Cannondale Moto Carbon 3 review

Carbon creativity from Cannondale

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £2,738.99 RRP | USD $3,991.80

Our review

There’s some good stuff going on, especially at the front end of the package. The twangy rear end, fragile tyres and tall, traction-spilling stance really spoil things once you start pushing harder in technical terrain though
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Cannondale’s Moto comes with a fully carbon fibre mainframe, claims of “lightest ever long travel potential” and a ‘Hatchet’ buried in the middle of it. Unfortunately, its trail performance is a bit more on the ordinary side.


Ride & handling: Stiff, stable and smoothly sprung – but flex undermines confidence and traction

With light, fast-rolling tyres and a suspension system that stiffens under power, the Moto certainly gets moving faster than its hefty 14.81kg (32.66lb) weight would suggest. As long as you keep control emphasis up front in the massive 1.5in steerer tube forks, it’s a very stiff and confidently direct handling bike.

The RockShox Lyrik fork provides good connection and control on all kinds of terrain. Add generous ground clearance, stable steering angles and a short rear end to flick about, and it’s a very enjoyable bike to charge through rocky, rooty singletrack on, faster than you’d normally dare.

The long top tube means that the short stem still leaves plenty of breathing space to haul it uphill. The Fox Float RP23 shock’s ProPedal lever takes a lot of finding among all the linkages and braces, though, and it’s essential to cut noticeable pedalling nod under power.

Unfortunately, pressing the pedals highlights the amount of flex between the front and back halves of the bike. Despite the torque stiffening suspension, it still twists and unhooks itself from the trail with irritating regularity, and having to use high tyre pressures doesn’t help. Combined with the high bottom bracket, its habit of pitching forward or spinning out without warning can easily tip you over the bars at just the wrong moment.

The back end really starts to sap confidence on more testing terrain too. While the front end is connected and reassuringly controlled, the back end will skew out or slip and suddenly you’re trying to save the move rather than style it.

Cannondale moto carbon 3: cannondale moto carbon 3
Steve Behr

Frame: Great-looking chassis, but it’s no lightweight and swingarm lacks stiffness

Cannondale’s oversize carbon fibre mainframe is the most lusted after ‘boy’s toy’ bike we’ve had in ages. The huge Diablo head tube and monster down tube, with a carbon tubed bridge to support the complicated floating linkage, certainly look impressive. The shiny red anodised ‘Hatchets’ that squeeze the Fox shock pressed the techno lust buttons on many riders too. 

The asymmetric swingarm uses super-deep chainstays on different sized pivots on each side and a screw-through 12mm Maxle axle at the rear end. Unfortunately the swingarm is very flexy where it joins the mainframe. 

The lack of a quick-release seat collar for dropping the seat is a definite oversight too. The claimed 2.9kg (6.4lb) mainframe weight isn’t much lighter than a lot of contemporary alloy framed 6in bikes either, and the Moto is considerably heavier than other 150mm carbon exotica such as the 2.6kg (5lb) Scott Genius and Ibis Mojo SL.

More big rubber bladders than a pensioners’ tea party go into making a moto mainframe: more big rubber bladders than a pensioners’ tea party go into making a moto mainframe
Steve Behr

Equipment: Some quality kit, but superlight tyres are too fragile and fork is odd choice

Although you’re certainly getting more than you would on the Mojo or Genius for the same price, Cannondale’s kit selection is definitely a mixed bag. On the plus side big red FSA bars and short stem give serious control leverage. The Magura Louise brakes also give ample power and control without crunching your credit card.

The punchy SRAM X-9 shifters are colour-coded to match the brakes, and the SRAM triple ring cranks escape the hammering you might expect courtesy of the tall bottom bracket.

Featherweight Continental 2.4in tyres boost acceleration, but at 610g they’re extremely fragile and liable to pop and squirm if you drop pressures to traction friendly levels. Although the DT rims are quality, the hubs are a slight let-down at this price.


The coil-sprung, travel-adjust RockShox Lyrik fork is also an odd choice – we never felt tempted to shorten it and it certainly bulks up overall weight. The stick-on grips slip quickly in the wet too.

Cannondale’s hatchet linkage adds smoothness to a basic swingarm set up, but it still bobs under power: cannondale’s hatchet linkage adds smoothness to a basic swingarm set up, but it still bobs under power
Steve Behr

Product Specifications


Name Moto Carbon 3 (09)
Brand Cannondale

Available Colours Black Green
Rims E540
Top Tube (in) 23.7
Seat Tube (in) 16.9
Chainstays (in) 16.5
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 14.3
Weight (lb) 32.66
Year 2009
Weight (kg) 14.81
Stem Holy Freeride
Shifters X9
Seatpost FR-270
Saddle Gobi XM
Rear Tyre Size 26x2.4
Available Sizes L M S XL
Rear Shock Float RP23
Rear Hub DH-G150
Rear Derailleur X9
Pedals Acid 1.0
Handlebar Maximus
Front Hub DC91
Front Derailleur SLX
Frame Material Moto Carbon 160 mm
Fork Lyrik U-Turn
Cassette SRAM PG-970 11-32
Brakes Louise
Wheelbase (in) 44.3