Cannondale Moterra SL: Deep Dive into Lightweight, Full Power eMTB

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Cannondale describes this bike as “the lightest full power mountain bike ever”. But what does that mean? What is “full power” exactly?

It’s a mountain bike first and foremost

Before we get into the stuff that gets all the hoopla and headlines about Cannondale Moterra SL, we should first just clarify some of the bike’s vital stats.

The Cannondale Moterra SL is a 150mm travel pedal-assist e-mountain bike with a 160mm travel fork up front and a firm focus on being a capable do-it-all trail bike.

This is not just an exercise in shaving grams at the expense of actually being a good mountain bike. It’s supposed to be a good pedal-assist mountain bike that also happens to be pretty flipping light.

See that head angle there? That’s 62.5° my friend. That is… bonkers. That is slacker than a lot of World Cup Downhill bikes. That alone tells you that the Moterra SL is not a weight weenie fireroad-munching euro lycra nightmare.

What is full power?

Digging down to the asterisked section of the Moterra SL’s spec sheet, reveals that for Cannondale, “full power” means a motor that can give out at least 85Nm of torque.

More importantly, a “full power” ebike can’t be doing anything daft with its battery. A “full power” ebike needs to have a decent capacity battery as well. There’s no point saving weight by running a dinky battery if it means you can only play out for an hour before it dies. 

So, in this particular “lightest full power mountain bike ever” claim, Cannondale set the parameter of the battery being at least 600Wh in capacity.

Weight for it

Despite all the glamorous carbon framery and high end build kit, it’s fundamentally the Moterra SL’s motor and battery which are the building blocks of this bike’s low weight. This Large size bike we have here weighs in at 19.8kg by the way.

The Shimano EP8 motor is one of the lighter full-power drive units out there, weighing in at 3.1kg. The 601Wh capacity Shimano-sanctioned battery from Darfon also weighs 3.1kg including its wiring. That’s about the same weight as most brands’ 500Wh batteries.

Where else have Cannondale saved weight on this bike? Well, the battery is not designed to be easily removed from the frame. You charge it in-situ. This method saves some weight from the down tube area.

Oh, and to state the obvious, the frame is all flipping carbon. Aluminium eMTBs with removable batteries are significantly heavier machines. We’re talking 25kg sort of heavy.

Where the grams have been lost

So yep, The Moterra SL 1 and SL 2 are carbon fibre. The highest of high falutin Moterra SLs – the LAB71 – uses extra fancy carbon fibre that saves even more weight. And yes, costs even more money.

On a less obvious note, the use of a smaller rear wheel size also has weight savings attached to it. Like for like, a 27.5 wheel is always going be to be lighter than a 29.

Perhaps the most eye-catching areas of weight saving is those super slender, flattened chain stays. Look at them! They look really skinny and that’s with them covered in the fairly substantial rubber chain stay protector material. Under the rubber they are amazingly thin.

This flat, skinny section is called the Flexpivot. Essentially it’s an area of bend-friendly carbon fibre that’s used instead of having a pivot, bushing or bearing in this spot.

A pivot in this place only has to rotate a few degrees so it’s feasible to use flexstay here instead. Less weight, less maintenance. Keen Cannondale watches may recognise this sort of thing from the brand’s Scalpel XC race bike models.

The great weight debate

Let’s wind this whole thing back a bit and ask a question. What is the problem with having a heavy ebike? There’s a motor there, why are we worrying about weight?

It’s all about the handling. Full fat ebikes… well, for a start they’re called full fat ebikes. That almost tells you everything you need to know. Full fat ebikes are a handful. Especially when things are sketchy. Trying to change direction or improvise a move on something that essentially handles like a fridge freezer is often not a fun experience.

And then there’s the whole issue of having to lift the things up and over obstacles. That gets pretty old, pretty darned quickly.

Don’t get wrong. I am a regular full fat rider. But they are a very different animal to a mountain bike. Full fat e-biking is almost a different sport in fact. The Cannondale Moterra SL is designed to feel much more like a ‘normal’ mountain bike. But better.

To those of us who have grown up using pounds as a bike weight metric (as opposed to kilograms), it can all sound a bit not-very-impressive. A 25kg bike doesn’t sound that much more than a 20kg bike. To go all retro and/or North American, 20kg is 44lb. 25kg is 55lb.

Take it from me, a 40-odd pound bike is fine. It feels very, very similar to a capable enduro mountain bike. A 50-odd pound bike feels like… I have no idea. But it’s not a bicycle. On a full-fat ebike you need to work in ‘marker pen’ style broad strokes. On the Moterra SL you can doodle. Have fun. Be creative. Improvise. Be more in control.

Custom tuned Shimano motor

Talking of control, on the Shimano EP801 system that comes with the Moterra SL you have more control than is standard. Usually Shimano systems only offer three levels of assist: Eco, Trail and Boost.

On the Moterra SL, Cannondale have managed to get a custom tune that offers five levels of assist. The levels don’t have names per se but I’d say there’s the usual Eco, the usual Boost, but there’s now three levels of Trail. More choice is good. Anyone who says otherwise can go back to having a 7 speed cassette.

Lightweight but not undernourished

Let’s talk about where Cannondale have not saved weight on the Moterra SL. We’ve all seen ‘SL’ e-bikes before. Typically they often have not a lot of suspension travel and some pretty anaemic build kits. Not so with the Moterra SL.

That’s a Fox 36 there, not a Fox 34. That’s piggyback reservoir rear shock there, not an undernourished inline affair with no guts. And there’s decent size dropper posts. Proper four-out disc brakes and rotors. Tyres that can actually be ridden on Real Trails. 30mm internal width rims. Lock-on grips. Wide bars. Proper saddle.

