by Nick Jaynes
At the outset, finding this season’s perfect all-round mountain bike seemed like an easy task, as most modern, high-end bikes claim to be quite adept at tackling anything from rocky incline charges to stump-laden downhill slogs with equal aplomb. After months of sweating, cursing and mud-slinging, the Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2 could very well be it. With its swoopy geometry, burly and undeniably distinctive Lefty SuperMax front fork and 27.5-inch tires, it’s the Swiss army knife of bikes.
It’s the Swiss army knife of bikes
On our first outing, we took the Trigger Carbon 2 to the Sandy Ridge Trail System for a spin at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon. Though we’d ridden through the trees there many times, we’d been saving the elite trails for a bike that seemed not only capable of conquering them but also worthy of their lore. After strapping on a helmet, we dove into the Follow the Leader trail, which had been designated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a Double Black Diamond trail. The immediate 100 yards of well-worn and rounded switchbacks lulled us into sense of false security. Entering the trees and the volcanic rock-covered trail, we discovered we—and the bike—were in for a true acid test.
Arguably miles past our skill level, we exuberantly popped over tire-rending volcanic boulders and slick tree roots the size of large alligators. Our ability to sail over these pathway impediments should be entirely credited to the bike’s slightly larger 27.5” wheels, which allowed us to dig in for snap acceleration in order to keep rollover momentum up. The obstacles we couldn’t scale, we darted around. It became evident that the stiff but lightweight Trigger—despite its size—can change directions incredibly quickly. And it was that nimbleness that helped us avoiding near-disaster several times over. When obstacle avoidance was unpreventable, the 85mm to 140mm of adjustable on-the-fly rear and 140mm front travel saved our skin, both literally and figuratively.
Finally leaving the treacherous Follow the Leader trail, we hit the Hide and Seek trail, which highlighted the Trigger’s high-speed maneuverability and its fondness for flight, as we caught air several times bounding down the mountain.
On our first dozen-or-so outings with the Trigger Carbon 2, the trails were soggy with slick rock and ankle deep mud, which is all too common in the Pacific Northwest. It was these conditions where the Trigger showed its biggest flaw: traction. The stock Mavic Crossroc tires simply couldn’t get the necessary grip in the slick conditions to put power down in slow-speed uphill climbs. This problem subsided, however, when the trails dried out as the heat of summer set in. If riders are planning to make this bike a year-round one, we suggest putting on a set of Schwalbe Nobby Nic Snakeskins or something akin.
The Trigger Carbon 2 is as comfortable on several-mile-long climbs as it is blitzing down tree-lined switchbacks; however, riders over 6’4″ might find the geometry of the Trigger a bit cramped. With an impressive fleet of bikes in our garage this year, the one we gravitated to over and over was the Trigger. If its pedigree and penchant for all-round performance weren’t enough to sell it, its Lefty SuperMax fork is also a conversation-starter on any trail. The Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2 is available now starting at $6,170.
Images by Nick Jaynes