This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–https://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
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.