Cannondale Catalyst 3 Review

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Frame, design, brakes, upgrades


Suspension system, mudguard


The Cannondale Catalyst 3 is a versatile mountain bike that will satisfy your budding thirst for adventure. It has a lightweight frame with a variety of specifications that come in handy when riding on uneven terrain to offer you a smooth and comfortable experience.

Our Rating



Mountain bike riding is one of the greatest adventures you can experience on a pair of wheels. But to get the most out of the event, you must find a bicycle with just the right specifications for this kind of off-road biking.

The Cannondale Catalyst 3 is an entry-level bike that has people talking in the mountain biking community. So, what can you expect from this bike? Does it even live up to the hype?

To help you answer that, we will review the Cannondale Catalyst 3 in this post. A closer look at the different features and overall performance will help us find out where it ticks and where it doesn’t.

Let us begin by looking at the specifications on this bike:

Tech Specs

FRAME: Catalyst, SmartForm C3 Alloy, 1-1/8 headtube
BRAKE TYPES: Tektro cable-actuated disc, 160/160mm
SHIFTER: Shimano Easy Fire EF41, 3x7
RIMS: WTB SX19, double-wall, 32h
TIRES: Freedom Transition Sport 27.5 x 2.25"


Cannondale utilizes a strong catalyst butted 6061 alloy frame on this bike, which is built to take on the demanding conditions of the backcountry trail. Weighing in at 14kg, the Catalyst 3 is lightweight enough to keep you agile in the meandering terrains.

The geometry of the bike is quite versatile, with a high saddle that places you in the perfect position to scout what’s ahead on the road. It is also fitted with a 75mm coil spring suspension system that complements its superior frame as it helps to weather down the bumpy ride.

However, I was not pleased by the suspension when I took the bike on a test ride. It constantly leaked and I felt that it fell short of its capabilities. This resulted in a fairly uneasy ride in harsh terrain, with its best display of performance being on flat roads with few undulations.

Aside from that, the ride quality is generally comfortable, thanks to a neutral and upright posture that the bike offers. You’ll also like the neon and electric lime green or acid red color on its design, which makes the MTB stand out from the crowd.

The Cannondale Catalyst 3 comes in five sizes that range from XS, S, M, L, to XL. This ensures that it can conveniently carry riders between the heights of 168cm and 175cm.


The Cannondale Catalyst 3 comes fitted with Tektro 160mm mechanical disc brakes on both wheels. Overall, the stopping power felt just sufficient for a basic ride on trails, although it did not bring the bike to a halt on a dime. 

The short-length Shimano brake levers have a nice feel and are perfect for 2 or 3 finger braking. For an entry-level MTB, the Catalyst 3 handled great on corners and switched directions without too much hassle.

A wide and flat handlebar provides you with the necessary grip and control of the ride while the stiff and sturdy frame leads to a fair amount of lateral rigidity and balance on the go.


The Shimano EF51 EasyFire shifters on the Catalyst 3 deliver fairly smooth and precise shifting, barring a few instances. This allows you to make the most of the 24-speed gear system, enabling you to achieve the necessary speeds for the different terrains.

I should, however, mention that the entry-level gear system on this bike comes with its own limitations on the amount of assistance you’ll get while riding on more inclined terrains. I would suggest riding it on basic trails with flatter landscapes for the best riding experience.


This bike has 27.5”, double wall set of wheels that will see you rolling over obstacles on the demanding trails with relative ease. This is also a good size to keep you agile on a rough single-track, allowing you to revel in a fun riding experience. 

The 2.25” Freedom Transition Sport tires are wide enough to provide the needed traction on gravel surfaces. This is reinforced by ample treading on the tires, which offers you the rider confidence necessary on tricky terrains.

However, there are no mudguards on the wheels, so you might want to install a set if you are planning to ride on rainy days and muddy surfaces.

What We Like

The aluminum frame of the Catalyst 3 keeps the bike lightweight yet sturdy, ensuring that you have the agility to tackle the unforgiving terrain with ease while being able to endure the punishment that it comes with. I also enjoyed the overall geometry, which is versatile and provides you with a neutral posture when riding on the trail.

The front suspension, flattened seat, and chainstays help to absorb the vibrations and bumps when riding on uneven terrains. This results in a smooth ride and the powerful disc brakes enable you to remain in control of the ride even in slippery situations.

I also like the overall appearance of the bike. The neon green color blends in well with the black accents and will make you stand out from the crowd. Plus, the bike frame comes in five different sizes to conveniently accommodate a wide scope of riders.

The 27.5” wheels are large enough to enhance agility and control while on the road. When combined with the well-treaded 2.25” tires, you are assured of a stable ride on all kinds of surfaces.

Finally, the Cannondale Catalyst 3 allows you to upgrade any specifications that may not live up to the kind of performance you require. This results in a high level of customization, enabling you to meet your preferences on the bike.


  • Great geometry
  • Nice design
  • Sturdy frame
  • Disc brakes
  • Smooth ride
  • Five different sizes
  • Upgradable

What We Don't Like

The Cannondale Catalyst 3 does not come with a mudguard. This means you can find yourself in a messy affair if you decide to go riding on a muddy trail after it has rained. Luckily, you can always buy a new set and have them installed. 

This bike performs best in relatively flatter landscapes with minor undulations. This implies you might not be pleased with its performance on rocky areas with steep inclines where you’ll realize that the front suspension and brakes underperform.

Fortunately, this can be solved by making the relevant upgrades to the different specifications that you feel are not up to standard.


  • Uneasy ride on harsh terrains
  • No mudguard

Buying Advice

The Cannondale Catalyst 3 is a practical mountain bike that offers you a smooth ride on different rough surfaces. Despite the few performance issues that it may have, you can easily solve this by making the relevant upgrades to different parts on the bike.

With a price tag of just a little over $500, you get a good value for money, especially when you consider that it is an entry-level mountain bike. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to get their first feel of the backyard terrain.


If you are looking to buy your first mountain bike, the Cannondale Catalyst 3 will make a great choice. It has a great design and packs several useful features that you’ll need when tackling those harsh and unforgiving terrains.

For an entry-level MTB, this amazing bike offers a comfortable ride that will result in a fun mountain biking experience. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get your hands on it.


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