Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 review

Cannondale’s cheeky trail tyrant appeals to your playful side and is one of our Trail Bike of the Year contenders for 2020

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £3,300.00 RRP | USD $4,200.00 | EUR €3,799.00
Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 full-suspension mountain bike

Our review

The kind of bike that’ll put a smile on your face, but make sure you’re aware of its limitations on chunky trails
Pros: Agile and nippy through twists and turns; planted front tyre gives confidence in the rough
Cons: A twangy fork and under-gunned brakes mean it’ll reach its limits faster than some
Skip to view product specifications

The Habit is Cannondale’s 130mm 29er trail bike that comes in various alloy and carbon models, as well as a female specific build. My Carbon 3 bike gets a carbon front triangle with an alloy rear for a balance of weight and cost.

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The Habit has found much visibility under Josh Bryceland – former DH World Cup racer and now jibber-extraordinaire. Okay, his Habit is far from stock (longer fork, coil shock, smaller wheels), but if you’ve seen what he can do on that frame, it should give you an idea of what it might encourage you to try.

Bike of the Year 2020

The Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.

Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 frame

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The Cannondale Habit is a fun-loving trail bike.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

While it won’t score it more points, I’ve always found the Habit to be a rather pleasing bike to look at, and a deep pearlescent paint job adorns this version of the bike.

The frame’s 130mm of travel is metered out by a four-bar linkage with the main pivot sat just below the chainring’s top. The swinglink then drives the shock into the top of the down tube, but there’s still room for a bottle in there.

The front of the bike is constructed with Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon, while the rear triangle is a SmartForm C1 alloy. This rear-end features its ‘Ai’ (Asymmetrical Integration) offset, which pushes the drivetrain outward, giving slightly improved triangulation of the rear wheel’s spokes.

Cables run inside the frame, while the top tube drops down towards the seat mast to improve standover.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 geometry

The Habit has very traditional geometry figures, which by today’s standards look relatively conservative, assuming you want a bike suited to going flat-out through choppy terrain.

If not, the slightly shorter shape might appeal because it’s unlikely to make you feel like you’re riding a barge at slower speeds.

The reach (460mm, large) with the 66-degree head angle and 51mm fork offset combines with 435mm chainstays to give a wheelbase of 1,210mm, so not hugely long. The 74.5-degree seat angle could be considered slack these days, and the 480mm seat tube is long.

  • Size: Large
  • Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 66 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43.5cm / 17.13in
  • Seat tube length: 48cm / 18.9in
  • Top tube (effective): 63.9cm / 25.16in
  • Head tube length: 12.5cm / 4.92in
  • Bottom bracket height: 33.9cm / 13.35in
  • Wheelbase: 1,210mm / 47.64in
  • Standover: 77cm / 30.31in
  • Stack: 62.5cm / 24.61in
  • Reach: 46cm / 18.11in

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 specifications

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The Fox 34 Performance fork felt decent during testing.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

Affixed to the half carbon, half alloy frame is a full complement of Performance level Fox suspension, with a 130mm 34 fork at the front and a Float DPS EVOL shock at the back.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The Fox rear shock is simple to set up and look after.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

It’s SRAM that provides the stop and go gear, with its basic Guide R brakes. The drivetrain features mostly NX Eagle kit, with a GX Eagle rear derailleur, and Truvative Stylo cranks, with a spin-friendly 30t ring.

Cannondale has its own finishing touches, from the dropper to the cockpit, but you do get a Fabric Scoop saddle, which is a firm favourite at BikeRadar.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
Stan’s rims are easy to set up tubeless.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

The wheels are a kit highlight: Formula hubs spin within a pair of Stan’s Arch S1 rims, shod in chunky Maxxis rubber.

They might be dual compound, but the Minion DHF 29 2.5in Wide Trail at the front is super-capable, while the High Roller II at the back isn’t too sluggish on smooth surfaces.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 ride impressions

Our 2020 Bike of the Year testing predominantly took place in the South West of the UK through winter. This included loops round trail centres, natural muddy and rooty tracks dug in to Welsh hillsides, as well as laps at BikePark Wales.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The dropper remote wobbles around a bit and is quite sharp – I wasn’t a fan.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

A number of bikes were taken to Spain for the final set of tests, where we rode on dry, rocky flow trails, super-technical rock gardens and some loamy enduro tracks. Thanks to BlackTown Trails for their help with finding these test tracks!

We had no issues setting up the Habit, other than getting the tension just right on the short dropper lever.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 climbing performance

Four-bar suspension linkages have a decent reputation when it comes to climbing capabilities, but the devil is in the detail and I didn’t think the suspension was the most supportive on the climbs, with more pedal bob than some of the other contenders in our 2020 Trail Bike of the Year test.

This was most noticeable when stood on the pedals, or at least not spinning in the smoothest way possible. It’s not a slugger uphill, but with only 130mm of travel, one might assume it would be a touch better.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
Maxxis Minion tyres offer bucket loads of grip.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

This did mean I often flicked the compression switch on the shock to Climb mode, especially on smoother surfaces to get a bit more out of the bike.

