Cannondale Trail 1 review£999.99

Speedy trail ride

BikeRadar score2/5

Despite the name, Cannondale’s Trail is very much a race bike in feel, with a seriously light sub-25lb weight and just 80mm of fork travel. Unfortunately, the unique fork and weight conscious spec really limit its playful potential.

Ride & handling: Light and fast, but wooden-feeling fork limits control

The Trail 1's weight isn't just obvious when you’re lifting it over locked bridleway gates. Searing acceleration is aided and abetted by the fast rolling Hutchinson Toro tyres, and there’s a remote fork lockout on top of the stem for smooth trail/road climb sprinting.

The rigid legs on Cannondale's proprietary Headshok Fatty air fork have a super-broad stance which, along with the oversized SI stem, keeps steering precise and accurate. Overall handling character is highly responsive and well balanced.

Although the bars aren’t wide, they're well shaped. The light front end makes it easy to pop the front up when you need a bit of lift in your life. Unfortunately the fork is a real disappointment in suspension terms.

If we set it up soft enough to soak up small stuff, it sat at around 60 percent sag and plunged right through its 80mm stroke off every step. Slightly firmer and we might as well have had the lockout on for all the shock absorption it gave.

The 'SAVE' shock absorbing chainstays don’t screen out as much rear wheel rattle as Cannondale suggest either. Add the skinny tyres plus the unyielding large diameter seatpost and the whole ride feels harsh and uncontrolled on rougher trails.

Frame & equipment: Superlight chassis with okay rather than outstanding kit pick

Cannondale always produce distinctive bikes and the Trail 1 is no exception. The massive 1.5in headtube allows the Headshok fork to slide up and down on needle bearings inside it rather than using conventional telescopic slider and stanchion legs.

Multi section main tubes connect to a chunky seat tube while the ‘SAVE’ stays use flat oval centre sections to add flex. Neat hollowback forged dropouts with rack mounts top and bottom add practicality.

There’s plenty of mud room front and rear too, although the air valve under the crown of the fork gets coated in crap quickly and it’s a pain to get to as you have to remove the wheel.

In terms of kit, the Trail 1 is reasonably if not impressively well equipped for the money with Shimano SLX shifters and XT rear mech topping up the otherwise Deore level equipment.

A twin-bolt seatpost holds the well shaped saddle securely, while white Avid Elixir 5s are the only break from the otherwise stealthy black/grey colour scheme.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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