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CANNONDALE TRAIL (2019) REVIEW

Cannondale's Trail off-road bicycle lineup is known at its parity of cost, fabricate quality, and brilliant segment decisions for novice to halfway cyclists. We tried the mid-go Trail 6 hardtail, which highlights a 100-millimeter SR Suntour front fork and dependable drivetrain and water driven plate brakes from Shimano. The takeaway is that it's an incredible decision as a first "genuine" off-road bicycle and for riders that incessant smooth singletrack and rock bicycle ways. Underneath we separate the Cannondale Trail 6's plummeting and climbing execution, key highlights, segments and specs, and different forms in the line. To perceive how it piles up, see our articles on the best trail blazing bicycles and best off-road bicycles under $1,000.

Cannondale Trail 6
Price: $825
Suspension: 100mm (front)
Tires: 29 x 2.25 in. (medium frame)
Gears: 2 x 9
What we like: Quality aluminum frame, modern geometry, and solid performance on smooth trails.
What we don't: Entry-level components are out of their element on more technical singletrack.
Rating: (4.4/5)

Slipping

It's essential to set sensible desires for a financial limit amicable hardtail, and I found that Cannondale's Trail 6 met or surpassed them by and large. The bicycle's 29-inch wheels (included with medium to extra-huge casings) and 100-millimeter front suspension were a pleasant blending for smooth singletrack that incorporated the intermittent root or rough segment. Further, I was agreeably shocked with the measure of footing given by the 2.25-inch WTB Ranger tires in hardpack soil, in spite of the fact that the grasp runs out rapidly in sloppy or oily conditions. On the in addition to side, the track gives small moving obstruction, which made them incredible buddies on a portion of the rails-to-trails rock ways that we have in the Seattle district.

While the Trail 6 took care of the previously mentioned zones effortlessly, when I wandered into the precarious and harsh landscape at Tiger Mountain, the bicycle was rapidly out of its customary range of familiarity. Indeed, even on the novice neighborly Inside Passage trail, I felt under-gunned. The section level SR Suntour fork was overmatched and reliably bottomed out, and the absence of a dropper seat post implied I expected to continually stop and change the tallness (or keep riding with it at an awkward spot). Further, the bicycle put me in excessively upstanding of a situation to unquestionably handle anything steep. Obviously, the Trail 6 has its restrictions, and anybody with designs to ride anything genuine ought to firmly consider overhauling (the Salsa Timberjack that we as of late looked into is one model). Having said that, I would put the Trail 6's general capacities as keeping pace with most different alternatives in this class, and it stays a strong decision for zones with smooth, crosscountry-style territory.

Climbing
Featuring a relatively steep head tube angle by modern standards, fast-rolling tires, and a lightweight aluminum frame, it should come as no surprise that the Cannondale Trail 6 happily motors its way uphill. The upright geometry may be a downside for the descents, but it makes the bike quite comfortable for extended climbs. And I found the 2 x 9 Shimano drivetrain provided plenty of gears for even very steep and punchy sections of trail. Furthermore, the front suspension includes a remote that’s mounted on the handlebar to lock out the fork. This means it won’t compress under your body weight while pedaling and ultimately makes for a more efficient ride. While it’s too jarring to use over anything bumpy, it was nice to have while riding on bike paths or the road.
Cannondale Trail 6 (climbing)

If I had one complaint about the Trail 6 in regard to climbing, it would be the weight of its wheels. You can only expect so much from an $800 hardtail, but it was clear that the wheels were adding precious rotational weight and slowing me down (these would be strong candidates for future upgrades). That being said, the bike still felt a little faster on smooth trails than the aforementioned Salsa Timberjack, which includes very wide 2.8-inch tires.


