Review: Cannondale Habit | Climb, Shred, Repeat.

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.

Cannondale Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.
The Cannondale Habit is a light 130mm trail bike.

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 TECH

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.



GEOMETRY

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.



BUILD KIT

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.



FEATURES

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 Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.
Internal cable routing completes the overall clean finish.

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.

Cannondale Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.
The suspension linkage and shock mounting points vary across the frame sizes to achieve a unique kinematic per size.

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.



THE RIDE

Cannondale Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.
The Habit is a fun bike to charge the trails with. It responds to pedal input instantly.

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, the progressive geometry makes it an incredibly stable bike and helps you punch above your skills level. In particular, the slack head angle which puts a fair amount of wheel out in front of you is really confidence-inspiring.

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.

Cannondale Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.

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 trail situation you as a South African rider will encounter, that we will give you a money-back guarantee on! Using the firmer compression setting on the climbs and flat smooth section of trails further boosts the already impressive ‘pedal-ability’ of the rig.

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 comes with a trade-off that initially had me asking why, until a mid-ride eureka moment; the Habit is built to climb well and to really make you smile on the downs, it’s that simple. It’s not a plow through the rocks kind of mega travel trail bike, it’s more a carry speed, carve turns, hop around or over the rocks then do another loop, kind of bike. Cannondale have not missed a beat, a millimeter or a degree to achieve that. Climb, shred, repeat bro.

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.



VERDICT

Dress it up to shred, dress it down for a chilled social stage race with mates. The choice is yours.

Cannondale Habit mountain bike review for the bike network test with myles kelsey in south africa.
Hooray Cannondale! This bike is a jol.

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10 Comments

  1. How would you say this bike is suited for Tokai’s rough trails? I’m looking at another bike just to mess around in Tokai…… I’m worried the 130mm travel is not enough?

    Shot

    paul

    • Hey Paul, “mess about” is a loose term. 🙂
      Here is our take: The Tokai DH line needs maintenance, it is really rough with massive square edges – in fact, it’s probably one of the roughest ‘bike park’ gravity lines in SA right now, and this is not a DH bike, so is NOT the bike for repeated DH runs at Tokai. The Habit is a light trail bike, enough bike for about 70% of what Tokai has to offer and fine for most of the ‘softer’ trails the bulk of Enduro races in SA are currently held on. Under the right rider it’s highly capable of a KOM on Vasbyt, but not the DH line. It’s highly capable for the likes of G-Spot, Jonkershoek red trail, Giba Gorge in KZN and so on. Know what we mean? Does that help you? Speak to your LBS and try get a demo bike to try out. Cheers mate.

  2. Great article well written and fresh

  3. Great to find this article. I was just talking to a local store and this model came up, looks so good and after reading your test I am pretty sure this is what I am looking for. The question I have is you tested the top of line model and my budget puts me more in the Habit 5 or Habit 6. What could I expect?

    • Go with the Habit 5 for sure as there is just no point in buying a 130mm 29er with this great geo and then not having a dropper post on it. So you need the dropper. Everything else in terms of spec is fine. If you start charging gnarly trails you may need a bigger fork on there, but otherwise, the spec is good.

  4. Awesome article, with loads of detail. Would be interested in how you would compare it to the specialized stumpjumper or stumpjumper st?

    • The ST would be an option for less techy trails and even some marathon races depending on your objectives. The Habit and Stumpy are very similar bikes and that would be a tough choice for sure. Try get a test ride on each, on YOUR trails so you can decide what is best for you. Where do you live and ride and is marathon / xc racing a priority to you or do you just want to have a super capable fun bike?

  5. beau retour au regard de votre impression perso.
    question technique : possible de monter une paire de roue 27,5 boost ou il faut un montage spécial Ai compatible cannondale?

    • I think the BB height will be too low with 27,5 wheels. Way too low. I wouldn’t advise it. – Myles

  6. Thanks for the article Myles. You mentioned that you were between a M and L frame, could you share how tall you are? Thanks!


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