BIKE REVIEW: CANNONDALE HABIT NEO 4

Made for trail riding and based on the Cannondale Habit trail bike, I collected the Habit Neo 4, with great expectations for my local ride spot. I wasn’t disappointed. Tested by Shayne Dowling.

The last two years has seen the e-bike market explode, certainly in SA, where despite some initial kick back from the “analog” cyclists (thank you David Bristow), it has become a lot more mainstream and excepted. It seems quite normal to have people whizzing past you, normally on the biggest incline, happily chatting away, accompanied by the gentle whirr of the fast-becoming familiar motor noise.

As in a traditional bike selection, when you are buying a bicycle, you buy it to suit your cycling needs. Perhaps you are riding a lot of jeep track, well-manicured forgiving bike parks or gnarly, rough gouged out singles. Whatever terrain or riding you find yourself doing it will influence your choice of bicycle. The Habit Neo is an electric, pedal assist, TRAIL bike and is designed as such – 140mm up front and 130mm travel on the rear. Slack head angle with a wide bar, short stem, short chain stay – the bike is pretty much setup to do most things trail and really can perform as great all-rounder. The burly tyres add the extra confidence you want on the bike, as well as adding great stability through the corners. It is a carbon – alloy hybrid that works really well together and ensures you have a robust and strong trail bike.

The Neo 4 isn’t light (despite the carbon front triangle – carbon can also get heavy if one is looking for additional strength – ed) this doesn’t make much difference to your climbing having a motor, but it is a consideration if you are doing a lot of technical descents especially if they are long or if you are doing them multiple times – the bike weight with the rider’s, will also effect the battery life and motor ability of course. The weight combined with the large tyres does come into play on cornering and initially I found myself going in “hot” but soon dialed it down to suit my skill levels and quickly found my comfort zone with the brakes – which are more than adequate for the riding I do. I felt the weight of the bike on my arms and shoulders after a few intense downhill trail sessions and while recovery was fantastic while cruising back up, this is the one factor that should be taken into account should this be your regular ride.

The more than powerful (250W), low-slung position of the motor certainly helps with the balance and agility of the bike and offsets some of the weight issue. It should be said that the overall weight isn’t a negative as the motor takes care of it in most cases – it is just something one needs to get used to. The standard dropper post is a win and is really handy and the big Maxxis 2.6 tyres really take care of most terrain and are really “grippy”. The Rock Shox suspension (back and front) finish off the bike capabilities superbly, soaking up most anything the trails offer and really allow you to push the bike as you want.

The Neo 4 comes with a walk-assist and this does come in handy in certain situations. I happened to stop for a lady cyclist who was at the bottom of a gulley on a social one-day event, she was standing next to her e-bike (a different brand for the record) waiting for her partner to help her get it out. It was too heavy for her to push out and she had no idea that the walk-assist even existed. It helps to get thorough instructions of your machine!

 

The bike initially feels “big” but you have to trust the sizing, assuming it’s correct for you, and ensure you’re properly fitted – you soon get used to it. The bike features a 500WH battery, more than adequate for most rides, particularly if you use your power settings wisely and should comfortably get you through a 3-day stage race. With four power settings: Eco, Tour, E-Mtb and Turbo – you have more than enough options to ensure you reach the finish line.

The Neo 4 is a great allrounder! I stress this point because I believe that it would suit most people who ride trails and like to send it every now while also allowing you to easily and comfortably climb most ascents. My last comment would be regarding the price tag: currently offered around the R100k mark I think that if this bike was offered closer to R85k it would be a serious option in the current market. The Neo 4 isn’t the necessarily the “latest” tech coming out of Cannondale but I think once your smiling your way around your favourite trails, most of us wouldn’t notice. It performs well, is comfortable and has great components – a great allrounder!

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