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Review Of Cannondale Trail 8 (2021)

Jeff Balton

Cannondale Trail 8

Cannondale Trail 8 is an affordable mountain bike that helps develop a passion for the trails and serves as the perfect first off-roader. 

Having a limited budget does not mean you can’t get a real trail bike and have some fun exploring local dirt roads and bike trails.

Cannondale Trail 8 comes with all the necessary features to do this — front suspension, disc brakes, wide tires — and leaves enough money in your pocket for other important stuff.

WINNER of our Best Mountain Bikes Under $500 review!

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Quick Overview of Trail 8

The 2021 model Trail 8 costs just upwards of $500 but comes with some seriously dirt-ready components. It’s a versatile bike that works great for commuting, off-roading, casual daily rides, losing weight… you name it!

To achieve such a low price, compromises had to be made in certain areas, but that’s nothing an average rider would notice and should be worried about.

Key Specs:

Frame: SmartForm C3 alloy aluminum
Fork: SR Suntour M3030, 75mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano Altus, 34.9 clamp, 2-Speed
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tourney, 7-Speed
Number of Gears: 14
Brakes: Tektro mechanical disc, 160/160mm rotors
Rims: WTB SX19, 32h
Tires: WTB Ranger Comp, 27.5/29 x 2.25 in.
Weight: 32 lbs. 14.4 oz. (14.92 kg)


Trail 8 Main Features

Cannondale Trail 8 is slowly becoming one of the most popular mountain bikes in the $500 price range.

It does not come as a surprise that so many people like it, as it is a good-looking package that includes everything a beginner rider might need and nothing that would raise the price unnecessarily.

These are some of the things that stand out about it.


Lightweight Aluminum Frame with Front Suspension

Cannondale Trail 8, like all other Trail models, is built around a lightweight and high-performing
SmartForm C3 aluminum frame. This is a tried and true frame that has proven its worth time and again.

Cannondale Trail 8 internal cable routing

Internal cable routing

It features internal derailleur cable routing, two water bottle mounts, and rear rack mounts. The gray paint job suits it well and makes it look like a higher-priced hardtail and the yellow color is quite exciting as well.

The combination of a lightweight and compliant aluminum frame and a plush Suntour fork make Cannondale Trail 8 a capable and comfortable trail machine.

The SR Suntour suspension fork is fitted on the front, offering 75 mm of travel. This fork is on the heavy side due to a coil spring, but you’ll be happy it’s there when you steer off the paved roads and the terrain beneath the tires turns less than ideal.

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Introductory Shimano Components

One of the things that make Cannondale Trail 8 an entry-level mountain bike are its components. The front and rear Shimano derailleurs are definitely not made to be abused. The front end gets a Shimano Altus, whereas the rear and shifts with a Shimano Tourney derailleur.

However, as long as you don’t intend to do serious trail riding, jumping, and dropping, Altus and Tourney will do the job well.

The 11-34T, 7-speed cassette and the 36/22T crankset put a total of 14 gears at your disposal. The range of gears is pretty wide, so this bike will climb well.


Dependable Mechanical Disc Brakes

Trail 8 brakes

Mechanical Brakes

A proper mountain bike can simply not be imagined without a pair of disc brakes. Cannondale Trail 8 more than checks this requirement with its Tektro mechanical discs. 

These brakes are paired with 160 mm rotors front and rear, which translates to plenty of stopping power on demand, whenever you need it.

Disc brakes show their true advantages in wet and rainy weather, so Trail 8 is ready for all conditions. 


Variable Wheel Size: 27.5″ & 29″

Depending on how tall you are, Cannondale Trail 8 can roll on either 27.5″ or 29″ wheels. Namely, this bike is available in four sizes:

XS: 4’6″ – 5’2″ (27.5 inches)
S: 5’1″ – 5’4″ (27.5 inches)
M: 5’4″ – 5’8″ (29 inches)
L: 5’7″ – 6’0″ (29 inches)
XL: 6’0″ – 6’3″ (29 inches)

Therefore, the wheel size depends on the size of the frame you choose.

The variable wheel sizing on Cannondale Trail 8 ensures that you’ll get the perfect fit and end up with a bike that feels good in your hands and rides swiftly.

The WTB Ranger Comp tires are 2.25″ in width, regardless of the diameter. This setup means more grip in corners and better descending capabilities while making the bike faster on straights. A 2.25″ tire is not too gnarly, so it won’t feel too sluggish on paved roads.

Cannondale Trail 8 2021 review

Versatile Trail Bike

Versatility is one of Trail 8’s main properties. It’s a bike that can suit the needs of the entire family, acting as both a day-to-day commuter and as a proper trail bike for dirt, gravel, and forest roads.

Of course, Trail 8 will feel most at home staying off paved roads and getting dusty and dirty. But thanks to its progressive, upright geometry, it also rides well when taken on long leisure rides on bike paths and tarmac.


