- A sturdy, tough looking, urban electric bike that uses smaller 24" wheels paired with fat 2.35" tires providing quick steering, a lower standover height, and improved strength
- Unique Lefty fork adds to the artistic quality of the frame and tight metal fenders, it reduces weight and makes servicing the front wheel slightly easier
- Included folding lock with mount behind seat tube, unique adjustable stem is stronger than most and has a custom tube for the display mount as well as a light mount if you add one aftermarket
- Excellent weight distribution, the fenders rattle a bit, the internally geared hub is clean and can be shifted at standstill but can click and shift slower than a derailleur
The Cannondale Contro E-Rigid takes a unique approach to building a tough urban electric bike. To me, this thing looks mean in all-black with balloon tires, tight alloy fenders, a single-side fork, and internally geared hub. It’s available in two frame sizes and the top tube is sloped, making it approachable for short riders or those with baggy pants. But the real secret is its use of 24″ wheels vs. 26″ or 28″ on most other full sized bicycles. The smaller wheel size improves strength and that is furthered by reinforced eyeletted rims. You sacrifice a bit of comfort with a higher attack angle because the wheels fall into cracks and bumps vs. spanning them, but that’s why Cannondale opted for 2.35″ wide tires that essentially provide a ~26″ ride feel. The increased air volume and range of PSI options, 30 to 65 PSI, let you optimize for squishy comfort or hard efficiency. This is an all-Aluminum rigid e-bike and that provides excellent power transfer from pedaling and motor support regardless of tire pressure. Both wheels and the seat collar are secured with nuts or screws vs. quick release and while the battery pack is removable, the bult-in locking core is very secure… Cannondale even threw in a folding lock and positioned it perfectly just behind the seat tube. You don’t get bottle cage bosses or traditional rack mounting points on this ebike but Cannondale does sell an optional, stylized, rack for $120 which is nice. So the overall length of this bike makes it easier to work with in tight locations, at 67″ for the Large vs. 72″+ on most other bikes. The steering is also quicker, it’s the type of experience you might appreciate when weaving through traffic, parking at crowded racks, or storing inside an urban loft. And the internally geared drivetrain follows suit, there’s no derailleur sticking out on the right side, just waiting to get bumped or thrown out of alignment if the bike tips over. Tough, but also handy, because the 8-speed Shimano Alfine can be shifted at standstill… perfect for those moments when you have to make a quick stop and didn’t have time to think about shifting down.
Driving the bike is a Bosch Performance Line mid-motor that matches the frame beautifully and positions weight low and center, right where you want it for riding or lifting/transporting. This motor is rated at 250 watts nominal but that’s kind of misleading because it peaks out over 500 watts and can produce up to 63 Newton meters of torque, way more than high-rated hub motors. You get the benefit of leverage with this motor, as you switch gears the motor benefits for climbing or reaching and maintaining the 20 mph top speed. It’s super efficient in this sense, if you shift appropriately, and has shift detection software designed to reduce strain on the geared hub (especially if you update the firmware at your local shop to the latest version). With only one sprocket at the front and rear, the chain doesn’t bounce around and you shouldn’t ever have an issue with it falling off. The chainring spins at 2.5x the rate of your crank arms and this provides a tighter grip, according to Bosch, and I believe it also makes it faster to start and stop. The motor controller measures rear wheel speed, pedal cadence, and pedal torque 1,000x per second to give you a fluid, instantaneous ride. Another big important characteristic for urban riders who might be surrounded by pedestrians, other cyclists, and automobiles etc.
