Words by: Alex Mancini | Images by: Frans le Roux
Cannondale has been making big-hit bikes for three decades and, as ALEX MANCINI discovers, the latest Habit ticks the gnar box more than comfortably.
All new for 2019, the Habit has undergone some major changes, all for the better. With clean lines and a fresh paint job this slick new frame is a beauty. That said, the new Habit is surprisingly normal, especially coming from Cannondale, famous for introducing something wildly out of the ordinary.
The Habit shows big changes over its predecessor, but is still conservative compared to some of the other bikes in this category. Its geometry is by no means futuristic, with the American firm opting for tried and trusted, with a slack head angle, short chainstays and a moderate reach; it looks to be a really good all-rounder.
Another nice feature is the Flip Chip which changes the geometry depending on where you need the assistance. In the High position, this steepens up the seat tube for better climbing, while the Low drops it all
for more confidence-inspiring descending. They are easily swapped around with a multitool, so you don’t
have to be stuck with your choice for the entire day.
The Fox Elite suspension is an inspired choice; both the fork and shock are easily adjustable and performed
excellently throughout the test. You will find a Fox 34 Elite Fit4 damper 130mm up front, with a three-position remote lever, additional compression adjustment, air volume and rebound – more than enough fiddle for the tinkerers. Out back is a Fox DPX2 Elite, also providing 130mm of travel, offering good mid-stroke support and a stable pedalling platform when locked out. The Quick 3 lever adjusts front and rear on the fly, and there are workshop adjustment options for air volume adjustment and rebound, too. Cannondale added in some really nice cable routing including an extra route if you would like to add remote lockout for the rear shock, too.
Cannondale has given each frame size its own unique linkage which in turn gives each its own kinematics. This is helpful, as the centre of gravity differs vastly between small and extra-large riders, demanding different handling and suspension characteristics. A simple, yet effective piece which can be easily overlooked.
Cannondale recommends 22% sag for the Habit which is quite different to the 30% sag that most other trail bikes in this category recommend. This helps prop the seat angle slightly more upright, to keep your weight
and body position over the front to aid climbing and pedalling performance.
To get the most out of the suspension you are going to have to make use of all the adjustments. We spent a lot of time fiddling, but once we had spent the time, it was worth it. Setting it up in downhill mode and then stiffening it up with the remote lever worked a treat.
Jumping onto the bike felt familiar thanks to a comfortable, centred position. It is not too long in the
cockpit, which a lot of bikes tend to be leaning towards at the moment. A shorter front-centre helps on the
technical climbs and long days in the saddle, which I did a fair amount of around the Western Cape.
The Habit is an excellent climber, one of the best in category, only surpassed in our testing by the Ibis Ripmo and Yeti SB130, which are close on double the price. Once the DPX2 is locked out, it provides a stable pedalling platform to really put down the power while still keeping traction and soaking up that trail chatter. After riding the bike for just over two weeks, I felt confident it could take on one of the shorter more technical stage races.
Stick on some lighter tyres, firm up the suspension, whack it in the High flip-chip position, and you are good to go. Don’t expect a podium, but if you are after a comfortable ride and a blast on the technical stuff you will be in good hands with the Habit.
The combination of its slack head angle, short wheelbase and low stand-over made the Habit a blast to send when gravity calls. Flowy trails are where it excels; light, playful and fast on the power, giving it one of the highest scores on fun factor.
The Habit would be an awesome pick for more chilled Enduro races; it would definitely have the upper hand here with its minimal sag and good handling characteristics. It’s only on the really steep gnarly stuff that it starts to get a little wild, but if that is your preferred playground, you should be looking at
something with more travel anyway.
Most of the important parts are well specced, like the Fox suspension and Maxxis tyres. The rest of the parts;, not so much, especially considering the price tag. The generic aluminium handle bar, for example, weighed in at over 450g. A standard aftermarket aluminium bar is less than 320g and a carbon one less than 200g. Aluminium wheels on a bike at this price point are a surprise and they are especially narrow. I rode it with a wider, lighter carbon wheelset which was perfect.
A really fast, fun bike for most of our local trails. It is a little on the expensive side but does come with excellent support should anything go wrong. I really liked the fact that you can do a stage race one weekend and the next push your limits on the trails. It is the ideal bike for someone looking for something more capable and fun than their 100mm race bike but not wanting to sacrifice too much on the uphills.
Cannondale Habbit 3
RRP R59 999 (exchange rate dependant)
Measurements are for a large bike
|Head tube angle||66°|
|Seat tube angle||74.5° / 66.3°|
|Top tube length||579mm|
|Head tube length||125mm|
|Seat tube length||480mm|
|Travel (front / rear)||130mm / 130mm|