Is Cannondale Trail 8 for You?

Cannondale Trail 8 is an entry-level bicycle with lots of introductory components. As such, it’s most suitable for beginner riders and those who are still learning the ropes of off-road riding.

If you want a two-wheeler to spend more time outside, get fit, improve your health, and explore the area, you’ll be riding Trail 8 with a smile on your face.

However, if you are an experienced mountain biker and you want to improve your off-roading skills, Shimano entry-level components and a low-level Suntour fork won’t cut it for you.


Other Trail Series Overviews

  • Trail 1MSRP $1,850 – Top model with excellent components and a 120 mm air fork travel, intended for trail enthusiasts.
  • Trail 2MSRP $1,600 – High-specked mid-range model with a 1×12 SRAM SX drivetrain and an air fork, made for intermediate trail riders.
  • Trail 3MSRP $1,300 – 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 4MSRP $1,000 – 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 5MSRP $750 – Entry-level trail bike with a solid aluminum frame, decent Shimano components, and 100 mm of travel, that all trail beginners will love.
  • Trail 6MSRP $650 – Affordable bike with quality branded parts, front suspension and hydro brakes, perfect for beginner riders wishing to get a taste of the trails.
  • Trail 7MSRP $575 – Versatile MTB with 16 gears, excellent for trails, gravel, and dirt roads, aimed towards casual and recreational riders.
  • Trail 8 – MSRP $510 – Cheapest Cannondale Trail model with reliable and durable components for the money, ideal for budget-conscious cyclists.


Verdict: Is Trail 8 Worth the Money?

suggestedTrail 8 costs just $510, which is hard to believe considering the attention to detail that apparently went into making it. Sure, it has some entry-level components, but it also has both 27.5″ and 29″ wheels, disc brakes, durable quality tires, and phenomenal looks.

Therefore, Trail 8 is definitely worth the money. If you fit into the rider profile we depicted above, there’s no reason not to buy it. It should serve you well for miles and years to come.


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Cannondale Trail 8 (2021)













  • Excellent price
  • Great looks
  • 27.5" and 29" Wheels
  • Mechanical disc brakes
  • Capable wide tires


  • Entry-level components
  • Heavy Suntour fork


  • Chase Boggs says:

    Looking at the trek marlin 5 2021 or the Cannondale trail 8 2021. Same cost, which do you recommend? Thanks in Advance!

  • Is the rear hub spacing the same as last years model? Quick release?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Charles,
      I think so. I don’t think they would change specs that easily considering that their consumers are very particular about these things.

  • Robert S. says:

    I recently purchased a trail 8 XL to ride around downtown Pensacola FL. I too ungraded the saddle and also origin 8 bar ends. Theres a MTB trail near the UWF campus, beginner and advanced. Next add on is most likely Front and rear fenders. Big tires need big fenders. Also I’d like to keep the frame looking new and scratch free, thank you for reviewing.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Robert,
      That’s an awesome feedback! Thanks. Fenders will protect your from splashes and the mud. Glad you are enjoying the ride. Cheers!

  • Mark says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the info, could you recommend a bike stand for the trail 8? Thanks in advance.

    Mark from Maryland

  • Eddie pejcinovic says:

    I just bought a trail 8 medium someone returned it at bike shop New Jersey. I couldn’t believe it had minor scratches green color black fork my 14 year old twin son loves it , price was 250.00 tax less than half off so what returned few scratches

  • Kevin says:

    I live in the US I just purchased the Trail 8 the beginning of Oct 2020. I had a Trek 820 from 1993, it was great beginners bike. I gave it to my son. With the current pandemic I didn’t know it would be so difficult to find a replacement bike. I originally wanted a Trek Marlin 7, and couldn’t find any available. I came across on bike shop selling Cannondale and purchased the Trail 8 Large with 29″ wheels. So far it’s been enjoyable. I just enjoy some nature and street riding. At 63 yrs.old I’m not going to do a lot of crazy riding.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Yes, finding replacement bikes can be challenging during these times. I think you need to wait until this blows over. A bike that’s ideal for your body measurement should be the primary concert as it ensures long-term comfort.

  • Vincent MacDonald says:

    Just brought a trail 8 after many many years of not riding!
    It is an impressive bike and is ideal for what I want to do and my level of biking.
    1st upgrade will be the saddle though, but not complaining as at well under £450 in the UK got plenty cash left to ‘pump my ride’

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hello Vincent,

      So glad you like the brand! Yes upgrading is also an exciting part of cycling 😉

  • Vikram says:

    Hi, Jeff! Could you tell me about the Trail 8.
    What are the standards for the rear axle bushing? Diameter, length?


  • ILIA says:

    Cannondale Trail 8 has a boost frame?

