Cannondale Mountain Bike: Trail 6 – Should You Buy? (2023)

(Last updated on February 24th, 2023)

orange Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike frame
Orange Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike frame. Image credit: Cannondale

Can the Cannondale Trail 6 provide reliable off-road performance while still going easy on your wallet? I’ve taken a deep dive into this affordable hardtail and compared it against its rivals to find out if the $860 price tag is too good to be true. Keep scrolling to find out my thoughts on the Trail 6 and learn if it’s a Cannondale trail mountain bike that’s worth its salt.

What Type of Bike Is the Trail 6?

The Cannondale Trail 6 is a mid-range hardtail mountain bike that’s built for low-impact trails, gravel roads, and recreational rides. Its affordable price tag, around $860, makes it a dependable and durable option for beginners just getting into mountain biking.

Trail 6 Specs at a Glance

  • Style: Entry-level
  • Travel: SR Suntour XCT 100mm
  • Frame: Smart Form C3 Alloy
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Acera & Altus 2×8-speed
  • Brakes: Tektro M275 hydraulic disc
  • Wheels: 29” (27.5” XS/S)
  • Price: $860
history of Cannondale bicycle brand about us
History of Cannondale bicycle brand. Image credit: Cannondale

Is Cannondale a Good Brand?

The Cannondale brand ranks among the best bicycle manufacturers in the world and stands out due to its innovative spirit. The US-based company was founded back in 1971, making a name for itself with the first bike-towed trailer, the Bugger. Those modest beginnings snowballed into complete bicycle fabrication and the brand was one of the first to master carbon fiber frame building.

Cannondale’s emphasis on technology and the latest designs mean riders can expect high levels of performance from each model. Cannondale has a tendency to focus on frame design and component choice rather than price. Thus, its extensive range of mountain, road, gravel, and electric bikes may not include as many ultra-affordable models as bigger brands such as Giant or Trek. That said, the Trail 6 is an affordable, entry-level mountain bike that doesn’t cut corners, showing Cannondale knows how to balance performance and price.

I can speak from experience about the quality of Cannondale bikes, albeit their road models. I have had my Cannondale Optima for several years and it’s been excellent value for the money. Purchased for around $1,000, the Optima performs great as my training bike for extended rides and serious mileage. The componentry choices are modest which keeps the price affordable and I’ve had no big mechanical issues. My cyclist father also raves about Cannondale bikes, owning both the CAAD12 road bike and the recently released Carbon Synapse gravel model.

Performance Rating 8/10

The Trail 6 handles light terrains with ease, but once the conditions are beyond its modest wheelhouse, this hardtail lets its limitations show. The Trail 6 feels at home on smoother singletrack, gravel routes, and rolls fast over the occasional paved section, too.

Don’t just take my word for it— check out this video review of the Cannondale Trail 6 in action thanks to the Adrenaline ON YouTube channel.

Descending 7/10

This XC-inspired bike is meant for lighter terrain free from big obstacles and rowdier sections on the mountain. If you try to stretch the Trail 6’s abilities on steeper trails, you run the risk of bottoming out the short-travel 100mm fork, and the upright head tube angle doesn’t provide much stability while descending at high speeds. For the price, though, these boundaries are to be expected— the Trail 6 is a solid option for budget-conscious riders who typically stick to cross-country-style terrain and moderate trails.

Climbing 9/10

The Trail 6 excels when the route points uphill and lets the rider efficiently transfer their pedal power into climbing prowess. A reason for this uptick in performance is the upright geometry and relatively steep head tube angle which takes away from descending ability but helps on the climbs. I especially appreciate the handlebar-mounted remote that locks out the front suspension in a flash. I’m tempted to say that the 2×8-speed drivetrain offers a few more gear ratios than similarly priced 1x models to get up the climbs, but that’ll depend on the specific comparison.

Related: Best Full Suspension Mountain Bikes

Key Features

Cannondale SmartForm C3 Alloy frame
Cannondale SmartForm C3 Alloy frame. Image credit: Cannondale.

