The recently released Moterra
and the new Habit Neo might look similar at a quick glance. But they’re actually quite different beasts. The Habit name has been with Cannondale since 2015, albeit in their regular bike line up, and received a drastic overhaul last year.
For 2020 it’s not just had a motor slapped on there and sent out the door. Behind the curtain there’s been some important tweaks and changes to adapt the Habit chassis to the rigors of eMTB.
Cannondale Habit Neo DetailsBosch Generation 4 SystemWheel Size:
140mm F & 130mm RSizes:
S, M, L & XLWeight:
21.3kg to 22.76kg (47lbs to 50.2lbs) depending on specPrice:
€4,499 - €7,999 EURMore info: www.cannondale.com
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Details & Features
Cannondale developed the Habit Neo and Moterra simultaneously, but the Habit Neo is pointed at a different clientele. Cannondale see this model a good choice for newer riders and also those who perhaps already ride hardtails and come from an XC background.Frame Construction
All four of the Habit Neo models use a carbon fiber composite front triangle with an aluminum rear end. The front triangle shares many design cues with the Moterra, but overall, it’s a less aggressive looking frame with straighter lines and clean surfaces, much like the regular Habit.
The biggest similarity, however, is the lifetime warranty. I’ve no experience of going through a warranty with Cannondale, so can’t comment on the process. But the fact that there is a lifetime warranty in place on the frame must serve as peace of mind when riding the bike.
The bike utilises a Horst link suspension system to get its 130mm of travel. There is a shock extender, but thankfully it doesn’t require any proprietary shock to work. The layout also allows the use of a water bottle inside the front triangle.Proportional Response
Proportional response takes the idea that as people's heights and weights change, so should their bikes kinematics. Each size of Habit Neo receives a tweaked suspension system to deliver a consistent ride feel for accelerating and braking no matter how big or small you are. Added to this there’s increased leverage ratio progression as you go up through the sizes to provide a little more support from the suspension system when the rider weight increases.
This is not a common thing in the industry, and most brands just make do with one kinematic for all sizes. Hats off to Cannondale for taking on the added complexity in design and manufacturing to ensure that all riders should have the same ride feel that they design into their bikes.
Cannondale also recognised that the center of gravity of the system of bike and rider sits at a different point when compared to a normal bike, and factored this into their kinematic adjustments.
With the motor smoothing out the normally pulse like pedalling forces, Cannondale chose to drop the anti-squat figures a little for their e-bikes. They substitute total mechanical support with a bit of damping support in the shock, but chose this way as they feel they can get more traction with this anti-squat/damping balance. With the new Bosch system doing away with the final bit of internal gear multiplication it’s possible to have larger chainrings again. SRAM narrow wide rings help keep the chain from jumping off, and with a 34T chainring they can resort to familiar tactics in designing the bikes response to acceleration given the chain line.
AI Offset Drivetrain
If you’ve ever looked straight down at your rear wheel then you’ve seen the difference in angles between the spokes on either side. Usually the drive side spokes take a more vertical path from the hub to rim. Offsetting the hub, and subsequently the whole drivetrain, to the right helps bring a bit of balance to these spoke angles. The advantage of this is a stronger rear wheel, something to relish when shifting under full power. But more than that, it gave the engineers important space to give the bike more tire clearance and more meat in the chain stays for additional durability.
Something carried over from its bigger brother are the brakes on the Habit Neo. Regardless of spec, you’ll find big rotors on all the bikes. The Habit Neo 4 carries 200mm rotors front a rear from SRAM, and the rest of the range have even bigger discs from Magura, with a 220mm up front and a 203mm at the back.
While moar is betterer, Cannondale didn’t just stop there. They co-developed some new rotors with Magura that feature a steel braking surface mounted to an aluminium floating spider. They upped the number of physical pathways from the steel outer to aluminum inner and so allowed the brakes to cope with a lot more heat build-up than a traditional brake disc. E-bikes do carry more mass, and in certain situations you even find yourself braking uphill, so having added braking power combined with more consistent performance is a nice detail that they’ve brought to the e-bike table.
E-Bike SystemBosch Generation 4
The Habit Neo nestles the new generation 4 Bosch Performance CX motor low down in the frame. It bolts to the front triangle via an all carbon fiber mount, and with the drastically shrunken size when compared to its predecessor it paints a much cleaner silhouette.
