Every time I buy a new bike, I spend at least a hundred dollars on accessories. The only thing I’d add to Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ is a bell.
The svelte, step-through ebike comes with built-in lights, a luggage rack, and fenders. It has hydraulic disk brakes and a 9-speed Shimano Altus shifting system. For getting to soccer games, the local farmer’s market, or a quick ride to the bar, it’s a turnkey transportation solution.
It can even go 65 miles on a charge if you ride like my mom, or about 30 if you ride like I do. And those miles feel excellent. It’s not overpowered or scary. It’s pretty light, and it has great suspension both on the seat post and the front fork. The mid-drive motor means it rides like a normal bike—no throttle required. There aren’t many ebikes that come with so few caveats.
At $3,000, even the price is right. If you’re looking for a go-anywhere ebike and you don’t want to muck around with upgrades, or worry too much about the maintenance of sub-standard components long-term, it’s one of my new favorite options.
It took me a minute to figure out which new Cannondale step-through ebike I was testing, because of the company’s backwards naming system for makes and models.
This Adventure Neo 3 EQ is not to be confused with the more expensive Adventure Neo 2 or Neo 1 EQ models, or the cheaper Neo 4 EQ, all of which look nearly identical but come in different colors. You’ll inexplicably spend less for the electric blue model (the Neo 4) but more for the bright green one (the Neo 1). My review model—the Neo 3 EQ, now that you can’t remember— came in the middle of the range and lacked any color at all, arriving in a mild-mannered black.
Especially in this color, the bike looks classy and nondescript. The only splashes of color on the bike are the brown rubber handles and a brown seat, reminding you of the classy leather saddles and handlebars of the olden days, but with modern durability.
The battery and mid-drive motor are integrated into an aluminum frame that feels simultaneously sturdy and lightweight. It’s easy to lift your leg over the frame, even with a bag full of groceries strapped to the back.
A 250-watt Bosch Active Line motor conforms to European speed standards (you can have up to 750 watts of power legally here in the United States), and is paired with a 400Wh Bosch PowerTube battery. Both are excellent. With the mid-drive configuration, those who live in hilly areas shouldn’t fear a lack of torque. You won’t cruise up hills as fast as you would on a 750-watt bike, but you’ll make it up.
I love how quiet the modern Bosch powertrains are. My family recently took our first summer vacation since quarantine began, and I was astonished by how loud some other mid-drive ebikes were in comparison. This Cannondale is essentially silent to ride, which makes it really nice when cruising on particularly scenic routes.
A Suntour fork at the front of the Adventure Neo 3 EQ pairs really nicely with the 27.5×2.2-inch tires, which makes for an extremely smooth ride, even on rougher surfaces. I really enjoyed the built-in seat suspension system. You can use a lever below the left shift knob to adjust the pressure of the piston, a lot like an office chair.
I kept the pressure higher (and thus the travel of the shock lower) when riding faster, but liked lowering it for slower cruises. Lowering the pressure also adjusts the ride height a tad.
The larger tires, shocks, and general sturdy construction make the bike comfortable on a variety of terrain—I tried it on with no issues on everything from paved roads to gravel and dirt paths—but the bike is mostly meant for the type of terrain you’ll encounter in a city or suburb, rather than off-road adventures.
It has 5 speeds of assist to select on the simple, black and white display, but you’ll be best off leaving it in the highest setting (“Turbo”) if you don’t want a hill to take you unawares.
The beauty of mid-drive ebikes, as opposed to those with big hub motors on the rear wheel, is that this bike really does perform like a regular bike. When you shift to higher or lower gears, the assist feels different, because all of the power is being sent through the chain via the mid-drive motor. This makes this style of ebike much more natural to ride than the throttle-based others. It feels like you’re riding a bike as normal, except that you’ve strapped on much stronger legs.
A Great Ride
It’s not a massive cargo bike or a speedy faux moped, but the Adventure Neo 3 is among the most satisfying ebikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding this year. The only thing I could ask for is a bell, for safely zipping past people-powered bikes without raising my voice.
You can get bikes with more impressive specs for $3,000, but you won’t find many bikes with components this reliable, or a build quality that’s this logical. If I was in the market for a commuter, it would be on my shortlist, alongside models from Giant, Gazelle, and Specialized.
Just make sure you want black or red, because those are the two colors you can have it in.