General Riding
For most of the bikes I test, I feel like they excel at either climbing or descending. However, the Cannondale Trail 6 really shines as a mellow all-rounder. It’s versatile enough to not be out of sorts with anything from riding bike paths with friends and family to tackling fast-paced singletrack. Moreover, the rear rack attachment points mean that the Trail can be converted rather easily into a short-distance commuter. There are clearly more performance-oriented options on both ends of the spectrum, but the Cannondale lands comfortably in the middle as a true generalist.
Cannondale Trail 6 (downhill)


Key Features
Frame
Cannondale has been building high-quality aluminum frames for decades, so it’s no surprise the Trail checks all the right boxes. The straightforward design is very clean and avoids entry-level-bike pitfalls like questionable-looking welds or oddly placed pieces of tubing. Further, they’ve included modern touches like internal routing for some of the brake and shifter cables. Finally, the raw color with black ascents on the “6” gives it a nice, subdued aesthetic overall (other versions of the Trail come in varying frame colors).
Cannondale Trail 6 (close up)


Geometry
While certainly not cutting-edge, I think the geometry is just about perfect considering the Trail 6’s intended use. The head tube angle is on the slack end of the spectrum for this type of mountain bike (but steep compared to the middle and high end of the market). This puts you in a comfortable spot to be confident on moderate downhills while not feeling too sluggish for cruising up buff singletrack trails or flat bike paths. Cannondale also did a nice job with the sizing—the medium frame fit me really well (for reference, I’m 5’9”). One neat feature about the Trail line is that it features 27.5-inch wheels (instead of 29-inch) on the extra-small and small frame sizes, which only helps to dial in overall fit for different rider heights. All told, I think the entire package puts you in a comfortable and upright riding position that most people will find favorable.
Cannondale Trail 6 (berm)


Components and Specs
Shimano Drivetrain
It’s hard to go wrong with a Shimano drivetrain and my time aboard the 2 x 9 system found on the Trail 6 confirms this. While not their top-of-the-line offering, the price-appropriate Acera and Altus components happily shifted through the gears and provided sufficient range for both steep climbs and fast-paced descents. If there was one complaint regarding the entry-level components, it would be the lack of a clutch mechanism on the rear derailleur. Without this feature, the chain is not kept taut, so it makes a bit of a racket while hitting the chain stay on rough descents. This issue isn’t unique to Shimano but it’s something I noticed on my time aboard the Cannondale.
Cannondale Trail 6 (drivetrain)


Shimano Brakes
Similar to the drivetrain above, the hydraulic Shimano MT200 stoppers on the Trail 6 proved to be more than sufficient throughout the duration of my testing. Once properly broken in, they provided reliable power for controlled braking and were free of noise or any other issues. While becoming more and more common in the sub-$1,000 price range, hydraulic disc brakes are one of the more important upgrades over a cheap bike at a big-box store (these often come with less powerful cable-actuated brakes). If you have any intentions of riding singletrack, they are a worthy investment in my opinion.
Cannondale Trail 6 (brakes)


SR Suntour Suspension Fork
The brakes and shifters were both up to snuff, but I found the front fork was the main limiting factor when tackling rough terrain. The preload adjuster had very little impact on the overall ride, and the lack of a rebound adjustment had me wishing for a higher-end design. Additionally, the handlebar remote lockout feature is hard to reach and required me to remove my left hand to activate—a maneuver that’s certainly not ideal while on the trail. Overall, the fork is fine for buff singletrack and bike path use, but I couldn’t help but wish for something a little nicer on technical trails (it’s worth noting that higher-end versions of the Trail come with upgraded RockShox forks).
Cannondale Trail 6 (fork lockout)


Tires
I am pretty picky about my tire set-up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Cannondale spec a quality and well-known tread pattern on the Trail 6. The WTB Ranger tires rolled very well on pavement and hardpack trails while simultaneously providing a surprising amount of traction despite their tiny knobs. The 2.25-inch width can’t match the bump-absorbing ride that plus tires (approximately 2.8 inches wide) provide, but they certainly require less effort to get up to speed and roll faster.
Cannondale Trail 6 (tires)