On rougher climbs, the active suspension keeps the wheels nicely planted on the ground, offering decent grip through the rear tyre – it’s just not the most efficient bike going up.

Steepening the slack seat angle would no doubt help it here too, especially if you’re not at the lower end of the frame’s sizing because the real seat angle is much slacker than the effective seat angle, so any extra post length immediately slackens the effective further.

At 14.42kg, my Large test bike wasn’t the lightest, but it’s also far from the heaviest.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 descending performance

Descending on the Habit is just a load of fun. It’s agile and nippy between corners, and while the 130mm of rear wheel travel won’t get you out of every situation, the Habit still feels fairly grounded most of the time. This is in part thanks to the 2.5in Wide Trail Maxxis Minion DHF up front.

It doesn’t have quite the zip of some of the more XC-orientated bikes in the test when you put the power through the pedals on more flowy tracks, as that suspension can wallow under harder pedalling efforts, but it does have enough pop on offer so that if you want to boost it over some roots, or pop off a lip, there’s plenty of personality there to let you do that.

I did find myself altering shock pressures to the type of riding I was doing; if I wanted more pedalling support and a bit more pop I’d add air, and if I wanted a more planted feel I’d let a touch out – ideally with an added volume spacer.

The flip-side of the lower anti-squat is that the suspension feels smooth through the pedals, with much less feedback as you slap it over rocks than some other similarly-travelled trail bikes.

Cyclist riding a Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 full-suspension mountain bike over rocky terrain
Let the brakes go and the Habit happily picks up speed.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

Where it can get a little overwhelmed is on super chunky, steep and rocky tracks, where the rear wheel travel, tall seat tube and Fox Performance 34 fork start to show their weaknesses.

The fork does start to twang a little, especially in the face of square-edged hits, and the seat tube puts the saddle a touch closer to your bum than is ideal when the nose of the bike is pointed down something really steep.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3
The SRAM Guide R brakes lack the power of pricier models.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

I also found the SRAM Guide R brakes lacking in power, especially on prolonged descents – they just lack the bite and power of brakes with more grunt because they lack the SwingLink of the slightly pricier Guides.

The net result is that if you’re out riding with buddies working their more enduro-focused bikes hard, the Habit will be working you harder. However, you may well be benefitting from that more nimble ride, able to chop and change direction on a whim.

Cyclist riding a Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 full-suspension mountain bike over rocky terrain
It doesn’t have bottomless feeling travel, but the Habit can handle more terrain than you’d imagine.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

As with other bikes, I wasn’t blown away by the NX/GX-based drivetrain. The shifter doesn’t feel particularly refined and the 11-50t NX cassette adds extra weight to the rear wheel.

I also didn’t like the short length, nor feel, of the Cannondale LowDown dropper lever. It wobbled around, has little leverage and can be sharp if you catch your knee on it.

The Habit remains popular with testers looking for a cheeky little all-rounder trail bike to play with on local trails, while being aware of its slight limitations when trails get chunkier.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 bottom line

The Habit is, or at least can be, an absolute riot of a bike. While its shorter length and skinnier forks might hold it back on the chuinkiest of terrain, it’s a real hoot when you’re looking to simply have fun in the woods.

Cyclist riding a Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 full-suspension mountain bike over rocky terrain
Despite some compromises, the Habit is a firm favourite on fun, flowy trails.
Dan Milner / BikeRadar

It doesn’t climb amazingly and you have to work it hard to keep up with some ‘more capable’ bikes, but it rewards you with a ride that’s asking to be popped over a root, flicked round a corner or slapped into a berm.

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It’s not the best value bike out there, but the ability to pick one up from your local bike shop, with all the pre- and post-sale support that can offer, means I would still recommend looking at the Habit as a fun all-round trail bike.

With thanks to…

BikeRadar would like to thank 661, IXS, Leatt, Garmin, Facom and BlackTown Trails for their support during our Bike of the Year test.

Product Specifications

Product

Price EUR €3799.00GBP £3300.00USD $4200.00
Weight 14.42kg (L) – without pedals
Brand Cannondale

Features

Available sizes XS, S, M, L, XL
Headset Integrated
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 29x2.5in WT dual, Maxxis High Roller II 29x2.3in dual
Stem Cannondale C3
Shifter SRAM NX Eagle
Seatpost Cannondale DownLow Dropper
Saddle Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport
Rear shock Fox Float Performance DPS EVOL, 3-Pos adj
Rear derailleur SRAM GX Eagle
Handlebar Cannondale C3 Riser 780mm
Bottom bracket SRAM DUB
Grips/Tape Cannondale Locking Grips
Frame BallisTec carbon fibre front, SmartForm alloy rear, 130mm travel
Fork Fox Float Performance 34, 140mm (5.5in)
Cranks Truvative Stylo crank 30t
Chain SRAM NX Eagle
Cassette SRAM NX Eagle
Brakes SRAM Guide R, 180/180mm rotors
Wheels Stan’s No Tubes Arch S1 rims on Formula hubs