The Cannondale Trail SL 29er range represents a good starting point for anyone who is looking for a smooth rolling hardtail mountain bike experience which will not break the bank. These bikes are all about delivering stability and inspiring confidence in aspiring riders so that they can enhance their skills and take on new challenges without being overwhelmed with technical aspects.
Cannondale Trail SL 29er 3R
The Cannondale Trail SL 29er 3R features an optimised 6061 alloy frame that has Trail specific geometry. This basically means that Cannondale has extended the wheelbase slightly in order to give the rider a more planted position. As such it is a good learning platform and with a rigid Fatty front fork it also features none of the active suspension elements of its siblings.
The frame does have some impact-absorbing features in the form of SAVE rear stays, which are intended to take the edge off vibrations and shocks while maintaining the stiff setup of the bike. You can power up slopes and take on uneven trails aboard a bike that makes the most out of the comfort afforded by its larger wheels.
Speaking of the wheel set, you get Maddux DC3.0 rims combined with Kenda Small Block 8 tyres. Speed is controlled via the Promax mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors and because this is a single speed model there is a simple Formula cog set and KMC Z99 SS chain to let you put down some power.
Cannondale Trail SL 29er 3
While there are some elements of similarity between this model and the 3R, such as the alloy frame and wheelset, many of the other components have been altered in order to make this bike more adaptable.
You get an RTS Deuce Coil 29 fork with lockout and 80mm of travel at the front. Cannondale has integrated one and a half inch steerer tubes into the fork which seems like a minor detail but actually helps to augment the natural stiffness of the bike, which in turn means that the handling is more precise.
The drive train combines components from a number of Shimano groupsets, including Alivio and Deore with a 9-speed HG53 cogset also onboard.
Shimano M446 mechanical disc brakes at the front and rear give you good control over the bike’s speed, while the C3 riser handlebar from Cannondale’s own line keeps things in check.
Cannondale Trail SL 29er 2
The top tier of this affordable range is occupied by the Cannondale Trail SL 29er 2, a bike that lowers its weight through the use of choice components from a number of manufacturers.
The alloy frame is complemented by the RockShox Recon Silver TK 29 Solo Air fork, which also has 80mm of travel but can deliver it a little more smoothly than its lower cost alternatives.
SRAM X5 components make up the transmission, while you get Avid Elixir 1 brakes for increased stopping power that is more manageable.
This model, like its familiars, benefits from the SAVE comfort enhancing technology at the rear end, so lateral stiffness is preserved while the vibrations, bumps and bashes that might make other mountain bikes hard to handle are less of a concern.
Any one of these bikes will be a good accompaniment for a rider who is experimenting with the idea of a comfortable, capable hardtail mountain bike that gives you 29 inch wheels as opposed to the standard 26 inch units. Which one you choose will depend on how much you are willing to spend, but they essentially conform to the same set of principles when it comes to performance.