Other Versions of the Cannondale Trail
As with many product lines from Cannondale, there are a wide range of Trail models available. I tested the Trail 6, which is the second-cheapest in the collection at $825. The Trail 7 is the price leader at $720, although it comes with a slightly downgraded drivetrain and you lose the remote lockout function on the fork. If neither of those features are appealing to you, the 7 is a fine option. On the other end of the spectrum, you have Cannondale's Trail 2, which includes significantly nicer drivetrain and suspension components. Priced at $1,575, the 2 is likely worth the investment if you anticipate spending most of your time on actual trails (and less time on gravel and paved bike paths).
Cannondale Trail 6 (scenic)


What We Like
Quality Shimano components should provide years of trouble-free performance.
The lightweight aluminum frame is a great canvas for future upgrades and has a lifetime warranty.
Fast-rolling and grippy tires work well for everything from bike paths to intermediate singletrack trails.
Smaller frame sizes feature 27.5-inch wheels, which help improve the fit for shorter riders.
Rack mounts increase the versatility of the Trail 6, making it viable for short-distance commuting.

What We Don’t
SR Suntour suspension fork is underwhelming on technical singletrack trails.
Lack of a dropper seat post makes steep descents more challenging.
Use of quick release axles (as opposed to thru-axles) are dated and make for a less efficient ride.
Cannondale Trail 6 (handlebars)

The Competition
Nearly every major bike brand has a sub-$1,000 hardtail offering that competes directly with the Trail 6. Giant is consistently a leader in terms of value, and their Talon 29 2 is a great example. The two bikes are similar in most ways: fast-rolling yet knobby tires, budget SR Suntour suspension forks, and relatively lightweight aluminum frames. But the Talon wins out in price ($720 vs. $825 for the Trail) while including a slightly upgraded drivetrain. Where the Trail 6 pulls ahead, however, is with its more modern geometry. With a longer reach and slacker head tube angle, it’s a little more comfortable on the downhill. Additionally, the Trail 6 uses 27.5-inch wheels on its smaller frame sizes, something shorter riders will certainly appreciate. In the end, if you’re simply looking for the best deal, go with Talon 29 2. But the $100 price premium for the Trail 6 may be worth it if you prioritize fun on the singletrack.
Cannondale Trail 6 (side profile)_0

While I don’t have any time on Trek’s Marlin 7, I think it’s another worthy competitor to the Trail 6. You get 100 millimeters of front suspension travel, a smartly spec’d 2 x 9 Shimano drivetrain, mounting locations for a rear rack, and Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. All in all, it’s a well-rounded and quality package for the beginner rider. That said, the Marlin has a steeper head tube angle (69.5 degrees), which puts you in a much more aggressive position and favors XC riders. The handlebars also feature zero rise and are quite narrow, which only adds to a more bent-over riding position which racers prefer (an odd choice considering its otherwise budget-friendly build). Overall, we think the more well-rounded Trail 6, which puts you in a more comfortable, upright stance, is the better choice.

Co-op Cycles may not be a household name like Cannondale or Trek, but their DRT 1.2 model is a solid option for the beginner mountain biker. Owned by REI and sold exclusively at their stores and online, the in-house brand generally offers a lot of bang for your buck. What sets the DRT 1.2 apart is its 27.5-inch wheels used across all sizes, 120 millimeters of front suspension travel, and 3 x 9 drivetrain. Compared to the Trail 6, as well as the others listed above, the DRT 1.2 is better suited for those who prefer a nimbler bike with smaller wheels. And although I never found the 2 x 9 drivetrain lacking on the Trail 6, those who live near steep terrain may prefer the very easy gears on the DRT 1.2. But the Trail 6 wins out in price by a notable $74, its 29-inch tires roll over obstacles more easily, and I appreciate the Cannondale’s more modern look and feel overall.

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