Bike Test: Cannondale Habit Carbon 1

The Cannondale Habit is a lightweight full-suspension bike that feels like it offers endless possibilities. We are no strangers to Lefty and Cannondale suspension at Mountain Bike Action and have seen the evolution of the technology over the last decade and a half. Within the last two years alone Cannondale has unleashed a variety of redesigned Leftys for everyone from aggressive cross-country warriors to goggle-toting enduro fanatics. The Habit is a light, capable trailbike that takes full advantage of the progress of the Lefty technology.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Habit is made to appeal to cross-country specialists and weekend warriors looking to have fun on a lightweight bike. Packed with more technology than your average trailbike, the Habit is sure to turn heads on and off the trail. It is designed to be a fun, all-around bike that will put a smile on the face of anyone willing to swing a leg over it.

The Habit lineup is deep with alloy and carbon models and numerous suspension options. The Habit SE comes with a 130-millimeter-travel Lefty and is spec’d to suit the more aggressive trail rider. Cannondale will be offering the Habit in a full carbon frame with Lefty suspension for a modest $3500. The Carbon 1 that we tested is near the top of the line and retails for $7500.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

Cannondale has a reputation for producing light carbon frames, and the Habit frame lives up to that reputation with a full ballistic carbon layup. It isn’t Cannondale’s lightest carbon, but it is the strongest, so it isn’t surprising that Cannondale chose it considering the abuse the geometry and suspension of the Habit are designed to handle.

At its introduction, Cannondale described the Habit as having “modern geometry,” which means this bike is built to put the rider in the best possible position for general trail riding. The Lefty has a custom 50-millimeter offset (like many traditional forks) and is one of the stiffest front ends we have ridden. Modern geometries use a slacker head angle and fork offset to make the bike more stable on descents. To compensate for this, a shorter set of chainstays is employed to allow the bike to be flicked around in tight sections.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Without a doubt, the carbon Lefty 2.0 stands out right away. It’s what makes this bike. The carbon Lefty is light and stiff. On the back of the bike is a RockShox Monarch Debonair XX, which gives the bike a very soft feel in technical sections. The center-pull spokes looked appealing and gave the bike a fresh look. This is a big change from the traditional J-bend spokes and hubs.

Version 2.0: The Lefty 2.0 came out last year on a few of Cannondale’s bikes and is a staple in the Habit lineup. Cannondale equipped the Habit with their in-house carbon rims laced with straight-pull spokes.

Don’t look down: A lot of riders ask us if it’s weird looking down while we are riding and seeing a one-sided fork. It’s something you might notice for the first five minutes, but after that the Lefty speaks for itself.

The handlebars that came stock on the Habit were right on point. The Cannondale C1 Carbon riser in a 760-millimeter width complemented the front end of the Habit and gave test riders plenty of leverage.

Spiderman grip: We have been waiting for Cannondale to release their Spider ring in a narrow-wide profile. The teeth on the Spider ring are generous and have top-notch chain retention.

We have been waiting for Cannondale to expand on its Spider rings, and the company did with an all-new narrow-wide Spider ring for the Si cranks. The Spider ring clings to the chain like a daddy long legs to a wall. Though we pedaled through many rock gardens, we never dropped a chain.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

When Cannondale called and said it wanted us to test a new trailbike, we thought, “Great. Let’s go out to one of our favorite local trails and ride some technical stuff.” These trails are where we test a lot of our longer-travel enduro and burlier bikes, so when we showed up and saw that we would be riding 120-millimeter-travel bikes, we thought, “This could be a rough ride.”

Link of their own: To save some weight, Cannondale changed the main link to carbon. They saved over 100 grams and were able to keep the strength at a maximum.

The shock was set to 30 percent sag, and the Lefty was set to 20 percent sag for good measure—although we do recommend playing around with the settings on the Lefty, especially the rebound. Since the Lefty itself is so stiff, you may want to turn down the rebound to give it a little extra cushion. We are typically partial to 29-inch wheels in this suspension category, but were amazed at how easy it was to carry the Habit’s 27.5-inch wheels over rocky sections.

Moving out:

The 760-millimeter bar gave us confidence, and we felt comfortable up front with the 50-millimeter stem. The Fabric saddle felt good and ensured that our rear ends would be just fine on a long ride.

Rip through the easy stuff: The Habit is rooted in cross-country performance and will allow riders to efficiently eat up the easy sections of trail. Out-of-the-saddle pedaling doesn’t feel labor-intensive, even with the smaller 27.5 wheels.

Cornering:

Don’t let the Lefty fool you; this bike will corner well in both directions. Our first ride included a lot of tight switchbacks that had us dabbing at times. The Habit felt right at home in these tight corners and remained stable at speed. Thanks to the tight wheelbase and 27.5-inch wheels, we were able to guide the bike through corners with ease. The wider bar gave us more leverage to lean the bike over at speed.

Easy handling in a pinch: With modern geometry and custom fork offset, the Habit allows for more line choices. The stiffness of the Lefty 2.0 gives the front end much-needed stability through technical sections.

Climbing:

It’s tough to gauge just how well a 27.5-inch- wheeled bike climbs, but the Habit held its own. We spent many long days in the saddle that included more than enough climbing. The Habit didn’t set any records, but it wasn’t a beast to push up the mountain. When locked out, the suspension stiffened up as opposed to locking out completely. Cannondale designs it this way to give the Lefty a little cushion to keep the wheel in contact with the trail. Regardless, this bike doesn’t feel out of place on long climbs by any means.

Tucked in: To keep the rear triangle light and strong, Cannondale neatly placed the rear brake caliper on the chainstay. This gives the bike a clean look and keeps the caliper away from brush and other obstacles.

Descending:

The Habit feels most at home on twisty, technical, rocky descents. Given the weight and travel, we assumed that this bike would be more cross-country-oriented, but we were wrong. It is every bit a trailbike. With the modern geometry, it was very easy to sit back behind the saddle and pick up the front wheel over rocks or pull the bars through a tight section.

TRICKS, TIPS & UPGRADES

Granted, we enjoyed every minute on this bike, but there is some room for improvement. Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires have been the standard for trailbikes for the last few years, and while they did an adequate job, there are better options for the Habit. The 27.5×2.25 front and rear didn’t seem to suit the bike’s personality. Our biggest complaint is that while the Nobby Nic is a great rear tire, it doesn’t seem to be quite as good out front. We recommend trying a Magic Mary up front if you ride aggressively or a set of Racing Ralphs if you are looking for weight savings.

The Carbon 1 featured Cannondale’s new carbon rims with center-pull hubs, which we were curious to try. They weren’t the sturdiest wheels that we have ridden in recent memory. One of our test riders doesn’t boast much physical mass, and even he was stuck truing the wheels on a couple of occasions.

BUYING ADVICE

We get it; the Lefty isn’t for everyone. It is a pretty radical look that leaves many thinking, “There’s no way that works!” We have said it once and will say it again: the Lefty works. If you are a rider looking to try something that is rewarding out of the box, the Habit won’t leave you in the dust. Instead, you’ll be leaving your buddies in the dust on your next ride.


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