A Complete Guide to Cannondale Catalyst 4 – Should You Buy It?

Hey there bikers!

It’s time for another bike review. As we head towards prime biking season, you might be looking for a new ride. Today, we’re going to give you an official review of the new Cannondale Catalyst 4, the newest edition in the Catalyst line. 

Cannondale’s bikes come suited for various types of terrain, and the Catalyst 4 is specifically geared for mountain biking. This means it should be a viable option for taking trips out on the trail. However, if you’re going to do mountain biking you want to be sure you’re getting the best.

You might have some questions about it – is the Catalyst 4 going to meet your needs? Is it going to be a definite step up from its predecessor, the Catalyst 3?

cannondale catalyst mountain bike

Before you make up your mind about a bike, you want to know these things.

So, let’s explore a little more about the Cannondale Catalyst Mountain Bike and go through the pros, cons, and overall specs!

Tech Specs

First up in the Catalyst 4 review we have an overview of the specs. Below, we’ll let you know what Cannondale offers regarding the frame, brakes, shifters, and rims – the most important features that can constitute a top-tier mountain bike.


Seasoned mountain bikers know that a strong frame is all-important when it comes to making the right decision. You’ll need a frame that can handle a beating, to say the least, and do it well. When you’re riding down a trail, the last thing that should be on your mind is fear that your frame can’t handle the bumps.

Luckily, on the Cannondale Catalyst 4, you’ll find a lightweight, sleek SmartForm C3 Alloy frame. Made of aluminum, it’ll be durable and able to survive hard turns and bumps on the trail. If you’re the type to seek out upgrades in the future, this frame can be a great starting point, although otherwise, it’s really solid on its own.


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    We’d say that this Cannondale mountain bike frame sizes are great for riders of all skill levels, but is especially beginner-friendly because it offers a sizable range of speeds without too many complicated features. If you’re a more experienced mountain biker, you might want a crankset with fewer gears as they do add some extra weight to your ride.

    Overall, the frame is of solid quality and doesn’t differ much from that of the Catalyst 3. If it ain’t broken, no need to fix it!


    The brake system on this Cannondale Catalyst mountain bike falls under the Shimano umbrella, more specifically the Shimano Tourney group. One thing about this is that Shimano Tourney isn’t the best system relative to others offered by Shimano. For that reason, we wouldn’t rank the brake system as a standout on the Catalyst 4.

    However, it will definitely do the job and isn’t a system to sneeze at. Just because it’s not the top of the line doesn’t mean you’ll be in any danger; it just might not be as smooth when shifting gears through tension. There’s solid stopping power with these brakes and they should be fairly strong on tougher trails.

    Another important note on the brake system is that it’s a disk structure, as opposed to V-brakes and hydraulic models. A plus about this is that disks offer more stopping power than others in rougher weather conditions, but might be a little harder to adjust on the fly.


    Speaking of the shifters, they also come from the Shimano brand. The Shimano EF41 shifters will ensure that you can shift gears smoothly and precisely. There are 21 gears in the system, so with these quality shifters you can explore and feel out all of them to find your desired configuration.

    The 21 gears is a downsize from the Catalyst 3’s 24-gear system, but that doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality. In fact, these gears should prove to be more than enough to get you out on the trail and having fun. 


    Overall, the rims on this bike are well-suited for offroading. These rims are Alex DC 6.0s, which are made of strong, durable material. The tires under them are thick and meant for rough terrain, so out on the trail, you can rest assured that you’re well supported.

    While the tires are super durable, they could be a bit wider. They’re made of thick material, but size-wise they aren’t that big compared to other models. In general, these tires will perform just fine but you might want to consider upgrading them if you’re a more experienced mountain biker. 

    Here’s the Cannondale Bike Size Chart for Road Bikes:

    cannondale bike size chart

    Cannondale bike size chart

    To review, the tires and rims on the Cannondale Catalyst 4 could have used some wider tires for more complicated terrain running (2.2” to 2.4” is ideal), but they’ll get the job done at a more affordable price.

    What We Like

    Catalyst 4 MTB

    With the Cannondale Catalyst 4, there’s a lot to like. Now that you know a bit more about what makes up this bike, it’s time to take a look at some of its main selling points.

    For one thing, this mountain bike has a frame to be proud of. Any frame made of aluminum will ensure that there’s no excess weight as a result. And if you’re a regular mountain biker, you know that too much weight is a nuisance. The frame on the Cannondale Catalyst mountain bike is lightweight, sleek, and versatile. 

    What’s more, it comes in different colors for you to choose from, such as midnight with neon accents, jet black, lime green, and more. With this bike, you’re sure to stand out while riding with a group.

    The ride quality on this bike must be mentioned here – it’s as stable as can be with the tires, despite their thin appearance. They’re thick enough to withstand lots of pressure and rough terrain, and the treads are substantially responsible for the (relative) smoothness. When navigating more uneven landforms, the flatter seat on the Catalyst 4 can help absorb some of the shake-inducing mini impacts.

    Overall, this bike is a great standard for mountain biking and riding cross-country. The great thing about it is that since it’s a relatively affordable model if you think it could use a boost in a certain area it is highly upgradeable.

    Here are the core pros for this bike:


    • Sleek design
    • Impact-absorbing and smooth
    • 21 gears
    • Comes in different color options
    • Upgrade-friendly
    • Lightweight
    • Easy to ride

    What We Don’t Like

    One thing we’re not as psyched about regarding the Catalyst 4 is that it’s not as versatile as some other mountain bike models when it comes to the terrains it performs well on. Overall, this bike is probably the right choice if you’re more geared towards cross-country or flatter terrain riding in general. It’s not going to be the top of the line if you’re looking for something that can handle intense downhill and incredibly rough ground.

