Cannondale Moterra Neo SE has been modified for more extreme riding; same 160mm travel frame but it has been hopped up with a 180mm RockShox Boxxer fork.
Hidden under a plastic protector and housed inside the BallisTec carbon front end of the Cannondale Moterra Neo SE is a 625Wh Bosch Powertube battery.
To remove the battery you unclip the protective cover, then use the dedicated key to unlock the lower end of the battery from the housing, before sliding the battery out of the upper section of the oversized down tube. The cover is not a particularly snug fit and like all of the key release mechanisms we’ve tried, once they get gritty they tend not to work that well, or at all.
The alloy rear end on the Moterra uses Cannondale’s signature Ai asymmetric drivetrain that offsets the chainring, chainset and rear end to the rider’s right; increasing tyre clearance while balancing spoke tension for a stronger rear wheel.
Size-wise, the Moterra SE is limited to three options; S, M and L. And with a reach measurement of 453mm on the size L, it’s dwarfed by the Specialized.
Regardless of the frame size, Cannondale has gone to great lengths to ensure that riders of different heights get a similar suspension feel. Move up though the size range and the progression rate of the 160mm rear suspension increases to offer more support. Cannondale has dubbed this approach Proportional Response, and it’s a neat way to help maintain balanced handling across all three sizes without having to build custom rear ends.
What really stands out though, is that Cannondale has nailed the tune of the RockShox SuperDeluxe shock. Not only does the rebound adjustment cover a wide range of rider weights, the lighter compression tune makes the bike feel really lively and responsive, with impressive traction under braking. The 180mm Boxxer suspension fork is equally smooth, even if the basic Select RC damper isn’t as composed as the rear suspension.
We’re big fans of Maxxis Assegai tyres, and while the 2.5in Wide Trail option on the Cannondale has a great footprint, the standard EXO casing is way too flimsy for such a burly bike. We’d much rather have the EXO+ casing that comes on the regular Moterro Neos, to better protect the Stan’s Flow S1 rims.
Cannondale also missed a trick by not fitting a direct-mount stem and taking full advantage of the dual crown design. Touch points like the Fabric grips and saddle feel great, but the action of the Cannondale DownLow post is sluggish, the overly tall seat tube limiting drop to 150mm even on the size L.
Fitting a 180mm travel Boxxer fork to a frame designed to have a 160mm single crown has knock-on effects on the geometry. Yes, the head angle is 0.5° slacker, but so is the seat angle, which was already pretty slack. Thankfully, the smaller 2.5in tyres help offset some of the increased BB height, so the changes aren’t as drastic as one would imagine. Also Cannondale’s rear suspension, with its lower dynamic ride height, helps cancel out any negatives associated with the taller fork. We say most, because the oversized down tube – needed to house the battery – really limits the steering lock. So much so, we actually felt the fork hit the frame and upright the bike when dropping through some steep, tight switchback turns. That aside, the Cannondale Moterra Neo SE is a fun, capable e-bike.
The rear suspension is sensitive without ever feeling too soft or wallowly. And what the 75Nm Bosch motor lacks in grunt, the 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain will keep your legs spinning on steep ascents. Better still, pop into any Bosch certified dealer and get the motor remapped to the latest 85Nm setting and you’ll rocket up the climbs even faster.
With its black Boxxer fork and emerald green carbon front end, the Moterra Neo SE certainly looks the part. Get down to brass tacks however, and it’s clear that this bike wasn’t designed around a dual crown fork. The seriously limited steering lock makes three-point turns a must and a reverse button would probably be more useful than walk mode. All is not lost however, as the superb rear suspension on the Moterra Neo SE lets you ride hard enough to warrant that burly Boxxer fork. You’re going to need tougher casing tyres though, if you don’t want to be fixing flats every run.