Powering the Contro E-Rigid is a Bosch Powerpack 400 battery positioned between the top tube and downtube. It’s well protected here and again, keeps weight low and centered on the frame. You can unlock the pack on the left side of the frame using one of the two included keys and then it sort of unclips upwards. There’s just enough room to reach in and grab the top loop to lift it out. I tend to bring my battery inside for charging and safe storage… as well as the display panel. Both parts are replaceable if something happens but there’s going to be less weather damage and scratching if you bring them with you. The battery offers 36 volts and 11 amp hours for nearly 400 watt hours of total capacity, a bit above average. You can expect upwards of 25 miles per charge (and I mean that like, heavy rider, lots of hills, wind in your face, highest level of assist). As someone who rides in the mid-level assist mode and doesn’t weigh a lot, I can easily top 45 miles and even reach 60+ in optimal conditions. One thing that’s cool about Bosch is that they are a large company with lots of resources and some good forsight. They chose to use the same battery pack size and mounting interface for the latest Powerpack 500 which offers 25% more capacity with only 0.3 lbs increased weight. Considering the Powerpack 400 only weighs 5.4 lbs, that’s awesome. And you can upgrade to this pack once the stock battery eventually wears out after 1,000+ cycles or several years of use. It’s a great system but one that does expose the battery a bit more, it’s not hidden inside the frame tubing… but that also makes it easier to get off. You can also charge the pack while mounted to the bike frame and the charger fills quickly because it’s a 4 Amp design vs. 2 Amps with a lot of other e-bikes.
Operating the bike is quick and intuitive, once the pack is charged and mounted, just press the power button on the lower left corner of the display panel. It blinks on, showing your current speed, battery level, assist level (starting at no assist), and a trip stat. You can cycle through all of the trip stats such as odometer, trip distance, clock, and range by pressing the i button on the display panel or the remote button pad, mounted near the left grip. I love how easy it is to reach and use this button pad, even without looking down at it. You can feel the rubber convex i button in the center and two clickers for up and down just above and below the i. These up and down keys click when you press them and raise or lower the assist level. The display itself is large and easy to read… but a little less adjustable on the Cannondale Contro E-Rigid than some other Bosch-powered ebikes. This is because of the heavy-duty adjustable stem design. It surrounds and protects the display from beneath, but doesn’t let it swivel forward and back as far. Anyway, the display is backlit and can control integrated lights if you have your shop add them. And the front light bracket is perfect for use with a Supernova E3 E-Bike V6s headlight. You could add the three-LED rear light near the disc brake mount on the left side of the bike too. I’d opt for this, even though it’s more expensive than the rubberized clip-on lights, because you don’t have to worry so much about theft, charging, or aim. Supernova makes great products that would look awesome on this bike and stay out of the way but I suppose that adding them would have increased the price point and in my opinion, $3,490 is pretty good for a 2016 model year bike like this.
Cannondale has a great reputation for frame building and you can see them showing it off here. The Contro E-Rigid marches to the beat of its own urban drummer… or drum machine. It looks cool but has a reason there as well, it really is tough and bolstered against the sort of wear-and-tear that bike racks, stairs, cars, rain, and dirt that cities like New York are known for. The internally geared hub did click a bit when riding but worked well as I learned how and when to shift. The fenders rattled a little bit, but that might have been more pronounced due to the quiet single-sprocket drivetrain and silent freewheel. The tires really shine, and I mean that literally, with some reflective branding accents on the side. The all-black frame looks cool but please do consider some lights, even wearing some on your pack or just having reflective clothing. Big thanks to Chris Nolte from Propel Bikes in Brooklyn for taking me out with this bike, he carries products that I don’t always see at other shops because his clientele is international and perhaps has additional discretionary income from not owning automobiles in the city. If I were buying this bike, I’d probably get a shim like this to convert to 31.6 mm and swap the rigid all-Aluminum post for a Suntour NCX suspension post to help support my back and neck on all of the city bumps and potholes. I suppose that even in the winter with some snow, the fatter tires and checkered pattern chosen here would perform quite well.