  • Matt says:

    Hey Jeff and hello from Canada! I just finished reading all your reviews about this bike and have finally decided to get it. One question though, this bike isnt on REI anymore and wanted to know if you knew of any other stores I can buy this from.

  • Hello Jeff, i was wonder is this bike only comes in black and where can i buy it? Thanks,Armin

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Armin,
      Good questions. They also come in other colors. I’d suggest you contact them to find a store near you.

  • Jeff Warfield says:

    Marlon Suntour does an upgrade program. You can upgrade that coil fork to a nice air fork. You have to email them the serial number on the fork and proof of purchase they’ll give you a coupon code for a really nice fork at a huge discount

  • Freddy says:

    Hello Jeff, I’m looking to buy the Trail 8. I’m not too experienced in bikes other than BMX when I was younger. I’m looking for a bike to be able to ride on the street. Perhaps Santa Monica by the beach etc. But I also want to be able to do some trails with my girlfriend. Is this bike ok for both? Or should I look into something like the Quick 6? Thank you sir and thank you for the information!

  • Syd says:

    Hello Jeff and congrats on your job here.
    A friend holds me off from this bike because of the fork ,as he says.
    Do you think its ok for an inexperienced mountain rider as me?
    Would you still recommend the cannondale , among scott aspect 960 and cube aim race?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Syd,
      Generally, coil vs air front suspension should not really bother your experience if you are just doing regular riding. However, you might want to read more about that debate before deciding if it is for you: Coil vs Air

  • Melanie Mendia says:

    This review is spot on. I have a Trail 8 and I absolutely love it. I use it for bike path riding and dirt trails. I eventually want to be a more serious trail rider but for now this does the job. I ride about 14 miles a day and this bike is perfect for my needs.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      I’m happy you like it, Melanie! It’s perfect for beginners who are just starting out. 🙂

  • marlon says:

    I bought this bike because of the size and the price is amazing . I needed something little bit of everything on and off road. I am 5’1 guy , the frame became lighter and become more like down hill mountain bike . if I am really getting on serious mountain bike , ill upgrade my forks . which best fork should I get for this trail 8?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Marlon, it depends on your budget, basically. Plus, high-quality forks with a straight steerer are harder and harder to come by. For example, RockShox 30 Gold RL would be a good improvement.

  • Hector J Ciprian says:

    Hello, this article is very informative. It narrow down my options however I would appreciate your opinion since im a rookie.
    what do you think of the vilano blackjack 3.0 29er on sale from 600 to $298 vs cannondale trail 8 ?
    Im also considering the diamond back overdrive 29er for$ 479.
    I was told they were all the same but with your expertise you can help make the best choice. Thanks

    • Jeff Balton says:

      They are all very similar, but I’d go for the Diamondback between the three. I think it offers the most for the money. Have fun!

  • Trevor says:

    Recently bought the trail 8 from my local bike shop after reading your review and others. Needless to say I am so happy with this purchase, the bike is everything I was looking for and more. Thank you for the in-depth review that assisted with my purchase

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hey Trevor, that’s so good to hear! I’m glad I could help you get out and ride more! Have fun and let us know how you like it after a while. 🙂

  • Candace says:

    I appreciate your review, it was very helpful to a newbie in a sea of information. I was about to buy a cheap bike from a chain retail store but decided to spend a little extra to get a decent beginner bike. I wanted something that could tackle street as well as a semi rugged path and it’s done a great job. I love it so far and can’t wait to better educate myself on the sport. I had forgotten how great it is to ride a bike.


    • Jeff Balton says:

      You’re welcome, Candace! Spending a few extra dollars on a quality bike goes a long way and actually saves you money in the future. Enjoy your old-new hobby! 🙂

  • Zack says:

    Thank you Jeff… I will be taking your advice!

  • Zack says:

    Hello, I am debating whether to go with the trail 7 or 8… I noticed the trail 7 has 100mm travel rather than 75mm on the 8. Do you think that is noticable on most paved or dirt roads. And how much of a difference would hydraulic vs. Mechanical disc brakes make? I will be mostly doing short in town or park riding my 6 and 8 year olds. Although I used to do a lot of downhill mountain bike racing with friends and might get back into it at some point. I had a Kona Sex One full suspension in the late 90’s. Loved that bike! Any response would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Zack, Trail 7 is a noticeably better bike than Trail 8. Hydraulic disc brakes make a big difference not only on the bike but off the bike as well. They require almost no maintenance, which can’t be said for mechanical disc brakes.

      Considering you say you might want to get back into more serious trail riding, I’d recommend Trail 7, even though it is not a bike that’s intended for very serious trail use, but it’s significantly more capable than Trail 8. Better 100mm suspension and a 2×9 drivetrain instead of a 3×7 also speak in its favor.

      Hope this helps!

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