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A Bike That Saves: Cannondale Catalyst 4 Review
[2020 Update]

If you’ve just recently stumbled upon the world of mountain biking, and you’re not looking to make a big investment, this Cannondale Catalyst 4 review is your holy grail. 

Read on to find out why this entry-level, affordable bike is the ideal experience for beginners.
Cannondale Catalyst 4 Review
Our Pick

Features and Parts

Best Use
Mountain Biking
Mountain Bike Style
Cross-country
Bike Frame Material
Aluminum
Frame
SmartForm C3 alloy
Fork
SR Suntour M3030-27
Fork Travel
75 millimeters
Crankset
Prowheel, 24/34/42
Bottom Bracket
Semi-cartridge type, square taper, BSA, sealed bearing
Shifters
Shimano EF41 Easyfire, 3 x 7-speed
Front Derailleur
Shimano Tourney, 31.8 clamp
Rear Derailleur
Shimano Tourney, 7-speed
Rear Cogs
Sunrace, 14-34, 7-speed
Number of Gears
21 gear(s)
Brake Type
Mechanical Disc Brake
Brakes
Jak-7 cable-actuated disc, 160/160mm
Brake Levers
Shimano EF41
Rims
DC 6.0, double wall, 32-hole
Front Hub
Alloy disc
Rear Hub
Freewheel, sealed, loose ball bearings, QR, 32h
Wheel Size
27.5 inches
Tires
Innova
Tire Width
2.1 inches
Handlebar Shape
Riser Bar
Handlebar
Alloy, 25mm rise, 700mm, 31.8
Stem
Alloy, 31.8, 8
Seat Post
Alloy, micro-adjust, 27.2 x 350mm
Saddle
Cannondale Stage 2
Pedals
Cannondale Platform
Headset
Semi-integrated, threadless, 1-1/8 in
Chain
KMC Z51, 7-speed
Weight
31 lbs(14kg)
Gender
Unisex
The above table breaks down the Catalyst 4 and gives an overview of the parts used in the bike.

Let’s deep dive into some of the most important parts of a bike and see why the catalyst 4 is an exceptional entry-level bike. Don’t get your hopes high because, with this bike, you get what you pay for.

Breakdown of Key Parts

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Frame

At 31lbs (14kg) the Catalyst 4 is made up of an aluminum frame. To be accurate, the Catalyst 4 has a SmartForm C3 Alloy, 6061 Aluminum frame. 

Cannondale bikes usually have two types of aluminum frames:

SmartForm(ed) Alloy vs Optimized Alloy

SmartForm C3 is Cannondale’s entry-level construction. Nevertheless, it uses the same 6061 aluminum alloy similar to the SmartForm C1, C2, and C1 Premium and the same techniques as the rest of the line but is rendered in a manner that makes them less costly.

The 6061 Aluminum alloy is lightweight and durable and will withstand any type of trail.
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Drivetrain

Key components such as the pedals, chain, chainrings, cranks, derailleur, and cogs make up the ‘Drivetrain’ of the bike which acts in synergy to pull or push the bike.

This drivetrain has the perfect combo of parts for an entry-level bike and will be sufficient for beginners who’ve just gotten into mountain biking.

The front and rear derailleur are fitted with the Shimano Tourney groupset. It is considered the most basic groupset in the Shimano groupset product line.

This is expected as the Catalyst 4 is an entry-level MTB. With proper maintenance and care, they will perform their task well. Just keep in mind that the groupset cannot handle shifts during high tension.
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Brakes

As expected again, the catalyst 4 is fitted with mechanical disk brakes. You wouldn’t find too many bikes in this range with hydraulic systems. 

The bike uses a standard disk with 160mm rotors on both ends. The brake support on this bike is pretty standard and does well even in wet conditions.

The Shimano EF41 brake/shift lever used also belongs to the tourney groupset and is pretty standard and fits perfectly with the braking system on an entry-level bike.
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Wheels

The tires are a bit of a letdown in terms of width. The 27.5” Innova tires have a width of 2.1” which isn’t ideal for the off-road scenario. A larger width would have performed better in rocky conditions. 

While Alex rims are known for their durability, the DC 6.0 adds to the durability and weight of the bike.

Overall, the wheels do well due to the inclusion of the DC 6.0, making sure the bike can withstand any type of terrain.
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Fork

The biggest let down of this bike is the SR Suntour M3030-27 fork with a 75mm travel. Considered an entry-level fork, it uses a coil spring with a Preload adjuster. 

The hardtail suspension also lacks a lockout, which means unwanted bouncy rides on smooth surfaces with high energy loss. The preload adjuster can assist in this issue partially. 
Let’s take a look at how the Catalyst 4 matches up to the rest of the Catalyst family.
Our Pick
Cannondale Catalyst 3
The difference between the 3 and 4 are very minimal. The Shimano Tourney groupset is used in both the bikes. 

The difference is in the brakes and the wheels of the two bikes.

The catalyst 3 uses Tektro cable-actuated disc (160/160mm) while the catalyst 4 has a Jak-7 cable-actuated disc(160/160mm)

The wheels are completely different. The Catalyst 3 includes a WTB SX19 32h rim set with Freedom transition sport 27.5 x 2.25” tires. The 2.25” tire width performs better than the 2.1” catalyst 4 tires on off-road situations. 

Cannondale Catalyst 2 (2019) vs 4 27.5 (2018)

Our Pick
Cannondale Catalyst 2
A major difference is in the braking system. The Catalyst 2 uses a hydraulic disk system which has a higher stopping power with a minimal force required.

The Catalyst 2 has a 100mm travel fork compared to 75mm on the Catalyst 4.

The Groupset is also different in terms of the rear derailleur, shifters, and brakes. 

The catalyst 2 uses a Shimano Tourney TX rear derailleur, Shimano Rapidfire plus shifter, and Tektro hydro disk for brakes. All these components are higher up the groupset hierarchy than the components of the catalyst 4.

The wheel setup is similar to that of the Catalyst 3.

Cannondale Catalyst 1 (2019) vs 4 27.5 (2018)

Our Pick
Cannondale Catalyst 1
The catalyst 1 is in a completely different league compared to the catalyst 4. Almost all the components are different.

Is it Worth It?

As mentioned before, if you’ve just gotten into the off-road/mountain bike scene, this is an ideal first bike to invest in. It is perfect for casual rides on trails to explore nature and for leisure.

If you’re an extreme mountain bike enthusiast willing to test your limits, this bike might not be an ideal choice.

Given the budget price, the Catalyst 4 still upholds the Cannondale name, which known for its durable and reliable builds. 

If you’re worried that you might have to change bikes as you grow in the mountain biking arena, the catalyst 4 frame is also perfect for upgrades. It is durable enough to handle upgrades and hold all the components together. 

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