When you are a global bicycle giant like Cannondale USA, there will always be the pressure of numbers when it comes to sales. With each passing season, 'Cannondale' bicycles keep getting better, but more expensive. Their answer to combat the entry level Performance MTB segment is the Cannondale Catalyst 3 27.5. We took it out to see if this pressure on pricing has led to a compromise in the Cannondale experience.
Cannondale have leveraged their Trail 8 frame design to be employed on the Catalyst 3. The Catalyst Butted 6061 Alloy frame is built to last, and lives up to Cannondale's reputation of building some of the best frames in the business. The oversized bottom tube that neatly tapers into the sturdy head tube, gives the bike the necessary reinforcement to tackle bad terrain. The overall rider ergo is fairly aggressive for an MTB and puts you in a good position to scout the road ahead. The Bicycle comes equipped with a SR Suntour M3030-27, 75mm Coil spring front suspension system. This is where we were not pleased. The suspension constantly squeaked and did not employ its 75mm travel, and seemed to use only 60-70% of it's capabilities. It felt uneasy when we tested it on harsh terrain and was clearly more comfortable on flat roads with minor undulations. Cannondale could have done better in the suspension department, to compliment its superior frame.
When you first lay eyes on the Cannondale Catalyst 3 27.5 (2016) model, it has a striking resemblance to the brand's 'Trail MTB series'. If you don't look close enough to read the badging, you cannot tell the two apart. With neon and bright colors being the flavour of the season, the Catalyst 3 we rode came in an electric lime green with subtle decals in Black and grey that all merged well.¾ The finish and paint quality were good and made the bike stand out wherever we road it.
The Catalyst 3's, 24 Speed gear systems worked as it should, and the shifting was fairly precise, barring a few instances. The combination of Shimano Tourney in the front and rear derailleur, coupled with Shimano EF51 Easyfire shifters. With the price constraint, I must mention that the entry level gear system does pose a restriction on the kind of assistance one will get on tougher, inclined terrain out on trails. It is best suited for basic trails and riding on flatter landscapes.
In the braking department, the Cannondale Catalyst 3 comes with Tektro M280 160mm mechanical disc brakes in the front and rear. The overall stopping power on offer was adequate for basic riding and trails, and will not bring you to a halt in a hurry. The short length Shimano ST-EF51 brake levers are sporty and are ideal for 2 or 3 finger braking.
The Catalyst steered well for an entry level MTB. It moved into corners and changed directions without too much fuss. The wide and flat handlebar on the bicycle gives the rider the necessary grip and control during your ride. The stiff and well-built frame ensures that there was good amount of lateral rigidity to give the cycle the necessary balance on the go.¾
The tires on the Cannondale Catalyst 3 are the Innova 27.5'* 2.0. These were fitted on to Alex DC 6.0 Double walled rims. To the visual eye the tire is really broad and gives you the impression that you are riding on an added layer of rubber. The newest wheel size to cycling, which is 27.5, gives the bicycle the advantage of a smoother ride with added traction to the traditional 26. They are also faster and are more nimble than the supersized 29. The 27.5'wheel set had a decent roll all through the ride.
The ride quality was good as long as one stayed on basic trails and surfaces, as the strong and well-built frame soaked up the vibrations. The suspension is one major let down on the Cannondale Catalyst 3 as it does not give the rider the necessary cushioning and dampening as expected from a Cannondale MTB. This compromise has lead to an overall average ride quality for this entry-level performance MTB. We also experienced some clanking noise from the rear derailleur unit while traversing bumps and bad roads.
Cannondale have clearly introduced the Catalyst 3 27.5 (2016) as a strategy to get them more sales numbers in growing cycling markets. While it does give consumers the access to an established and renowned brand such as Cannondale, we feel that there have been a few compromises in the offering. If you can look beyond the poor suspension system and a few niggles, you have yourself an entry level Performance MTB that is priced at Rs.36,750 and comes with the Cannondale badge.