It's got more suspension tunes than a Hitchcock movie, but will this Moterra thrill us or chill us?
Cannondale claims that the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is “agile, quick, stable and composed.” And there might be a kernel of truth in this boast, because the bike is Proportional Response Tuned. Put simply, PRT means the suspension on the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 has been tuned for each of the four frame sizes, so everyone gets to ride a bike that is tuned more closely to their height and body weight, as opposed to adopting a one size fits all approach.
As such, Cannondale engineers have tuned the kinematics on the larger frames to be more progressive to deal with the increase in rider weight, and they have more anti squat too, while taking the opposite approach on the small sizes. Other size specific tweaks include 27.5in wheel on the size Small, while M, L and XL are full 29ers, and there are different length dropper posts throughout. The obvious next step would be to have size specific chainstay lengths but Cannondale has stopped short of that, even if, at 460mm, the chainstay length on the Moterra is anything but short.
Need to know
- Full power e-bike rocking 29in wheels (small comes with 27.5in)
- Carbon front end houses Bosch Performance CX motor and in-tube 750Wh battery
- Travel is balanced with 150mm front and rear
- Four frame sizes, each with custom-configured suspension kinematics
- Currently discounted by over a £1k!
The Neo Carbon frame isn’t full carbon, only the front triangle is a composite construction, the rear end is aluminium. At over 25kg for a 150mm travel bike it’s not that light either. Take a closer look at the stays and you’ll see kickstand, rack and mudguard mounts which are not necessary on an e-MTB. This is because Cannondale offers a Mottera New EQ model that uses the same frame and makes full use of the superfluous fittings and fixtures.. Having those attachment points doesn’t affect performance in any way, but I reckon some riders are going to be put off because they don’t look very neat.
In terms of travel, the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is the baby brother to the Moterra LT 2 that featured in MBR’s e-Bike of the Year test. It has 150mm travel front and rear instead of 170/165mm and comes with an air shock rather than a coil. So all you need is a shock pump to set the sag, rather than a mate and a tape measure, and it also creates a bit more space in the front triangle to get the water bottle in and out, especially on the smaller frame sizes.
Housed inside the carbon front end of the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is a Bosch Performance CX motor with a 750Wh Power Tube battery. A Bosch Kiox display is mounted directly over the top of the stem. It offers a ton of rider, bike and route information, but it is very vulnerable perched so high up.
For every e-bike on the market, there seems to be a different charging port design, even when the same charger is used. Cannondale has a little trap door with a foam seal on the inside to keep water out, which is simple and does work. However, removing the battery from the frame for charging is somewhat long winded because you have to loosen a latch on the plastic cover underneath the down tube then unlock the battery with a key before releasing another latch to finally free the battery from the frame.
And there are a couple of other odd choices – it uses an old spoke-mounted magnet for the speed sensor and it has a six-bolt front hub but a CenterLock rear. Now, I appreciate that the front hub is from Formula rather than Shimano, but I can’t imagine fitting a matching Shimano front hub would break the bank, especially on a bike that was initially £7K. Not that I’ve got anything good to say about the Shimano MT410 rear hub. After only two months of riding the sealed cartridge bearing on the non-drive side seized solid. Replacement bearings are only £4.99, but this shouldn’t happen with such low mileage.
And my rant isn’t over. There’s a current trend in the bike industry to route all cables internally and it does look sleek, but Cannondale’s stem face-plate routing system is fiddly at best if you want to put the stem down. The oval headset spacers split, so you can unclip them from the fork steerer but you can’t actually put these spacers on top of the stem to pre-load the headset. It’s crazy, as it makes it really difficult to experiment with a lower stem position when setting the bike up.
Thankfully the rest of the components are sorted. I like the Fabric FunGuy grips with their mushroom pattern (get it?) and Cannondale specs different length droppers depending on the frame size – 125mm on the small, 150mm on the medium and 170mm on large and extra-large. And despite the tight cable routing, the DownLow dropper has a light lever action and snappy return speed, even if there is quite a bit of rotational play out of the box.
How it rides
On my first outing, the Moterra felt agile and manoeuvrable but also a bit wild. This was mostly due to the Maxxis Rekon rear tire, which is fast-rolling but the shallow knobs offer limited braking traction and grip. To tame the ride, I swapped it to a Maxxis High Roller II and I recommend you do the same.
Once I’d changed the rear tire, I set about experimenting with the handlebar height to push a bit more weight over the front, but there’s no way to get the bars down unless you cut the steerer and after that, there’s no way back so it could prove to be a very costly experiment.
Like the Moterra LT, the Bosch motor is clocked slightly to help position the battery lower in the frame, in theory to improve handling. However, with its 350mm bottom bracket height the Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is just as high off the ground as the LT, and that makes more of a difference here because this bike is shorter travel. In fact, I’d argue that it’s way more important to position the 80kg rider lower in the frame, than to worry about the 4.47kg battery placement.
Even with the high BB, on flatter trails and rolling singletrack, the Moterra has good pace and feels incredibly poised. The damping in the RockShox Lyrik Select fork is less sophisticated than RockShox’s high-end units, and spikes with more regularity on really rough chop. It shouldn’t hold you back at all though. And while I can’t speak to the other frame sizes, to say how much the Proportional Response Tune plays a part, the rear suspension on the medium size felt totally dialled.
The current advertised discounts on these models go a long way to overlooking the stubborn stem and elevated ride height though. You’ll also have money left over to invest in a grippier rear tyre and better wheels, maybe even a 27.5in rear wheel to lower the BB height and slacken the angles a touch. All of which seems like a lot of hassle, especially given that there are plenty of sorted e-bikes to choose from.
The Moterra Neo Carbon 2 is not quite the jack of all trades that Cannondale claims. It does have a pretty decent skill set and like the Moterra LT, it’s also currently discounted, so you’re getting a sleek carbon frameset with a Bosch motor and big battery for quite a bit less than full retail.