Frame 9/10

Cannondale is known for its high-quality frame building so it makes sense that the Trail 6 features a well-designed, lightweight alloy skeleton. This model comes with the brand’s SmartForm C3 Alloy frame that’s a straightforward construction with clean welds and saves weight compared to many rival frames.

The rear triangle uses Cannondale’s SAVE micro-suspension technology that integrates a certain amount of flex into the seatstays and chainstays for some extra vertical compliance. The frame comes in three colors and I’m a big fan of the Impact Orange and Abyss Blue for some extra style points on such a wallet-friendly build.

Geometry 8/10

Cannondale didn’t trick out the Trail 6 with the trendiest geometry numbers in modern mountain biking, but the frame measurements make for a zippy and comfortable ride for most users. The relatively steep 68° head tube keeps the bike agile on low-impact terrain, but it’ll hold you back on steep descents. The 73.5° seat tube places riders comfortably over the pedals to put the power down on XC circuits and flow singletrack. That said, if you want the latest and greatest angles, you’ll have to shell out some more cash for Cannondale’s highest-end builds.

Frames come in XS-XL sizes and Cannondale takes the extra step of outfitting the smallest models (XS/S) with 27.5” wheels for a better overall fit. Size M and up come with large 29” rims, so riders across the board can achieve a comfortable riding position.

Cannondale Trail 6 with Shimano Acera and Altus derailleurs
Cannondale Trail 6 with Shimano Acera and Altus derailleurs. Image credit: Cannondale

Shimano Drivetrain 8/10

The bike runs a dependable 2×8-speed drivetrain, relying on a Shimano Acera rear derailleur and Altus front mech. Opting for Shimano parts makes total sense on the Trail 6, offering precise shifting at a great value. The $860 price point is right on the cusp of making the switch to 1x drivetrains so Cannondale could have gone either way. Similarly priced models like the popular Co-op Cycle DRT 1.2 sticks with the 2x setup whereas the more affordable BMC Blast 27.5 (a personal favorite of mine) rocks a 1×10-speed groupset.

If the lack of 1x isn’t a dealbreaker, the Trail 6 shifts through its wide range of gears easily on the climbs and while pointing downhill. I would have liked to see the inclusion of a clutched rear derailleur to limit chain slap against the frame on rough terrain, though.

handlebars and brakes of Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike
Handlebars and brakes of Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike. Image credit: Cannondale

Hydraulic Brakes 9/10

The Trail 6’s stopping power comes from a pair of Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes. Both the front and rear rotors measure 160mm across— that’s smaller than common 180mm models, but is plenty powerful for the Trail 6’s intended uses. The brakes are actuated by Tektro levers and offer significantly better performance than mechanical disc brakes.

Hydraulic brakes on sub-$1,000 mountain bikes used to be a rare occurrence and one worthy of praise, but nowadays these upgraded brakes are a bit expected. So while it’s not a huge surprise, I can’t discount their excellent utility out on the trails. They are noise-free and provide a predictable and controlled feel. While these Tektro brakes will effectively slow you down, they won’t get in your way of tackling tough terrain— instead, it’s more likely that the mediocre fork will place limits on your ride.

Related: Best Budget Mountain Bikes

SR Suntour XCT Fork 6/10

As a hardtail, the Trail 6 comes with an SR Suntour XCT front suspension fork with 100mm of travel. Compared to the quality frame, shifter, and brakes, this budget component falls a bit flat and may limit your riding in rougher sections. This fork is a common option on entry-level MTBs, but I was hoping for a slightly higher spec.

The remote lockout on the left side of the handlebars is a nifty feature, but the preload adjustment doesn’t make much of a difference out on the trail. If you are a rider that sticks to smooth singletrack and tame gravel roads, though, this 100mm fork will do the job fine. Riders who want fancier suspension from the likes of RockShox can check out the more expensive end of the Cannondale Trail range.

wheels and tires of Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike
wheels and tires of Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike. Image credit: Cannondale

Wheels and Tires 7/10

The Trail 6 rocks a set of 29ers on frame sizes M and above whereas sizes XS and S come with 27.5” tires for smaller riders. Both setups have alloy WTB SX19 rims and Shimano HBTX 505 hubs with durable stainless steel spokes. Cannondale has hopped on a trend that’s sweeping the industry, outfitting smaller frame sizes with matching smaller tires. It’s a major plus that works wonders for shorter riders achieving a proper bike fit.

