In most areas around South Africa mountain bikers are leaning more and more towards the technical side of riding. Our bike parks and trail builders are catering for this maturing of the sport by introducing technical lines and features along previously plain single-track sections to create a ‘more fun per km’ experience. Similarly, event organizers are adding rock gardens, rollers, chutes, drops, bridges and even the odd wall ride to their routes to spice them up.
In addition, the rise of bespoke events designed specifically to celebrate the technical aspect of riding are popping up and selling out. A celebration of trails and a trail riding awakening is most certainly well underway.
Fortunately, the bike industry continues to innovate products for this consumer segment and one of those we are particularly excited about is the contemporary mid-travel 29er trail bike. This segment of bike often referred to as a light trail bike offers so much versatility for South African riders that it’s most definitely worthy of your consideration when making your next mountain bike purchase. Enter the new Cannondale Habit, a highly capable mountain bike with all the bells and whistles we would expect from one of the top brands in the business plus an interesting innovation which boosts it’s gravitas.
The Cannondale Habit is a 130mm 29er multi-purpose trail bike with a closed 4-bar linkage suspension layout driven by a two-piece alloy linkage. A beefy head tube area, deep sloping top tube and an overall pleasing look purvey. Graphics, logos and colours are understated – the way we like them and very much on trend for well-established brands. The model we tested, the Carbon 2, has a carbon front triangle mated to an aluminum rear triangle.
In construction, a combination of Cannondale’s high-end BallisTec military-grade carbon and a more standard modulus type carbon is used throughout the frame’s layup, which allowed engineers to better tune the overall feel of the bike, by balancing the all-important stiffness, flex and deflection characteristics.
The Habit is a 1 x drivetrain specific design, boost hub spacing front and rear with a flip chip to adjust geometry and allow for 27+ wheel sizes – should you want to go that route. A proprietary LockR through axle pivot system creates a solid connection between both sides of the swing arm and main frame which decreases flex or twist on the rear providing a more responsive ride.
The geo is very much in the realm of what is on-trend right now and likely to be so for the next few seasons, at least. Essentially what you have is a rad head angle, low BB with a workable seat tube length built into a median wheelbase trail bike. The highlights are a safe and playful head angle of 66degrees and a BB height coming in at 339mm which is on the low side of the spectrum for a 130mm bike. The Habit has an effective seat tube angle of 74.5degreees with a wheelbase of 1176mm (Medium) and tight chainstays of 435mm.
The Habit Carbon 2 is shipped with a Fox Float Performance Elite 34, 130mm fork with FIT4 Damper, 3-Position compression adjust and a 51mm offset. On the rear, the equally able Fox Float DPX2 Evol damper with 3 position compression adjust takes care of the damping.
The SRAM Guide RS brakes, Truvativ Stylo Cranks, XO1 Eagle 12 speed rear mech with a GX Eagle 10-50T cassette takes care of the drivetrain and stopping power. The wheels are a combination of Stan’s Arch Mk3, DT Swiss straight pull spokes, Hollowgram hubs and Maxxis tyres. Our test bike however was supplied with Kenda Regolith’s and the Zero Two brand carbon wheels. A dropper post, Fabric saddle, in house Cannondale 50mm stem and 780mm bar completed the build.
A mechanic-friendly direct line cable routing which is basically a tube within a tube will help save a chunk of time and labour dollars when working on the bike. A nice touch.
Cannondale has created a free augmented reality app that allows you and your bike shop to see exactly how each part of the bike looks and fits together. The ‘Simon Service AR’ app allows you to look at the shape of each and every pivot and the internals of the suspension which is all aimed at keeping total ownership costs down. Another nice touch.
The real innovation and talking point with the Habit lies deep within the chassis, in the form of a size-specific suspension engineering approach which the Cannondale gurus have unearthed.
The need for it came about after extensive field testing to determine how the varied center of gravity from differently sized riders, impacted significantly on how a bike’s suspension performs. Cannondale then used that data to engineer slightly different pivot locations across the size curves of the new Habit to ensure they all performed equally, regardless of size. This was achieved by slightly altering the suspension linkage and shock mounting point to achieve a unique kinematic per frame size. Dubbed as Proportional Response it ensures riders of different sizes will enjoy the same suspension performance.
“All other bikes use the same pivot locations across their size ranges because it’s easier to design. One-size-fits-all is not the optimal approach for suspension. A rider’s center of gravity has a big impact on how the suspension reacts to inputs like braking and pedaling. With Proportional Response, rather than simply changing the stack and reach dimensions of the frames, we’ve custom tailored the suspension pivot locations for each size bike and rider, so no one is left behind. They all get the perfect ride.” – Cannondale frame design engineer Luis Arraiz.
TEST BIKE SETUP
After a few rides, I settled on 22psi up front and 27psi in the rear tire which gave a good balance between traction, predictability and reliability on the varied trails we rode. I used 83psi, 8 clicks of low speed compression and 7 clicks of rebound from the fully closed or on setting in the Fox 34.
Rear suspension wise we ran 205psi, 10 clicks of rebound, 7 clicks of low speed compression from the fully closed or ‘on’ setting and continuously flipped the ‘on the fly’ big compression setting between open and firm depending on the terrain we were on. I ran 15mm worth of spacers under the stem to raise the front end into a safer position and had the flip chip in the low setting for the 29er wheel size.
Cornering around big sweepers, through tight switchbacks or over sketchy off-camber terrain the Habit is very impressive indeed. That ‘in the bike’ feel is very evident. Popping gaps, boosting rollers, drops, wheelies, cutties or however you choose to play the Habit is game to assist. Of course,
My first ride on the Habit proved its strength when I over-jumped a step down essentially dropping around 3m to a flat landing! Quite incredibly the bike simply rolled it out without a squeak. There was no horrid end of travel bang of ‘metals’ on that landing either which is due to a good set up and moreover, on-point progressive leverage ratio.
The ride quality throughout the travel, on big hits, small bumps, slick off-cambers or anything gnarly is simply excellent. I honestly battled to get the damping to unsettle, even on rougher trails more suited to a 150mm bike, the Habit overachieved. No, it doesn’t climb like the Scalpel and was never intended to so quit wondering about that, but it is many times better in every other
I took the Habit through some rougher trails too where even a 160mm bike can get out of shape. Exposed roots, loose rocks and steep chutes kind of stuff and the takeout is the contemporary geometry of this Habit will allow most riders to get away with more than they think they can. That ‘in the bike’ feeling of the Habit allows you to drop heels and let her roll through a scary section without being spat out the front door. For that reason, we would say the Habit is a safer smarter option for many riders who are perhaps not equipped with the skillset demanded to ride an out and out XC bike at speed.
The low BB and long crank combo
An additional set of fast rolling tyres for any endurance applications is not a bad idea as it would really give you the versatility to do a marathon or stage race, hang in with your mates on the climbs then drop them on the descents. A higher rise bar would compliment speed, safety and the play DNA of the bike.
Who should buy this bike? The genius design pegs it squarely into the mid-travel trail bike territory which can be dialed in to suit a wide spectrum of riding styles. It is suited to South African’s who are racing marathons and NOT aiming or bothered with a top 20% category result. It is easily capable of podium performances at around 95% of all the South African enduro races. It is also a very good option for guys who just want one shredder to ride everything.
Dress it up to shred, dress it down for a chilled social stage race with mates. The choice is yours.