The "Trail" series is the Race inspired MTB hardtail line of Cannondale, USA. This leading bike manufacturer has been at the forefront of innovation in the MTB bike segment with a slew of technologies such as the "Lefty, CO2, DYAD" and a lot more to its credit. They have extended a lot of their race creed learning to the Trail series, so we decided to test the Cannondale Trail 8 27.5 2016 model to see if it inspires our team.
The overall frame geometry of the Trail 8 is fairly aggressive and compact. The frame is made of Trail optimized 6061 smartformed alloy that comes with double pass smooth welds at the joints, which ensures a lighter and stronger frame by eliminating weak points. The smooth welds certainly adds a bit of a premium factor to this entry level MTB. The Trail 8 being a hardtail has a reinforced front end with the optimized tubing. This superior frame also comes with S.A.V.E micro suspension technology that is employed at the chain and seat stays to give the rider a more compliant ride. Overall the frame gives the rider a nice sporty and upright stance that is good for newbies to the off-road scene.
The Cannondale Trail 8 27.5 is a good-looking MTB, Especially in the ‘team colour’ option that we got to review. To start with, the supreme finish and quality of Cannondale’s aluminum frames comes to the fore with smooth welds and well designed tubing. In this color option, the Bicycle comes with a predominant black shade with accents in white and lime green, which has now come to be known as Cannondale’s colour. The brand name stands out quite well to reinforce the stamp of authority on this entry level MTB. To add to this, we loved the way the '27.5' badging was used on the top tube.
The Cannondale Trail 8 has an entry level gear system in the form of the Shimano FD-TY10D6 for front derailleurs, coupled with Shimano’s tourney in the rear. This 21-speed unit shifts quite well and smoothly, but for a minor lag on occasions. The combination will work well for basic trails and on all flat surfaces. The Shimano Easyfire shifters were positioned conveniently for quick shifting. A point to note is that there is room for riders to upgrade their drivetrain after a couple of years, as the bicycle comes with a good frame which means that it has the ability to take on more stress and load.
The braking department is supported by Tektro mechanical discs which felt a tad unresponsive considering that this is a performance MTB from Cannondale. This is maybe one area that the company lags behind, where it’s competitors have managed to throw in hydraulic brakes at this price point. The braking on the Trail 8 seemed sufficient for basic riding and will not be able to take harsh and extreme conditions, if you decide to push it on the trail.
When it comes to the steering capabilities of this bicycle, we could feel an unwanted amount of weight when we started riding. This seemed to come from the wheelset and it made the bicycle a little sluggish to change direction. This weight however came in handy when we darted into corners, as the bike was extremely stable and in control going in and out of corners. This must be credited to it’s superlative frame and engineering employed.
The WTB Beeline 27.5” tires on the Trail 8, comes with a good knobby pattern that has consistent working edges that give it lateral traction. However the center pattern had lesser knobs, which got us doubting this tyres performance on muddy and hard terrains. This Tyre is coupled with sturdy Alex DC Double walled rims. Overall the roll was average, and we felt the wheelset caused a bit of resistance in terms of weight and roll.
The proven combination of a great frame that has engineered flex, along with a sturdy wheelset to provide a comfortable ride, stands true with the Cannondale Trail 8 27.5. This is aided by the 100mm SR Suntour XCT-100 suspension that worked well. The travel was utilized as much as 80%+ to ensure that most undulations we challenged it with, was overcome with relative ease and a sense of surety. The Saddle on the Trail 8 is rather sporty and sleek In the form of the Cannondale Stage 3 unit. Riders who have a wider sit bone or are on the heavier side, would want to think of a wider saddle to improve the comfort levels.
We went into this review with an eagle eye to get to the finer details of Cannondale’s Entry level performance MTB, the Trail 8 27.5”. This was needed to understand how the amateur rider would perceive brand Cannondale through the Trail 8. We have concluded that these riders will get a well-built hardtail MTB that cleverly employs relevant technology inspired by race performance MTBs from Cannondale. While there were a few shortcomings, these are not something that will take away from the overall ride and capability of the bicycle. At a price tag of Rs.37,950, the Cannondale Trail 8 27.5 (2016), is a competitive package that will give it’s riders a first hand experience of what life on the trail is going to be like.