Skip to content
Urban PedalerUrban Pedaler

2024 Cannondale Moterra SL - First Ride Review

Cannondale's newly-released Moterra SL range is claimed to be the lightest full-power, full-range e-mountain bike in the world. With so many brands developing full-steam in this space this is a tall claim, but something more likely to be delivered by one of the bigger bike brands like Cannondale, with their access to engineering and developing technologies. They have trimmed weight and made a couple hard decisions to break into the sub-20kg range for a 150mm travel, fully-equipped bike and it was great to get to ride some production bikes in suitable terrain and put these bikes through their paces.


I joined a small group of riders at the Cannondale Demo Event in Bright, Victoria, here in Australia. Bright is situated in the Ovens Valley at the northern end of Victorian High Country which is home to several snow parks and high peaks spread across the eastern side of Victoria. Conveniently situated within a short ride from the center of this idyllic town is Mystic Bike Park which has a large network of trails and a total of 466m of elevation. One can literally hop on riverside singletrack through town to the entrance to the park, where shuttles and climbing trails take off; a very unique experience when one can park the car on Friday and not have to use it again until Sunday. 


One of the first things that blew my mind was the sensation of "fangin' it" uphill on rocky, twisty singletrack, chasing some fit riders with good bike-handling skills. It was akin to drafting in a pace line on the road bikes. This new sensation immediately set this bike apart from all the other, slightly heavier e-bikes I've ridden and it adds a new level of excitement to climbing. It turns what was once a grueling task into a thrilling uphill session, arriving at the top with adrenaline pumping and fully out of breath. Now the uphill can give me the same feeling that I've had after chasing a group down Flickety Sticks in Derby, Tasmania, and arriving at the bottom, of a seven-minute roller coaster ride, at the edge of our abilities, high-fives all around. Flipping the bike side to side to avoid trailside trees, taking the high line on berms going UPHILL, whipping it around switchbacks and pedalling back up to speed, hitting little kickers on the edge of the trail... It was all there. And it completely replaced the pain and ugliness of a 45min (or longer) climb. I'm sold.


Shimaoo EP8 Moterra SL
Shimano's custom-tuned EP8 electric motor is lightest in class and is a big contributor to the overall weight loss compared to the Bosch units on the standard Moterra Neo models. There are four modes of operation - off, eco, trail, and boost - that provide riders with a range of assistance options to suit their preferences and the demands of the terrain. I found the Trail mode is ideal for tackling technical uphill terrain, striking a balance between power and efficiency. While the boost mode offers maximum assistance, I found it to be overkill in almost all situations, making it important for riders to choose their assistance level wisely to conserve battery power and enhance the overall riding experience. The Eco mode was more than enough for rolling, XC-style terrain and I spent a bit of time rolling with the motor off to see how the bike rode with no assist and I was not disappointed. If I was to run out of power, I can't see many situations where it would be a big deal to just pedal home on my own juice. This version of the EP8 also puts out 85Nm of torque and 600W+ of peak output for those running the numbers.

The frame has a few noteworthy features. First, the FlexPivot chainstay replaces the Horst Pivot which is ever-present on most dual suspensions these days since the expiration of Specialized's patent a few years ago. A well-placed Horst pivot only moves a few degrees through the 150mm of wheel travel, pushing the rear axle ever-so-slightly backward as the wheel moves up, taking a bit out of the arc and giving it a slightly more vertical path. This reduces pedal feedback and makes the brakes work more independently throughout the entire path of the rear wheel's path which gives the rider more control of the bike under braking, even as they enter corrugated and rough corners. The flex of the flex pivot only needs to be a tiny bit to be effective, and with a heavily-protected, thin blade of flexible carbon and fiberglass, this works a treat at reducing unnecessary weight. Kudos to the engineers.
Then, this is a mullet bike, so the 29" front wheel is matched with a 27.5" rear. The smaller rear wheel allows for a lower seat position, shorter chainstays for better handling, and a smaller diameter/lighter wheel for faster spin-up on acceleration. I was impressed as I have ridden mullet bikes before and was never sold on the concept, but I can see the benefits here and I recognise it's where things are headed.

