Cannondale Moterra first look

Watts up with Cannondale's 130mm e-MTB

You only have to look back a couple of years at electric mountain bikes to realise how quickly the bikes have moved forward. A new generation of electric mountain bikes are emerging from major manufacturers that are better thought out and executed than ever before, and the Cannondale Moterra is one of them.

Gone are the days of a battery pack awkwardly shoved onto a bodged frame, here we have a frame and suspension set up that’s designed specifically around its motor; some of its components are even designed specifically for motorised mountain biking. The controversy surrounding such machines is a fire that fails to die down, but for people to say that these bikes aren’t improving would simply be wrong.

The Fox 34 on the front of the Moterra has been upgraded structurally and in terms of damping to deal with the extra heft of a bike with a motor
The Fox 34 on the front of the Moterra has been upgraded structurally and in terms of damping to deal with the extra heft of a bike with a motor

Anyway, back to the bike. The €5,999 (international pricing is still TBC) Moterra is an e-MTB that’s based on a 130mm trail bike chassis, and one that uses plus tyres. At the heart of the Moterra’s bulky front triangle is a 250w version of Bosch’s Performance CX motor. With 75n/m of torque it provides adjustable pedal assistance from 50-300 percent via four preset modes, that’s everything from a gentle push to a big old shove.

Take a look at the position — and in particular the angle — of the Moterra’s motor and you’ll see Cannondale has worked to keep the chainstays from being too lengthy, although the 2.8in Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres the bike is designed around mean the measurement stands at 457mm. That’d still be long for a non-motorised bike, yet it’s really very short compared to some of its competition. Take Scott’s E-Genius, which uses the same motor, it features 490mm chainstays.

Bosch's Performance Line CX motor is mounted at an unusual angle in order to minimise chainstay length and optimise the frame's suspension pivot placement
Bosch's Performance Line CX motor is mounted at an unusual angle in order to minimise chainstay length and optimise the frame's suspension pivot placement

Still, the rear end of the Moterra is long compared to the 443mm stays of the Moterra LT, the longer travel sibling of this bike, which uses regular 2.35in tyres.

Positioning the motor in this way also aligns the pivot so that it isolates the frame’s suspension from both motor and pedal torque, no pulleys or linkages needed, says Cannondale.

Rather than a boost rear end, the Moterra uses a 157mm thru-axle at its rear wheel. To accommodate for that, its motor’s tiny 15t chainring is also offset to provide the correct chainline. Cannondale has also integrated a neat chainguide to the driveside of the motor.

Cannondale's BatStrap is a slightly crude rubber strap that’s used to secure the frame-mounted battery in an attempt to minimise the rattling noises often encountered with the e-MTB batteries
Cannondale's BatStrap is a slightly crude rubber strap that’s used to secure the frame-mounted battery in an attempt to minimise the rattling noises often encountered with the e-MTB batteries

In an attempt to keep the bulk of the Moterra’s weight as low as possible, its 500wh battery is mounted below the frame’s downtube.

The linkage-actuated, single pivot rear triangle uses a rocker mounted at the top tube and it’s this, combined with the additional clearance from that low slung motor, that means there’s even room for a water bottle — now who was it who said water and electricity shouldn’t mix?

Another interesting part of the Moterra’s frame is the ‘BatStrap’, a rubber strap that is used to secure the frame-mounted battery in an attempt to minimise the rattling noises often encountered with the e-MTB batteries.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Moterra weighs quite a bit. Our trusty Feedback Sports scales were nearing their limit when tasked with holding all 23.15kg (51lbs) of our medium size test bike.

The Bosch control unit is also simple and clear without being overly vulnerable from crash damage
The Bosch control unit is also simple and clear without being overly vulnerable from crash damage

At the front of the bike, Cannondale has chosen to fit a specially uprated version of Fox’s 34 fork. The ‘e-bike optimised’ Fox 34 is structurally reinforced over a regular 34 and comes with a tune that was originally chosen for the gnarly enduro crowd, which just so happens to work nicely for the extra heft of e-MTBs. A Kashima-coated, Fox Factory Float EVOL shock provides 130mm of travel at the rear. 

One component that hasn’t been uprated for the extra heft of the Moterra is the brakes. As capable as Shimano’s XT stoppers are, we have concerns about Cannondale’s choice of fitting 180mm rotors on a bike that’s heavier than any downhill rig we’ve ever tested. Still, the proof is in the pudding and we’ll let you know if the Moterra does indeed prove to be underbraked.

A carbon rocker drives the Moterra's Fox Float EVOL rear shock, delivering 130mm of travel
A carbon rocker drives the Moterra's Fox Float EVOL rear shock, delivering 130mm of travel

Shimano XT components also dominate the Moterra’s drivetrain, although there’s an SLX 11-42t cassette at the back wheel. Speaking of wheels, these are DT’s tubeless-ready XM 551 rims, which feature a 40mm inner width and a spoke count of 32. These come fitted with 2.8in Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres.

Other spec highlights include a KS Lev Integra dropper post with 100mm, 125mm or 150mm drop depending on which of the four frame sizes you choose (S-XL). Attached to that post is Fabric’s popular Scoop saddle. Most of the remaining finishing kit is from Cannondale itself, including a 780mm riser bar and 55mm stem.  

We've handed this one over to our bicycle beasting friends at What Mountain Bike Magazine, so expect a full review in the near future.

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