Cannondale Trail 8 ( 2021 ) Review – The Verdict!

Cannondale is one of our favorite bike brands of all time for a reason. They build all types of bikes for every budget, and they do it really well. Cannondale Trail 8 is an affordable mountain bike that is great for beginners and people with limited budgets.

This new 2021 model comes equipped with everything you will need in a good trail mountain bike – a suspension fork, mechanical disc brakes, a decent 14-speed drivetrain, and a best-in-class SmartForm C3 Alloy frame.

What’s more, Cannondale Trail 8 has been awarded the best bike budget mountain bike for 2021.

Cannondale Trail 8 in a glance:

FrameSmartForm C3 Alloy
ForkSR Suntour M3030, 75mm, coil
SizesXS, S, M, L, XL
ShiftersmicroSHIFT Thumb-Tap
Front DerailleurShimano Altus
Rear DerailleurShimano Tourney
HeadsetSemi-Integrated, 1-1/8″
BrakesTektro cable-actuated disc, 160/160mm rotors
TiresWTB Ranger Comp, 29×2.25″
Weight32 lbs. 14.4 oz. (14.92 kg)

The Frame & Suspension Fork

Trail 8 is one of the most popular mountain bikes because it’s cheap at around $500 and checks many marks. It’s a good-looking hardtail with a lot of great features and good quality components.

But let’s start with the most important part of every bike – the frame. Trail 8 comes with a SmartForm C3 aluminum frame which is a lightweight and very durable frame. It features internal cable routing, which is not very common for budget bikes, especially those under $1000.

On top of that, the frame features two water bottles mounts and rear rack mounts. Keep in mind that all Cannondale frames these days are excellent, they’re tested by the time, and provide great performance.

The SR Suntour M3030 coil suspension fork with 75mm of travel is fitted in the front. It provides decent performance for most beginners when riding on the trails or bumpy roads.

Cannondale Trail 8 Brakes

Here comes one of the biggest surprises of this bike. Cannondale decided to fit it with a pair of Tektro mechanical disc brakes instead of simple, cheap V-brakes that are more common among the entry-level models. I want to congratulate Cannondale for that choice sincerely. It’s one of the biggest reasons Trail 8 is such a big success.

These disc brakes provide great stopping power on demand in every weather condition. This makes the Cannondale Trail 8 a great option for everyone who wants to ride all year long.

Read more: Hydraulic vs. Mechanical Disc Brakes

Drivetrain and Other Components

Cannondale Trail 8 offers a 2 x 7-speed drivetrain with a wide range of gears. Both front and rear derailleurs are Shimano. The rear derailleur is Tourney ( entry-level component ), and the front derailleur is Altus ( second tier ). The good news is that everything works smoothly as butter, and Trail 8 shifts easily and without much noise.

It’s a bit of a surprise to me that the shifters are not Shimano, but microSHIFT Thumb-Tap. They are excellent thumb shifters but don’t match other Shimano branded components on the drivetrain. Today, many entry-level bikes come with a simple Shimano Revoshift but keep in mind that thumb shifters are better for the trails.

We also like the WTB Ranger tires on this model. They are top-rated tires, which provide a fairly predictable grip in a wide range of conditions. They are fast-rolling enough on paved roads and grippy enough on the trails. Everything you want from a mountain bike for beginners.

The Sizing

Another thing we really like about Trail 8 is the sizing. Just like some high-end models, it comes with a variable wheel size depending on the frame size. Cannondale Trail 8 can roll on either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels.

Here’s a simple table with the sizing:

SizeRider’s HeightWheel Size
XS4’6″ – 5’2″27.5 inches
S5’1″ – 5’4″27.5 inches
M5’4″ – 5’8″29 inches
L5’7″ – 6’0″29 inches
XL6’0″ – 6’3″29 inches

The Cons of Trail 8

Unfortunately, there are a few things we don’t like about Trail 8. The seat, as with many affordable bikes, is not great. Some riders find the seat a little bit uncomfortable, but the good news is you can always upgrade it with a more comfortable one. Or just put a simple gel seat top for additional comfort.

We would also rather prefer a better rear derailleur for better and even more precise shifting. As we already mentioned, Tourney is the cheapest possible derailleur in the Shimano hierarchy. Our first choice would be the Altus, just like the front derailleur. But hey, we can’t ask for too much when talking about a $500 mountain bike.

Cannondale Trail 8 Review – The Verdict!

Should you buy it, shortlist it or avoid it? Here’s our conclusion. We think that you should buy the Cannondale Trail 8 if you find it available online. It’s a perfect mountain bike for beginners who want to feel the joy of trail riding and gain some experience before switching to a full-suspension model.

Other Cannondale mountain bikes that we love:

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