PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
CANNONDALE HABIT CARBON 2
The second incarnation of the Habit is exactly what the original left us wanting for.
Words by R. Cunningham, photography by Trevor Lyden
Cannondale's second-edition Habit is a complete redesign, and like the original
that was launched back in 2015, this one is also designed to epitomize the do-it-all trail bike. That said, riding styles have changed a lot since then, so the new Habit has evolved accordingly.
Wheels are 29-inch now, (27.5+ compatible with a flip-chip). Its frame is stronger in every respect, and it's armed with a more refined, 130-millimeter-travel four-bar Horst Link rear suspension. The reach is extended, its geometry is slacker and more rider-forward, and each frame size is configured to produce a similar balance between pedaling firmness, suspension suppleness and handling response.
Habit Carbon 2 Details
• Intended use: all-mountain
• Travel: 130mm front/rear
• Wheel size: 29" (27.5+)
• Construction: Carbon (F) aluminum (R)
• Head angle: 66º
• Seat tube angle: 74.5º
• Reach: 430mm (size M)
• Sizes: XS through XL
• Weight: 30 lb (13.6 kg) size M w/o pedals
• Price: $5250 USD
• More info: Cannondale
Cannondale offers the Habit in a number of builds, with a full-carbon frame on their flagship model, the carbon-front/aluminum-rear Habit Carbon 2 that we review here, and there's an affordable all-aluminum version as well. Our Habit 2 is well equipped for aggressive trail riding, with a 130mm Fox 34 Elite fork, backed up by an Elite DPX2 shock. New Habits are configured exclusively for one-by drivetrains and this one is powered by 12-speed Eagle GX. Wheels are no-nonsense, with tough aluminum Stan's Arch rims and a Maxxis High Roller II / Minion DHF tire combo. Up top, you'll find a 780-millimeter bar and a Canondale-branded 150-millimeter dropper post. The Habit Carbon 2 is a needs-nothing build for $5250 USD. Climbing
Whistler's trail networks favor a softer rear suspension setup in order to maintain momentum over the innumerable roots that you'll be rolling over. The Habit's suspension bobs slightly while climbing, which encouraged me to flip the Fox DPX2's low-speed compression lever to the middle position for longer slogs, but that made the rear wheel hang up sometimes. The clock showed that I was turning the same or better laps with the shock left open. I attribute some of that efficiency to the roll-over benefit of its big wheels, but there's no arguing that the bike's low gearing and smoother ride made it easier to pedal steadily, find grip, and maintain pace while topping difficult pitches.
Both test riders confirmed that sliding the saddle forward ten millimeters or so improved the Habit's climbing. I expected the Habit's 74.5-degree angle to be steep enough, but by the close of PB's Whistler sessions, riding a number of bikes back to back on similar terrain had me favoring seat tube angles near 76-degrees for the added control on steeper, more technical trails. Descending
Cannondale recommends higher shock pressures than I would have chosen as a starting point. The argument (a fair one) is that the Habit's leverage rates produce ample sag when measured at the rear wheel when the O-ring on the shock is just north of 20 percent. I started with 250 psi in the shock and 80 in the fork, which climbed well, but on the descents, the shock overpowered the fork and the bike was diving under braking and dropping into bomb holes in the loam. Cannondale's new suspension kinematics required reduced pressure and a couple of rides with a shock pump on board to get the aft balance right. (Shock sag at 28%, fork at 20% worked for me.)
Sort out the suspension and you'll experience the mountain bike that Cannondale intended the Habit Carbon 2 to be. Its steering feels light and enters tight corners without a hint of the lag that big wheels were disdained for. It changes directions quickly, so it favors fast-paced trails with technical surprises and lots of turns. Get going fast, though, and you'll find the limits of its suspension travel as soon as the rocks and roots exceed the size of your helmet. Maintain momentum, keep your pedals level (the bottom bracket is pretty low), and the Habit will stay composed over the chunder. Fox suspension ensures it doesn't bottom hard, so you can trust it (and your 29-inch wheels) to handle steeper, more difficult descents that would have been outside the realm of a 130-millimeter trail bike a handful of years ago.
Riding the original Habit reminded me that a little less bike could make trail riding a lot more fun. But, it didn't take too long before I began to dream about a stiffer chassis, 29 inch wheels, and more capable frame numbers. This new Habit has all those things - and the outdated Lefty has been replaced with a proper fork. The SRAM Guide brakes were underwhelming, but other than that, Cannondale's reincarnation of the Habit is a contemporary, needs-nothing trail bike that will make trail riders very happy.