- The “rigid” portion of the bike’s name is on point, you don’t get suspension on this ebike but the larger tires can reduce vibration and bumps if lowered slightly (the range is 30 to 65 psi), I would also consider a seat post suspension but the 34.9 mm diameter is unique and might require a shim adapter
- I love how tight and clean the fenders are… the smaller 24″ wheel size with those fat tires gets close to a 26″ effective diameter and you could end up with toe strikes when turning if the fenders stuck out further
- Cannondale is known for their Lefty forks, you get an interesting look here and possibly reduced weight, I like the robust adjustable-angle stem, and unique rear dropouts too
- The drivetrain is clean and reliable, there’s only one sprocket in the front and one in the rear because it uses an internally geared hub vs. cassette and derailleur, it weighs a bit more but can be shifted at standstill, Shimano recommends a yearly alignment checkup with an oil bath to keep it running smooth
- You get a Trelock TWO.GO folding lock with the bike, it’s mounted behind the seat tube, out of the way (and this helps to make up for no bottle cage bosses in my opinion)
- The frame is available in two sizes to fit a wider range of cyclists, I like how the top tube is sloped downward to lower the standover height and that the smaller wheelset lowers the overall height of the bike
- Hydraulic disc brakes offer excellent stopping power and easier activation, the brake levers have adjustable reach making them easier to use for people with small hands or when wearing gloves
- You get a great kickstand, it’s positioned towards the back of the bike which keeps it out of the way of the crank arm but not so far back that it interferes with the disc brake
- This is a minor pro, but you get a larger plastic chainring cover that helps pants and skirts to slough over the chainring (keeping them clean and snag-free), I would appreciate a longer actual chain cover like Felt uses on some of their ebikes, but this is better than nothing
- You can change the plastic color inserts to stylize the bike, the demo model I was testing in the reviews had bright green accents but they also have blue and grey
- The battery pack and display panel are removable which is great when you are parking outside and need to charge inside or just protect from the weather… or trying to reduce the weight of the bike for transport
- This electric bicycle is well-balanced front to rear, the motor and battery weight are positioned low and center on the frame and they blend in nicely with the black frame
- I feel like the Contro E-Rigid would be great for urban riding, and you need responsive assist for that setting because of the pedestrians and automobiles, so it’s great that the Bosch drive system measures wheel speed, pedal cadence,
and pedal torque vs. just one or two signals on a lot of other ebikes
- The Bosch battery pack has a loop at the top, making it easy to carry around, and I appreciate that they provide a slightly faster 4 Amp battery charger vs. the standard 2 Amp I see with a lot of competing products
- The bike corners well and feels nimble thanks to those smaller wheels, I think the overall length is shorter as well (if you’ve got limited parking space, sorry I didn’t get that measurement)
- The display panel has a Micro-USB port on the right side that puts out 5 Volts at 500 milliamps which could maintain a phone or power a small aftermarket headlight
- Sometime around early 2017 Bosch pushed a software update that makes shift detection work better for internally geared hubs, consider having your shop update the bike’s firmware to get this if you get a bike like the Centro E-Rigid here
- No bottle cage bosses or rack mounting points for third-party rack solutions (though you can get the Cannondale specific rack), the frame is just so unique… I guess they wouldn’t work with other solutions?
- I have found that internally geared hubs don’t shift quite as fast as derailleurs, especially if you’ve got pressure on the drivetrain, it might take some practice to become familiar… notice the clicking noises when I shift in the video review when the camera is mounted near the drivetrain at around 18:44
- The pedals are kind of lame if you have larger feet or plan to ride in wet conditions, they can be slippery and just don’t offer as much space as I’d like, consider the affordable alloy Wellgo platform pedals or spend a bit more for lightweight Magnesium Wellgo pedals with adjustable pins
- The smaller diameter wheels are strong and make the bike stand over height lower but they can also put the pedals closer to the ground which can lead to dragging if you turn sharp, always lift the inner pedal up when turning
- I’d love to see integrated lights, some shops can add them and wire directly into the battery pack (Cannondale included a light mount that would work well with a Supernova headlight, they added the mount because of the unique stem and larger Bosch Intuvia display which take up space at the center of the handlebars), Supernova also makes a small LED backlight which mounts on the left side of the dropout near the disc brake, at least with the Contro E-Rigid you get some reflective paint on the tires and standard plastic reflectors to stay visible
- The display panel can’t angle as far forward or back as it normally does on other Bosch powered ebikes, this is due to the unique oversized stem
- The fenders do rattle a bit, you can hear them during the ride test… even though they feel solid etc. there’s just a bit more noise produced on bumpy streets