Wearing brass knuckles to a boxing match? The new Cannondale Moterra SL enters the ring of “light” eMTBs, but heavily armed! The lightweight eMTB weighs in at under 20 kg, though with a full-power Shimano EP801 motor and 601 Wh battery. We revisit the “light” eMTB discussion, and put the € 9,999 Moterra SL1 to the test.

Cannondale Moterra SL 1 | Shimano EP801/601 Wh | 160/150 mm (f/r)
20.08 kg in size L | € 9,999 | Manufacturer’s website

Cannondale are out to set a new eMTB record with their 2024 Moterra SL, tipping the scales at just 19.3 kg in the lightest version. And that’s with at least 85 Nm and a 600 Wh capacity. We’re yet to find anything as light with that kind of power. This is due to the fact that Cannondale rely on the full-power Shimano EP801 motor, paired with a 601 Wh battery. The motor system is housed in a full-carbon frame, offering 160/150 mm travel (f/r), and rolling on a mullet wheel setup. We put it to the test.

When is a light eMTB a light eMTB?

This is the elephant in a room full of eMTB engineers and designers. There must be a distinction between lightness in the sense of weight, and lightness in the sense of support. In our motor group test, we compared minimal-assist motors with their full-power counterparts, among other things. However, Cannondale didn’t take the light-assist route, creating a lightweight eMTB with full-power support instead. The thinking is that if you want less support, you can always select a lower mode, but you can’t just make the bike lighter. So, the Moterra SL promises to be a full-grown ebike, with full support, equipped with an appropriately sized battery, and with all the amenities, but with the handling of a light eMTB. We put it to the test to find out if it can deliver.

If you want a light-assist eMTB, you can always change the support mode, but you can’t just make a bike lighter.

The 2024 Cannondale Moterra SL1 in detail

The new Moterra SL from Cannondale looks blazingly fast. The seat stays and the shock, which sits parallel to the top tube, form a straight line. The frame is made entirely of carbon and the linkage is based on the classic Horst-Link design, though the rear end is made of one piece – how is that possible? Cannondale relies on flex stays instead of pivot points. The chainstays taper towards the rear axle and become quite flat, which defines the flex zone in the carbon, and replaces a classic pivot with ball bearings by allowing the chainstays to bend. This makes for an axle path that’s comparable to Horst-Link rear suspension while getting rid of one of the pivot points and its bearings, thereby saving weight, reducing complexity, and minimising the need for maintenance. The large chainstay protector wraps all the way around the flex zone on the drive side. However, the flex zone on the non-drive-side is also covered by a short rubber boot because they couldn’t apply any paint here due to the desired deformation – the paint would probably crack and peel off.

Weird flex, bro! The only thing flexing here are the flex stays on the rear end of the Moterra SL. They reduce the number of bearings required, and thereby also the maintenance.

The bike’s slender down tube houses a 601 Wh battery, and offers space for a water bottle in all frame sizes. To keep the frame weight to a minimum, Cannondale couldn’t cut a big hole in the down tube, so the battery is permanently integrated. The Moterra is offered with two options for the cable routing: internally via ports in the frame, or via the Acros headset. That means the frame isn’t quite as clean as it could be, but home-mechanics will be happy about having the option.

The motor system of the 2024 Cannondale Moterra SL1

Cannondale have chosen to go with the Shimano EP801 for the motor. According to them, it’s the lightest full-power system and also has an interface that accommodates their desired kinematics. The motor is capable of churning our 85 Nm of torque, and the latest Shimano EP801 iteration feels noticeably more powerful than before. The wide adjustability in the app is perfect for ebike nerds who know what “pedal response time” means. If that isn’t something you care too much about, Cannondale have two pre-configured modes for you to choose from: Trail 1 and 2. Shimano’s standard Eco and Boost modes are still there too.

The Shimano EP801 motor is beautifully integrated into the frame, and it hardly stands out. Thanks to the permanently integrated battery, Cannondale were able to keep the down tube particularly slender.

The charging port is rubberised and seals off both internally and externally. You shouldn’t have any problems with water ingress here.

Because Shimano have approved third-party batteries, Cannondale were able to pair the motor with a battery that has a particularly light case. The 601 Wh Darfon battery is permanently integrated into the down tube. You’ll find the charging port on the side of the seat tube, and there’s no range extender option. There are two ways to check the battery level on the Moterra SL. First, there’s the minimalist Shimano EW-SW 310 display with 6 LEDs embedded in the top tube, indicating the support mode via different colours. However, both Trail modes are green and can only be distinguished by the sequence. Blue stands for Eco, and yellow means Boost. The remaining semi-circle of 5 LEDs shows the battery status in 20% increments. On the left side of the handlebar you’ll find the more data-rich SC-EM800 LCD colour display, and the remote, both of which are wired. Pro tip: if you’re happy with the modes, you can remove both of these from the handlebar and only use the EW-SW 310 display in the top tube. It has an on/off switch and a button to scroll through the modes, and thus offers the necessary functions for all those who can do without multiple displays and Bluetooth connectivity on the go.

