Cannondale’s punchy new 120mm travel Habit bike is staking bold claims to being a do-it-all machine that’ll appeal to everyone from XC riders looking to spice up their descents, to downhillers who want to take in some climbing. BikeRadar took a trip out to the Bavarian Black Forest near Freiburg to figure out whether the fuss is justified.
Long singletrack descents, fire road climbs and epic views epitomise trail riding – so the initial signs were that this bike should be in its element. The weather was kind, the trails were dry and the Habit Carbon 1 was ready to shred.
Highs: Turn-slapping, bump-popping ride with superb suspension
Lows: Rear tyre very XC-orientated hindered the capable chassis
Buy if: You’re looking for a solidly climbing and descending bike with playful characteristics
Frame and equipment: well-endowed BallisTec beauty
The Habit range is a 10-model lineup of bikes including full carbon frames (using Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon layup), a mix of carbon front end and alloy rear end (as found on the longer travel SE model) and a full alloy bike.
Every bike features the same Zero Pivot ’stays, with an amount of flex occurring on the effective seatstays as the suspension compresses. This eliminates the need for a pivot between the seat and chain stays, improving rigidity and reducing production costs.
The all-carbon lightweight frame is made of cannondale’s ballistec layup:
The all-carbon lightweight frame is made of Cannondale’s BallisTec layup
Some cables are routed internally, such as the poplock remote cable for the rear shock and Reverb cable. The rest are routed on the underside of the down tube.
The chainstays are 429mm (16.9in) long, with the front centre on a size large measuring a generous 730mm (28.7in) long – this is a well proportioned ride with an aggressive slant, which is reflected when you get a real shifty on. The head angle is 68 degrees, and seat tube angle a good, and steep, 74 degrees. The wheelbase is a respectably long 1161mm – once again cementing this bike’s intended riding style. The frame weighs in at a competitive 1980g (4.36lbs) for a size medium.
The pivot location – perfected for a 28 to 32 tooth chainring – means that the bike has a slightly arcing axle path, moving almost imperceptibly forward at the end of the travel. The suspension ramps up towards the end of the stroke, helping eliminate harsh bottom out.
Cannondale’s czero carbon 27.5 wheelset is specced on the habit carbon 1:
Cannondale’s CZero Carbon 27.5 wheelset is specced on the Habit Carbon 1
The Habit Carbon 1 comes well endowed with trick components for a £4,500/$7,460 priced bike. A SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Cannondale’s own and multi-platform HollowGram cranks, the Lefty 2.0 carbon fork (more on which below), SRAM Guide brakes and proprietary carbon bars and wheelset make this a spec to be reckoned with.
There’s a Rockshox remote lockout that actuates both the shock – a RockShox Monarch DebonAire – and the Lefty. The ever-popular Reverb Stealth is also bolted to the bike.
Ride and handling: aggressive geometry and Lefty make for an addictive Habit
I’ll admit to having been a Lefty virgin prior to hopping on the Habit. I’d heard stories about the one-legged fork being riddled with problems like compression spike and dive, so I was a little unsure about what to expect.
As a result, I had a preconceived element of suspicion in my mind before I rode the bike. In the car park I did the classic ‘will it flex?’ tests by pushing down on one side of the bars and clamping the wheel between my legs and twisting… it twisted all right, but much to my surprise it was the wheel bending, not the fork!
For the uninitiated, the one-legged lefty fork (check the moto-inspired stanchion guard) is a bit of a revelation – no pun intended:
For the uninitiated, the one-legged Lefty fork is a bit of a revelation (no pun intended)
So with my scientific tests complete, we headed out on to the trail, where a solid 600m climb waited. Seats up, lockout off (yeah, it really doesn’t help on off road climbs) and game faces on we headed up the mountain.
This bike is light (11.6kg/25.5lbs) and climbs like a light bike should – so no complaints here. It’s very comfy, there’s little to no pedal bob (thanks to pivot placement), traction is abundant with hard-compound rubber and a hard suspension setup, and there’s compliance aplenty.
Once you get over the Lefty’s queer looks and quit looking down at your front wheel to just make sure that there is, in fact, only one fork leg, there’s nothing at all there to remind you that this isn’t a ‘normal’ fork – that is until you start descending. For the Habit, this is really where the magic starts to happen.
The aggressive geometry and supportive suspension really make this bike shine. After listening to engineer and marketing talk about the lefty being x-percent stiffer than a normal fork of the same travel, I still wasn’t convinced. But, out on the trail this fork is absolutely phenomenal.
Aggressive geometry and sorted suspension will tempt many to push the limits of their habit, we reckon:
Aggressive geometry and sorted suspension will tempt many to push the limits of their Habit, we reckon
I challenge anyone to find a 120mm travel fork that performs so well when ridden so aggressively down rough and fast trails. Hitting corners and jumping into rocky sections with nothing but commitment is truly rewarded – the bike’s light and playful chassis bounces back on every hit, screaming for more.
You can push this Habit hard – and maybe therein lies a problem. Would you be tempted to ride this beyond its designed limits?
I’m sure the average rider couldn’t get themselves into any mischief, but maybe someone of a more aggressive persuasion could challenge the limits of the frame’s construction – it does weigh under 2kg after all!
So, the questions to ask yourself are: how would most bikes of a similar travel perform when ridden like a Viking marauder? I’m confident in saying that many would squirm with discomfort – but the Habit seems to shake it off such treatment like a champ.
Get over the looks of the Lefty – this frame and fork really do punch above their (actual) weight.