Cannondale Trail SL Review

While the Cannondale Trail SL range could be seen as an affordable prelude to bigger and better things, in reality these hardtail mountain bikes are well equipped platforms which belie their affordable price points in order to give you an inkling of what is available at the upper end of the market.

Cannondale Trail SL 5

The entry level Trail SL 5 features an optimised 6061 alloy frame with SAVE technology integrated into the rear stays, giving you improved shock absorption and comfort as a result without compromising all important stiffness. The frame geometry is based on the race-ready design found on the costlier Flash models, but at a price that is going to be more appealing to budding enthusiasts.

The fork is an RTS Blaze TNL with 100mm of travel and lockout capabilities. The Shimano drive train utilises components from the Acera and Altus groupsets, while Promax CD 7.0 mechanical disc brakes act as a good introduction to this advanced type of brakeset.

Alex DC 4.5 double wall rims are wrapped in the popular Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres which can also be found on Cannondale’s other mountain bike models, giving comfort and grip where they are most needed.

Cannondale Trail SL 4

As the range incrementally improves there are a number of changes in the component department, although the core alloy frame and competent geometry remains the same.

This model features an RTS Deuce TNL fork with 100mm of travel, Shimano Acera and Alvivo components in the transmission and Maddux DC3.0 rims for added strength and lightness.

The Cannondale Helix 3 hydraulic disc brakes are more subtle than their mechanically operated alternatives, so you can control your speed with increased precision.

Cannondale Trail SL 3

For the Trail SL 3, Cannondale has introduced the RTS Deuce Coil fork with 100mm of travel into the mix, acting as a more responsive and adaptive accompaniment for this bike.

A SunRace 9-speed cogset is matched with a Shimano chain and components from the Alivio and Deore ranges.

The same Maddux and Schwalbe combination of rims and wheels remains, but this time the brakeset has been upgraded to feature Shimano BR-M446 hydraulic discs with 160mm rotors at the front and rear.

The Cannondale Sage 2 saddle is combined with the C3 seat post, giving you a comfortable, customisable platform for your off-road antics.

Cannondale Trail SL 2

Motion at the front end of the Trail SL 2 is controlled by the RST Deuce Air fork with 100mm of travel, lockout and rebound adjustment.

The Shimano transmission now includes elements of the SLX groupset for durability and weight reduction, while the Shimano BR-M505 hydraulic disc brakes are also included with these two facets in mind.

The Cannondale C3 riser handlebar lets you manipulate the bike precisely and the alloy locking grips will not leave you struggling to keep it under your control.

Cannondale Trail SL 1

The top of the range Trail SL 1 is the last bike you might consider before expanding your reach to the upper echelons of Cannondale’s back catalogue. As such you get a RockShox Recon Silver TK fork with 100mm of travel, more Shimano Deore and XT components on the drive train and the Avid Elixir 3 hydraulic disc brakeset with 160mm rotors.

Each of these bikes does a good job of blending capable, performance-oriented components with an affordable alloy frame in order to help riders tackle technical trails and other off-road obstacles in a way that is difficult to achieve on more basic mountain bikes. Which model you choose will depend on how much you are willing to spend and how far you want to push yourself.