Cannondale Trail 5 Mountain Bike Review: Budget-Friendly Hardtail

Review of Cannondale Trail 5: Perfect for Beginners and Riders on a Budget

Cannondale Trail 5
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Cannondale Trail 5 is the right choice for riders who worry about their budget but want an excellent bike with all-around performance on milder terrain, as well as some singletrack trails.

Cannondale Trail 5 is a recreational hardtail mountain bike with a more than affordable price point. It’s a bike that offers a lot to whoever buys it, including different-sized wheels. Namely, the Trail 5 is available both with 27.5″ and 29″ wheels. The S size comes with 27.5″, whereas the M, L, and XL sizes come with 29″ wheels. Therefore, no matter which size you choose, you will be able to enjoy reliable and consistent handling, which is often a problem with affordable trail bikes.

It is a reliable choice for any beginner trail rider who has big aspirations. Due to its fantastic, yet affordable, components, it has been dubbed the recreational trail riding winner by experts and customers. Let’s dig a bit deeper and see what’s so special about this Cannondale model.

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Key Specifications

How much to pay for the bikeCannondale Trail 5 is one of the models from the bigger Cannondale Trail family. It’s built around an aluminum frame made according to Cannondale’s award-winning SmartForm technology. These frames are characterized by recognizable stiffness and responsiveness, as well as smoothness and durability.

Cannondale Trail 5 allows off-road beginners and enthusiasts to take a path less traveled and ride comfortably on more demanding terrain.

This frame is made from a SmartForm C3 alloy and features a more capable geometry thanks to a slack headtube angle of 68 degrees. Therefore, Trail 5 allows you to make sharp turns and be fast in the corners.

The frame setup is rounded up by an SR Suntour XCM fork with 100 mm of travel. It has a coil spring inside and a hydraulic cable-actuated lockout.


Best Feature: 1×10 Drivetrain

Trail 5 components

Cannondale Trail 5 has many impressive features, but one of the best ones is the high-performance and wide-range 1×10 drivetrain, made from Prowheel crank and a microSHIFT cassette.

These simplistic drivetrains are highly desirable on modern high-end trail bikes because the maintenance is easy and straightforward. Moreover, the lack of the second ring on the front keeps the weight down.

The Prowheel crank has 30 teeth, whereas the microSHIFT cassette is an 11-48 setup. Therefore, you will have plenty of gear combos to get over any type of terrain and overcome tricky obstacles. Because of all of that, this part of Cannondale Trail 5 is the highlight in our opinion, even though it has a mix of brands.



If we dig deeper and focus on the nitty-gritty, we can see that Cannondale Trail 5 is equipped with a mix of Prowheel and microSHIFT components. This is usually a fantastic combination that has proven quite well on the trail many times in the past.

Best Trail Bike for Beginners

The shifting is done by a combo of microSHIFT Advent X and Deore groupsets. According to many, the combo offers the best performance you can get at this price, which is why Cannondale chose it for this value model.



Tektro disc brakes on the 2021 model

All parts of a mountain bike come together to determine whether it’s going to be a success or not. However, when it comes to trail bikes, brakes are exceptionally important for apparent reasons. Thankfully, Cannondale did not try to save money on brakes. That is why Trail 5 comes with Tektro M275 hydraulic disc brakes. They ensure a great braking performance in collaboration with 160/160 mm rotors.

Cannondale Trail 5’s hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power and ensure control on downhills and in tight bends.

Reading through some online user reviews, you will see that those who own Cannondale Trail 5 praise the brakes. In combination with the upright geometry and the wide tires, these brakes will give you the confidence you need to stray away from the mild trails and explore a bit more.


Wheelset & Tires

The tires are WTB Ranger Comp, and they’re 2.25″ wide, regardless of the tire diameter. The knobs on these are not too emphasized, so they’re suitable for harder terrain and smoother trails. Wheels and tires make a lot more difference on the trail than what most people think.

Luckily, Cannondale has spent sensibly on these parts. That’s why, if you buy this bike, you’ll end up with a set of WTB SX19 tubeless-ready rims. They’re pretty light and stiff and feature 32 spokes that guarantee decent durability. Tubeless-ready means that you can get rid of the inner tube and avoid pinch flats. The same goes for preventing annoying punctures on the trail.

