There are loads of competent full-sus trail bikes to choose from for this kind of money, and you could lazily group Cannondale’s Habit 4 in that mix too simply by checking its spec and geometry numbers.
But looking at the figures alone would mean you’d miss out on the major thing that this machine brings to every ride: a whole ton of fun.
With a 2x10 Deore transmission and full metal chassis (carbon mainframe appears at £2499, full carbon at £4499) it’s not light, at just under 14kg. That bright green paint job must be slimming though as you’ll only feel the strain of that weight when you’re trying to grunt it back up to speed after a slow corner or climbing stall.
At max power you can also feel the back end twist with the torque, especially if there’s already a slightly sideways cornering exit or trail angle involved. Combined with the hard-compound Schwalbe Rocket Ron rear tyre you need to treat acute angle roots and off-camber chamfers with respect unless you want to be sat on your arse facing back the way you came.
Like most pivotless, flex-stay rear end bikes, rebound also needs to be run a little slower than you’d think at first to stop things getting too bouncy.
The flipside is that the bendable back end can also squirm into natural pockets and smooth lines that a stiffer bike might not find. That meant there were more times when it sneaked us through a section we weren’t expecting to clean than it slipped up.
That ratio will improve dramatically if you take advantage of the easy tubeless conversion capability of the Stan’s Notubes Rapid rims – and the stats will shift even further in your favour if you upgrade to stickier rubber.
But even in stock format, all you have to do is wait for the fun bits to get lighter, stiffer bikes off your back. As soon as the trail threw a couple of tree-weaving, step-heaving, random root sections at us the Habit left pursuers stalling and scrabbling in its wake.
It’s a mark of how well it climbs too that we only dropped into the 22t inner ring for one particularly steep, step-infested climb. Ironically, that was the only time we didn’t first-time clean a challenge climb, but after scooting back down and sticking it into the 36t big ring for a second attempt it charged up without hesitation.
We kept it big ring right through the rest of testing, despite only having an 11-36t block out back so there’s more to its dynamic drive than its weight and power whip would initially have you think.
While structurally it mimics a supple steel rather than rigid alloy bike, the suspension contributes to its character too. The short rocker link gives a very progressive stroke that makes 120mm full travel a rare thing even with 30% sag on the Monarch shock. That means a great mix of small bump traction compliance without morale-sapping wallow and it was only on the longest, smoothest climbs that we bothered to flick the compression lever into its solid lock mode.
Full metal, full speed
It’ll collect decent-sized drops too as long as you land them straight. And if you’re happy that the rear wheel will sometimes take its own route rather than religiously tracking the fork, you can attack descents pretty hard – harder, in fact than we've felt comfortable doing aboard lighter carbon Habits we've tried.
That means you can really appreciate what a good fork this year’s Lefty 2.0 OPI IDT fork is. There’s a noticeable amount of car park stiction when new but hit the trail and the Trail+ tune Isolated Damper Technology internals are extremely well controlled throughout the speed/size hit range.
The 120mm stroke balances the progression of the back end perfectly too.
The combination of immediately responsive steering through the super fat SI stem and 760mm bars plus the outstanding precision of the single-legged, 50mm offset Lefty fork also makes it blissfully adept at blasting singletrack.
The geometry is pitched just right between staying connected and keen on super steep climbs without getting too twitchy on techy vert descents. While it comes with a fixed post, it’s fully ported for a stealth routed dropper to make what’s already an addictively entertaining singletrack/tech trail bike even more of a flat out fun machine for self-propelled riding.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.