The provided rubber is WTB Ranger Comp 2.25” tires that’s a well-known and versatile tread pattern. The knobs are tiny but accurately placed for rolling fast on the flats and providing sufficient traction in the corners. Riders who switch between light terrain and paved surfaces will love this all-rounder option. The 2.25” width is decent enough for low-impact trails and gravel, but steep-and-chunky stuff will be out of reach.

Cannondale Trail 6 Size Chart

Height (ft/in)Height (cm)Leg Inseam (in)Leg inseamFrame Size
4’6”-5’2”137-157 cm24 – 29”61 – 73 cmXS
5’1″-5’4″154-162 cm25 – 30”63 – 76 cmS
5’4″-5’8″162-172 cm26 – 31”66 – 78 cmM
5’7″-6’0″170-182 cm28 – 32″68 – 81 cmL
6’0″-6’3″182-190 cm28 – 33″71 – 83 cmXL

Cannondale Trail 6 Full Specs

For a video look into the bike’s specs, check out this great review of the Cannondale Trail 6.

FrameSmartForm C3 Alloy
Front suspension forkSR Suntour XTC, 100mm
RimsWTB SX19, 32h
TiresWTB Ranger Comp, 29×2.25″ (27.5×2.25″ – XS, SM), DNA Compound
Front derailleurShimano Altus
Rear derailleurShimano Acera
Cassette8-speed 11/34 teeth
CrankProwheel, 36/22 teeth
Shift LeversShimano M315 Rapidfire Plus, 8-speed
HandlebarCannondale Riser, 6061 Alloy, 25mm rise, 8° sweep, 6° rise, 720mm
Handlebar stem6061 Alloy, 31.8, 7°
SaddleCannondale Stage 3
SeatpostCannondale 3, 6061 Alloy, 31.6 x 350mm (XS – SM), 400mm (MD-XL)
BrakesTektro M275 hydraulic disc, 160/160mm rotors
Frame colors availableAbyss blue, Slate Gray, Impact Orange

Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike in black
Cannondale Trail 6 mountain bike in black. Image credit: Cannondale

Overall Impression 8/10

The Cannondale Trail 6 is an entry-level hardtail that’s well worth its competitive $860 sticker price. The bike is built around a high-quality frame and comes with a handful of components that boost performance while keeping costs affordable, including the Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. The SR Suntour XCT fork lets me down and could limit some riders, but that’s only an issue if you are drawn to rougher trails. If you’re on the hunt for your first mountain bike, the Trail 6 is the ideal weapon to develop your skills while staying within budget.


  • Excellent value from Shimano drivetrain
  • 27.5” wheels for shorter riders, 29” for size M and up
  • Lightweight SmartForm C3 Alloy frame
  • Quality rubber and tread pattern


  • SR Suntour XCT fork reaches its limits quickly
  • Lack of 1x drivetrain
  • Quick-release axles instead of thru-axles
  • No dropper post

How the Trail 6 Stacks Up

 Trail 6Trail 7Trail 2Co-op DRT 1.2
SuspensionSR Suntour XTC, 100mmSR Suntour XTC DS, 100mmRockShox R, 100mmSR Suntour XTC, 120mm
GearingShimano Acera 2×8-speedmicroSHIFT 2×8-speedSRAM SX 1×12-speedShimano Altus 2×9-speed
Tires2.25”2.25”2.5” front, 2.3” rear2.4”
Where to buy?Check priceCheck priceCheck priceCheck price

Similar Models to the Trail 6

The Trail 6 is part of Cannondale’s popular Trail range of hardtail mountain bikes designed for both beginner and intermediate riders. The top-of-the-range Trail SE 1 is priced at around $2,000 and comes with a 1×12-speed drivetrain and an impressive 120mm RockShox 35 Gold RL fork. The product line includes the mid-range Trail 6 and concludes with the Trail 8, the brand’s most affordable hardtail priced at $645.