The new generation Bosch system gives 250W of power up to a quoted 25km/h. But out on the trail it’s still giving you a helping hand, or leg, a few kms past that limit.
There are four modes to choose from giving a maximum torque of 75Nm and with varying degrees of support. Eco will give 60% of your input back to you. Tour gives 140%. eMTB, which was our favourite mode, closely monitors the rider input and adjusts the assistance given back from 140% up to the max 340%. Finally, Turbo gives the full 340%, and while it’s damn fun, can be touch too much in really technical climbs or on loose surfaces without a defined body weight movement to help the rear tire grip.
The Habit Neo uses the new Generation 4 Bosch Performance CX system and, on the Habit Neo 1 & 2, the Kiox display.Integration into the Habit Neo
The top two bikes utilise the 625Wh battery and despite a bit more bike weight due to this (600g) gain a nice chunk more range. The lowest two models use the 500Wh battery.
All batteries mount to the bike from the underside of the down tube, and use a sealed battery cover to protect from the elements which will inevitably get thrown at it with being situated there. A simple captive thumb screw removes the cover and a key is needed to remove the Powertube battery. It you want to pull the prank of hiding your mate’s battery you’ll need their key first...
Battery recharge from zero takes 2.1h to 50% and 4.9h to full with the 625Wh battery and supplied 4a charger. For the 500Wh battery it’s a little shorter to 50% and 100% at 2h and 4.5h respectively.
Bosch used magnesium to construct the casing of the new motor in an effort to shed weight. With that change there’s an increased risk due to magnesium being a little more prone to damage than other materials. eMTBs have mostly always covered the motor, and the Habit Neo follows suit and uses a substantial motor covers that protects your investment well. In addition to this there’s some well thought out venting going on to keep air flow to the motor up.
The Habit Neo 1 and 2 use the Bosch Kiox display, while the 3 and 4 use the Purion display. Both are easy to use and read, but the Kiox is very intuitive in all its function and display. There’s a lot of stats on offer to display most of which within a short amount of time have you using the metrics to meter your power, assistance and cadence to make the most out of your battery. Color coded themes make it easy to see what mode you’re in at a glance and there’s Bluetooth connectivity built into the Kiox to pair things like heart rate monitors while enabling personalisation and ride data to be extracted via the eBike Connect app.
The speed sensor is neatly tucked into the rear dropout, and the magnet is a physical part of the rotor. The charge port is easy to access on the side of the seat tube, down by the motor if you prefer to charge with the battery in the bike.
The Habit Neo 1, as tested.Build
As mentioned, there are four builds on offer (USD pricing currently only available for the Habit Neo 2 and 4), all weights are for size M, setup tubeless and without pedals.
• Habit Neo 1: SRAM X01/GX/NX, RockShox Pike Select RC & Deluxe Ultimate RC – 7,999 Euro – 22.12kg (48.8lbs)
• Habit Neo 2: SRAM GX/NX, RockShox 35 Gold RL & Deluxe Select RC – 5,999 Euro / 7,000 USD – 22.76kg (50.2lbs)
• Habit Neo 3: SRAM NX/SX, RockShox 35 Gold RL & Deluxe Select R – 4,999 Euro – 21.3kg (47lbs)
• Habit Neo 4: SRAM SX, RockShox Recon RL & Deluxe Select R – 4,499 Euro / 5,500 USD – 22.32kg (49.2lbs)
Habit Neo 2, 3 first color option, 3 second color option and 4.
All spec information and pricing is available on the Habit Neo page of the website
First off, all sizes of the Habit Neo use 29” wheels and there’s a good spread of reach from 425mm for the S to 495mm for the XL.
Head angle leans a bit more to the agile side at 66.5˚, but definitely doesn’t make the bike nervous. Chain stays are interestingly 5mm longer than on the Moterra, perhaps in an effort to maintain more front-end grip and confidence for the intended audience.
BB height is again a smidge on the high side, but ebikes often benefit from a slightly raised BB to keep the undercarriage out of harm’s way while you surge through trail obstacles more often than over them.
The Habit Neo suffers from the same fate as the Moterra, and regular Habit, with a touch slack seat angle and long seat tube lengths. Bike design is a massive juggling task and no matter what people tell you there will always be compromises. In the case of the Habit Neo it’s the location of the seat tube pivot that has more say in the seat angle and seat tube length. While I’m 188cm and have enough legs to negate most trouser clearance issues, shorter people and people with short legs should make sure they can find a good fit.