The 62.5 degree head tube angle allows riders to ride the high line on uphill berms with confidence, making challenging sections of uphill trail more manageable and enjoyable, but also making it a monster at gobbling up big bumps going back down. I was dubious about this as I was expecting it to be a little lethargic in handling, but I was surprised to only feel positive results in up and downhill manageability. At the end of the demo day a few of us decided to tackle the double black diamond Elevation Trail from the top of Mystic which is littered with wheel-on-the-ground technical features, a rapid drop in elevation over roots, rocks, multiple line choices that you have to make on the fly while you're riding the rear tyre and gobbling up drop after drop. I was pleased to see how the front wheel stayed well & truly in front of me, not under me, and avoided the wheel traps that tend to toss people arse-over-teakettle; very pleased with the handling.
Shifting - I was happy I got to ride both the SL1 and SL2 models as they have slightly different spec. The Sram and Shimano drive trains delivered smooth and precise shifting under mild pressure, a lot less popping and grinding than the original e-bikes, so I can imagine they'll last a lot longer and save riders a lot of money in the long run. Riding an e-bike is a different experience than an analog bike, and there are several things you start to do differently, shifting be a big one, so you learn to soft-pedal when shifting to avoid grinding, but I was happy to see I could be a bit rough and still get away with it on these new e-bike drives.
When riding uphill at a decent speed, then slowing for a corner or obstacle, one needs to downshift so that once you take off after the corner the motor is there and picks up on your increasing cadence. I found that if I tried to take back off in a high gear, the motor didn't pick up on my intention very quickly and was sluggish until I got my cadence back up, or quickly down-shifted under power. This is no different than riding a non-e-bike, but take note that you can not be lazy with your shifting just because you're on an e-bike.

Braking - One of the things I noticed years ago while riding an e-bike was the fact that I found myself dragging the brake while pedalling uphill into turns. Instead of pausing on the pedals to slow down, one needs to keep the motor pushing to avoid the motor stopping mid-switchback and dropping the bike as you are leaning into the corner at near-zero speed, so I would scrub speed by braking while staying on the pedals. On some of the older models I've ridden, the motor would indeed stop and leave you hanging if you paused on the pedals to navigate a tight spot, clear a rock with the front wheel, or avoid pedal striking a high point along the trail. Then, when you start to pedal again, there would be a pause before it kicked in, leaving you hanging with a 27kg bike pointed uphill - that can get ugly, fast, as I've witnessed a few times. Although I still found myself dragging the brakes to scrub speed headed into an uphill corner, the new EP8 tapers off allowing you to pause for a half-pedal stroke and pick back up without the motor dropping off entirely. And if you stopped long enough for the motor to cut off, it was there when you started pedalling again, immediately. On uphill, tight switchbacks, this was a very nice improvement that I picked up on during the first ascent. This ensures a consistent power delivery and a responsive ride, allowing riders to focus on the trail ahead without distractions.

The Weight! - The Lab71 model will squeak in at 19.5kg with all the stops pulled to get it to it's banter-weight fighting shape, wearing a sweatsuit all day before weigh-in. The SL1 and SL2 come in at a slightly more hydrated 20.5kg, still extremely competitive weights for a full-powered e-bike and not too far off the weights of some of their analog cousins.

Battery and Range - To get down to that incredible weight, the engineers had to make a couple big decisions. The biggest was to have a custom-shaped battery that is built into the frame, and not removable. The electronics and wiring are fully-accessible through the bottom bracket, so mechanics will be happy, but this also means that travel will become a little more complicated where airlines are involved. So, drive your Moterra SL everywhere you want to take it, no flying. That should suit most people fine, but you jet-setters out there might want to take note. You also need to charge the bike near a power outlet and can't leave the dirty bike in the shed and bring the battery inside to charge, a slight inconvenience in some cases. Moterra SL is the first 150mm trail bike to pack 601Wh of power into a 20kg package, so along with that comes a longer battery life than expected. We did two hours and 20km of full up & down singletrack with 3 of 5 bars left on the battery, charged them for 1.5 hours for lunch and a presentation, power gauge showed full, then took them out for a full 20km again, and ended with half the battery left at the end of the day. I could see a rider getting 35km and 4 solid hours out of a full charge, enough for most mortal men & women for a day in the saddle of full-power park mountain biking (for those interested, I did 90% on Trail mode, with the other 10% with it turned off or on Boost). Someone using Eco mode and doing a more sedate adventure ride, I could see this bike stretching to 70-80km.


The Cannondale Moterra SL Ebike offers a new standard of performance and excitement in the world of electric mountain bikes. By expanding the sensation of fun and exhilaration into the uphill portions of a ride, traditionally considered the most challenging and off-putting for new riders, this bike is sure to attract a wider range of riders to the sport of mountain biking and also convert a lot more purists to the darkside of electric bikes - said fully tongue in cheek. Whether you're a seasoned veteran looking to push your limits or a newcomer seeking an accessible entry point, the Cannondale Moterra SL Ebike delivers on all fronts, offering a blend of power, control, and exhilaration that is unmatched in the industry.
As a mountain biker since 1990 who has witnessed and ridden the wave of all the trends that have come & gone through the full mountain bike timeline, I can say that I see a new future for mountain biking with more people involved, more places to ride and the line between e-bikes and normal bikes is very, very fuzzy. Might even get one for myself... 
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..

Cart 0

Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping