Cannondale’s Moterra Neo 1 is a Godzilla of an e-trail-bike that’s designed to eat up technical climbs and monster the descent on the other side. It’s a 160mm travel 29er that’s built around the new Bosch Generation 4 Performance Line CX motor system.
Frame and geometry
This platform is a completely redesigned bike compared to the previous model, and the design team at Cannondale has done a great job of integrating the smaller, lighter, 2.9kg magnesium cased, 250W, 75nm motor and 625Wh Powertube battery into the carbon frame.
The carbon front end is mated to an alloy rear with a classic Horst-linked, four-bar arrangement, joined by a Fox Float Factory DPX2 EVOL shock. While I’m yet to be convinced the weight savings that carbon provide are valuable on a bike weighing 24kg, the material has allowed Cannondale to craft a very shapely frame that’s far easier on the eye than its “Aaarggghhh! Kill it with fire!” predecessor. Reassuringly, the frame is also covered by a lifetime warranty.
The Powertube battery is integrated into the downtube, protected by a sealed cover and secured with Bosch’s key system, while the motor is protected from knocks by a vented yet sturdy aluminium skid plate. Cables are internally routed through the frame that looks very tidy in its green paint job.
Geometry-wise, there’s nothing radical going on. The reach on my large frame was a comfortably roomy 470mm. The head-tube angle is a fairly conservative (for a 160mm 29er) 66 degrees whilst the seat-tube sits at a similarly middle-of-the-road 75 degrees.
These numbers might have some riders inclined to slam the seat forward to compensate. One interesting number was the bottom bracket height, which sits at a somewhat lofty 362mm. I thought this might be a little high, but on the trail everything came together well and I never scuffed the bashplate, which is something I’ve found to be reasonably common on other machines of this intent.
The chainstays sit at 450mm on all sizes and the rear end is built around Cannondale’s AI concept. This moves the whole drivetrain 6mm to the right, changing the dish of the rear wheel so the rim is centered between the hub flanges. That allows even spoke angles and tension, which Cannondale reckons builds a stiffer, stronger wheel.
The Fox shock is matched with a Fox Float Factory 36 up front, with the GRIP2 damper and 51mm offset. Certainly no complaints there. The drivetrain runs a Bosch crank with a 32t ring. There’s a SRAM NX Eagle 12 speed 11-50 cassette and an X01 Eagle derailleur. The shifter is the single click e-bike-specific version.
Power is managed through the Bosch Kiox display. This is a really nice head unit with a tonne of built-in functionality that’s capable of integrating with your smartphone. It attaches to the top of the stem using a magnetic mount, which makes it easy to remove but potentially places it in harm’s way in the event of a crash.
The wheelset consists of Stan’s Flow Mk3 rims laced to a SRAM 746 rear hub and a Formula front hub, clad with a Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR 2.6” combo. Stopping power comes courtesy of Magura’s four-pot MT7 brakes, with a 220mm rotor up front and a 203mm on the rear.
The bar, stem and 150mm dropper are in-house components, and the very comfortable grips and saddle come from Charge.
One final, neat inclusion is the Supernova headlamp. This pumps out 1250 lumens on high beam and is powered by the onboard battery. It features a tidy little hi/lo beam switch integrated into the brake lever clamp. Now you’ve no excuses not to night ride – if your bike is charged, so is your lamp!
Out on the trail
On the dirt, the new Bosch Gen 4 motor feels smooth and natural. The ‘smart’ eMTB setting is a joy to ride with and is the product of some clever engineering that has definitely paid off. The motor has a sophisticated three-sensor function, which reads your cadence, torque and wheel speed over 1000 times per second. While you’re concentrating on having fun, the machine is doing the math to deliver a really natural feeling at the pedals.
The system places particular emphasis on your torque input, which allows the motor to respond intelligently to whatever situation you’re in. For example, when you’re railing a tight corner and not putting a lot of force into the pedals, the output power of the bike is lowered to allow you to stay in control. If you increase your effort to clear an obstacle, the bike will respond by increasing its power output to match.
Uphill, the bike is about as much fun as you can have without going down again. Seated comfortably in the middle of the bike, there’s plenty of room to move fore and aft to negotiate previously unrideable obstacles. The uninitiated e-bike rider will find it revelatory, opening up a whole new way of riding and looking at your trails. The seat angle does sit you slightly over the rear, but the front wheel never
lost contact with the ground and together we dispatched a number
of ‘interesting’ climbs.
When you point Godzilla downhill, the big ‘Dale fills you with confidence. The Fox suspension creates a supple and effective – in a glued-to-the-ground manner – platform that adds to the bike’s predictable, comfortable handling. Point it and it will happily go there. All these positives are complemented by the outstanding power and modulation of the Magura brakes, which have no problem slowing this mass down when required, and offer a great feel at the lever. Once I got used to them, I liked them a great deal.
Godzilla and I had a lot of fun in the short time we spent together, and I often found myself returning home absolutely flogged having ridden singletrack until my legs and brain couldn’t take any more. I regularly found myself riding a 40km loop in around two hours, using eMTB mode throughout, and returning with 15-20% power still in reserve.
Is there anything I wasn’t keen on? Well, the price is certainly a factor: this bike is $1 shy of $14,000, so although you’re getting the Fox Factory fork, shock and the carbon frame, the wheelset is functional yet basic, and something more commonly found on a mid-range machine. The same goes for the handlebar, which while perfectly serviceable, also appears on Cannondale’s low-end hardtails. I can see the argument for investing in the suspension, but given the choice, I’d swap the integrated lamp for a better bar or wheelset.
Speaking of the lamp, there’s something of a noodle bowl of cables out the front; why isn’t there an e-bike handlebar with integrated cable grooves? Road bikes manage it, so why can’t we have one for e-bikes?
Minor gripes aside, this is a really great bike. It feels like a complete package, handles well, goes well and would be a great choice for anyone looking to increase their mileage and shred more singletrack than they’re able to right now. I’m all-in on e-bikes after my time with the Moterra 1.