The Shimano handlebar remote…

… and the colour display on the handlebar can be omitted if you can do without Bluetooth connectivity.

The EW-SW 310 unit in the top tube is sufficient for the most essential tasks, like switching the system on/off and changing support modes. That’s the only way to make the bike look even cleaner.

The components of the 2024 Cannondale Moterra SL1

The € 9,999 Cannondale Moterra SL1 comes equipped with premium components. Starting with the FOX suspension consisting of a 160 mm travel 36 Factory fork boasting the golden Kashima coating. The FOX FLOAT X Factory shock manages 150 mm travel at the rear and features the same coating. Both of them are highly responsive and offer extensive adjustability. The Cannondale DownLow dropper post is sourced in-house and offers 170 mm drop from frame size M upwards (150 mm for size S), coupled with easy actuation at the remote. You get MAGURA MT7 brakes paired with 203 mm rotors front and rear to keep your speed in check. These offer ample stopping power. The wireless SRAM X0 Eagle AXS Transmission drivetrain goes nice and easy on the chain. Shifting through the 12 gears remains smooth even under full load. The aluminium DT Swiss XM1700 mullet wheels are shod with a MAXXIS DHF tire up front and DISSECTOR at the rear. Both of them have to make do with the harder MaxxTerra rubber compound, and EXO+ casing.

Tuning Tip: Lower the cockpit by removing a few spacers under the stem, thereby putting more weight on the front wheel.

Cannondale Moterra SL 1

€ 9,999


Motor Shimano EP801 85 Nm
Battery Darfon Custom 601 Wh
Display Shimano SC-EM800
Fork FOX 36 Factory 160 mm
Rear Shock FOX Float X Factory 150 mm
Seatpost Cannondale Down Low 170 mm
Brakes Magura MT7 203/203 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X0 AXS Eagle Transmission 1x12
Stem Cannondale 1 35 mm
Handlebar HollowGram SAVE 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XM 1700 29"/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS DHF MaxxTerra EXO+/ Dissector MaxxTerra EXO+ 2.5"/2.4"

Technical Data

Size S M L XL
Weight 20.08 kg
Perm. total weight 150 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 129 kg
Trailer approval no
Kickstand mount no

The different model variants of the 2024 Cannondale Moterra SL

In addition to the SL1 on test, the Cannondale Moterra SL comes in two other builds, both featuring carbon frames and well-specced components. The flagship Cannondale Moterra SL LAB71 model sets new standards with its whopping € 13,999 price point. It boasts the same high-end suspension as our Moterra SL1 test bike, namely a FOX 36 Factory fork and Float X Factory shock. Other than that, the LAB71 build relies entirely on SRAM components, including the lighter SRAM XX Eagle AXS Transmission drivetrain, offering first-class performance and a slightly lower weight compared to the X0 on our test bike. The 170 mm RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post allows for lightning-fast wireless adjustment, while the SRAM CODE Ultimate Stealth brakes provide reliable stopping power. Carbon DT Swiss XMC 1501 wheels, and a carbon OneUp handlebar help bring the total weight to a record breaking 19.5 kg, in size M, with tubeless sealant in the tires.

Cannondale Moterra SL LAB71 | Shimano EP801/601 Wh | 160/150 mm (f/r)
19.5 kg (manufacturer’s specifications) | € 13,999 | Manufacturer’s website

For € 7,999, the Cannondale Moterra SL2 presents a more affordable alternative. Despite the lower price point, they haven’t cut corners, and the savings don’t come at the cost of performance where it matters. The suspension consists of Performance Elite variants of the FOX 36 fork and FLOAT X shock, both of which are fully adjustable, just without the golden Kashima coating. The mechanical Shimano XT drivetrain ensures reliable shifting, while the MAGURA MT5 brakes offer solid braking performance. Stan’s wheels make the bike a sensible option for riders with an eye on value for money.

Cannondale Moterra SL 1 | Shimano EP801/601 Wh | 160/150 mm (f/r)
20.6 kg (manufacturer’s specifications) | € 7,999 | Manufacturer’s website

The geometry of the Cannondale Moterra SL1 – Extreme, but adjustable

The geometry of the Cannondale Moterra SL is characterised by the extreme head angle, putting the bike in downhill territory at 62.5°. However, the bike comes with a variable Acros headset. This allows you to steepen the head angle by up to 1.2° in 0.6° steps. An additional flip chip in the shock mount lets you convert to a full 29er setup instead of the smaller 27.5″ mullet rear wheel. Nevertheless, the seat tube angle remains steep and efficient at 77° – in the slack setting – and the 470 mm reach is moderate for frame size L. The Cannondale Moterra SL is available in four sizes from S to XL. From size M upwards, the chainstays increase in length in order to maintain the balance and handling across all frame sizes. The chainstay lengths vary from 449 mm (S), to 453 mm (M and L) and 458 mm (XL), putting them on the longer side of the spectrum.

