WHAT IS THE NEW LEFTY SUPERMAX FORK?
The new SuperMax Lefty fork, more accurately a “strut,”
is a departure over previous Lefty forks that were more
cross-country oriented. It has the same easier-to-service,
stiffer, sealed, hybrid-needle bearings introduced on the latest
Lefty version (tested on the Trigger 26er). The lower leg is
increased to 36 millimeters in diameter, and the upper leg
goes to 46 millimeters. The upper leg is made from carbon fiber while the clamps are aluminum. The clamps come with
four spacings to keep the head tube as low as possible in the
smaller frame sizes.
This 29er Lefty gets a new 61-millimeter offset that positions the fork body farther to the rear. This gives riders the
option to run stems as short as 50 millimeters without sacrificing steering performance. And, this design is compatible
with any stem made for 1.5-inch steerer tubes. Sealing the
deal is an all-new, wider SuperMax hub that increases flange spacing.
Shockingly simple: The DYAD
RT2 Dual Shock does require a
high-pressure shock pump
(delivered with the bike), and
following the recommended
pressure setting is the best
place to start. You can experiment on the trail.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The Trigger 29er screams “ready to roll.” It has amazing
(and expensive) Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires on Stan’s wheels.
It has a dropper seatpost. It has a chainring bash guard. It has
lock-on grips. It has a chainstay protector. It has a WTB saddle. It has a Shimano Shadow Plus rear derailleur. It has a 7-inch brake rotor up front and a 6-incher in the rear.
Learn to forget: The Trigger 29er rider will need some deprogramming. You will no longer have to fear rain ruts, bottom
bracket-high obstacles or off-camber sections. Just point and
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setup: Unless you know how to set sag motocross bike
style (it takes two people to measure a point from near the
rear axle to the saddle), you will have to rely on Cannondale’s
recommended pressure settings. Cannondale’s suggested air
pressure settings, which we found too firm on the Trigger
26er, work well on the 29er.
The balance between the rear suspension and the fork is
not as touchy as it was on the 26er. It is a lot less complicated
to achieve that balanced suspension feel.
Ergonomics: The Trigger 29er puts you in an upright,
trail-riding position. Some riders experienced leg contact with
the seatstays while pedaling, but it was minimal. While the
DYAD RT2 Dual Shock looks massive, it certainly stays out of
the way. We are WTB saddle fans, and the wide bar is ideal to
finish off the cockpit.
Moving out: It only takes one pedal to realize you have
never ridden a bike like the Trigger 29er. It messes with your
mind. The Lefty looks massive and the tires are gigantic, but
you don’t feel like you are pushing a tank. It steers with light
input, and the drivetrain gets all 30 pounds rolling along nicely. The remote lever for the Dual Shock is small and easy to
use. For flowing to the scary sections, we always left the
shock in the short-travel position. And while the Lefty can be
firmed up, we left it open and enjoyed the “plush.”
Cornering: All of Cannondale’s tweaks to the Lefty and
those big axles in the rear suspension make for an incredibly
stiff bike laterally. Again, it messes with your mind. We con-
stantly found ourselves intentionally taking the worst lines
(ruts, flat-edged rocks, off-camber) in corners just to see if we
could detect a weak spot. We couldn’t.
We have watched as conventional forks caught up to and in
some cases surpassed the lateral rigidity of the original Lefty
fork. Cannondale just raised the bar again. This new Lefty
moves back to the top for its weight (around 4 pounds).
In the rough: Switch the shock to full travel and let ’er rip.
We were impressed by how well matched the front and rear
suspensions are. If Cannondale had just slapped this Lefty on
the bike without improving the rear suspension’s lateral rigidity, it would have been an unbalanced mess. The front end
would have overpowered the rear. Instead, the rear suspen-
sion ups its game, and you have a bike that simply plows
Descending: Just like in the rough, the Trigger 29er rolls
through anything and stays quiet while blasting down the
mountain. It remains plenty stable at speed, but never feels
like some raked-out, lethargic downhill bike when you want
to change a line. The suspension soaks up landings with a
progressive feel—and forget about flex throwing you off. It is
just not going to happen. Braking is excellent, and those tires refuse to let go. Cannondale’s sponsored enduro racers will be
reluctant to go for the bigger wheels. Our advice is to keep an
open mind. This bike is full of surprises.
Climbing: Push the suspension lever back to the short-travel position and mosey on up the climbs. Unless it is a loose,
rock-infested mess, you are not going to beat anyone on the
climbs (if it is a mess, you will beat everyone). Still, the
Trigger 29er lets you be as sloppy as you want. In or out of
the saddle will work, as the suspension and tires refuse to
give up any grip.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Looking back on our Trigger 1 test, that bike had a long list
of teething problems. Not so with the 29er. It proved trouble-
free, except for an X-Fusion Hilo seatpost that failed during
our first introduction at a special Cannondale event. The
problem was traced to an assembly issue on early models.
Ours was rebuilt, and we have not had further issues.
The Lefty has a new brake-caliper mounting system that
makes it easier to remove the wheel and then easier to align
everything when it is replaced. And remember, you don’t
have to remove the wheel to change a flat tire anyway.
The Lefty graphics are thick stickers that look shabby compared to the rest of the bike’s graphics. We’d peel them off and
strategically place adhesive protectors where the brake hose
rubs the upper leg.
Even if you’ve never pictured yourself as a Lefty (or
Cannondale) owner, you need to seek out a demo ride on this
bike. It is really different from anything we’ve ever ridden,
and you feel that difference very quickly.
The Trigger 29er is too much bike for the majority of trail
riders, and we don’t mean that as a slam. If you are the type
who loves challenging, technical and rugged riding conditions,
the Trigger 29er will take you to new heights. The bike is
such a departure that riders will have to rethink how they
ride. Honestly, your brain will have to lighten up and let you
ride stuff you avoided in the past.
The Trigger 29er is nothing short of revolutionary.
Mountain Bike Action Magazine has tests like this (along with bike tests) in every issue. If you found this review helpful, don't miss another one by subscribing today. (Click Here) Mountain Bike Action Magazine is a monthly publication about all things mountain biking.