Stand over is very low on paper, but Cannondale measures this at 75mm forward from the BB while lots of other brands measure at 100mm forward of the BB. Good to keep that in mind when comparing geometry figures.
Head tube length is short, if you’re looking at it from a more descending point of view, and needed a good chunk of spacers to have a comfy high bar height. But given the intended audience for the bike, and with XC backgrounds coming into play, there’s the possibility for people to have a lower bar setup and minimal spacers.
Before anyone points it out, that’s Jérôme Clementz in the pictures. While not only being a gifted guide, admirable ambassador and all-around top bloke he also looks damn good in photos. For our afternoon testing session of the Habit Neo we were out in the woods only as a duo with unfortunately no photographers hiding in the bushes.
SRAM group parts galore, with discretely branded Michelin tyres.
Jérôme’s Habit Neo, built up with all his sponsor's parts, is also a purposeful and fast machine. He had spent two weeks prior to our launch day riding the Habit Neo and looked extremely comfortable on it.Climbing
Our initial suspension setup back at base was definitely lacking balance front to back when we got it out on the first loop. Nevertheless, we pointed the thing up some climbs that commenced with tarmac, transitioned to gravel and finished with some lengthy pitches that were so littered with roots and at such a gradient that there was a definite bit of finger crossing going on while running up to them. But all doubts were pushed aside and the Habit Neo shot up the steep technical climbs. It’s an involved affair, contrary to what most people envisage as a sit back and just mash the pedals approach. Body language becomes key to managing grip at the rear wheel while keeping the front end down, but the L size Habit Neo had plenty of room to manoeuvre around to balance this. Shunting the seat forward was necessary to have a bit more comfort while on longer more mellow climbs, but that’s due to spending much more time on bikes with steeper seat angles. I do find the steeper seat angles, in the range of 78˚ effective more comfortable, but the effective 75˚ angle of the Habit Neo can work with the aforementioned seat adjustment.
After returning to base, Jérôme suggested that we head off and repeat the morning's loop that had us testing the Moterra. This presented a good opportunity to go back to back on the same trails and see how the bike handled some familiar terrain. We adjusted the suspension and dropped the fork pressure. E-bike forks are recommended to run about 10psi more than their non-motorised versions, but for the first outing we went too high with the pressure. We also upped the shock pressure to give 25% sag. Previously it was at 30% and it was possible to bottom out the shock with an overly aggressive bounce in the parking. The Habit Neo's rear suspension is a bit more on the linear side of things, but once we reduced the sag it felt a lot better and get rid of the on-demand bottom outs.
Back climbing on the bike, fire roads were dealt with in a manner than means conversations are lengthy and not interspersed with gasps for air. And there’s ample opportunities to climb up the insides of the bends and stab on the pedals to see how shit at flat tracking you are. The Habit Neos contact points are really comfy and the overall position while climbing seated is conventional by today’s standards, but comfy nonetheless.Descending
After arriving at the high point of the ride we dropped in. And with the lack of a group or photo stops we hammered down the trail with fewer stops than we had done in the morning. The Habit Neo is definitely a bit livelier, more like a Jack Russell running in zig zags down the trail than the long-legged Greyhound of the Moterra, which blasts forwards with more of a direct path to the next point on the trail. This isn’t to say it can’t go fast, it can indeed. But it requires a bit sharper reactions and inputs to grab it by the ears and keep it all in check while at speed. But that makes the whole riding experience a hoot. Putting it through the same trail features as we had the Moterra and coming out the other side with a touch more sense of achievement was fun.
It’s still an easy bike to get along with and predictable in its operation. It’s a bit easier to dart around on, quicker to make direction changes while still maintaining enough stability to have your back. For its intended audience of beginners to the e-bike scene, and for people with more hardtail and XC backgrounds, this inherent agility will be a welcome tool for them to learn and progress while still having a bundle of fun. There’s no need for them to be over biked and almost have a critical amount of fun sucked out of the riding experience.
The Habit Neo is an all-around entertaining ride and one that given its all around capabilities could be used in many a place. Its liveliness might be not the best on the most demanding trails out there, but one bike cannot do it all, and given the intended audience that Cannondale is pointing this bike at it should serve them well.