Cannondale’s new e-bike comes in a Plus-tyre model that grips hard when the trail gets slippy
When Cannondale last turned its hand to a motorised two-wheel vehicle it didn’t go too well.
The bike, or rather motorbike, in question was the ambitious, ahead-of-its-time, and ultimately ill-fated MX400 motocross bike. Now, 15 years later, Cannondale is producing another bike with an engine, it’s called the Moterra and it’s really rather good.
By going for the tried and tested Bosch Performance CX motor and battery, Cannondale has taken no chances. As such, efficiency, power, range, reliability and a well-organised support network are guaranteed.
But Cannondale has given the Bosch system its own twist, literally rotating the mounting points (as pioneered by Trek), to make room for shorter chainstays and a lower main pivot. In fact, at 457mm, they are the tightest in class for a Bosch system, some 13mm shorter than Trek’s Powerfly.
However, Shimano’s more compact Steps system is moving the game on, and Merida’s eOne-Twenty boasts significantly shorter 440mm chainstays as a result.
Cannondale has also tried to position the battery low on the frame, to make the bike more stable in corners and as dynamic as possible when lofting the front wheel or trying to bunny-hop an obstacle.
But it’s not quite as well packaged as the piggy-back motor/battery on Lapierre’s Overvolt, although you do get space for a full-size water bottle instead.
Encaged by the Torsion Box down tube, a big rubber strap — the BatStrap — holds the battery tight, stopping it rattling and protecting it from rock strikes.
The final key customisation is a custom chain retainer and AI 15t chainring, both offset by 6mm. This creates a better chainline and really helps prevent mud clogging the drivetrain.
With the grand footprint of those 2.8in Nobby Nic tyres, the Moterra is rarely wanting for traction. And when conditions turn ultra slimy, it’s an absolute hoot to drift and slither around flat singletrack, and power up ridiculous inclines.
The shorter back end helps keep it relatively lively on the descents, and although we’d probably prefer a bit more progression from the rear suspension, we soon adapted our riding style to be able to pump and hustle it with a surprising level of precision.
At nearly 24kg, the Moterra is certainly a brute — even for an e-bike — but clever engineering means it stops short of being a blunt instrument.