The Moterra Neo 5. Is this Cannondale electric bike a track schredder or corner cutter?
Cannondale Electric Mountain Bikes are considered by many to be the best of the best. But, are they? I look at the latest budget entry to the Cannondale electric bike MTB range to find out.
I’m in my 60s and struggle to find the energy to tackle steep hills on rides. I still love to take on the single-track trails in the hills around my home but lack the energy I once had.
The performance of some components has been compromised to keep the price down. This e bike is not a track shredder! The Cannondale Moterra Neo 5 electric mountain bike is, however, a great budget entry to the eMTB world. It is a great option when making the transition from pedal powered mountain bikes.
So, what compromises do Cannondale make to get their budget model to market? There are now three models in the Moterra Neo range in the US. The flagship Neo 1, the mid range Neo 3, and their most recent, lowest cost, Neo 5.
Their Monterra Neo 5 keeps the geometry of the other full suspension eMTBs in the Monterra line up. This model is designed as a stable all rounder that will do everything well.
The Moterra Neo 5 is a full suspension mountain bike that has been pared back to reduce cost. Where both the Moterra Neo 3, and the Moterra Neo 1, are great uphill climbers with stable performance on fast, rough downhill tracks. Neo 5 MTB’s, however, are not as accomplished.
The Neo 5 cuts corners in several areas. Batteries lose 200Wh compared to those of higher spec models. Shimano E7000 electric motors output the standard 250 Watt maximum power common for this class of eMTB. Although power output is standard for this eMTB class, the Shimano engine drops maximum torque to 60Nm. This is 30% down on the torque of the Bosch motors used on Cannondale’s top spec mountain bikes.
Cannondale electric bikes are famous for their carbon monocoque frames. They swap carbon frames for alloy on this electric mountain bike,. The forks, damping, brake and drive train have all taken a hit in quality.
There is much compromise to lower the price of the Moterra Neo 5 and, a great deal to examine in the value proposition.
Weight of the Cannondale Moterra Neo 5
The bike weighs 53 pounds, which felt heavy at first. After 15 minutes, though, I had adapted to the extra kilos of the motor and battery. The additional weight makes the bike more of a handful to throw round corners but advantages come on the uphill sections and tackling obstacles.
Hills are far less of an issue with the additional power kicking in. Further to this, when I got used to the weight difference, I found that the e-bike furnished a real improvement in stability downhill. The additional weight and 29” wheels on the Moterra Neo 5 ride bumps far better than lighter bikes.
The engine is down on torque compared to top range e bike motors, but is strong enough for most riders. The engine adds smooth, controllable power to the pedals.
The slimline motor profile maintains a Q factor of 177 mm (Q factor is the width between the bicycle pedals). Most professional riders consider a Q factor of 170 mm to be the sweet spot for mountain biking. The relatively slim Q factor on this electric mountain bike renders a more natural pedaling position which helps rider endurance.
The Shimano E7000 electric motor does, however, provide three levels of pedal assistance: Eco, Trail, and Boost.
I conserve the battery by using Eco on flat or level terrain when I’m riding on the road to the trails. I switch to Trail mode for hills or bumpy spots and I save Boost mode for the real nasty inclines and the long uphill drawls.
With conservative power assistance, I find I can coax around 20 miles of travel before the battery will “shuffle off its mortal coil”.
The battery provides the life expected of a brand name mountain bike in this price bracket.
The Moterra range all feature a bottle holder low in the frame that can accommodate a range extender battery. There are several after market range extender batteries that dispense an additional 208Wh of charge for a little over $300. In theory, range extender batteries should add a further 40% travel distance on a single charge.
Battery extenders are a cost effective way to stretch the duration of a ride. We can easily remove them to keep weight down when they are not required. I had access to a battery extender, which I left at the bottom of the track I was riding. After my second circuit of the track, I picked up the extender to help keep power support from the motor.
Cannondale Moterra Neo 5 Frame
In the 2021 line up, Cannondale condescended to offer an alloy frame MTB to drop the entry price of the Moterra Neo 5. This is the lowest spec full suspension eMTB in the Cannondale range. Although the lower price opens this entry level eMTB to a wider audience, the full suspension, high spec ebike is still aimed at the enthusiast.
Say goodbye to any annoying rattling sound of cables rubbing and squeaking against your frame. The cables do not run inside the handlebars. The Cannondale electric bikes route cables inside the frame. Cables are fixed at the entry points, so you can enjoy riding without any distractions.
The 2 caliper systems require a little more effort than the exceptional 4 caliper brakes on other Monterra models. Let’s face it though, few riders would be brave enough to grab a handful of front stopper on loose gravel. 4 caliper brakes are more about ease of use than effective stopping power.
Personally, I don’t mind having to pull a little harder to stop the bike. Having to grab hard on the levers makes it a lot less likely that you will lock the front. This means that you are less likely to be wondering why you ended up sitting in mud.
At full lock, the fork stanchions hit the frame. This gives the Neo 5 a wide turning circle, making tight turning maneuvers a little awkward.
Downhill ride suffers with the SR Suntour XCR front forks only providing 140 mm travel.
Higher spec Cannondale Monterra Neo electric mountain bikes are fitted with RockShox ZEB Enduro forks. The 38mm stanchions and 180mm travel make the Neo Carbon a stunning “all rounder”. Where higher spec full suspension Cannondale eMTBs are extremely planted, and exciting downhill, the Neo 5 front forks left me feeling nervous. I certainly felt the front wheel hitting the biggest rocks very hard. This threw the bike off balance, forcing me to slow down, to recapture some confidence and control.
This electric mountain bike is still good fun when motoring through downhill sections. Limitations of the fork travel, linked with the relaxed frame geometry, take the edge off the e bike’s capability. Reduced travel and damping of the forks push the Neo 5 towards Alpine Tourer rather than a downhill track demon.
Cannondale Moterra Neo 5 Price
This eMTB has a retail price of $4,500 which most of us would class as a mid-cost e bike. Although expensive, this Cannondale electric bike can be classed as a budget price for a brand name, full suspension mountain bike.
For the prestigious Cannondale brand name, this is the cheapest, full suspension mountain bike in their range. The next model up, (The Cannondale Moterra Neo 3) costs an additional $1300, which is almost 30% more expensive.
- A lower powered 500Wh battery pack erodes the travel distance you can expect from a single charge.
- Cannondale compromise engine torque with a sub optimal Shimano engine which produces 60Nm max torque output.
- Reduced fork travel and damping impair fast downhill capability.
Cannondale has spent quite some time and effort on their entry level electric mountain bike.
The Moterra NEO 5 is an electric mountain bike that will tackle fast downhill tracks. You will however be constantly on the lookout for large obstacles.
Pedaling is comfortable and riding position is gentle on the wrists. The ride and sitting position on this e bike MTB are relaxed. It is the perfect bike for someone who loves to take long challenging rides. The bike is a great Alpine tourer that you can push past its comfort zone.
This Cannondale electric bike is a sweet ride at this price. The best deal you’ll find in the current market is right here. With this bike, I can finally climb steep hills without stopping, and I’m riding more often than ever.