- Cannondale Moto Carbon 1
- Lightweight, long travel and eyecatching
All dimensions based on Medium frame
|Effective top tube length (TT)||590mm (23.2in)||603mm (23.7in)|
|Chainstay (CS)||425mm (16.7in)||420mm (16.5in)|
|BB height (BB)||375mm (14.7in)||363mm (14.3in)|
The new All Mountain range of Cannondales has been around for a while now, but we haven’t seen that many of them out there. Of course, that may have something to do with the price tag – at £4,399 you’ll need to be stuffed of wallet for this one…
Along with the lively colour scheme (a stealthier black/gray option is also available), the frame has a fair amount going on. The front triangle is a full carbon monococque, with aluminium inserts for the headtube and BB shell. The frame (and paint job) is the same on all of the Moto Carbon models – the entry-level Moto 4 has a similar-looking, but aluminium, front end.
The back end is a single pivot aluminium swingarm, with a clear line of evolution from previous Cannondale bikes like the Prophet. 135x12mm Maxle dropouts keep the back end very stiff and at the front end a pair of , attaching it to the front end is a substantial set of pivot bearings.
A change from past Cannondales is the use of linkages to drive the shock. The Hatchet Drive looks similar to Commencal’s Meta platform but upside down, with the key difference that the other end of the shock isn’t attached to the main frame. Instead it’s attached to the swingarm, so the shock is driven from both ends. This has two effects – it allows Cannondale to tune the compression rate of the shock more accurately, and avoids them having to feed and distribute all the shock loads into the carbon frame. The Fox DHX Air 5 shock allowed plenty of scope to set it up well, but even without too much fiddling it pedals remarkably well for a bike of its purpose and travel. The linkage arrangement does mean quite a few bolts to check, though.
Back to the front end, the oversized headtube has an outside diameter of 66.6mm and has been dubbed the Diablo, although you can’t help suspecting that the name came before the dimension. It’s designed to accommodate a 1.5in steerer. Also oversized is the BB shell, which benefits from the addition of carbon plates on either side linking the BB and swingarm pivot in what Cannondale calls the Hot Box. The 1, 2 and 3 models have a conventional threaded BB shell, while the even more expensive Moto Limited has a BB30 setup.
At £4,400, you would expect high end, and Cannondale doesn’t fail to provide. The drivetrain is the not-unusual combination of SRAM X.0 with Shimano XTR cranks, and it all performed as flawlessly as you would expect. The XTR chainset was particularly outstanding – with its low weight and surprising stiffness, it doesn’t seem as out of place on a 160mm travel bike as you’d expect. Magura Louise Carbons stopped the bike with plenty of grace and fared well throughout the test.
The bouncy side of things is taken control of by Fox at both ends. A 36 Talas RC2 up front allowed for plenty of tweaking, to be complimented with a DHX Air 5.0 on the rear. Between them, they offered a vast choice of tuning options, with the inevitable result that the suspension needed some setting up to get the most out of it. Just don’t try to change too many things at once and you’ll be OK.
Wheels are DT Swiss EX1750s. These are DT’s mid-weight freeride wheels, and despite my best crashing efforts they remained true and ding-free. Tyres on the test bike were 2.4in Schwalbe Nobby Nics, although 2009 bikes come with 2.4in Conti Mountain King Supersonics.
Finishing kit included a Gravity stem and carbon bar finished off with Cannondale’s own lock-on grips. Also featured was a Crank Brothers Joplin height-adjustable seatpost, which was a handy piece of kit throughout the test – I used it more than I expected it to, although it already had a bit of slop in it.
Very expensive lightweight carbon bikes are always in danger of being seen as a bit of a poseur’s choice, particularly when they’re as eyecatching as the Moto. But this really is a bike for riding. It manages the neat trick of feeling lighter than it is when you’re pedalling it around, while also feeling sturdier than its weight would suggest. There seems to be some psychological benefit in painted carbon fibre as well – any worries about rock strikes or crash damage are somehow diminished by a simple layer of paint. It’s clearly not just an impression of strength, either – I took the Moto to Alpe d’Huez for the Megavalanche, which it didn’t merely survive but took in its stride, capable of anything I threw at it.
There’s a bit of a disparity between Cannondale’s stated geometry numbers and the ones we measured from the bike itself, almost as if it had a shorter fork on it (yes, the TALAS fork was wound all the way out…). But whatever the numbers, the Moto feels slightly more as if its arrived by way of pumped-up trail bikes rather than slimmed-down DHers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the quick handling made switchbacks that would scare me on other bikes seem ridable, if not easy. And the solid chassis and well-balanced suspension made it a reliable ally on faster, rougher trails. Rock gardens, jumps, flowy singletrack, whatever the trail, it always just felt right.
But do you really need a 160mm bike? Only you can say. Cannondales Rize may be more apropriate for the majority of UK riders. The Moto excelled in Alpine riding, where cross country meets extremely technical descending, real “all mountain” to give it a name. Some would argue that it’s overkill for the UK, although the decent weight and easy pedalling leave few downsides to the trail-gobbling travel.
Positives: Very capable, impressive mix of travel and low weight
Negatives: Lower-specced models offer better value, possibly more bike than you need
The Moto is a lot of bike, a lot of fun too in the right location. But in common with most bigger bikes, unless you regularly ride somewhere brutal enough to warrant the extra travel, you may well have more fun on the shorter travel Rize. The Moto is a hugely capable bike, a real jack of all trades, taking everything in its stride. But before dropping the cash, do consider whether you really need one, and make sure you ride one first. It’s worth a look at the cheaper models in the range, too, given that they all share the same frame. It’s a great performer, but it really needs the right terrain to stand out.