Related: Cannondale Quick (Hybrid) Series Overview


Other Trail Series Overviews

  • Trail 1 – Top model with excellent components and a 120 mm air fork travel, intended for trail enthusiasts.
  • Trail 2 – High-specked mid-range model with a 1×12 SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain and an air fork, made for intermediate trail riders.
  • Trail 3 – A reasonably priced model for trail beginners and enthusiasts with excellent value for money, 120mm of travel, hydraulic disc brakes, and 12 wide-range gears.
  • Trail 4 – Excellent introductory model with a 100mm Rockshox coil fork, 10-speed Deore drivetrain, and tubeless-ready wheels and tires, good for on and off-road rides.
  • Trail 5 – Entry-level trail bike with a solid aluminum frame, decent microSHIFT components, and 100 mm of travel, that all trail beginners will love.
  • Trail 6 – Affordable bike with quality branded parts, front suspension and hydro brakes, perfect for beginner riders wishing to get a taste of the trails.
  • Trail 7 – Versatile MTB with 16 gears, excellent for trails, gravel, and dirt roads, aimed towards casual and recreational riders.
  • Trail 8 – Cheapest Cannondale Trail model with reliable and durable components for the money, ideal for budget-conscious cyclists.


Consider also: Cannondale Trail SL Series

Are There Any Setbacks?

suggestedDepending on your preferences and your standards, Cannondale Trail 5 can have some setbacks, or it can have none at all. If you’re buying your first hardtail bike or you’re upgrading from a Walmart model, you will simply love it. It’s built with your needs in mind. You can take it out on a local trail and start making a mountain biking basis in your legs.

However, there are some parts that you might want to upgrade when you become more proficient. For example, if you plan to ride more aggressively and you need more responsive handling, you might think about upgrading the cockpit. Moreover, even though the hydraulic brakes are fantastic for recreational riders, they are not built to withstand too much abuse. But, it all depends on your style of riding.

Cannondale Trail 5 is a fantastic option for less experienced riders who are just taking their first steps.

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Cannondale Trail 5 (2022)













  • SmartForm C3 alloy
  • Tektro hydraulic discs
  • An efficient 1x10 drivetrain
  • Upright geometry
  • Value-oriented microSHIFT Advent X groupset


  • Narrow handlebars
  • Poor chain
  • Mixed-brands drivetrain

22 thoughts on “Review of Cannondale Trail 5: Perfect for Beginners and Riders on a Budget

  1. Hi Jeff. I’m a tall big guy and I’m looking for the biggest, longest recreational bike with descent components under $2k.

  2. The two bikes at my local bike shops are the Trek Marlin 5 and the Cannondale Trail 5. Which one do you recommend for going mtbing.

    1. I am specifically talking about the 2020 models of both bikes and not the 2021 versions.

  3. Hi, what would be the biggest tire I can fit on it? I’m interested in putting a pair of DHR II but. It sure if they’ll fit.

    1. Hi Richard,

      The Trail 5 is available both with 27.5″ and 29″ wheels. As long as you are using a regular MTB tires for the specific wheel size then you should be OK.

  4. Greetings Jeff! I am just getting back into trail riding after years absent. I have a quality crossover for the roads and gravel but would like your opinion on a hardtail model that I can beat up on and is durable on the trails. Nothing crazy. No jumps or extreme riding but some climbing and descending and maybe a little muffing. I’m 5’10” with long legs and short torso. Really been looking on FB marketplace for used. $500 absolute max
    Thank you for any input

  5. I purchased this bike after my Gary Fisher Bid Sur was stolen.

    The 2 Crank & 11 Cassette gears are OK; but I sure do not like the 29 inch wheels. Maybe because I’m older? (79). I can still climb sone good elevated inclines with the gear ratios & maybe a bit better than the 3 drive & 8 Cassette .

    1. Hi Lloyd,
      Yes 29″ have bigger mass so you can really feel the weight when climbing. They don’t accelerate like the 26″ or the 27.5″. So yes, what you feel has nothing to do with the gears.

  6. Hello, i read that all the trail bikes share the same frame, and wanted to know since the trail 4 has a rear boost 141 hub, can this also be installed on the trail 5? Also, would you suggest a trail 3 for more technical or harsh trail biking, maybe some decent jumps? Thank you!

    1. Hi Elias, I believe you could, but it wouldn’t be a perfect fit. For example, you might experience some disc brake rub on the rotors. As for Trail 3, it can deal with more technical and harsh terrain, but I wouldn’t take it to extremes.

  7. Inventory is low around the DC area. Should I get a Trail 5 now or wait for a Rockhopper Expert/1x. These are the two entry bikes that I keep running into as far as comparable a for budget & bike.

    1. Well, Rockhopper is obviously better than Trail 5, but it also costs $200 more. If you’re a beginner and you plan to ride casually and hit some mild trails from time to time, you can save some money and get Trail 5. If you consider yourself to be a mountain biking enthusiast and want to pursue that hobby further, it’s better to get the Rockhopper.

    1. Hi Charles. Trail 5 comes with a Shimano Acera rear derailleur which does not have a clutch.

  8. How does this compare to the Trail 6? I really like the 5 but it is about $150 more. Is it that much better than the 6? thanks!

    1. Well, you get a 10-spd cassette instead of a 9-spd on Trail 6. You also get better hydraulic brakes and a better Shimano Deore groupset. The front suspension is also slightly better. I’d say it’s worth the extra money. 🙂

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