    The brake system also isn’t the best that it could be, so it’s likely that many buyers will get this bike as an upgrade-ready baseline. It isn’t uncommon in the mountain biking world to go for upgrades, but make sure you’re ready to spend a few extra dollars if you want to improve your Cannondale Catalyst 4!

    Landscape limitation


    • Limited downhill capability
    • Thinner tires
    • Brake system is less adjustable
    • Upgrading could be necessary

    Recommended Upgrades To Make Cannondale Catalyst 4 A Dream Mountain Bike

    As discussed, the Catalyst 4 is a great starting point to creating a personalized dream mountain bike.  The extent and nature of up-gradation completely depend on the budget at hand. With enough capital, you can essentially turn it into a heavy bike but that is not the point. If there is such an amount to spare you should get a premium bike in the first place.

    So, in this section, we will enlist basic and inexpensive upgrades that would go a long way in improving this bike’s performance.


    Fork of the catalyst 4 is arguably the cheapest component on it.  Performance is just fine on relatively smooth terrain. But as soon as it is subjected to harsh off-road conditions, it begins to act like a pogo stick. It is partly because the material used in it is flimsy. But the travel of a mere 75mm is also not enough to absorb body-shaking jerks and bumps. So, it would be a great starting point to upgrade especially if it is meant to be taken to true off-road.

    We recommend ROCK SHOX Recon Silver TK which features a lightweight chassis and four-piece bushing system. It is an expensive upgrade but it will turn this bike into a total mountain beast. With travel of 100mm, it offers enough cushioning to absorb even the roughest of bumps. Plus, it has a stronger aluminum construction which is an added assurance on tough terrains.

    Furthermore, if the price of ROCK SHOX is well above the budget you can swap the original fork with it. There are a number of local bike shops that entertain such deals. It would bring down the cost significantly. But it is advised to get the swap as soon as you get the bike because otherwise, the built-in fork would go at a cheaper price.

    And while you are at it also change the headset to FSA Hammer. It is not an expensive purchase but it complements the ROCK SHOX’s Fork quite well.

    Cassette & Derailleur

    The bike is designed to withstand low to moderate levels of difficulty in terms of terrain. So, it is not a surprise that while climbing too steep angles, the gears often slip. Replacing the Cassette & Derailleur can solve this problem. 

    That said, they do not upgrade these components straight after getting the bike. You experience the slipping when the Cassette & Derailleur begin to wear out.  So, use them while they last and when it comes down to replacing them, try to get better options.

    A 10-speed cassette complements the mountain bike perfectly. Their price usually ranges between 15 to 100$. We recommend SHIMANO CS-6700 which offers a balance between price and performance. And it would be good enough to offer smooth gear shifting even on rough terrains.

    Derailleurs are relatively expensive but nothing that can break the bank. XT Shimano SGS is a good enough option that works fine with the CS-6700.  The combination of these costs around 150$ when purchased separately but one might get some discount on package deals.

    Hydraulic Brakes

    As discussed earlier, brakes in the Catalyst 4 are fine for moderately difficult terrain but not ideal for harsh ones. You can change the mechanical brakes and install new hydraulic ones to get more control and safety. Best part? Quality hydraulic brakes can be purchased for well-under 70 dollars. And it would be the best possible upgrade that you can make on catalyst 4.

    We recommend BUCKOS MTB which costs just 68$ a pair and provides premium control over the bike. Such brakes have the potential to damage the rotors but the composite material of MTB eliminates this risk.  Plus, most enthusiasts would not even require professional help to install them which is an added bonus.     

    Should You Buy It?

    Cannondale Catalyst 4 on the road

    And now for the most important question in this Cannondale Catalyst 4 review: should you buy this bike? Is it going to be the right one for you? Right now, you might still be weighing the pros and cons of the bike as we laid them out. Here’s our overall take on whether those pros outweigh the cons!

    We’d say go for it if you are a cross-country rider but maybe go for a more high-end downhill bike if that’s your thing. But, for those with who this bike fits, there’s no doubt that it’ll be a good experience and a solid pick. 

    This bike isn’t just the right choice for those who are looking for a ready-to-go mountain bike. If you’re someone that is all about upgrading your bike to meet your exact needs, go with the Catalyst 4. It’s hailed by its loyal users as an S-tier base point, ready to undergo upgrades that will make it your dream vehicle. It’s good not to be afraid of shelling out for a few upgrades here and there, as that would essentially eliminate any of the cons we found with it.

    For some upgrade ideas on the Catalyst 4, consider some extra frame protection, a new stem and bar set, or a better fork. These upgrades are just a few within an endless sea of options. Bike building is a passion you’re sure to see in the mountain biking community, and it can be an excellent way to make friends (or go down a rabbit hole!).


    Overall, this is a great mountain bike option for those just getting into the sport or looking for a nice frame to build up their dream bike with. The Cannondale Catalyst 4 is a respected bike and you’re sure to love it if you buy one of your own.

    For the price, you could be looking at great value here. When you do choose the bike you’ll go on adventures with, make sure you’re getting the best deal – remember, there are bikes with more bells and whistles than this one, but make sure you couldn’t get a better deal upgrading this one with separate parts!

    We wish you good times and a great future with this new bike should you decide to get it.

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    A Complete Guide to Cannondale Catalyst 4 - Should You Buy It? — Bike Hacks