Size S M L XL
Seat tube 380 mm 400 mm 445 mm 490 mm
Top tube 537 mm 559 mm 584 mm 621 mm
Head tube 115 mm 125 mm 135 mm 145 mm
Head angle 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5°
Seat angle 77° 77° 77° 77°
Chainstays 449 mm 449 mm 453 mm 458 mm
BB Drop 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm
Wheelbase 1,219 mm 1,248mm 1,283mm 1,327mm
Reach 420 mm 445 mm 470 mm 505 mm
Stack 630 mm 639 mm 648 mm 657 mm

Riding the Cannondale Moterra SL1 2024

Sitting aboard the size L Cannondale Moterra SL1, you’ll feel nicely integrated with the bike, while having to reach for the bars slightly, which results in a sporty position on level terrain, though without feeling too stretched out. The riding position feels relaxed yet appropriately aggressive on the climbs. As such, the bike offers a balanced feel even on long rides, regardless of the topography. The front wheel stays planted no matter how technical and steep the climbs, and the Shimano EP801 motor delivers powerful assistance. It makes easy work of demanding climbs. The Trail 1 and 2 support modes are well tuned and offer natural handling – Trail 2 is particularly adaptive and increases the output depending on the situation and your pedalling input on the cranks. The only downside is the high-pitched hum of the Shimano motor, which disturbs the peace somewhat on the climbs.

Quite the powerhouse! The Shimano EP801 motor feels more powerful than ever since the latest update.

On the descents, you’re positioned squarely between front and rear wheels, feeling balanced and at one with the bike. The suspension of the Moterra is rather firm and offers lots of support, especially at the rear. You can actively pump the bike through rollers and berms, generating plenty of speed on flow trails. And the rider always gets ample feedback from the trail. The Cannondale Moterra SL1 has no problems sticking to the desired line. The handling is very precise and always goes where you point the front wheel, so you can leave the brakes open even through rough terrain.

The bike can play to its strengths on fast straights and long open corners, whereas quick direction changes and tight bends demand more input from the rider. Due to the bike’s low weight of just under 20 kg, however, it doesn’t require too much effort to manoeuvre, and it’s fun to ride actively. Unless adequately weighted, the front wheel tends to wash out through open corners. Lowering the cockpit by removing a spacer from under the stem, or a softer MaxxGrip rubber compound on the front tire can mitigate this issue. The pronounced composure of the Moterra SL1 comes into its own on fast, demanding trails. Due to the slack head angle, the bike feels a bit sluggish and loses its liveliness on slower, single-track terrain.

Who is the Cannondale Moterra SL1 2024 for?

The Cannondale Moterra SL is a great choice for weight weenies who want a powerful motor. It’s ideal for riders who feel comfortable on shaped flow trails as well as demanding descents. Those who tend to ride on slow and tight trails strewn with obstacles will have less fun aboard the Moterra. On the other hand, the Cannondale Moterra SL offers an ideal solution for those who can’t decide between a light or full-power ebike. Thanks to its low weight, indecisive riders can ride in a lower support mode for a more natural ride feel and maximum range, or benefit from the full 85 Nm, offering the versatility for a wide range of scenarios.

Helmet Troy Lee Designs A3 | Glasses Oakley Sutro | Shirt Monserat F02 | Pants Monserat TP2B | Shoes Crankbrothers Mallet E Speedlace | Socks STANCE

Our conclusion on the Cannondale Moterra SL1 2024

Cannondale have reimagined the light eMTB concept, and the American brand prove to be right. The Moterra SL is a successful debut in a sector that isn’t yet clearly defined. It turns out to be a versatile and powerful eMTB for riders who like tackling fast, technically demanding trails, and where minimal weight can make all the difference.


  • low weight with a full-power motor
  • exciting rear linkage concept with flex stays
  • well-defined suspension with a lot of support


  • slightly cumbersome on quick direction changes

For more info, visit cannondale.com

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Words: Julian Schwede Photos: Salva Moreno; Kike Abelleira; Julian Schwede

About the author

Julian Schwede

Juli is used to dealing with big rigs. Besides working on his bike, he also tinkered and worked on buses after completing his training as a vehicle mechatronics engineer. Since the development of large-scale electric motors was too slow for him, he went on to study technical business administration while building carbon fibre tables on the side. Though his DJ bike is welded from thick aluminium tubes, his full-susser is made of carbon and it's already taken him to the top of numerous summits. Apart from biking, he likes climbing via ferratas or vertically on the wall. Nowadays, his personal bike gets ridden less as he tests the bikes that get sent to us, pushing them to their limits to see what they're capable of. In addition to bike reviews, Juli also takes care of the daily news and thinks of himself as the Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent.