Compare-O Bottom Line: Cannondale Trigger 29 Carbon 2 has the good kind of split personality

29er Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–

Under normal circumstances, the notion of having a split personality is a mixed blessing. Sure, diversity of skill is always a good thing. But that same duality of purpose may also lead to bouts of unpredictability, or even a lack of reliability. You just never know what you’re going to get.

And no, these are not the ramblings of an amateur psychologist talking about a semi-cuckoo friend. This is bike test talk as it relates to the Trigger 29 Carbon 2, which Cannondale marketing material boasts as having “two personalities—both insane.”

The centerpiece of this self-labeled schizophrenic trail steed is its unique Fox DYAD pull shock with handlebar-mounted remote that toggles between 130mm and 80mm of rear end travel, or as Cannondale puts it, “with the flick of a switch it transforms from a pick-any-line lunatic to a switchback climbing freak.”

The question then, is can one bike really do both things and do them well? The short answer is, while not perfect, the Trigger 29 Carbon 2 is an exceptionally capable bike that boasts a host of cutting edge technology that yields solid climbing chops and stable descending ability.

The caveat here is that the right rider for this bike is ideally one who is both comfortable straying from the norm, and also capable of making a few second-level suspension set-up decisions. Indeed, the Cannondale Trigger 29 Carbon 2 (and its three brothers, the top-shelf Carbon 1, plus two lower-priced, alloy-framed models) was arguably the most polarizing bike in the Mtbr Enduro Compare-O. Some testers loved it, some didn’t, and others changed their mind along the way.

“With unfamiliar knobs on the suspension and an assortment of places where one is supposed to put air, initial setup on the Trigger was a bit intimidating,” said one tester. “However, the basic principals of proper sag and rebound adjustment seem to be universally applicable, so with some futzing, I sorted it out. Instantly, the bike felt light, lively, and responsive. Bounce tests in the parking lot gave me hope that the suspension would perform well.”

Left of center

Inevitably suspicion about suspension is the first question that arises when evaluating the Trigger 29 Carbon 2. Along with its unique 2-in-1 shock, the bike is spec’d with Cannondale’s 130mm Lefty Supermax PBR 29 single-sided fork. Like we said, if you’re an old-school traditionalist who prefers bikes that look like other bikes, this probably isn’t the bike for you.

But before you write off the Trigger as too weird, wild, or otherwise unconventional, consider this: During our three-day test, positive feedback greatly outweighed negative, especially when it came to suspension performance.

“As the stoke level increased and the apprehension evaporated, I got a sense that I could get even more out of the bike,” explained one tester. “After checking the front suspension mid-ride, I realized wasn’t getting full travel, so I let a few PSI out of Lefty. Back on the bike for the meat of the descent, we just kept going faster and hitting more jumps. It’s not as plush as some others, but the suspension is fully capable of taking the edge off of everything, preserving momentum, and keeping the tires where you want them. On small-to-medium jumps, it managed abrupt landings without any complaint or drama.”

The centerpiece of the Trigger’s dual-suspension system is the aforementioned FOX DYAD pull shock. Yes, it’s looks a little clunky and complicated, but the reality is that it’s essentially just two shocks stuffed into one somewhat oversized package. Flick the handlebar mounted lever one way, and it acts as a low air volume, 80mm shock. Toggle the other way, and enjoy 130mm of trail smoothing cushion.

By using these dual chambers, the shock can employ independent compression and rebound damping circuits, meaning you can tune each travel setting, and not just compromise somewhere in the middle. These dual travel modes also alter the bike’s geometry. In the 130mm “FLOW” mode, ride height is lower and head angle slacker due to extra sag. But flip to 80mm “ELEVATE” and you get a steeper head angle, less sag, and a higher bottom bracket.

Of course this likely means you’ll need to spend more than just the usual few minutes to get the suspension dialed to your tastes. “It took longer to set-up than any other bike in the test,” said one tester. “I practically needed a tutorial.”

The good news is that there is a full array of suggested pressures and dial clicks printed on the side of the shock. But nonetheless, it can be a little overwhelming. The person who buys this bike should have some idea of how to set up suspension, or be willing to ask a lot of questions at their local bike shop. Otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of money—$6170 for our test bike—but not realizing full return on your fat tire investment.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Some conventional wisdom

One place where Cannondale hasn’t strayed so far is the design of the suspension itself. The Trigger’s rear end utilizes what is effectively a traditional single pivot with rocker link, but instead of the link compressing the shock, it pulls up. Cannondale has also opted for a 100-percent carbon fiber frame construction (including rocker link), which means instead of a bearing pivot at the axle, the bike’s “Zero Pivot” stays flex, an engineering design the company has been using for more than a decade. The reason for this, they say, is that it slices weight out of the bike’s swingarm, while increasing overall stiffness thanks to a revised composite lay-up schedule. It’s obviously tough to verify all those claims, but feedback from our testers spoke of a bike that was indeed a very capable climber, with no noticeable lack of stiffness.

“The DYAD suspension locks out nicely, switching to the 80mm rear travel setting with the flick of a switch on the handlebar and pushing the ‘pop top’ on the Lefty fork,” noted one tester. “The result was a bike that climbed exceptionally well. In fact, I thought it was one of the best climbing 29ers in the test.”

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

And that final statement is saying something considering that our test model weighed in at a decidedly pedestrian 28.74 pounds sans pedals. Just think what you could do with a few weight-dropping parts upgrades.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Cannondale Trigger 29 Carbon 2 and full photo gallery »

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • Pika Boo says:

    Your review is almost spot on. I’ve had the 2013 Tigger 29er 1 alloy for almost a year now. I absolutely love this bike. It does everything as advertised. Climbs like a monkey being chased by a hot metal rod. Descends like a herd of hungry cruise passengers on a free buffet.

    Can it keep up with light weight XC guys? Almost.. Depends on your fitness
    Can it keep up with DH bikes? Yes… again depends on your fitness and skills

    I must admit that the first time I sat on this bike, it felt huge and gave me the feeling I was on top of it. But once on the trails and cruising at high speed, I felt one with the bike.

    One thing I disagree about the review is the perceived complexity of setting up the suspension. Lefty setup is just like a regular fork. Shocks are just as easy. Cannondale provides a list of recommended air pressure (in both provided manual, downloads, and iOs app) depending on rider’s weight. The listed pressures are almost spot on. As with all types of suspension, they need to be tweaked for rider’s preference.

  • r1Gel says:

    Excellently written review. Great work.

  • Thierry says:

    Great review, nicely written and almost complete. I would have appreciated your feedback about the wheels that I find a little bit heavy for a bike with this price.


  • Bas says:

    Since a few weeks I own this Trigger 29 Carbon 2. What a bike!

    I am used to ride lightweight XC-bikes so changing over to something like this was a big step for me. The Trigger replaced my Specialized S-Works Epic which (I felt so) was too much for XC but too less for the more rough terrain.

    First two weeks of use where I my hometrails and I ended up with a big smile on my face. As mentioned in other comments the bike felt quite big, I asume mainkymbecause of the higer bracket. However, tracks normaly hard to manage became easy, most climbs where also no problem. Very technical climbs became more easy, very steep (and longer) climbs became harder (8,5KG full rigid vs. 13,7KG Trigger).

    Faster technical singletracks are no problem. The few KG’s extra weight are, remarkably, hard to notice. The bike feels very light on the trails!

    Last few days I have been riding in the Austria alps. Did some longer climbs amd multiple long(er) (some very) technical descents. The suspension is still on the recommended settings just to experience what I would (maybe) like to change. I tend to use a slightly softer setting for the 130mm (long) travel and a slightly firmer setup for the 80mm (short) travel.

    Last few days I am using a new and slightly lighter pair of wheels. This based om traditional 32-spoke wheels with wider (25mm) rims instead of the standard Mavic wheels that, I felt so, where not a very good match with the type of bike. The new wheels are stiffer, lighter (?!) and (I think) more reliable. For use in the Alps the wheels are equipped with 2.35″ Hans Dampf tires (feels like you’re riding on rails ;-)). At home I will switch to a little less profiled tire in 2,25″. Think the weight will than be just under 13KG.

    So far there are on there are no other things I would like to change.

    (apologies for my poor grammar)

  • killerisation says:

    Thought I’d chime in after riding 2000 miles on this over the last year or 2…

    Its a fantastic bike, with a geometry in stark contrast to the latest bikes of this type coming out. The steering is as nimble and precise as my old F400, which surprised me for a 29er, so its better at negotiating its way thru rock gardens than simply eating up everything in its path. Technical climbing is where it really excels though, easily the best bike I’ve ever ridden in this respect.

    I also changed wheels for some CZeros. The Crossrocs weren’t especially light or stiff, and were far too narrow for the Bontrager XR4s I’m now running. I also got a shorter stem, shorter (& lower q-factor) Cannondale Si cranks, and a BikeYoke 185 dropper. I’m still riding 2x in 2019 tho and have no plans to change.

    The Leftys greatest strength is its stiffness, which helps its predictability thru the rough stuff. I’ve ridden forks with better small bump compliance, though they say that improves slightly with the Supermax #2 upgrade that Cannondale service centers perform.

    The Dyad now defaults to around 15% sag when there’s no load on the bike, and no amount of venting/refilling can get rid of it. This is a fairly common problem apparently and it just needs a rebuild, which I probably would’ve done already if it didn’t cost more than replacing the shock with a X-fusion compatible alternative. Guess I’ll bite the bullet & do it soon. The Flow/Elevate modes are a bit too similar to each other for my liking too. I only really feel the difference when going over really rough stuff or climbing something steep. The rest of the time I have to look at the bars to check I’m in the right setting.

    Overall, I’ve tweaked it to make it the ideal bike for me and intend on riding another 2000 miles on it.

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