Let’s take a look at some of the Trail 6’s rivals and how they stack up against the mid-range Cannondale:

Related: Giant Mountain Bikes

Cannondale Trail 7

Cannondale Trail 7 hardtail mountain bike
Cannondale Trail 7 hardtail mountain bike. Image credit: Cannondale

The closest competitor to the Trail 6 is its more affordable sibling, the Cannondale Trail 7. This model is priced $100 less than the Trail 6 but comes with most of the same parts, including the SmartForm C3 Alloy frame, hydraulic disc brakes, and WTB wheels and tires. The Trail 7 opts for a microSHIFT 2×8-speed drivetrain instead of Shimano Altus and the SR Suntour XCT DS is slightly less advanced.

Cannondale Trail 2

Cannondale Trail 2 hardtail mountain bike
Cannondale Trail 2 hardtail mountain bike. Image credit: Cannondale

Out of the entire Trail spectrum, though, the Trail 2 earns my top recommendation. Its competitive price tag of $1,875 is still within reach of many mountain bikers and comes with some serious upgrades. The SRAM SX 1×12-speed drivetrain holds its own against models double the price and the 120mm RockShox R fork encourages beginner riders to test their skills on increasingly demanding terrain.

Co-op Cycles DRT 1.2

Co op Cycles DRT 1 2 hardtail mountain bike
Co-op Cycles DRT 1 2 hardtail mountain bike. Image credit: REI

Another popular hardtail is the DRT 1.2 from Co-op Cycles, REI’s in-house bicycle brand. This $999 mountain bike shares an aluminum frame and Tektro hydraulic brakes with the Trail 6, but the same SR Suntour XCR fork features 20mm of extra travel (120mm in total). There are more gears with a Shimano Altus 2×9-speed setup but 29” tires only come on L and XL frames.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many gears does the Cannondale Trail 6 have?

The Trail 6 has a 2×8-speed drivetrain for a total of 16 gears. The rear 11/34 t cassette matches up to a Prowheel crank with 36/22t double chainrings.

How many gears does the Cannondale Trail 6 have?

The Trail 6 has a 2×8-speed drivetrain for a total of 16 gears. The rear 11/34 t cassette matches up to a Prowheel crank with 36/22t double chainrings.

How many gears does the Cannondale Trail 6 have?

The Trail 6 has a 2×8-speed drivetrain for a total of 16 gears. The rear 11/34 t cassette matches up to a Prowheel crank with 36/22t double chainrings.

What is the best trail bike for a beginner?

Beginner mountain bikers can find a great entry-level bike for under $1,000. The Trail 6 is priced competitively at $860, but there are many other models from top brands that offer excellent value for the money. Check out our recent article on the best mountain bikes under $1,000.

What is the best trail bike for a beginner?

Beginner mountain bikers can find a great entry-level bike for under $1,000. The Trail 6 is priced competitively at $860, but there are many other models from top brands that offer excellent value for the money. Check out our recent article on the best mountain bikes under $1,000.

What is the best brand of trail bike?

Each of the cycling industry’s top brands produces its take on trail bikes designed for all-mountain riding. While it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one, brands such as Giant, Santa Cruz, Cannondale, and Kona make some of the best models. Explore our breakdown of the best mountain bike brands of 2023 here.

How much does a Cannondale Trail 6 weigh?

The Trail 6 weighs 32.6 lbs. Weight-saving comes mostly from the lightweight SmartForm C3 Alloy frame and lack of a rear shock.

Is the Cannondale Trail 6 an XC bike?

Yes, the Trail 6 is best suited to cross-country-style terrains like low-impact trails, gravel paths, and paved surfaces. The 100mm short-travel fork offers a traditional amount of suspension for XC riding and keeps the bike efficient on the climbs.

How do I find out my frame size for the Cannondale Trail 6?

The Trail 6 is available in frame sizes XS-XL to fit riders between 4’6” and 6’3”. We’ve included the model-specific size chart below provided by Cannondale so you can calculate your correct frame choice based on height.

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