The Cannondale Mavaro Neo SL 1 is hot off the production line. As we reported in October, the new Mavaro Neo SL models aim to make city biking, "simple, practical, and budget-friendly." The bike's marked out by its hub motor and significantly lower pricing than the Tesoro Neo X 2 and Mavaro Neo 3 the brand launched late in 2022.
The Mavaro Neo SL 1's homepage describes the bike as having a lightweight aluminium frame and the fact its moniker bore the letters SL meant I assumed this would be a pretty light e-bike. I was therefore disappointed to see the scales register 24.6kg - right in the middle of what you might expect on a fully equipped e-bike, and hardly lightweight.
On a more positive note, it does come with a very strong looking rear rack rated at 18kg that is integrated into a full length, very rigid alloy rear mudguard.
Overall the Mavaro Neo SL 1 looks a very well built machine despite the disappointing weight.
The front Lezyene Pro E115 light with full beam mode in particular stood out as a statement of quality.
My test model was the top of the range Mavaro Neo SL 1 model with a £2,400 price tag. The other model in the range, the SL2, costs £2,200. It has 7-speed rather than 8-speed derailleur gearing, a less premium (though still highly capable) Lezyne front light and different grips and seat. The SL1 also gets a decent quality wheel lock that comes attached to the frame.
All other elements appear to be the same, with a medium-sized Bafang rear hub motor combined with a 360Wh frame-integrated and non-removable Darfon branded battery with pedelec power activated by a Darfon branded cadence sensing system. There's also a basic LCD and a throttle trigger (note it only works whilst you are pedalling to keep the bike legal).
You can currently get mid-drives at similar - albeit bargain - prices, if you shop around, so on the face of it the prices seem a lot for what is essentially a relatively cheap Bafang motor setup with a fairly modest-sized battery.
As you would expect on an e-bike at this price, there are decent hydraulic disc brakes and although the Microshift Acolyte 8-speed derailleur is regarded as a 'value' rather than a premium brand, it gives a nice wide spread of gears with a 250% range and an impressively low bottom gear (it actually appears to be based on an MTB derailleur). It is largely made of tough looking alloy and even has an anti-chain-slap clutch.
As mentioned above, the rear rack is rated at 18kg and again looks very sturdy with large 16.5mm gauge tubing - though that means you might struggle to fit old style panniers made for thinner gauge racks.
So, being somewhat ambivalent about the price/spec equation, I was keen to see if the Mavaro Neo SL 1 would redeem itself with a star performance during the test ride.
First off, this is a very comfortable e-bike to ride, with the high bars relative to the seat giving a relaxed sit-up position and over easier terrain the power feels smooth and effective - the cadence sensing system is certainly one of the better ones I've tried.
The saddle is luxurious, the handling predictable and the steel sprung front suspension helps smooth out humps and bumps along with the high quality Schwalbe Big Ben large volume tyres that also feature the company's Raceguard puncture protection, designed to offer a reasonable amount of protection against flats whilst also keeping the tyre light and fast.
Performance on my extended hill climb test was slow and steady and the bike posted one of the slowest times I've had for a while. Most disappointing of all was the modest performance of the throttle.
It's rare to see a throttle fitted to an e-bike and I love them as they provide access to instant power to nip through traffic or negotiate an unexpectedly steep gradient. This example was more like a gentle extra helping hand than the true turbo boost you get on the likes of the MiRider, Volt London and Gocycle.
The Mavaro Neo SL 1 redeemed itself somewhat up my ultra-steep climb where, even though the motor still didn't feel mega-powerful, it worked smoothly and effectively alongside that low gearing, helping it post a respectably average time up the 20% plus grade path.
The Mavaro Neo SL 1 is billed as an urban runaround but I actually felt it would be better suited to being a tourer. It sips power, resulting in my range estimate of 40-plus miles over hilly country, which is a reasonably long day in the saddle for leisurely-paced touring taking in plenty of food and drink pit stops at attractive locations.
The build quality is excellent, the lights highly effective and high quality, and the pannier rack and mudgaurds dependably solid. The only downside is that you can't remove the battery for charging away from the bike, so you'd have to choose accommodation carefully.
The Mavaro Neo SL 1 is a high quality e-bike in many ways, but just seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. There are heavy duty components on what's billed as a lightweight urban bike, negating that quality. Most baffling of all was the choice of a relatively large and powerful hub motor which seemed to have been deliberately throttled back (do Cannondale employ some overly cautious lawyers I wondered?).
As single-speed runarounds like the Volt London and the Tenways CGO600 show, you can get plenty of power from rear hub motors, even with just one gear (though both these are high quality torque sensing systems).
If you are happy with a non-removable battery design, the Estarli e28.8 fulfils much the same brief, is lighter, cheaper and has a livelier motor, whilst the EBCO Street 2 adds small wheels to the mix and has solid hill climbing ability combined with fun, nimble handling.
The Cannondale Treadwell Neo 2 EQ offers a livelier, lighter e-bike, but I felt it had a few design issues you may or may not be able to live with - and again the price tag seemed a little steep.
In short there is a lot of competition in the hub motor urban runaround area and much of the competition is cheaper than the Mavaro Neo SL 1 - though to be fair, very few have the high spec of components it features.
If you are happy with subtle power assistance and can justify the price tag by dint of the high quality spec (outside of the budget motor system), then it could provide you with many happy hours of riding. If not, you'll have to hope Cannondale turn up the power and tone down the price before it can really take on the peppier competition.