Think of the Cannondale Habit and images of Josh Bryceland flying over dirt jumps, hitting wall rides and riding through corners literally so fast that tires get torn off rims probably come to mind. But get on and ride the bike yourself and you’ll get a completely different impression.
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
The Cannondale Habit is a classic in the American brand’s line-up and has drawn many an astonished look in the past with its Lefty suspension fork. However, the one-sided, upside-down suspension fork is a thing of the past on the updated Habit, which looks great with its clean lines and minimalist design. The spec is perfectly suited to a trail bike with 29” wheels and 130 mm of travel making it look the part. Likewise, the 140 mm travel silver RockShox PIKE fork matches the silver Shimano XTR brakes in performance as well as looks. On top of that, the Habit has a unique selling point: the clean, lightweight Cannondale Hollowgram crankset, which drives the rest of the XTR 12-speed drivetrain. Cannondale also put a lot of time, money and know-how into the development of the suspension and adapted the kinematics of the Habit for every frame size, dubbed “proportional response”. The suspension is optimised around a lower sag of around 25%, sitting the bike higher in its travel. Cannondale use their typical asymmetric rear end which is offset by 3 mm. This allows the shortest possible chainstays and allows the rear wheel to be laced symmetrically, instead of having the usual offset of the rim relative to the hub flanges. Though this offers theoretical advantages, in practice it limits the choice of wheels available.
Cannondale Habit Carbon 1
Fork RockShox Pike Ultimate RC2
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RCT
Seatpost Cannondale DownLow 150 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 180/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR / Cannonadale HollowGram 30/10-51
Stem Cannondale 1 50
Handlebar Cannondale 1 Riser 780 mm
Wheelset Stans NoTubes ARCH MK3
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF/High Roller 2 EXO 2,5/2,3
Size S M L XL
Weight 13,2 kg
Travel (f/r) 140/130 mm
Geometry of the Cannondale Habit
The geometry of the Habit appears balanced on paper. The chainstays aren’t actually all that short at 435 mm, the reach is well dimensioned at 460 mm and the bottom bracket is very low with a 38 mm drop. The head and seat tube angles are both rather conservative. In fact, the pronounced kink in the seat tube means the effective seat tube angle slackens even more when extending the dropper post. Unfortunately, the tall seat tube also limits dropper post travel options for riders with shorter legs
The Cannondale Habit Carbon is a comfortable bike for long rides rather than a precise or playful trail bike!
The Cannondale Habit on test
The riding position of the size L Cannondale Habit Carbon 1 is somewhat stretched, but very comfortable. On flat terrain, the pedalling position is efficient and the rear suspension absorbs small bumps with ease. When the climbing gets steep and technical, the Habit maintains a lot of traction on the rear wheel. However, the slack seat tube leaves you feeling like you’re sitting on top of the rear wheel as you pedal. We strongly recommend sliding the saddle forward to compensate. We also activated the climb switch to keep the bike higher in its travel. The Habit feels balanced on the descents and the handling remains easy and predictable through corners.
Up to a certain speed, the Habit is good-natured and easy to ride. Beyond that threshold it becomes a bit of a handful!
It positions the rider comfortably between the wheels and the suspension is nice and responsive, though we would have liked a little more mid-stroke support for a poppier and more defined feel. However, let off the brakes and try going fast and things change quickly. The bike turns from nimble and willing to cumbersome and sluggish. Quick direction changes now require more effort and input from the rider. On steep terrain, the Habit’s low and wide handlebars pull the rider too far forward. We would have preferred bars with more rise and we would recommend shortening those that come on the bike. We could also do without the cacophony of noise coming from the cables and chain smacking against the frame while descending.
Tuning tips: shorten the bars, or swap them for a model with more rise | better chainstay protector to reduce noise
How does the Cannondale Habit compare to the competition?
The key specs of the Cannondale Habit Carbon seem very similar to the Trek Fuel EX, but the two bikes could hardly be more different on the trail. The Fuel EX feels a lot quicker when you accelerate or climb and its suspension offers more feedback and support on the descents. The Trek is much more lively with quick direction changes but without lacking composure in rough terrain.
Conclusion of the Cannondale Habit Carbon 1
The Cannondale Habit Carbon is more of a good-natured, comfortable touring bike than a playful and precise trail bike. The suspension and componentry deliver a convincing performance but the handling can’t keep up on fast descents. Unfortunately, the impression is also clouded by the extremely loud background noise made by the chain and cables, as well as the overly slack seat tube angle.
- rear suspension generates a lot of traction and comfort
- easy handling for novice riders
- well specced
- aesthetically pleasing
- cumbersome and sluggish at higher speeds
- seat tube angle too slack
- asymmetrical rear end limits the choice of alternatives
For more information head to cannondale.com
The test field
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
All bikes in review: Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL (Click for review) | Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo AXS (Click for review) | Nukeproof Reactor 290 (Click for review) | Norco Optic C1 (Click for review) | Orbea Occam M-LTD (Click for review) | Radon Slide Trail 10 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve (Click for review) | Scott Genius 900 Tuned AXS (Click for review) | Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper SRAM AXS 29 (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X01 AXS Project ONE (Click for review) | Yeti SB130 TLR (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY CF PRO (Click for review)
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Words: Photos: Christoph Bayer, Finlay Anderson, Markus Frühmann, Jonas Müssig