Cannondale is the latest of the big name brands to throw their hat into the ring with the Moterra full suspension E-bike. With two main models, an LT 160mm travel version and a short travel 130mm trail version, there are options for varying approaches to riding. We managed to try both of the machines at the Eurobike Media days and have put together our initial thoughts on the bikes.
Weight: 22.4 kg
Bosch supplies the battery and motor system with Cannondale choosing to use the CX motor system and a 500w battery. With a custom mount and battery placement they have managed to keep the weight low on the bike.
On The Trail
Most of our time was spent on board the 130mm trail version, which in our opinion is the more accessible bike for most riders. The use of plus tyres in combination with a wide rim gave those riders that tried it the sense you are on a longer travel bike. In contrast, the LT version that uses normal 27.5″ tyres, which work well with the extra 30 mm of travel, give the bike an almost “pure” Enduro feel due to its slightly more aggressive riding position.
The frame, which is the focus of our first thoughts, is all about weight distribution, although it looks fairly substantial due to the wide hydro formed main tube, which shapes the skeletal core of the bike, with all of the components hanging off the structural element. The weight is actually comparable to most other bikes in this segment, coming in at 22.4 Kilos. This choice of structure allows the designers to achieve a design that not only accommodates the battery but also creates space for a water bottle and gives the bike a shorter back end.
This design element has been incorporated with an offset front chain-ring and a 157mm rear axle. Overall, Cannondale’s designers have been trying to create a stiff structure and have taken zero compromises to achieve this.
All these elements translate to a trail riding experience that approaches being one of the most fun that we have had on an E-bike to date.
Fun can be defined in many ways, but for our sensibilities it translates into a pedaling experience uphill that gives the rider as much power as needed. The Mottera is good for about 1000-1100 metres of climbing in turbo mode with our rider’s 85 kg body weight. The Bosch motor performance is close to our recent experience with other brands, once the power cuts in, it pulls the rider up the hill close to the limit of the system, allowing a fast pedal cadence if preferred. We generally rode in sport or turbo mode 90 percent of the time. This choice has given us a consistent battery life when climbing repeatedly or taking on one big climb of about 2 hours. It’s rare that we pedal much when descending and when we do we nearly always pass the 25km/h limiter, which means it’s human or gravity power only from there on.
On the downhills we have always preferred a playful bike, especially in this travel category. The use of a stiff wheel setup and wide tyres is exactly the combination that gives access to some fun sideways action, straight-lining over seemingly impossible root sections and the ability to move along at a fair clip with the bike very stable. The extra chunky tread chosen from the 2.8″ tyre form was perfect for laying down grip in all conditions. We thought it would be possible to go even wider up front if needed.
The suspension platform is a Fox 36 up front and a Fox shock behind. We absolutely agree with the Fox 36 on the front: great initial sensitivity and excellent mid travel support. Under braking and rough bumps with the occasional g-out, the fork tune gave us the ability to move the bike down the trail smoothly, rather than rattling our arms off as we grappled with the extra bike weight and awkward hits that our test trail put in our path. A plush rear tune out back combined with the 36 fork and the shorter chainstays meant we were moving the bike about a lot more and with a greater feeling of control. Heavy bikes and rough suspension is a classic way to be ejected in rough sections, thankfully Cannondale know how to avoid that type of performance as their entire product development structure is based around racing and well tuned rides in all conditions.
Braking is handled by single piston caliper XT brakes which are powerful, but we would appreciate a four piston caliper on the front due to the extra weight of the bike leading to tired hands after repeated descents, more power and modulation would alleviate that.
The drivetrain is an XT cassette and mechanism with an 11-42T ratio, and it worked flawlessly. Shimano shifting has not been tuned on E-bikes that much, so it was an opportunity to make comparisons to the other well established drivetrain component maker. Overall we felt that the Shimano cassette handles the extra power well, we did not have any chain popping moments, but one “first ride,” is not enough time to judge much more than that.
Cannondale did not disappoint with their offering. The unconventional frame design provides superb handling, probably some of the best so far from this category. The choice of designers to think outside the box and invert the battery was a wise one. It keeps the weight low and this simple idea means the fun factor will be high.
Cannondale will be sending us a long term test version at some point which will allow us to get into more depth about this exciting bike segment.