Geometry time!

Any bike – especially a mountain bike – sinks or swims by its geometry. If the geometry isn’t up to it, it doesn’t matter how fancy the carbon is or how good the components are. It’ll be a dud.

The geometry on the Cannondale Moterra SL is exceptional. Honestly, they’ve knocked it out of the park with this one. It can do steep downs. It can do steep ups. Crucially, it is engaging to ride on the things that are not steep in any incline.

The geometry – and the suspension kinematic for that matter – is proportional. In other words, it’s different per frame size. The idea being that, to the rider on board, a Small Moterra SL rides just like an Extra Large Moterra SL.

We have a Large here so here goes: 445mm seat tube (plentiful standover and drooper insertion), 453mm chain stays (a nice, modern, all-round length), low-slung 335mm bottom bracket height, middling 470mm reach, super-nice steep 77° seat angle and that aforementioned “bonkers” slack 62.5° head angle (which actually just feels totally fine and normal). If 62.5° scares you, the headset cups are reversible, which steepens things to 63.7°.

Which Cannondale Moterra SL to go for?

Cannondale Moterra SL 2

There is a Moterra SL 2 for £6,550 that takes a step down or two in tier as regards suspension, drivetrain and wheelset (but truth-be-told, looks like it’d be every bit as good to ride).

  • Frame // Series 1 Carbon, 150mm
  • Fork // Fox Float 36 Performance, 160mm
  • Shock // Fox Float X Performance Elite, 210x55mm
  • Wheels // WTB KOPM Tiough i30 rims on Formula (F) and DT Swiss 370 (R) hubs
  • Front tyre // Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 29×2.5in
  • Rear tyre // Maxxis Dissector EXO 27.5×2.4in
  • Chainset // E13 E-Spec Plus, 165mm length, 34T
  • Drivetrain // Shimano Deore/XT, 10-51T
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore 6120 4-pot, 203/203mm
  • Stem // Cannondale 1 35, 40mm
  • Bars // Cannondale 3 Alloy 35, 800x25mm rise
  • Grips // Cannondale TaperRidge Lock-on
  • Seatpost // Cannondale DownLow 150mm (S), 170mm (M-XL), 31.6mm
  • Saddle // Fizik Terra Ridon X5
  • Bottom Bracket // Shimano
  • Motor // Shimano EP801, 85Nm
  • Battery // Custom 601Wh
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL

Cannondale Moterra SL 1

We have featured the Cannondale Moterra SL 1 in this deep dive guide. This model retails at £8,550.

  • Frame // Series 1 Carbon, 150mm
  • Fork // Fox Float 36 Factory GRIP2, 160mm
  • Shock // Fox Float X Factory, 210x55mm
  • Wheels // DT Swiss XM 1700
  • Front tyre // Maxxis Minion DHF 3C MaxxGrip EXO 29×2.5in
  • Rear tyre // Maxxis Dissector 3C MaxxTerra EXO 27.5×2.4in
  • Chainset // E13 E-Spec Plus, 165mm length, 34T
  • Drivetrain // SRAM AXS X0 Eagle T-Type, 10-52T
  • Brakes // SRAM Code Silver Stealth, 200/200mm
  • Stem // Cannondale 1 35, 40mm
  • Bars // Cannondale HollowGram SAVE Carbon, 780x30mm rise
  • Grips // Cannondale TaperRidge Lock-on
  • Seatpost // Cannondale DownLow 150mm (S), 170mm (M-XL), 31.6mm
  • Saddle // Fizik Terra Ridon X3
  • Bottom Bracket // Shimano
  • Motor // Shimano EP801, 85Nm
  • Battery // Custom 601Wh
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL

Cannondale Moterra SL LAB71

There is also the Moterra SL LAB71 with the fancier carbon frame, carbon wheelset and wireless everything that retails at why-are-you-even-asking £12,500.

  • Frame // LAB71 Series Carbon, 150mm
  • Fork // Fox Float 36 Performance, 160mm
  • Shock // Fox Float X Performance Elite, 210x55mm
  • Wheels // DT Swiss MXC 1501 Carbon
  • Front tyre // Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 3C MaxxGrip 29×2.5in
  • Rear tyre // Maxxis Dissector EXO 3C MaxxTerra 27.5×2.4in
  • Chainset // E13 E-Spec Race Carbon Gen 4, 165mm length, 34T
  • Drivetrain // SRAM AXS XX Eagle T-Type, 10-52T
  • Brakes // SRAM Code Ultimate, 200/200mm
  • Stem // OneUp 35
  • Bars // OneUp Carbon Ebar, 780x35mm rise
  • Grips // Cannondale TaperRidge Lock-on
  • Seatpost // RockShox Reverb AXS 150mm (S), 170mm (M-XL), 31.6mm
  • Saddle // Fizik Terra Ridon X1
  • Bottom Bracket // Shimano
  • Motor // Shimano EP801, 85Nm
  • Battery // Custom 601Wh
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL

cannondale.com


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Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • Cannondale Moterra SL: Deep Dive into Lightweight, Full Power eMTB
  • rockhopper70
    Full Member

    Looks a great bike, and seems to be picking up some good reviews.  Full power and range without being a heavy old lump.

    As a self confessed Cannondale fan (still have a 2004 Jekyll with Lefty and currently have a 2017 Carbon Habit), I reckon that Cannondale have made this bike with a “Cannondale uniqueness” ie, the flex stay, sufficient to put people off, so if it doesn’t sell as planned, and when it gets to a more sensible price. I may be tempted.

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