Cannondale’s Trail 4 hardtail proves that you can get a boutique bike with serious trail head pose value without spending a fortune. Like most big global brands they’ve stuck with more conventional handling than some cutting edge homegrown options and they can’t quite compete on component comparison either.
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Obviously the real unchangeable heart of a bike’s character is its frame, not its components, and here the Trail 4 scores well.
It’s the same ‘optimised 6061 alloy’ chassis you get on the pricier Trail 1 and uses Cannondale’s signature big pipe architecture for a stiff mainframe but skinny, flattened SAVE rear stays to take the sting out of the trail before it gets to the saddle and your shorts.
At 13.56kg for a large it builds a decent weight bike for the price too, although a straight rather than tapered head tube limits potential better quality fork upgrade options.
That said, the doggedly reliable RockShox XC30 fork is par for the course on most mid-range bikes and copes okay with blue and red trail terrain at lower speeds.
The 30mm legs and QR axle means it struggles to steer accurately under pressure or cope with bigger impacts though, particularly if the two coincide.
The narrow 680mm wide bars, 100mm stem and relatively steep 70 degree head angle also make it twitchy and nervous when things get technical. Wooden-feeling Tektro brakes, plus skinny and slippery 27.5x2in WTB Nine Line tyres don’t help confidence either, but they are a bonus when it comes to cruising speed.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.