This past Saturday, I finally had the chance to take out the shop's Demo 2016 Cannondale Habit Carbon 3. After a quick stop at Mr. J's Bagels in Harrisonburg, my buddies and I headed out to the the George Washington National Forest to ride the iconic Lookout Trail. The mix of road and rocky single track was going to be the perfect testing ground for the Habit.
We met another friend at the Wild Oak parking lot and after a few minutes of debating how to dress for the weather and adding some air to our tires, we set off.
The first half of the ride is on paved road or fire road. This was a nice way to get acquainted with the Habit. The Habit is a 120mm full-suspension bike designed for a mix of trail and XC riding. The front triangle of the bike is made from BallisTec carbon fiber and the rear triangle is Cannondale's famous aluminum. The build I was riding was a mix of Shimano parts; Deore brakes, SLX shifters, and an XT rear derailleur. Suspension components were a newly trail-tuned 120mm Lefty and a Rockshoc Monarch DebonAir rear shock. Tires are Schwalbe's Nobby Nic (front) and Rocket Ron (rear).
Right from the start the bike felt light and fast. Climbing up the nicely paved road was simple. The headtube angle is a comfy 68 degrees, so it is slack, but far from crazy. The front wheel didn't wander at all and the suspension was efficient. I probably could have tweaked the air pressure in the rear shock a bit, but overall the lock-out switch did the trick. I like the simple on/off that the Monarch has. The tires rolled fast and showed their advantage as we transitioned to the fire road. They were grippy, but not big and heavy.
At this point the bike was already a winner in my book, but the real test had yet to come, because we all buy mountain bikes for the trails and not roads. Right?!
It was a foggy morning and the trail was damp from a light rain the night before. In addition to the damp trail there was a good bit of leaf cover on the ridge. All things to consider as I played devil's advocate on the trails.
We arrived at the trailhead after 7.5 miles on the roads/fire road. As we entered the woods it was eerily quiet. The animals were still and the wind was nonexistent. This was going to be fun!
We jumped on the trail and immediately I wished that the Habit 3 came with a dropper post. I've had a dropper on my bikes for the last year and a half and to ride a bike without one now feels odd. That being said, someone who hasn't had a dropper would be fine without one. (The next build up, the Habit SE does come stock with a dropper.)
The trail was riding great. The dirt was tacky and the leaves weren't as deep as I imagined they would be. Our group blazed through the trail pretty quickly. We stopped to session a few sections and on a few situations I wished my tires were a bit meatier, but they still did well. I imagine if it had been dry I would have been 100% OK with the tires. I must also mention that the drivetrain was flawless. This Habit has a 2X, so I had plenty of gears to choose from, which made the short and punchy sections of the trail a breeze. Personally, I love the simplicity of the 1X set-up and it would be nice to see the weight difference with a 1X versus a 2X.
As we covered more ground I couldn't help but think that this bike would be perfect for longer distance trail rides and races. The bike is set-up for climbing and descending. The 120mm is great for your average descent with a mixture of rocks and drops, but just avoid the super steep sections unless you're an above average bike handler. I never once hit the bottom of the Monarch; however, I must confess after riding a 150mm bike, I did bottom out the Lefty once.
The trail kept going and did its best to throw as many rocks our way as it could. The Habit took them all with grace and I was able to go over or around them with ease. As someone who road a Cannondale Scalpel for a year, the Habit very much reminded me of that bike with it's precise handling.
Sadly, all rides must come to an end and this one brought us back to the car far before I was ready. As I mounted the Habit back to my car I thought to myself that I could easily see this bike being a part of my collection. I'd make a few simple changes (dropper, maybe tires, and maybe change to a 1X), but honestly I could ride the Habit and be very happy with it right out of the box.
I encourage anyone looking for a truly well balanced bike for conquering trails and finding speed on the flats to take a long hard look at Cannondale's Habit Carbon 3. I can see people riding all over the George Washington National Forest on this bike, the trails out in Pisgah, or even the awesome trails in Richmond's James River Trail System on this bike.
Curious about the Habit? Come demo one from the shop today!